History of Cameron, S. C.

By Jeanne Wilde Ulmer (1958; updated 2006)

At the base of the rolling clay hills of Calhoun County, just where the Low Country of South Carolina begins, is the town of Cameron.  Through the years, Cameron has gained a reputation of, “being that pretty, little town halfway between Charleston and Columbia, on Highway 176.”  A number of years ago a national magazine wrote of being impressed with its wide streets shaded by aging oaks, which create a scene of picturesque serenity.  The people of Cameron are aware of their town’s reputation and do everything within their power to maintain it. Thus, Cameron is a well kept community with families interested in education and progress.  

Before it was incorporated on July 10, 1896, Cameron was considered a part of Four Holes Community.  However, there are families in Cameron today who have lived in this area long before then. These early families of Cameron came to America as German immigrants seeking freedom of religion.  In the early 18th Century, these first settlers arrived in Cameron from Germany via Zurich, Switzerland.  The book Lists of Swiss Emigrants in the 18th Century to the American Colonies gives us a list of these families, some of which have lived in Cameron 223 years. They include: the Rickenbakers, Zimmermans, Kellers, Rasts, Fogles, Whetstones, Dantzlers, Haiglers, Ulmers, Holmans, Kemmerlins, Crooks, Tilleys, and Kings.

Looking at early land grants of the Cameron Section reveals that there are some modern families who have managed to retain the properties received through these grants.  One of the earliest grants was given to Captain David Tilley in 1738. This property still remains in the Tilley family today. Where the present Cameron Depot stands today there was once a field of grain rippling in the wind that was a part of a 250 acre land grant to Daniel Kemmerlin in 1780.  Other families who have retained their original grants include: the Whetstones, Rasts, Dantzlers, and Zimmermans.

The oldest house within the town limits is owned by Mrs. David K. Summers, descendent of Captain David Tilley. This house was built at the turn of the 18th century by John Jacob Ulmer on a land grant received in 1804 and adjoining property of his father John Frederick Ulmer.

It was in the year 1868 that one of Cameron and Calhoun’s most prominent citizens relocated here.  Coming from Cattle Creek Section, Dr. Jacob Washington Summers and his family purchased lands in 1871 lost by George Josh Ulmer.  Dr. Summers and his descendants were instrumental in organizing this community into a town. The son of the first Dr. Summers, Dr. Samuel Jacob Summers, was a leader in the fight to organize Calhoun County.  He was elected as the County’s first Senator in 1908.

The Cameron area has always been interested in education.  In 1866, H. G. Sheridan moved from Colleton to the old Dantzler home in Orangeburg County, now part of Calhoun.  The home originally belonged to the family of his wife, Salley Dantzler Sheridan. It was in this same year that Sheridan opened his first school in one room on the S. S. Haigler place.  Later, he moved his school to the land of the late Jesse Newton Haigler where a new two story school was built. In this new school, called Washington Academy, there were two rooms on the first story and three above.

Dr. Samuel J. Summers, Sr., with much foresight, laid out the town of Cameron.  With the coming of the railroad, new citizens, many of them merchants, came to the once quiet town.  The first school was organized within the town limits in 1901 in the former home of Mrs. George Tilley.  The large two story wooden building was used until a brick building was built to house the pupils in 1909.  The first grade had begun its school term in the old school but moved in the middle of the term, along with the other grades, to the handsome two story brick building.  One of the pupils in that first grade, whose grandchildren attended this same school, recalled, “It was an exciting day. All of the pupils marched from the old school led by the first grade.  We watched them lay the corner marker which lists the School Board and Building Committee as follows: W. B. Fogle, H. E. Rast, F. I. Culler, J. O. Wesner, J. H. Haigler, and M. P. Evans, Chairman of the Board.”  Dunne of Sumter were architects of the building.

With the growth of the town of Cameron, and through marriages of resident families, the town welcomed many new persons who later became outstanding citizens.  Many of these families were already Orangeburgh District residents. Among these are the Bull, Crook, Birchmore, Culler, Parler, Evans, Fersner, Houck, Metts, Moss, Pooser, Shuler, Stoudenmire, Taylor and Smith families.

In 1926, the auditorium was added to the school.  The Board at this time consisted of: A. O. Rickenbaker, Chairman; Dr. S. J. Summers, L. E. Pooser, T. Fred Ulmer, W. D. Houck, T. C. Moss, T. S. Haigler and Dr. A. P. Traywick.  

Religion is first and foremost in the hearts and minds of the citizens of Cameron.  There are four churches within the town limits: the Cameron Baptist Church, Cameron Methodist Church, Southern Methodist Church, and the Resurrection Lutheran Church.  The Baptists built the first church in 1888.

The Manchester and Augusta R. R., now the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, completed its first road in 1894.  The town of Cameron was named for the conductor who brought the first train through. W. W. McMillan was the first railroad agent. 

The first store was built in 1894 by Holman and Haigler and was later sold to F. I. Culler.  This store was then owned by A. O. Rickenbaker, who for many years was Culler’s partner. The Calhoun County Museum currently houses a replica of this store.  The next stores to be built were those of Taylor and Bull and George Dantzler. The Dantzler Store later became J. D. Fersner’s Store. The Cameron Mattress, Bedding and Manufacturing Company was organized in 1889 by John O. Wesner, Jr. 

On July 10, 1896, the town of Cameron was incorporated with Dr. Samuel Jacob Summers, Sr., Intendant; W. W. McMillan, E. L. McGowan, Irving H. Zimmerman, and J. H. Haigler, Wardens.  The Bank of Cameron was opened in 1905. By that time, there were several stores on the main street: a drug store called Cameron Pharmacy, Culler and Rickenbaker general store, Taylor and Bull, general merchandise and cotton buyers, and Fred Ulmer, general merchandise.

Through the years that followed, other sound industries have developed.  David Keener Summers organized and built one of the first pecan factories in the county.  The Central Grain Company erected a grain elevator which holds 350,000 bushels of grain. When the banks were closing all over the state and nation, the Bank of Cameron, now the First National Bank of Cameron, remained open.

There are many civic-minded citizens who have organized business, fraternal, and social clubs.  The Masonic Lodge was organized in this community some time ago. The Business Men’s Club has been the spirit behind many projects, including the bleachers of the football field.  There is a home demonstration club and two garden clubs. The Camellia Garden Club raised funds and built the Cameron Memorial Playground which they maintain in entirety. The playground is located on property of Mary Quinby, niece of Dr. J. W. Summers.  The Cameron Garden Club was one of the first garden clubs to become federated in this area.

Calhoun County Museum & Cultural Center