Samuel R. McCamy (1814–1874)

Fifth Ward Councilman: 1869

A Tennessee native, Samuel R. McCamy first appears in Murray County, Georgia in the 1840 U.S. federal census with one 10-to-24-year-old male slave. He married Elizabeth A. Bishop in April 1844, and the 1850 U.S. federal census found Samuel, a 36-year-old merchant with $10,000 in real estate, living with his family in Murray County.

Samuel was living near Chattanooga, Tennessee with his family by the time of the 1860 U.S. federal census. Working as a “pork packer,” his real estate assets had grown to $30,000. In 1862, Samuel was reported as a member of the “hell-born and hell-bound Vigilance Committee [which] resolved to put to death fifteen or twenty of the prominent Union men of [Chattanooga] if the Federal army should dare to approach there.”

He shortly after left Chattanooga and removed to Athens, Georgia until the fall of 1865 when he moved his family to Atlanta. Coming to the ruined city with “considerable means,” he was described as “[a] sharp shrewd trader,” and a “high toned honorable gentleman and worthy of credit.” He partnered with John C. Whitner, Charles S. Newton, and J. R. Barrick to form McCamy & Co., a wholesale and retail drug business.

The location of McCamy & Co. on Whitehall Street on an 1871 map (now approximately at the Connally Building).

Located on Whitehall Street—south of Alabama Street—McCamy & Co. had an extensive inventory which included drugs, oils, paints, window glass, cognac, schnapps, bourbon, rum, soaps, hair dyes, bandages, garden seeds, and tobacco. The partnership dissolved by May 1867 and Samuel went into business as a wholesale grocer and merchant with his son, Thomas.

McCamy & Co. Barnwell’s Atlanta City Directory.

Samuel entered the political arena in 1867 when he served on a city committee to solicit funds for the relief of citizens of Chattanooga after severe flooding there. He was a Democratic nominee for city council in the fall of 1868 and served as the Fifth Ward’s representative in 1869, working on the street, finance, and relief committees.

By June 1871, Samuel had left Atlanta and purchased the resort at White Sulphur Springs, several miles north of Gainesville, Georgia. The resort “arose in the 1850s to accommodate the more pious folks, especially the Presbyterians, who considered—in the words of Associate Reverend Samuel Agnew—the majority of visitors to the various springs ‘pleasure hunters, instead of health hunters.'”

Situated on 350 acres, the resort contained “thirty-two good rooms, out-houses, guarden [sic] and every convenience necessary.” The Atlanta Daily Sun reported:

We learn that a gentleman of Atlanta who was afflicted with dyspepsia, rheumatism and a carbuncle, visited the Sulphur Springs a few days since, and was wholly restored in 24 hours. He says he had rather drink the water of the springs than whiskey. If this should become known we fear that Col. McCamy, will be completely overrun.

Advertisement for Samuel’s resort at Sulphur Springs. Daily Sun, Aug. 7, 1871.

Samuel died at the resort in March 1874 from heart disease. In his obituary, the Constitution wrote, “He possessed as keen a sense of the laughable and as sharp a perception of shams as we ever saw in any man.” The executors of his estate included his son and Allen D. Candler. The estate sold White Sulphur Springs in 1876 and it prospered in other hands until its closure in 1929. It burned down in 1933 and its ruins can still be seen on the property today.

Samuel R. and Elizabeth A. (Bishop) McCamy were the parents of six children: Mary E. McCamy (b. ca. 1844), wife of Jesse Scaife Thrasher; Octavia (1847–1894), wife of Dr. Edwin S. Ray; Thomas B. McCamy (1849–1922), a farmer in North Georgia and Tennessee; John H. McCamy (b. ca. 1852); Letitia P. McCamy (1857–1931), wife of Oliver M. Dobbs; and Cora McCamy (b. ca. 1863).

Select Bibliography

Atlanta Constitution. “Death of Samuel R. McCamy.” March 17, 1874.

Atlanta Daily New Era. “T.F.K.G.” March 2, 1866.

Atlanta Daily Sun. “Georgia News.” June 14, 1871.

———. “Gainesville Sulphur Springs.” August 7, 1871.

Barnwell, V.T. Barnwell’s Atlanta City Directory. Atlanta, GA: Intelligencer Book & Job Office, 1867.

Brownlow, William G. Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession. Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1862.

Gainesville (GA) Eagle. “Oconee White Sulphur Springs for Sale.” February 11, 1876.

Genovese, Eugene D. The Sweetness of Life: Southern Planters at Home. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2017.

Link, William A. “Invasion, Destruction, and the Remaking of Civil War Atlanta.” In Confederate Cities: The Urban South During the Civil War Era, edited by Andrew L. Slap & Frank Towers, 239-260. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2015.

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