Sumter saw steady growth in late 1800s

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 1/21/18

Reflections remembers an article written in The Sumter Herald, a remarkable newspaper no longer in print. The article concerns an investigative report written about the social, political and economic status of Sumter in the year 1894. The article …

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Sumter saw steady growth in late 1800s

Main Street is seen circa 1900, about the time Sumter's population reached more than 5,000.
Main Street is seen circa 1900, about the time Sumter's population reached more than 5,000.
SUMTER ITEM FILE PHOTO
Posted

Reflections remembers an article written in The Sumter Herald, a remarkable newspaper no longer in print. The article concerns an investigative report written about the social, political and economic status of Sumter in the year 1894. The article was titled "Sumter of Forty Years Ago, or 1894 - The Past, Present and Future of the Gamecock City, Some of Her Citizens and Highlights in the Life of the Community - Review of Sumter Published in Sea Tide Thoughts, February 1894." The author has chosen to focus on the growth and development of the many different businesses that were begun in what became the downtown. The reprinted article, taken from The Item archives, will be presented in two parts because of its length and pictorial data by The Item archivist.

"It is difficult to say when the real prosperity of Sumter commenced, as it was a mere village for many years, without railroad connection until 1854 when the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad (now the Wilmington, Columbia and Augusta, R. R.) was built through it, thus throwing open to the world some of the finest land in the state. Before that event, the population had increased only slowly; and in 1860, there were only nine hundred people living within the corporate limits of the town. In 1880, the number was about 2,000; in 1890, about 3,800 and in 1894, over 5,000, which is a very healthy record. There was no big boom but just a steady growth, which has by no means stopped but is continuing right along. It will not be a great many years before Sumter will be a city of much more than ordinary importance, and those who own property there now are quietly holding on, having full confidence in the future.

The corporate limits of Sumter describe the circumference of a circle with radii one mile in length from the center of the courthouse square. A large proportion of the population of Irish descent and many Hebrews are engaged in mercantile pursuits. The blacks are about equal the whites in number."

THE SUMTER ECONOMY

"The businessmen of Sumter are recognized throughout the state as a most energetic set, and to them alone belongs the credit for the vast strides made by the city in commercial importance. A review, without mentioning some of the leading mercantile establishments, would be far from complete, though our space is limited, and we can do little more than mention the names and characters of business each is engaged in."

"Messrs. J. Ryttenberg and sons are leaders, having an establishment which compares favorably with any in the state. They deal in general merchandise and have a department devoted to each line, with experienced clerks in charge. Their store was built in 1881 but remodeled in 1892. It is in the shape of an L, fronting on Main and Liberty streets, and Courthouse Square; it has an enormous floor area and filled with a very complete stock of goods. Mr. M. G. Ryttenberg resides in New York with the senior member of the firm and does the buying for the house, having a permanent office there This firm owns a very large plantation of 2,840 acres and raises between six and seven hundred bales of cotton each year. They have a steam gin and grist mill, and in the plantation season 18 plows are constantly in operation. The Sumter Brick Yards are also their property, and all the bricks used in their store were made by them Rembert, Marshall and Co. have a branch store at Rembert, S.C., connected by a private telephone wire with the main store."

"Levi Brothers have been in business about six years and enjoy a large patronage, both in the city and county. They deal in general merchandise and are agents for standard guano (fertilizer made from animal waste). Mitchell and Ferdinand Levi compose the firm and both devote their time to developing their business. Mr. Frank O'Donnell is one of the leading merchants and makes a specialty of groceries, though everything usually found in a general merchandise store is sold. Mr. B. J. Barnett has been dealing in general merchandise for the last 40 years, 13 of which have been spent in Sumter. His neat brick establishment is on Main Street. The Wando Phosphate Co. is well represented by him, as their agent. Mr. John Reid sells foreign and domestic dry goods and general merchandise, making a specialty of the former. He has been in business for twenty years and sells mostly for cash. Cotton and country produce are bought at current prices. The store of Mr. S. L. Grier is well stocked with racket goods and groceries, and business is done mostly on a cash basis. Ducker and Bultman rank among the leaders and have a very large store, selling general merchandise. Their business was established in 1878 and has grown to enormous proportions and employs many clerks. Messrs. A. S. and W. A. Brown opened in Sumter in 1890 as dealers in general merchandise and cannot complain about a lack of patronage. They handle cotton exclusively."