McCormick in McCormick County, South Carolina
The quest for gold occupies a unique chapter in the annals of American history. It occupies a special place in the history of the Town of McCormick. The zealous quest for the precious metal influenced two men to the extent that it induced the spawning of the settlement and then town that became McCormick. In spite of their mutual interest the two men probably never met. The first was William Burkhalter Dorn’s unrelenting search for and discovery of gold. Dorn’s discovery of the mother lode at Peak Hill in 1852 insured the Dorn Mine a top spot in nineteenth century gold mining in South Carolina. Dorn made extensive investments in real property in the area and was an outstanding philanthropist. As a result of Dorn’s Mine a small settlement called Dorn’s Gold Mines sprang up around the mines. A post office by that name was established in 1857. Cyrus Hall McCormick’s investment in and ultimate purchase of the Dorn Mine from Billy Dorn, and his influence in the acquisition of a railroad terminal at the site clinched the permanence of the Town of McCormick. McCormick’s interest in securing a railroad connection to the Augusta and Greenwood Railroad was an attempt to boost the success of his gold and manganese mines.
Interest in the Dorn Mine was greatly increased because of the participation of the great nineteenth century industrialist Cyrus McCormick. The man who single-handedly changed the face of American agriculture would not experience similar success through his investment in the Dorn Mine, but he will be remembered for adding an engaging chapter to the saga of the mines, and for ensuring the future of the Town of McCormick. Cyrus Hall McCormick, born February 15, 1809, on the family farm Walnut Grove, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, was of Scots-Irish ancestry. At the age of twenty-two, McCormick devised the invention which would change his life and dramatically increase the efficiency of the American farmer. In 1831, and in only six weeks to develop the world’s first successful reaping machine. In all the centuries prior to 1831, there had been invented but two new agricultural implements for harvesting: the scythe (sixteenth century) and the cradle (eighteenth century). From that beginning in 1831, he rose to national prominence. Envisioning Chicago as the future railroad hub and gateway to the expanding West, he chose the Windy City as the site of his factory in 1847. Within two years, he repaid his creditors, and McCormick and Company (later known as International Harvester) was a sensational success.
At the age of forty-eight, McCormick married Nancy (Nettie) Fowler. His financial success allowed him to dabble in other business interests. He helped in the completion of the first transcontinental railroad and was among the first to encourage construction of the Panama Canal. He owned two Chicago newspapers and invested in several gold mining operations in North Carolina and Georgia. He was approached in 1867 by Thomas Morgan to consider an investment in the Dorn Mine. Nettie McCormick particularly felt a strong attraction to the region. In 1879, McCormick purchased stock in the Augusta and Knoxville Railroad, in an attempt to encourage a rail spur to the mines. By 1881, the mines were back in operation to recover gold and manganese.
The local populace was keenly aware of the importance of McCormick’s investment money, and acknowledged its value; the Dorn’s Mines settlement was incorporated in 1882 as the Town of McCormick. This gesture would not stave off the inevitable, and in 1883, Nettie and Cyrus McCormick decided to close the mines and cease all operations. The famed inventor died May 13, 1884.
A fire destroyed virtually all of the commercial buildings of downtown McCormick in 1884 except the McCormick Hotel, which was built that year. The McCormicks loaned money on favorable terms to the businessmen of the town to rebuild. During the first decade of the twentieth century the town doubled in population to 950 residents and about forty new homes were built. The prosperity reflected in a solid row of brick commercial buildings being constructed on Main Street between Gold and Augusta Streets. Two banks were established – The Bank of McCormick, 1901, and The Farmers Bank, 1907. The McCormick Messenger, a weekly newspaper, printed its first issue in June 1902. The newspaper was established primarily to lead the fight for a new county. The newspaper is now located in the building that was formerly The Farmers Bank.
The first Hotel Keturah, a two-story frame building, was built during the 1890s on the south side of Main Street by W. J. Connor. Hotel Keturah was named for his wife Mary Keturah Connor. It was destroyed by fire in December 1909. Connor built a new two-story brick building in 1910. Salesmen, traveling on the railroad, displayed and sold their products in the “Drummer Rooms.” The building now houses McCormick Arts Council at the Keturah (MACK).
A disastrous fire destroyed most of the business district on February 27, 1910. Despite heavy losses the owners quickly rebuilt and much of the business district on Main Street dates from 1910 and 1911. The commercial area continued to expand. During the second decade four brick buildings were constructed on Main Street between Virginia Street and Gold Street, including the two-story Brown-Andrews Building, which was used as an opera hall on the second story. The block between Gold and Augusta Streets was almost entirely composed of brick buildings, and they expanded around Augusta Street onto Pine Street. The block on Main south of Augusta Street also contained over a dozen brick buildings. On Main near the corner of Clayton Street was Chero-Cola Bottling Company.
With the formation of McCormick County in 1916, McCormick became the new county seat. The McCormick County Court House was completed in 1923. The large two-story brick building, constructed in the Neo-Classical style, is one of the outstanding ones in the county.
The McCormick Chamber of Commerce in 1916 published its mission statement – “To provide a place where the business men of the town may meet and discuss business problems, interchange ideas, form plans whereby improvements in trade relations with other sections may be made; make it easier for those merchants and manufacturers, who want to expand their business to reach the territory where new business may be had; to encourage new enterprises of merit to come to McCormick; to provide markets for farmers for their products; to bring in new residents of a desirable class; to build up the community and to advertise the true possibilities of the town and county.”
The mission of the McCormick County Chamber of Commerce is to provide leadership and vision, programs, projects and initiatives that will promote and serve the community, its businesses and its citizens. We serve the whole county that includes our historic railtowns of Mt. Carmel, Willington, McCormick, Plum Branch, Parksville, Modoc and Clarks Hill.
P.O. Box 938, McCormick, SC 29835
100 South Main St., McCormick, SC 29835
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