A History of Hampton, South Carolina

Hampton County Court House - Hampton, SC (2008)

The Hampton County Court House stands facing Lee Avenue, downtown Hampton, South Carolina. The court house was built about at the time of "Reconstruction." Hampton County was formed in 1877 in a bill passed by the SC General Assembly. Hampton County was named for Major General and Governor Wade Hampton, III - general of the "Red Shirts." The area was known as Hoovers Station at the time when it was surveyed. In 1878, the original commissioners W. J. Causey, William Stokes, B. F. Buckner, Southwood Smith, and John T. Morrison were empowered to designate a couty seat, provide suitable buildings to house the court and county offices.

On Dec. 23, 1879 the county seat was incorporated as the "Town of Hampton Court House." This included measuring one mile in each direction from the court house. Donors of the land and materials for the court house, jail, etc. were Colonel George Hoover, Mrs. Josephine Lewis Hoover, Major H. Mauldin, and Captain A. A. Browning. The original artesian well financed by Captain Browning still provides a part of the town water supply.

The gala celebration of the cornerstone laying by Governor Wade Hampton included a speech at the foot of the Hampton Oak on the court house square. The original court house burned down. It had a spiral staircase that led to the second floor which housed the courtroom. The court house is still old inside with some renovation done to the Clerk of Court section. It now boasts a memorial on the ground to war veterans and is celebrated each year at each memorial. A stand outside under the Big Tree houses entertainment, speeches, and watermelon spitting contests each year during the Watermelon Festival. The Festival vendors are located around the court house and street dance on Lee Avenue across from the court house. This is the oldest festival celebrated in the state.

The town of Hampton Court House, SC was incorporated December 23, 1879 on land donated, according to an early map, for "the town and court house of Hampton." The original town site was described as a "sandy oak ridge."

Even two months prior to incorporation the Hampton County Guardian was launched and remains today our largest and most constant source of local news.

The first building constructed was a two-story school to educate the children from Hoover's Station, DeLoach's Field, and Mauldin's Mill.

The first election for intendant (mayor) and wardens (councilmen) was held in March of 1880. The official seal was marked "Town of Hampton Court House, SC." It was not until 1891 that the Post Office Department would list it as only "Hampton, SC."

The original form of government, mayor-council, is still in effect today. Initially, meetings were held in local business establishments, later in rented space. It was then that many valuable documents were lost in a fire. In 1952, the first Town Hall was erected. The second, built in 1967, was remodeled in 2000. With sound economic policy and the assistance of volunteers, Hampton was able to operate without a tax increase for a period of 24 years.

In 1932, a group of men organized the Hampton Fire Department. Over the years, the hand-drawn fire cart has been replaced with modern fire engines and specialized equipment. The volunteers are well-trained and have achieved an ISO fire protection of four for Hampton.

Hampton's Watermelon Festival began in 1939 and is the oldest continuing festival in South Carolina. As of today, the week long event is planned and produced by an army of dedicated volunteers from all parts of Hampton County.

The sleepy town had just begun to yawn when it was rudely awakened by World War II. Changes were rapid. Native sons, farmers, and businessmen alike, were sent across the globe to serve honorably in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Hampton became home to a prisoner of war camp. Many lives and families were changed forever.

Korea and Vietnam conflicts came later, once again involving and affecting many families. A long list of heroes, dead and alive, keeps our town focus on true patriotism. We honor them with public ceremonies on appropriate occasions.

Where agriculture and small business had reigned, industry came in on the heels of peace. A large plant, Plywoods-Plastics, was the earliest employer of an industrial workforce. It later became Westinghouse-Micarta, then International Paper. Today Nevamar is the industry located in the large complex.

Hampton, a stable community with a diversified economy, has established its own industrial park which is home to smaller industries.

Over the years, property has been donated to use for recreational facilities. Aware of the importance of recreation, Hampton has invested in the area of development and the donated land has been used for ball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, playgrounds and, most recently, a lighted walking park.

A town of friendly people, we are made up of natives and newcomers alike who claim Hampton as home.

As Hampton Court House, the town was granted a U.S. Post Office on May 5, 1879, and its first Postmaster was Mr. John B. Binnicker. On July 6, 1891, the town was officially renamed to simply Hampton. Its Post Office has been in continuous operation ever since inception.
Click Here to view / download a 2017 map of Hampton, SC & Varnville, SC. Adobe PDF file. Fairly large.

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