Henry Shultz

Henry Shultz was an eccentric entrepreneur in the antebellum American South. Born in Hamburg, Germany, he came to Augusta, Georgia in 1806, built an admirable bridge across the Savannah River, and founded the town of Hamburg, South Carolina. He died in poverty October 13, 1851 after a colorful career.

The following passage is sufficiently comprehensive, and written with interesting style. Coming from a hard-to-find source, this history merits reproduction in its entirety.

. . . . But before giving my recollections of Columbia and Lexington, I must devote some time to that extraordinary mechanical genius and practical engineer and financier, Henry Shultz, whose character and career were too strange and remarkable to be passed over without notice in a paper of this kind, although it may occupy considerable space.

On returning from Augusta I passed through Hamburg, which Shultz had just fairly started to build in the midst of a hideous swamp which he had ditched and drained, opposite to Augusta, with the view of rivalling that city, by intercepting the large quantity of cotton and other produce that went there every year from our side of the river.

Originally from the ancient free city of Hamburg, on the Elbe, he had come to Augusta some ten years previously with no capital but his head and his hands. Engaging as a day laborer on a pole boat, he soon began to build and run his own boats to and from Savannah. Then he erected the Augusta Bridge, on a plan of his own, which stood for fifty years or more, uninjured by freshets that swept away others constructed by professional architects according to the most approved scientific principles. In connection with his partner, John McKinne, he established the Bridge Bank of Augusta, and issued bills that, by their prompt redemption, obtained a wide circulation in the Southern States and were preferred by many people to all others. His banking house stood at the Augusta end of the bridge, on the north side of the street leading from it to and across Broad street, and at one time he owned a number of other houses on the same range. But difficulties arose between him and some of the other Augusta banks, and, after a long struggle, in which each by turns had the advantage, they managed to present more of his bills than he could meet, had them protested, sued on, and by a summary process, which he tried to resist, levied on, sold and bought in the bridge and all his other property in Augusta. He struggled to the last, refusing to vacate the premises till dispossessed by main force, under an order of the Court, and then resorted to the expedient of erecting a toll gate at the other end of the bridge, where he exacted payment from all passengers, until prohibited by an injunction from the United States Court, after prolonged and extensive litigation, in which Judge Butler, of Edgefield, and Richard H. Wilde, of Augusta, were opposing counsel.

In a fit of desperation, on the day when this injunction was enforced, he attempted to commit suicide by discharging a loaded pistol in his mouth, but it happened to range upwards and outwards, so that the load came out between his eyes, frightfully mutilating him for the time, and leaving indelible marks of the powder in his face, yet, strange to say, he recovered, with his eyesight unimpaired. His Hamburg project proved measurably successful; the town grew and prospered for several years, enjoying an extensive trade, to the serious detriment of Augusta. The Legislature incorporated the place, Shultz being Mayor, and chartered the Bank of Hamburg, of which Wyatt W. Starke (Father of William Pinckney Starke, Esq.) was first President, and Hiram Hutchinson, Cashier. But a fatality, caused apparently by Shultz's violent temper, baffled all his efforts. A trunk was stolen from a wagon yard in the town, and he, as Mayor, had a young man from the country arrested on suspicion of having committed the theft. To make him confess, the Mayor ordered him to be severely whipped, in consequence thereof he died, and Shultz was indicted for murder, imprisoned many months at Edgefield, and narrowly escaped ending his turbulent and eventful life on the gallows.

I saw him frequently while Autocrat of Hamburg, and long after when he haunted the halls of the Legislature vainly seeking redress or revenge for his losses in Augusta. A tall, erect old man, wearing a heavy Waterloo coat that reached his heels, and bearing, as it were, the brand of Cain on his forehead.

"At Shultz's death he left a will bequeathing all his right, title and interest in the bridge to his friends Jones and Kennedy. They employed Carroll & Bacon of Edgefield to look into the matter and were advised by their counsel to invoke from the Legislature the right of eminent domain on the part of this State in one-half of the Savannah River, and to grant them the privilege of erecting a toll gate at the South Carolina end of the bridge. This was done, and when the President of the bridge company in Augusta threatened to demolish the South Carolina toll gate by firing a cannon at it, Jones replied that two could play at that game, reminding him that Shultz had left a couple of old cannon on the hill in Hamburg, which was six hundred feet above Augusta, and that he would certainly return the fire. Finally the case was compromised by the Augusta owners paying ten thousand dollars to Shultz's heirs under the will. His famous anti-climax toast, given when we were trying non-intercourse as a remedy for the tariff, was: 'Freemen's rights and homespun.' . . .

— Edwin J. Scott, Random Recollections of a Long Life pp. 25-28

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