Welcome to South Carolina's Oldest Inland City
Camden is the oldest inland city in South Carolina. In 1730, Camden became part of a township plan ordered by King George II. Kershaw County’s official web site states, “Originally laid out in 1732 as the town of Fredricksburg in the Wateree River swamp (south of the present town) when King George III 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 inland trade center in the colony. Kershaw suggested that the town be renamed Camden, in honor of Lord Camden, the champion of colonial rights.
May of 1780 brought the American Revolution to Charleston, South Carolina, and Charleston fell. Lord Charles Cornwallis and 2,500 of his troops marched to Camden and established 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 in Camden and another battle between around 1,400 American troops led by General Nathanael Greene battled with 950 British soldiers led by Lord Francis Rawdon on April 25, 1781. The last battle was a costly win for the British, but it forced the Redcoats to leave Camden.
Camden was not involved directly with the Civil War, however did send a few generals. Camden moved on from the war, and in 1885, it became a place where rich Northern families would migrate to in the winter. 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 field 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 county is known as the ‘Steeplechase Capital of the World’.”
"Horses: Steeplechase Races and Polo Matches"
The Carolina Cup race-meeting is a time honored South Carolina tradition that has achieved premier social event status. The annual 'rites of spring' draws over 65,000 fans from throughout the southeast, to enjoy the thrilling sport of steeplechase horse racing amid a flurry of spring fashions and elaborate tailgate parties. From our Hospitality Terrace to College Park, old friends meet and new friends are made during the afternoon of six races.
I remember my exciting first Carolina Cup race, 1979! I was never allowed to attend the race until I came of legal age because of the "drinking/partying" aspect, but once I hit 18 I was all over it! Dressing up in the newest spring fashions and donning a brilliant hat, seeing all your friends, listening for the sound of the call to race and lining up along the fence was just so thrilling...as much today as my first time. Attending the Cup is definitely a rite of spring in Camden!
Watching polo matches in Camden is such a treat! We usually pack up the SUV with a party tent, food and adult beverages, lots of sunscreen and take to the field side lines and set up for a day of tailgating and socializing. Oh, and a polo match! Still not sure of the rules but I know a score when I see one!
I grew up in Camden, and like all teens and young adults, couldn't wait to leave there. It's a lovely place to raise a family, but until most recently there was nothing to do there. Now, when I go back, I realize how much I miss the slow pace, the friendliness of the people, and all the stuff there is to do there! LOL.
I own land northeast of Camden where the Battle of Camden was fought. Recently, the DAR who held the title to the battlefield lands opened a new park with walking trails and signposts with information about the battlesite. I was in attendance for the grand opening of the historic park but have yet to walk the battlefield.