From A "Southern Legacy"

In the fall of 1620, thirteen years after the first settlers arrived, the Bona Nova, a ship carrying several hundred colonists from Great Britain, sailed for Jamestown. If one had been on board, one would have likely met a tall, wealthy, twenty-eight year old wool merchant with a Van Dyke beard and long, flowing brown hair, traveling with eight servants.

William Hampton was from Middlesex, England, just outside of London, and the first member of his wealthy and ancient English family to sail for the New World. The Hamptons, he might have explained while standing at the rail and letting the sea breezes pass through his hair, were originally from Hampton in Staffordshire, about a dozen miles northwest of Birmingham, although the town had since changed its name to Wolverhampton. The first Hamptons took their surname from the original town name, and the family seat just outside the town center was a grand, moated castle named Tunstall that dated from at least the ninth century.

William might have expressed regret that he had never had the opportunity to live at Tunstall because it had passed out of the family in 1562, thirty years before his birth, at a time when many Hamptons were moving to other counties in England. By the time he was born in 1592, the first son among eight children of Laurance Hampton, Sr., his branch of the family had already moved closer to London -- to Twickenham Parish in Middlesex.

William was traveling to America now, in 1620, because, just a few weeks before, Thomas Hampton, a relative, had purchased twenty-five pounds worth of shares in the London Company, the firm that was settling America with colonists it ferried over on ships like the Bona Nova. Thomas’ shares were worth two hundred acres of land in Virginia, and William, whose family would follow, was now sailing with his eight servants to take claim of the land in order to expand his family’s wool business. Two hundred acres would provide for a great many sheep.

Sumter, South Carolina, 1926-36

Eighty-five miles inland, at the edge of South Carolina’s Low Country, amidst thick original growth forests, Sumter was the center of a great deal of lumber activity. Lumber companies such as Creech, Imperial, and S.A. Sauls all located in Sumter to take advantage of the abundance of hardwood lumber from the numerous swamps which produced trees such as red gum, highly sought after by the furniture industry, and yellow pine, used extensively in the burgeoning housing industry.

The railroad tracks that served Sumter’s industry ran just south of Sumter’s downtown. Heading south on Main Street, one would hit Bee Street immediately after crossing the tracks. If one turned left, or east, on Bee, and followed it a half mile to the end, one would run into the expansive lumber yard of one of South Carolina’s pioneer lumber companies, and certainly one of Sumter’s biggest -- Korn Industries.

Korn, begun by kindly Chester Korn in the early 1900’s, was in the mid-twenties made up of three separate companies. Sumter Hardwood Company represented the beginning of the manufacturing process, owning timber and timber lands and saw mills to cut the raw timber. They also distributed their lumber to other hardwood buyers. Sumter Wood Products Company created the parts and other wood products required by the furniture industry. And Sumter Cabinet Company was essentially the “finishing” division, sending cabinets and bedroom furniture to retailers throughout the region. All operated under Chester’s “Korn-field Philosophy”: “Make it Better, Produce it Cheaper, Sell it for Less, Pay Higher Wages, Make More Profit.”

There were fewer better opportunities than to work for Chester Korn, and when Victor signed on in 1926, he worked at Sumter Hardwood, becoming the procurement forester and overseeing the timberlands. As he had done with Atlantic Coast Lumber, he traveled up the Pee Dee, the Congaree, the Savannah, and the Roanoke Rivers, all red rivers, in search of red gum. He was also in charge of managing the lands and the selection of trees for logging. In time he would become as familiar with the forests of South and North Carolina as he was with the woods of northern Canada.

When the Barringers moved to a small farmhouse on the northern outskirts of town – the opposite end of town from the lumberyard -- in 1926, the downtown gave evidence of a community on the rise. In addition to being only forty-five miles from Columbia and an excellent community in which to raise a family, Sumter with a population of 30,000 possessed many “big city” attractions.

About fifteen years earlier the City National Bank had erected the Skyscraper Building on the corner of Main and Liberty, and included a private club on the top floor – at the time a curiosity. The imposing Victorian jail and then town hall on the main block of Main St. had been remodeled as an Opera House, and hosted numerous top performers, the most famous having been Sumter’s own European opera star, Clara Louise Kellogg, prior to the turn of the century. Morris College had been built in 1908 for the education of Sumter’s Negro population, and the Carnegie Foundation had given $10,000 in 1915 to build a library, a rarity in towns of Sumter’s size. Established businesses, such as Sumter Dry Goods, S.H. Kress and Co. Dime Store, Schwartz Brothers Department Store, and Burns Hardware, gave the downtown a friendly, homey feel. Ringed by industries such as Roseknit Hosiery Mill, Williams Furniture, and Montague Industries, and all serviced by the Atlantic Coast Railroad, Sumter was a perfect place for work and to raise a family, and Korn the perfect company for a young man to launch into his new career.