Inside a church resource center on Barton Road, local historian Wayne O’Bryant took to the microphone with a child on his hip. July 8, 2022 marks 146 years since the Hamburg Massacre, a racially charged event that left eight individuals dead.
“The Hamburg Massacre was an event that was so monumental that it wasn’t just over with. It changed the course of U.S. history,” he said.
A commemoration ceremony was held to remember the importance of the Hamburg Massacre, the first of its kind in the recently minted Carrsville African American Heritage District.
O’Bryant believes it is important to continue to discuss the past and educate future generations about what happened around North Augusta.
“People who voted in the 1860s couldn’t vote again until the 1960s and they also integrated schools in the 1860s and then they segregated them again and they couldn’t get them back until the 1960s,” O’Bryant said. “It shows how Hamburg changed the course of history. It was an event that was hidden and covered up, and we wanted to bring it back and have a spotlight on it because it is something that is worthy of that.”
The Carrsville neighborhood in North Augusta was created by residents of Hamburg, who had to abandon the riverside town after a series of dangerous floods. Hamburg was once the fifth most populous city in South Carolina and was best known as being the terminus of the Charleston-Hamburg railroad line, which at 136 miles long was one of the longest railroads in the world at its completion in 1833.
In the African American Heritage District, a historical marker detailing the events of the Hamburg Massacre and an inscribed stone with the names of the eight men killed can be found. A red, white and blue wreath was laid on the memorial stone during the ceremony.
Local politicians, including former North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit spoke about the importance of making Carrsville a historic neighborhood, something that has been in the works for years.
“Hamburg was unfortunate, like so many things. A catastrophe, like so many things, and it is important that events like this happen to let people understand what happened and what the impact was so we don’t let it happen again,” Pettit said. “It's been my pleasure to see this come to fruition and it is going to continue because it has to.”
“I am just excited that we are able to create this district, to help the city of North Augusta and its history be recognized,” North Augusta City council member David McGhee said.
O’Bryant plans to make the Hamburg Commemoration an annual event in North Augusta. On Saturday, July 9, a panel discussion and tour around the neighborhood took place to look at future developments and educational ideas for the historic district.
On Sunday, July 10, a worship service was held at First Providence Baptist Church, located in the heart of the historic district off Barton Road.
“The events that occurred here in North Augusta and Hamburg are every bit as important as the Battles of Chickamauga, Antietam and Gettysburg,” North Augusta City Administrator Jim Clifford said.
“The Hamburg-Carrsville area is in an opportunity zone that not only benefits South Carolina but both sides of the river…” Aiken County council member Sandy Haskell said. “I still see that entrepreneurial spirit that was here in the 1820s… and can help with development and economic prosperity in this area.”