Camden, South Carolina

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Camden, South Carolina
Original Kershaw County courthouse in Camden
Original Kershaw County courthouse in Camden
Steeplechase Capital of the World
Classically Carolina
Coordinates: 34°15′33″N 80°36′33″W / 34.25917°N 80.60917°W / 34.25917; -80.60917Coordinates: 34°15′33″N 80°36′33″W / 34.25917°N 80.60917°W / 34.25917; -80.60917
CountryUnited States
StateSouth Carolina
FoundedMarch 22, 1786
 • TypeCity manager-council
 • MayorAlfred Mae Drakeford
 • Total11.39 sq mi (29.49 km2)
 • Land10.68 sq mi (27.66 km2)
 • Water0.71 sq mi (1.83 km2)
187 ft (57 m)
 • Total6,838
 • Estimate 
 • Density671/sq mi (259.1/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP codes
29020, 29021
Area code(s)803
FIPS code45-10855[1]
GNIS feature ID1247113[2]

Camden is a city in Kershaw County, South Carolina, United States.[3] It is the largest city and county seat of Kershaw County. The population was 6,838 in the 2010 census[4] and an estimated 7,196 in 2018.[5] It is part of the Columbia, South Carolina, Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Camden is the oldest inland city in South Carolina, and home to the Carolina Cup and the National Steeplechase Museum.


Camden is in northeastern South Carolina, in the south-central part of Kershaw County. It sits on the northeast side of the Wateree River, a south-flowing tributary of the Santee River. According to the United States Census Bureau, Camden has a total area of 11.39 square miles (29.49 km2), of which 10.68 square miles (27.66 km2) are land and 0.71 square miles (1.83 km2), or 6.21%, are water.[4]

U.S. Route 521 runs through downtown as Broad Street, leading 29 miles (47 km) southeast to Sumter, and 76 miles (122 km) north to Charlotte, North Carolina. US 601 runs with US 521 through downtown, leading 21 miles (34 km) north with US 521 to Kershaw, and south on its own 50 miles (80 km) to St. Matthews and 63 miles (101 km) to Orangeburg. US 1 (DeKalb Street) intersects with US 521 and 601 in downtown, leading 32 miles (51 km) southwest to the state capital, Columbia, and 61 miles (98 km) northeast to Cheraw. Interstate 20 passes 2 miles (3 km) south of the city's center; it leads east 50 miles (80 km) to Florence and southwest to Columbia.


Camden is the oldest inland city and fourth oldest city in South Carolina. It is near the center of the Cofitachequi chiefdom that existed in the 1500s.[6] In 1730, Camden became part of a township plan ordered by King George II. Kershaw County's official website states, "Originally laid out in 1732 as the town of Fredericksburg in the Wateree River swamp (south of the present town) when King George II ordered eleven inland townships established along South Carolina's rivers, few of the area settlers chose to take lots surveyed in the town, choosing the higher ground to the north. The township soon disappeared." In 1758, Joseph Kershaw from Yorkshire, England, came into the township, established a store and renamed the town "Pine Tree Hill". Camden became the main inland trade center in the colony. Kershaw suggested that the town be renamed Camden, in honor of Lord Camden, a champion of colonial rights in the British Parliament.[7]

May 1780 brought the American Revolution to Charleston, South Carolina, when it fell under the Crown's control. Lord Charles Cornwallis and 2,500 of his Loyalist and British troops marched to Camden and established there the main British supply post for the Southern campaign. The Battle of Camden, the worst American defeat of the Revolution, was fought on August 16, 1780, near Camden, and on April 25, 1781, the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill was fought between about 1,400 troops led by General Nathanael Greene and 950 Loyalists and British soldiers led by Lord Francis Rawdon. The latter battle was a costly win for the British, and forced them to leave Camden and retreat to the coast. After the Revolution, Camden's prominence and wealth grew as a major interior trading town with direct ties to Charleston and the world. Regional products, augmented with goods from the interior of North Carolina and far lands to the west were transported from Camden to Charleston on flat-bottom riverboats that plied the adjacent Wateree River before the railroad arrived in 1842.

Camden was the source of six Confederate generals during the American Civil War. Richard Rowland Kirkland – "The Angel of Marye's Heights" – is interred in the Old Quaker Cemetery. At the end of the war, components of Sherman's army burned Confederate and nearby properties, including a full block of downtown buildings. The last Federal officer killed in the Civil War died in a skirmish near Camden.

Starting in the mid-1880s the Camden area became an increasingly popular destination for wealthy northern families to spend the winter. Eventually three resort hotels provided winter tourism activities well into the 1930s and beyond. The town became associated with many equestrian activities, and is now the home of the third oldest active polo field in America. In the winter, more than 1,500 thoroughbreds call the area home. According to Kershaw County's web site, "Horse related activities became very popular. That interest in equine activities has continued and today the horse industry is a major part of the county economy. For that reason, the city is known as the 'Steeplechase Capital of the World'."

Because of its long history and many years of wealthy winter visitors and deep-pocket northern owners, Camden has an sizable inventory of antebellum homes that remains unique among towns of its size in South Carolina and elsewhere.

The Adamson Mounds Site, Belmont Neck Site -38KE06, Bethesda Presbyterian Church, Boykin Mill Complex, Camden Battlefield, Zachariah Cantey House, Carter Hill, City of Camden Historic District, Cool Springs, Thomas English House, Historic Camden Revolutionary War Restoration, Kendall Mill Historic District, McDowell Site, Mulberry Plantation, and Seaboard Air Line Railway Depot are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[8]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20187,196[9]5.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census[1] of 2010, there were 6,838 people residing in the city limits, in 2,967 households and 1,800 families. The population density was 692.2 people per square mile (267.4/km²). There were 3,544 housing units at an average density of 331.8 per square mile (127.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 62.2% White, 35.1% African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0% Pacific Islander, 2.7% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.4% of the population.

There were 2,967 households out of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.1% were married couples living together, 16.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3% were non-families. 35.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the city, the population was spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18, 20.1% from 18 to 39, 34.5% from 40 to 64, 17.3% from 65 to 84, and 4.3% who were 85 years of age or older. The median age was 45.3 years. 45.0% of the population was male and 55.0% of the population was female.

The Kershaw House, Georgian mansion first built, 1775–1780, by Joseph Kershaw, merchant and leading citizen of Camden became the headquarters for the occupying British army, 1780–1781. It burned in 1865, and was the object of an archaeological dig in 1968. Then it was rebuilt from 1974 to 1977.

The median income for a household in the city was $48,313, and the median income for a family was $62,140. Males had a median income of $42,597 versus $32,524 for females. The per capita income for the city was $26,385. About 13.7% of families and 15.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.3% of those under age 18 and 13.2% of those age 65 or over.

Historic landmarks[edit]


Camden has a city manager–council form of government. Alfred Mae Drakeford, an African American woman, was elected mayor of Camden in November 2016. Camden is represented in the South Carolina Senate by Vincent Sheheen, who was born in Camden. It is part of South Carolina's 5th Congressional District, which is represented by Ralph Norman.


Cadets from Camden Military Academy perform in a parade

The Kershaw County School District is the governing body of the public schools in the area. The district operates Pine Tree Hill Elementary School, Jackson Elementary School, Camden Elementary School, Applied Technology Education Center (ATEC), Camden Middle School, and Camden High School.

Camden Military Academy, The Montessori School of Camden, and Cornerstone Christian School are private institutions.

Central Carolina Technical College has two branches located in Camden.

Camden has a public library, a branch of the Kershaw County Library.[10]

Arts and education[edit]

The Carolina Cup is an annual event held on either the final Saturday in March or the first Saturday of April. The first race was held March 22, 1930, and has been held every year since, with the exception of 1943 and 1945, during World War II. The races have become a South Carolina tradition, and normally draw a crowd of over 70,000 spectators. "The Cup" has become a premier social sporting event in Camden and in South Carolina. The race is held at the Springdale Race Course, just north of Camden. The National Steeplechase Museum is located near the course. Among major steeplechase horse races, the Carolina Cup is unique that in South Carolina state law prohibits gambling on horse racing.

Held annually on the first Saturday of March, Irish Fest Camden draws over 2,000 visitors to its celebration of Saint Patrick's Day and Irish and Celtic culture. Founded in 2017, the festival features live Irish music and dancing, the Lucky Leprechaun 5K race, heavy event athletics, a kids zone, arts & crafts, a Medieval/Renaissance encampment, Irish wolfhounds, Gypsy Vanner horses, exotic birds, food trucks, and festive green beer.[11]

Revolutionary War Field Days is the signature event of Historic Camden, held the first full weekend of November since 1970.[12] Hundreds of reenactors from across the country converge on the grounds to camp, battle, and celebrate over the weekend. Visitors have a chance to be a spectator for a battle each day, and they will be able to walk through the camps of the combatants while seeing demonstrations of Colonial crafts and skills. Colonial sutlers (merchants) and scholars giving talks about the war are on site as well. More than 3,400 spectators and 350 reenactors and demonstrators attended the 2017 event.



  • East Camden
  • Knights Hill
  • Dusty Bend
  • Windsor Heights
  • White Gardens
  • Arrowwood


The Chronicle-Independent has served as the local newspaper of Camden since 1889. WPUB-FM is a radio station licensed to Camden that broadcasts oldies format. WCAM 1590 is another radio station licensed to Camden, which broadcasts in adult standards format.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Census Summary File 1 (G001), Camden city, South Carolina". American FactFinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Charles Hudson (September 1998). Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun: Hernando de Soto and the South's Ancient Chiefdoms. University of Georgia Press. pp. 234–238. ISBN 978-0-8203-2062-5. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  7. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1941). Palmetto Place Names. Sloane Printing Co. p. 31.
  8. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Locations & Hours". Greenville County Library System. Retrieved June 8, 2019.
  11. ^ Irish Fest Camden
  12. ^ Revolutionary War Field Days
  13. ^ O'Mara, Dan (May 6, 2014). "Winthrop alum Lois Rhame West, former SC first lady and 'bright light,' dies". The Herald (Rock Hill). Retrieved July 13, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Inabelt, Joan & L. Glen Inabinet, A History of Kershaw County, South Carolina. (University of South Carolina Press, 2011). 718 pg. See pp. 90, 237, 271, 328, 398, 427,431, 433, 538, 558–59.
  • Lewis, Kenneth E. The Carolina Backcountry Venture: Tradition, Capital, and Circumstance in the Development of Camden and the Wateree Valley, 1740—1810 (University of South Carolina Press, 2017). xviii, 436 pp.
  • Stokes, Karen D., ed. "Sherman's Army Comes to Camden: The Civil War Narrative of Sarah Dehon Trapier", South Carolina Historical Magazine, 109 (April 2008), 95–120.

External links[edit]