Lafayette’s 1824-1825 ‘Friend of the Nation’ tour of America was the most sensational event of the decade. Lafayette went out of his way to pass through almost every state of the Union, in a giant loop starting in the Northeast, through the South, to New Orleans, upriver to St. Louis, and up the Ohio back to where he started. Crowds cheered him wildly at every place along the way. Lafayette, refusing no invitation, probably shook almost that many hands. He visited Hamburg and Augusta, unfortunately his secretary’s record is skimpy. Of course most of their journals were lost months later in the Ohio River when their riverboat hit a snag and sank in the middle of the night.
Another interesting travel journal was recorded by Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar. Crowds didn’t collect hoping for a glimpse of him, but he was certainly a distinguished gentleman entitled to meet whoever and see whatever he wanted. Following much the same route about a year later, he visited Augusta and Hamburg in December 1825, spoke with Shultz, and adds a couple of good points to the story.
“The city of Augusta is very regularly built. The main street is about one hundred feet wide, it contains many brick houses, and good-looking stores. None of the streets are paved, but all have brick foot-paths. A wooden bridge, three hundred and fifty yards long, and thirty feet wide, crosses from the neighbourhood of the city, to the left bank of Savannah river, the city lies on the right bank. Along the bank is erected a quay in the manner of a terrace, which is one of the most suitable that I have seen; for it is accommodated to the swell of the river, which often rises above twenty feet. It has three terraces. The lower one has a margin of beams, mostly of cypress timber, at which, in the present uncommon low stage of the water, the vessels are loaded. From the second terrace, (which as well as the upper one, has a brick facing,) are wooden landings reaching to the edge of the under terrace, by which, at higher stages, the vessels may land there. The upper terrace is paved with large stones, which are quarried above the city. The quay, as well as the landings, belong to the State Bank of Georgia: the landings produce fifteen per cent. annually.
“Augusta is the depôt for the cotton, which is conveyed from the upper part of Georgia by land carriage, and here shipped either to Savannah or Charleston. We noticed a couple of vessels of a peculiar structure, employed in this trade. They are flat underneath, and look like large ferry-boats. Each vessel can carry a load of three hundred tons. The bales of cotton, each of which weighs about three hundred pounds, were piled upon one another to the height of eleven feet. Steam-boats are provided to tow these vessels up and down the stream, but on account of the present low state of the water, they cannot come up to Augusta. I was assured that year by year between fifteen and twenty thousand bales of cotton were sent down the river. The state of South Carolina, to which the left bank of the river belongs, was formerly compelled to make Augusta its depôt. To prevent this, Mr. Schulz, a man of enterprise, originally from Holstein, has founded a new town, called Hamburg, upon the left bank of the river, close by the bridge, supported, as is said, by the legislature of South Carolina with an advance of fifty thousand dollars. This town was commenced in the year 1821, and numbers about four hundred inhabitants, who are collectively maintained by the forwarding business. It consists of one single row of wooden houses, streaked with white, which appear very well upon the dark back ground, formed by the high forest close behind the houses. Nearly every house contains a store, a single one, which comprised two stores, was rented for one thousand dollars. Several new houses were building, and population and comfort appear fast increasing. The row of houses which form the town, runs parallel with the river, and is removed back from it about one hundred and fifty paces. Upon this space stands a large warehouse, and a little wooden hut, looking quite snug, upon the whole, with the superscription “Bank.” A Hamburg bank in such a booth, was so tempting an object for me, that I could not refrain from gratifying my curiosity. I went in, and made acquaintance with Mr. Schulz, who was there. He appears to me to be a very public-spirited man, having been one of the most prominent undertakers of the landings and quay of Augusta. It is said, however, that he only accomplishes good objects for other people, and realizes nothing for himself. He has already several times possessed a respectable fortune, which he has always sunk again by too daring speculations. This Hamburg bank, moreover, has suspended its payments, and will not resume business till the first of next month. On this account, it was not possible for me to obtain its notes, which, for the curiosity of the thing, I would gladly have taken back with me to Germany.”
Bernhard gives a lot of love to the wharf, which is generally overlooked. And he mentions Holstein – somebody here should have noticed that before now!