Busy Little Bamberg
“In June of 1889, Ambrose E. Gonzales found Bamberg a hubbub of activity. Cotton, although still important, had given way in recent years to other produce, and local farmers were anticipating a return of at least $30,000 from some twelve hundred acres of watermelons. They also were joining the Alliance, the latest vehicle for farmer protest, in record numbers. Yet Gonzales reserves his most lavish praise for the mayor of Bamberg, a dashing gentleman who seems to have been all things to all people: a politico, a civil leader, a nature lover, a baseball umpire, and the most courteous of escorts.
This is unquestionably one of the busiest and the best towns in the low country of South Carolina. Not a very old town, perhaps, and not a very large one, but quite old enough to walk alone, and quite big enough to hold her own in a commercial tussle with any of her competitors. Bamberg has no manufactures, but there is no reason why she should not have them, and in a few years the flood of manufacturing enterprise now rising over all of South Carolina will doubtless reach her doors; but, like so many Southern towns, her people have been accustomed to look to agriculture as the source of all their revenues, and manufactures have hardly been thought of until recently.
Like a sensible and progressive people, the farmers of this section of late years ditched and ploughed deeper, manured more heavily, and diversified their crops with watermelons and small grain. Cotton is by no means neglected, as the large shipments from this point show, but fewer acres are cultivated in proportion to the production, and the land saved is devoted to melons and other crops. Throughout this section the melon crop is becoming one of great value. The cultivation is comparatively inexpensive, and the product brings the grower cash at the season of the year when he is generally very far in the pocket of the factor and when ready money commands a high premium. In this neighborhood there are 1,200 acres under cultivation the present season. The crop, which will be marketed in July, will bring at least $30,000 cash, no small addition to the agricultural capital of a small community.
The population of Bamberg is 1,100. The business houses, with but one or two exceptions, are built along the main street, which is a wide and well drained thoroughfare, running at right angles to the SC Railroad track, which bisects the town. Experience has taught Bamberg’s merchants that in the long run it is cheaper to build of brick than of wood, and since the last fires twenty-one of the twenty-five stores have been rebuilt of brick. The residence portion of the town covers a large area, and some of the houses are very handsome, and most of them are surrounded with flower gardens and shrubbery. The health of Bamberg is very good. During the past two years the drainage of the town has been greatly improved and cases of malarial fever are only sporadic, while throat and lung troubles are unknown here.
The intendant of Bamberg is D.L. Copeland, who in public spirit and faith in his town is to Bamberg what Mike Brown is to Barnwell. The wardens are J.P. Murphy, John E Folk, H.F. Spann, and S.W. Johnson. The town marshal is William P. Jones. The municipal tax is two mills, and the town owns a fine building with two stores on the first floor and a spacious hall above, which is used as an assembly room and for public entertainments.
There are four churches in Bamberg, two white and two colored. The white churches are the Baptist, the Rev. C.P. Ervin, and the Methodist, the Rev. J.L. Stokes. Both churches are in a prosperous condition, with large memberships and fine Sunday-schools. The Bamberg Graded School is one of the best in the State for the size of the town. The building, designed by Architect Niemsee of Columbia, is very attractive, and the average attendance is upwards of one hundred pupils. The principal is Prof. R.H. Willis, a very competent instructor, and his assistant is Miss Zula Skinner. There are three private schools, taught by Miss Ida Bamberg, Mrs. M.M. Roach, and B.P. Izlar. Prof. Klein, an accomplished musician, who has been teaching in Walterboro for some time, has recently removed here and has opened classes for music.
A prosperous institution is the Bamberg Bank. The capital is $25,000, surplus and undivided profits $8,500, and deposits $30,000. The president is F.M. Bamberg and the cashier is H.J. Brabham, both splendid business men. The directors are I. S. Bamberg, F.M. Bamberg, E.R. Hays, J.D. Copeland, C.R. Brabham, and H. J. Brabham. Two months ago Dr. D.H. Witherspoon, who was for some years the editor of the Clarendon Enterprise, moved here and established the Bamberg Advertiser, a live and newsy paper, which is certain to prove an important factor in the development of the adopted town of its able and energetic editor. The Advertiser is a four- page, seven-column paper, which has already secured a fair circulation and a large advertising patronage.
At a citizens’ meeting two months ago a committee was appointed to ascertain the cost of sinking an Artesian well, and the meeting recommended a municipal appropriation of as much as $2,000 for that purpose. When the committee shall have secured the necessary information and make their report there is little doubt that the project will be consummated. Bamberg ships annually 10,000 bales of cotton, and distributes 2,000 tons of fertilizers. The total business of the town, including merchandise, cotton, and melons, is at least $1,000,000 a year. The merchants are: J.D. Copeland, dealer in general merchandise, cotton, and guano; Cope & Brabham, general merchandise;
C. R. Brabham, general merchandise; Thomas Black, general merchandise; H.C. Falk & Co., general merchandise; D.L. Copeland, general merchandise; J.B. Black, general merchandise; J.F. Falk, general merchandise and saloon; J.W. Barr, dry goods and clothing; J.P. Murphy, general merchandise and saloon; J.B. Black, drug store; R.B. Black, general merchandise; Fripp & Rentz, general merchandise; Wanamaker & Simmons, drug store; J.D. Miley, general merchandise; C. Sahlman, general merchandise; J.J. Jones, agent, general merchandise; M. A. Moye, general merchandise; Homik&Ettinger, general merchandise; G.P. Bamberg, harness and buggies; T.A. Green, dealer in harness, wagons, etc., and wagon factory; Delk& Sandifer, wagons, etc.; Miss Sallie Rice, millinery; Bennett Bros., general merchandise; G.O. Vam, saloon; J.M. Heath, bakery; R.B. Porter, shoe shop; Mrs. S.M. Pearson, millinery; S.M. Pearson, photographer; Martin Breland, shoe shop; T.C. Rouis, jeweller; and R.L. Hopton, barber.
For a number of years Bamberg has been a large distributing point for horses and mules. The dealers are men of large capital and experience in the business and custom has been attracted here from distant points which were really tributary to other towns. The stock dealers are T.J. Counts, E.R. Hays & Son, and G. P. Bamberg. The Bamberg Hotel is admirably conducted by Mr. S.W. Johnson. President Harrison has recently appointed A.G. Vam, postmaster, to succeed Mr. D.F. Hooten, who had given thorough satisfaction to the Bamberg public.
Mr. A.V. Eaves is the courteous agent of the South Carolina Railway and the Southern Express Company, and also manager of the Western Union Telegraph office. The physicians are: Drs. F.J. Wanamaker, J.B. Black, D.W. Barton, and J.F. Baggot, and the dentists are: Drs. H.J. Mouzon and O.D. Faust. Mr. D.J. Rowe is trial justice here.
In so strong an agricultural community it is natural that the Farmers’ Alliance should have a firm foothold. The local branch of the Alliance here is very strong, and its officers are: W.S. Bamberg, president; F.F. Johnson, secretary; P.J. Ziegler, lecturer; and C.B. Free, business manager. While the writer gladly pays tribute to the social worth and business ability of the people of Bamberg, the town needs no other advertisement so so long as Dave Copland hold the mayor’s portfolio.”
Reprinted from South Carolina in the 1880s: A Gazetteer by J.H. Moore, Sandlapper Publishing Company – 1989