“Hiram’s father Mr. David Hutchison shipped cotton by barge….”
City Directories and History: S.C. banker and investor, Hiram Hutchison of York County, S.C. became one of the state’s most influential citizens prior to moving to New York City in the early 1850. In 1857, he died leaving his full sister, Ann H. White of Rock Hill, S.C. a large fortune which she legally acquired following the Civil War.
Read an excellent history, found under the More Information link on this page, of Hiram and his dealings with local businessman – planter, John Springs: The Tale of Two Entrepreneurs in the Old South: John Springs III and Hiram Hutchison of the South Carolina Upcountry, Author(s): Lacy K. Ford, Jr. of Clover, S.C.
COTTON SHIPMENTS – A PLANTATION PROBLEM (David Hutchison’s Records)
The first cotton gin in York District is supposed to have been constructed by Capt. John Hood. No date is given but it must have been in the late 1790s. In the first two decades of the 19th century cotton brought a high price, reaching its height of 25 cents a pound in 1819. This resulted in a fever of activity-clearing more land, buying more slaves, etc. From that point on cotton prices steadily declined but still generally managed to profit the planters. Cotton growing created a one-crop economy.
Getting the cotton to market was a problem. Both rivers, the Broad and the Catawba, had natural obstacles to prevent free floating of cotton barges to Charleston. Portage of cotton, generally in hired wagons, moved the cotton around waterfalls and fords. When one considers these obstacles it becomes clear that there would be a great demand for canals (the railroad will change this after 1830).
There was a petition to the state legislature which requested the opening of navigation on Sugar Creek from McAlpine Creek to the Catawba river. (Sugar Creek is the boundary of Fort Mill township and Lancaster County.) The distance was about ten miles but the petitioners stated that 25 miles of North Carolina creeks and branches fed into Sugar Creek and “that the whole of the produce of the land it embraces might be carried to market.” Robert Mills in his “Statistics of South Carolina,” published in 1826, stated that Sugar Creek navigation was highly desirable but the state never did any thing about it.
In the David Hutchison papers in the Winthrop University Archives in Rock Hill there are some old bills and receipts that give insight into the shipping problem. Hutchison lived on the Catawba river at the Nation Ford. In 1820 he sold 18 bales of cotton, average weight 245 lbs, totaling 4405 lbs. He received 17 cents per lb.
($748.85) from Boyce & Johnston in Charleston who charged Hutchison $1.80 for loading and weighing, two weeks storage for $2.88, and a 2 1/2 % commission which equaled $18.72.
The Charleston commissioners’ fees seem quite reasonable, especially when one considers what it cost Hutchison to get the cotton to Charleston. First, he paid John Workman, $44.55 to boat the cotton to Camden (where the Catawba’s name changes to the Wateree). From Camden to Charleston the charge was $1.00 per 100 lb., a total of $44.05. It is a much longer distance from Camden to Charleston than from Nation Ford to Camden, but once past Columbia the barges could float unhindered to Charleston. Hutchison’s total shipping expenses of his cotton crop was $112.00.
It becomes easy to see why planters like Hutchison were so eager for any navigation scheme that would lower the cost of transporting cotton. However, it was only a few years before the locomotive changed all of this. “Canal fever” soon vanished. Railroad track could reach markets that canals never would. Hutchison’s (his children: A.E., Hiram, and Ann H. White invested heavily in the railroad as it came through York County),sons and grandsons would invest in railroads and particularly invested in cotton mills which used the cotton brought to them by railroads. (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
R&R Note: There are extensive records on the successful shipment of cotton by barge down the Broad River by Wm. Kelly. See the records in Union County’s R&R pages for Kelly. John Workman is listed in the 1820s as a millwright from Kershaw Co., S.C. by Mesda….
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