In the Whiteley Room
Agriculture was always the economic mainstay in the Camden area. Even the mills and industrial sites were dependent on agriculture for raw materials. Outside of farming, the Wateree and Hermitage Mills, both cotton mills, were the largest employers in the area. Tourism also provided a strong economic base. Beginning in the 1880s, Camden was a mecca for tourists and sportsmen who enjoyed our mild winters and abundant natural resources. The tourist trade offered good jobs but, like farming, was seasonal and highly vulnerable to outside forces. For a number of people, both locally and regionally, drawing industry and manufacturing plants to the area was the only way to ensure a strong economic base that would provide year-round employment, lead to financial security for the large percentage of the population, and raise the standard of living for everyone.
The draws for any area looking to attract industry was easy access to transportation routes, growing local markets, large areas of available land, plenty of water and other natural resources, a large work force, a welcoming climate, and a welcoming community. Camden had all of these assets.
So, when the E. I. du Pont Nemours and Company was looking for a new plant site, the Camden area was at the top of the list. Prior to making their decision, the DuPont executives had several concerns – housing and good schools for their employee’s families, sufficient infrastructure for their facilities, and a welcoming community. Some people in Camden also had their concerns – chiefly among them, how absorbing such a large number of “new” people would affect the existing community both economically and culturally. How could a “marriage” between an industrial giant and a small historic town take place without radically changing the community? This is the story of the changes experienced by DuPont and Camden in their quest to become a “community of people working together” for the good of everyone.