History of the founder of Ehrhardt, South Carolina –
Conrad Ehrhardt was born on December 13, 1832, in Germany in what is believed to be a small village by the name of Weiterode Kurhessen. He was the son of Henry Ehrhardt, a farmer of honest character and industrious habits. The location of this town is in the area in the electorate of Hessen. Hessen presently includes such cities as Frankfort and Main and Darmstade and extends close to the city of Bamberg, Germany. It may have been that Weiterode Kurhessen was located in the mill district of the Hessenel electorate. This would give some indication of Mr. Ehrhardt’s familiarity with the operation of mills.
Conrad Ehrhardt, at the age of nineteen, left his native country on
August I2 1851, and arrived in America on October 13, 1851, leaving his relatives in the old country. As soon as he was financialIy able, however, he bought five tickets at the same time and brought he and his wife's parents to join the family here in the states.
According to reports, Conrad Ehrhardt had only twenty-five cents in his
pocket when he arrived, but he was filled with hope to become successful in the new world. In fact, while crossing the he made a promise that if God allowed him to prosper in the new world, he would buiId a church in the area in which he settled. [Ehrhardt Memorial Lutheran Church, 1904]
About a year after his arrival in America he married Anna Doredea King,
who also came from Germany and who had lived near Weiterode Kurhessen. After their marriage in 1852, they settled in South Carolina, about seventy-five miles from the Atlantic Coast on the Little Salkehatchie River, near the boundary lines of old Barnwell and Colleton Counties. (Bamberg Countv was formed at a later date by taking a part of Colleton and Barnwell Counties to make up the new county.)
Conrad Ehrhardt early showed a marked interest in machinery and by study and practice he qualified himself for the work of a general mechanic, as well as for the erection and care of mill machinery. He says of himself that while the influences of home and of school helped to shape his life, and his love of machinery inclined him to the milling business, “poverty had most of all to do with my advancement in life, for poverty caused me to study more intensely.” The grade schools of Germany gave him a fair start in the acquisition of an education. He had never taken a special course of study at any scientific school, but from his boyhood he had been a studious reader of books and journals upon engineering, milling construction and mill management.
For a number of years the Ehrhardts and Wilhelmina King, who came south with them, operated a sawmill and farm on what is called the Moccasin Branch near Midway. Built with the help of women, the original dam used to operate the mill is still standing. It was not long until other Germans joined the Ehrhardts here in this South Carolina settlement.
In 1860 the first mill was destroyed by fire and the Ehrhardts moved to the present site of the town of Ehrhardt. Here they purchased a portion the Martin Kinard tract of land for $7.50 an acre in gold. They erected a new sawmill, planing mill, and grist and flourmill, and they also built a general country store. The wooden store building served as the first post office, and as the depot for the B.E. and W. RaiIroad. A steam plant instead of the old water wheel that operated the mill, which was destroyed by fire, operated the new mills erected at this location. The mills soon drew other people into the community, and the settlement began to grow.
The Civil War interrupted the operation of the mills for a brief period, as Conrad Ehrhardt enlisted in the Confederate Army early in the war. The local people, feeling that Mr. Ehrhardt was needed at home to repair the spinning wheels and the farm machinery, petitioned Army Headquarters for his release. This petition was granted primarily to keep the grist and flour mills operating to supply the armies at the front lines with food.
Near the end of the war, when Sherman was marching through this area, the northerners maliciously broke the main flywheel at the mills. Mr. Ehrhardt substituted materials to repair the wheel and soon had the mills operating again.
Conrad Ehrhardt built the first house in Ehrhardt. It was in a grove of beautiful trees on Main Street, and it was put together with wooden screws and square nails. He lived in this house until the time of his death in 1908. The building was razed in 1930, and the location is now occupied by a shopping center, Jeff’s IGA and Grandma’s House
Many Germans coming to America stayed in the Ehrhardt home until they were able to find a home of their own and employment in their new location. Mr. Ehrhardt assisted Charles Hartz upon his arrival from Germany and gave him employment as a millwright. The Hartz family became prominent citizens of the community and the church.
Among the families who were helped out and also became prominent citizens were the Planers. Mr. Ehrhardt sent for them from Germany because their skills were needed, then helped them become established in the community. Many families were helped out in this way.