Celebrate 50 years with the Historic Camden Foundation!

Historic Camden's 50th Anniversary

Collaborating with the SC Liberty Trail partners, Historic Camden Foundation will provide a living history journey through the Southern Campaign supported by historically related exhibits and demonstrations. Activities will be held outdoors and adhere to governmental restrictions for distancing and face covering. 

Join the Historic Camden Foundation on November 7, 2020, from 10 am to 4 pm for the Rev War Days and our 50th Anniversary Celebration!

Spend the day on SC’s Liberty Trail and walk the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. Enjoy the living history and demonstrations from NPS Partners and Liberty Trail sites between 1780 and 1783.

We look forward to celebrating 50 years with you at the Historic Camden Revolutionary War site (222 Broad Street). Tickets are $10 and will be available for purchase after October 1, 2020.

Ginny Zemp, Executive Director announces this collaborative event as a way to educate visitors on the significance of the Southern Campaign. Journey with Historic Camden Foundation on The SC Liberty Trail, engaging the stories from Charleston to Yorktown and Camden’s pivotal role in the American Revolution!

The Colonial Catawba of the Carolinas

South Carolina’s Native American history is one that is rich, vast and reaches back in time thousands of years. One of the most prominent tribes is the Catawba (yeh is-WAH h’reh or “people of the river”), who have lived along the Catawba River for roughly 6,000 years. In 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto passed through the Piedmont region of North Carolina on his expedition west. There he would encounter the Catawba people, marking the first documented contact with the tribe after remaining largely private previously. While noteworthy, it was the election of King Hagler (Nopkehee) in 1754 that ushered in an era where the tribe would begin to expand

King Hagler statue located on Town Green in Camden (created by Maria J. Kirby-Smith)

King Hagler, often referred to as the “patron saint of Camden,” brought progress to the Catawba Nation. The Catawba endured many hardships leading up to this time, including a smallpox epidemic in 1738 that afflicted the population substantially. Hardship was not the only challenge they were faced with, as the 1750s saw an influx of European settlers making home on the land around them. Hagler, a fierce but fair negotiator, strived to establish an agreement with the new settlers that would allow them to coexist and work together. This relationship proved successful as the Catawba became known not only for their remarkable pottery but also as renowned traders, especially of quality furs. The tribe continued to prosper under Halger as he strived to maintain peaceful relationships with the settlers and expand opportunities for his people. While enjoying this newfound

success, the Catawba would soon find themselves faced with hardship once again in 1759 when stricken with another smallpox outbreak. The epidemic proved tragic for the burgeoning Catawba Nation, resulting in the deaths of nearly half their population. The remaining Catawba persevered and pressed on, with the continued guidance of Hagler. While the Catawba worked through the challenges and hardships they were facing, the world was changing as a war waged on around them. The Catawba

John Evans 1756 map indicating Catawba warrior number and location (source – The Catawbas by James Merrell)

would become involved in the French and Indian War, with Hagler sending men to fight alongside George Washington in the Ohio territory. The Catawba were fierce warriors, as noted in Washington’s journals, where he also talks about how valuable their support was in the war efforts. Their friendship and support to the English settlers was recognized in 1763 when the King of England granted the Catawba 144,000 acres of land, which they would then rent to settlers. Tragically, about this same time, King Hagler was killed by members of a rival tribe as he traveled back from Charles Towne. Unfortunately, their hardships continued as the colonists renting their land would pressure them about allowing them to own the land for themselves. The state of South Carolina entered negotiations with the Catawba hoping to strike a new deal. An agreement was reached that called for the Catawba to concede their 144,000 acres in exchange for a tract of land with a smaller population and monetary payment. This deal marked the end of an era for the Catawba Nation, but it would not be their demise.

While fascinating, this blog only scratches the surface in telling the story of a people-group that goes much deeper. We hope to continue telling the story of South Carolina’s rich history in future installments, including expanding upon groups like the Catawba. Please continue to follow us as we strive to preserve, educate and celebrate the history that makes South Carolina, and Historic Camden, so important!

By: Lance Player – Historic Camden Staff

Sources

  1. Lewis, Kenneth E. The Carolina Backcountry Venture: Tradition, Capital, and Circumstance in the Development of Camden and the Wateree Valley, 1740-1810. The University of South Carolina Press, 2017.
  2. “About The Nation.” Catawba Indian Nation, www.catawbaindian.net/.
  3. Merrell, James Hart, and Frank W. Porter. The Catawbas. Chelsea House Publishers, 1989.

Camden’s Roots: A Look Back At The Earliest Years

By Lance Player

Staff Member – Historic Camden

The Catawba and Wateree River Basins

Many people are aware of Kershaw County’s vast and significant history, but what they may not know is how far back that history actually extends. Camden is often cited for its pivotal role in America’s infancy, playing host to a variety of key events. In 1730, upon the request of King George II, Governor Robert Johnson proposed the Township Act. This act, put into effect by the Colonial government, called for the establishment of eleven townships throughout South Carolina’s interior. Soon after, the Fredericksburg Township (now Camden) was established and was situated along the Wateree river. It wouldn’t take long before seven families took offers of land grants, making them Camden’s first settlers but not the area’s earliest inhabitants.

One of the famed Adamson Mounds

One of the famed Adamson Mounds

Archaeological evidence confirms that people inhabited Kershaw County dating back roughly 12,000 years. The earliest people-group, the Paleo-Indians, were a group of hunter gatherers. They left behind a significant number of projectile points, common knives and scrapers, along with other valuable aritifacts. In the period that followed came the Archaic Indians, some 8,000 years ago. An innovative people, they designed various advanced tools and weapons such as the atlatl. Around 5000 B.C. people began to place more focus on horticulture, thus gaining prominence. This change came with the introduction of the Woodland Indians and their shift towards greater stability and more permanent settlements. Then, around 950 C.E. a new group emerged, the Mississippian Indians. A people-group originally indigenous to the west, they relocated, settling throughout areas in the east. Among those areas was the Wateree River Valley in Kershaw County. There, they built famed mounds such as the Chesnut and Adamson mounds, which present-day scholars suggest belonged to the powerful chiefdom of Cofitachequi.

Hernando de Soto

In May of 1539, Spanish Conquistador, Hernando de Soto began his exploration of the Southeast region of the United states in what is now known as Florida. De Soto was contracted by the King of Spain to explore and determine areas suited for settling. A year later, during his exploration of Florida, he heard rumors of gold and silver further north. With this newfound information he would travel north into what we now know as South Carolina. His journey led him into what is present-day Camden, where he had hoped to find gold, silver and other riches. Instead, he encountered the Cofitachequi, who were hospitable and gifted de Soto with food aplenty and freshwater pearls. Unfortunately, De Soto became greedy and took more pearls and then kidnapped their leader, the lady of Cofitachequi. The leader would find herself fortunate, as she managed to escape captivity. Though she escaped, she did not escape alone, and would flee with an African slave who was a member of de Soto’s expedition and is now sometimes referred to as her husband. De Soto would continue his expedition, traveling through the Southeast before falling ill and dying in Mississippi in 1542. He would be succeeded by Louis de Moscolo, who would lead the remaining members of the expedition into Mexico in 1543 where their journey would reach its end.

Much of Camden and Kershaw County’s prestigious and storied history was shaped by its early inhabitants and the events that took place. While it may be true that Camden is often looked upon as a Colonial town, it is much more than that. Kershaw County is host to a multitude of events, people and locations that culminate in a history that reaches back in time almost 12,000 years. While a great deal has been uncovered, one can imagine what we have yet to discover. You may look around and set your eyes upon history that spans thousands of years and a number of bygone periods, but often it is what lies beneath our feet that can be the most awe-inspiring.

Historic Camden: 50 years of Preservation, Education and Celebration!

By Lance Player

Staff Member – Historic Camden

Pictured (1975): Richard Lloyd (seated) Hope Cooper (seated) Henry Boykin

We are happy to introduce to you our new blog, which will discuss a variety of topics and helps us usher into a new era as we celebrate fifty years of preservation, education and celebration.

For fifty years Historic Camden has played a vital role in preserving Kershaw County’s storied history. Our journey began in 1966 when the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, along with a group of local residents, proposed a new initiative. That initiative, along with seed money given by Richard and Margaret Lloyd, helped to establish what would become the Historic Camden Foundation. On the first weekend of November, in 1970, Historic Camden opened its doors to visitors. That very same weekend marked the first annual Revolutionary War Field Days, a reenactment held each year since. Historic Camden was one of the first major preservation projects for the county, helping to pave the way for future efforts as well.

Early Revolutionary War Field Days with the rebuilt Kershaw Cornwallis House in the background

While five decades may have passed, one thing that has remained true is Historic Camden’s steadfast dedication to its mission statement: to protect, preserve and celebrate Camden’s extraordinary Colonial and Revolutionary War history. Historic Camden is a proud member of the community, but we are always working to expand our audience. Each year we receive visitors from not just Camden, but all throughout the United States as well as countries around the world. As part of our mission, we place a great deal of our focus on three key areas: preservation, education and events. Our preservation efforts include things such as maintaining/restoration of our buildings, collections and the Camden Battlefield and Longleaf Pine Preserve. In terms of education, we offer guided tours, lectures, school tours and our annual History Days program. Events are a regular occurrence and come in a variety of forms including Treaty of Ghent, Revel, Haunts and Spirits and Revolutionary War Field Days. As a private, non-profit organization we also look to some of our events as fundraisers. This helps us to continue with our preservation and education efforts and provide visitors with opportunities to gain their very own experiences.

Historic Camden’s early welcome sign

Historic Camden is a community staple, and we like to maintain an open invitation mentality, so that each of you have the opportunity to get involved. Whether you choose to volunteer, become a member, take a tour or make a donation, your support is crucial and always appreciated. Historic Camden is ever-growing with our established efforts and new opportunities on the horizon. With the arrival of 2020 we begin a year of celebration 50 years in the making, and we’re happy to invite you all to celebrate with us!