Florence – New County, New County Seat
“In some ways, this salute to the city of Florence was a bit premature. The county was a reality, having been created a few weeks earlier, but as “J-A.M.” was writing in January of 1889, the city of Florence was neither city nor county seat, although the writer assures us that it soon would become both. For a picture of Florence at other times, see “Flourishing Florence” by “Carolina” (August 1,1882) and an article by John I. Green (June 23, 1890).
The “Baby County” of South Carolina was bom in December last and is already out of its swaddling clothes. Before the 1st of February it will have cut all its hardest teeth and will be strong enough to toddle around without holding on to the apron strings of any one of its four parents—Darlington, Marion, Williamsburg, and Clarendon. On the 15th inst. a county convention will meet at the proposed county seat, Florence, for the purpose of nominating county officers who will be appointed to serve until the first Monday in November next, when the “Baby County,” having been by that time weaned, will be left to take care of itself.
The principal towns in the new county are Florence, Timmonsville, Cartersville, and Effingham. Florence has already put in a handsome bid and therefore may be regarded as the Court House of the new county. Florence has, for the past decade, impressed the visitor with a sense of a peculiar fitness for this honor. Ever since the “deepo” was moved from the old Gamble Hotel some twelve or fifteen years ago, a move which the town almost immediately followed, the place seems to have “picked up.” Today there is no mistaking the signs of the times. The Florentines have realized their dream and are determined to make their progressive little town what nature intended it to be—the Gate City of the South Atlantic coast. The new county has a population of about 22,000, which, by the next census, will be found to have increased to nearly 30,000. Its area is about 650 square miles.
As part of the history of Florence County it would be well to put on record the names of the committee under whose management the campaign for the formation of the county was conducted. It was composed as follows: Chairman, Dr. James Evans; Secretary, Belton O’Neale Townsend; West Marion—R.G. Howard, Walter Gregg, Geo. J. Myers, Dr. J.F. Pearce, John S. Scott, B.B. McWhite, A.A. Myers, J.B. McCall, W.F. Claussen, R.F. Coleman, A.J. Frier, T.C. Crawford, Dr. W.R. Johnson, W.E. Finkles, J.M. Timmons, John Cain, P.M. Timmons, J.B. Lewellen, J.G. James, J.H. Bostic, PI. Bostick, J.I, Finkles, Brunson Munn , and R.S. Leggett; Darlington – S.A. Gregg, F.M. Roger, J.E. Pettigrew, John McSween, R. Peel, W.E. McKnight, J.W. King, J.A. Rowe, G.G. Lynch, T.W. Williamson, Jerome P. Chase, W.A. Brunson, Z.T. Kershaw, W.H. Day, Dr. E. Miller, D. Sternberger, James Allen, C.M. Covington, and L. Sulzbacher.
The new county is especially rich in railroads. It has within its borders over forty miles of railroads already in operation. Florence is but 102 miles from Charleston, 108 miles from Wilmington, 87 miles from Columbia, and 80 miles from Charlotte. The governing power in the new county seat is vested in an intendant and four wardens, the town being divided into four wards. The present administration, intelligent and progressive, is composed as follows: Intendant, W.H. Day; wardens, G.G. Lynch, Wm. Hoffmeyer, E.R. Roberts, and F.H. Hudson. The council has in it several representatives of the railroad interest; but, as the future of Florence is largely dependent upon its railroads and as the railroads pay a considerable tax both to the municipality and the new county, there can be no objection to this.
The town is circular in shape, its limits being extended for one mile in every direction from a given centre. There are eleven streets running north and south and nine running east and west. Its population is between 3,500 and 4,000. The taxable property is valued at from $800,000 to $1,000,000. The municipal tax is five mills for municipal purposes, and two mills for special purposes. The town has been pledged to furnish a site and build a Courthouse and jail, provided it is selected as the county seat—of which there is now no doubt—at a cost of not less than $20,000.
It has an efficient fire department consisting of one Silsby steam engine, the Hope Fire Company, of which Mr. Boston Mims is president, and a hand engine, the Florence, manned by colored men, of which W.J. Bradford is president. The steamer is drawn by horses. The police department consists of four men who are under the immediate command of the intendant. The following is a list of the places of worship and the pastors: Presbyterian Church, the Rev. J.H. Dixon; Episcopal Church, the Rev. E.F. Guerry; Methodist Church, the Rev. J.T. Pate; Baptist Church, the Rev. B.G. Covington; and Roman Catholic Church, Father Wright. The colored people have three churches: M.E. Church, the Rev. F.W. Sasportas; A.M.E. Church, the Rev. Alston; and Baptist Church, the Rev. E.R. Roberts.
The Yorkville Enquirer of Jan. 7, 1891 taken from the Charleston News and Courier reported, “The S.C. Banking Association is the first colored bank ever organized in S.C. and opened its books in Florence last week.”
There are at present six lawyers located here, two of whom, Messrs. Harllee & Youmans, are immigrants, so to speak. The new firm is composed of Gen. Harllee, the veteran lawyer and statesman of Marion, and Mr. Rhett Youmans, a son of United States District Attorney Leroy F. Youmans, the renowned orator of South Carolina. The other four lawyers are W.A. Brunson, J.P. McNeill, Belton O’Neale Townsend, and J. De John. Mr. Jacobi, resident correspondent of the News and Courier, kindly provided the following list of the leading professional and business men in town. Trial justices—J.P. McNeill and E.W. McLoyd; physicians—J.W. King, E. Miller, F.P. Covington, James Evans, J.B. Jarratt, and T.S. Hinnant; dentists—R. Rutledge and R.M. Galloway; real estate—Jerome P. Chase & Sons; insurance agents—Jerome P. Chase & Sons, J.P. McNeill, and W.M. Brown; general merchandise—D. Sternberger, H. McSween, W.J. Brown, G.O. Bethea, J.L. Barringer, S.A. Gregg, Sr., S.J. Morgan, W.E. Herring, Harris Joseph, G.W. Kirby, Jas. Allen & Son, E.S. Buckheit, C.A. Robbins, Willoughby, C.D. Hoffmeyer, A.W. Lyons, W.L. Hutchel, and F.J. Fuller; clothing—S. Elias; groceries—Sidney Jacobi, A. A. Cohen, R.L. Whiteheart, Geo. Stackley, Husbands & Taylor, J.F. Stackley, and A.L. McRae; dry goods, clothing, &c—Loeb Bros.; boots and shoes—C. Bultman; millinery and fancy goods—N.W. Trump, Miss S.J. Stackley, E.S. Buckheit, and Loeb Bros.; furniture—W.B. LaFar, W.D. Heape, and George Stackley; fruits and confectionery—C.D. Bristow; drugs—King & Lake, James Evans, Covington & Gregg, and J.B. Jarratt; musical instruments—J.B. Killough; tinware and stoves—L.L. Lambkin and the Florence Tinware Manufacturing Company, S.B. Fant, manager; butchers —L.R. Ives & Co. and D.H. Howell; livery and sale stable—Covington Bros.; buggy and wagon warehouse – Covington Brothers, bottling works – Florence Bottling Works, Cramer & Kersten (proprietors), C.L. Stickney, manager; planing mills— Florence Planing Mills, Hodges and Newton, proprietors; cotton gins and compresses—Z.T. Kershaw and D.H. Hamby; provision broker and commission— W.M. Brown; hardware—F.H. Hudson; liquors—R.L. Whiteheart, J.L. Barringer, George Stackley, A. A. Cohen, and A.W. Lyons; restaurants—Duncan Stewart, G. C. Cole, C.A. Buckheit, and the News Depot, Atlantic Coast Line, Paul Capel (manager); racket store—R.D. Oglesby; and jeweler—Isaac Sulzbacher. In the business catalogue should, of course, be included the extensive railroad shops of the Wilmington, Columbia, and Augusta Railroad, of which Mr. W.M. Day is the superintendent and Mr. John Bissett the master mechanic.
Most of the interior towns of the State owe a good deal of their present prosperity to the establishment of banks. Florence Court House will start out with a bank. The Bank of Florence was established on the 12th of October last. Its capital stock is $25,000, and its officers are: President, W. A. Brunson; vice president, S. A. Gregg; cashier, S.A. Gregg, Jr.; directors, James Allan, Dr. E. Miller, D. Stem- berger, C.M. Covington, J.L. Barringer, T.W. Williams, and B. Mantoue. Florence is a great stopover place for the ambassadors of trade, and wherever these gentlemen gather one may always be sure of finding abundant and excellent hotel accommodations. The Eden of Florence, like that of Charleston, is yet to be built, but in the meantime there is plenty of accommodation at these hotels: Jacobi Hotel, M. Jacobi, manager; Central Hotel, J.L. Barringer, proprietor; Commercial Hotel, Mrs. H.D. Hulbert, proprietress; and Clifton House, Mrs. Clifton, proprietress. The new county starts with two “maps of busy life.” The Florence Times, of which Mr. C.H. Prince is the editor and proprietor, has been in the field for some time. Always a lively and sprightly journal, it will keep abreast of the times and will in all things represent the interests of the new county.
The Farmers’ Friend, lately published in Timmonsville, has been removed to the new county seat and will probably change its name. It is edited and published by Mr. J.W. Hammond, who, like Mr. Prince, has had considerable experience in the rather difficult feat of running a newspaper, having published newspapers in Darlington and Charleston. The new county will doubtless support two newspapers and both are bound to prosper. The various local organizations include Masonic Hampton Lodge No. 206; Knights of Pythias, Harmony Lodge No. 8; American Legion of Honor; Knights of Honor, Florence Council No. 915; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers; the Order of Chosen Friends; and the Florence Rifles. The new Court House is certainly starting out in the right direction. At present its illumination is in the nature of oil. But the town and its inhabitants will not have to go through the gradations from oil to gas and thence to electricity.
It may be mentioned, as a matter of history, that Mr. M. Jacobi is the veritable and “onliest” oldest inhabitant of the town of Florence. The site occupied by his hotel was virgin forest and the Northeastern Railroad had not been built when Mr. Jacobi settled here, and yet one would by no means take him for a centenarian. A great deal more might be written about this fair city, which, after a brilliant and brief semi-municipal career, promises to become one of the most thriving and populous cities of the State, but time and space forbid. The facts I have presented are doubtless crude and certainly not as elaborate as they can be made, but I have made no attempt to color them.
Florence is on a boom and a considerable boom, too; five years hence its own people will scarcely be able to realize it. Within one month the value of real estate has advanced over 50 per cent, and by the dawn of the next year it will have more than doubled in value. There is plenty of land available for building purposes, but this will speedily be taken up. There is a brilliant and prosperous future in store for the new city, and the News and Courier only voices the sentiment of Charleston when it utters a hearty God-speed to the Gate City of the South Atlantic coast.”
Reprinted in part from South Carolina in the 1880s: A Gazetteer by J.H. Moore, Sandlapper Publishing Company – 1989
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