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Alexander Young
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From 1807 until his death in 1856, Camden was the home of an extraordinarily talented and intelligent individual named Alexander Young. He was born on Nov. 23, 1783, in Auchtermuchty, Fifeshire, Scotland in to parents Andrew and Jane Young. He came to America in 1799 at the age of 16 and trained with the Baltimore silversmith, George Graham. Young came to South Carolina in 1801, according to his naturalization papers, and by at least 1807, he was in Camden. 

He and his wife, Elizabeth Rowe, first bought Camden lot 186 in 1807.  This lot was just south of the present-day Price House on Broad Street. Later, in 1831, they bought lots 917 through 924 in the Log Town section of town from the estate of Joseph Kershaw. Their home stood on the northwestern corner of Laurens and Mill Street where the King Haigler Apartments now stand.  

Young had expertise in chemistry, metaphysics, and natural philosophy. He was an avid rare book collector. Young owned a book store with stock for sale, but according to Col. William Shannon, his rare books were a treasure he kept in a private section of the store. If he so favored a visitor to the shop, “he would carry a willing listener … and let him taste of them as an old ‘bon vivant’ would let one taste of his wine.” His business ventures were diversified, and included selling watches, jewelry, cutlery, and patent medicines, among other things.

He also made clocks. There is a tall-case clock here in Camden which was made by him, one of two known Alexander Young clocks. Young was elected to serve as the first keeper of the Camden town clock when it was purchased in 1824. He invented a mechanism which made the clock strike the hour automatically or ring a fire alarm. Young tended this clock, which is now at the Camden Archives and Museum, until the end of his life. His son, George Graham, succeeded his father in this community-minded task. In all, the Youngs were Camden’s clock keepers for 70 years.

Foremost, though, Alexander Young was a master silversmith. His known silver pieces range from elegant silver punch ladles, to silver goblets, from beautifully balanced flatware to a masterful Federal period French Empire teapot and creamer. Perhaps his most famous piece here in Camden was the silver trowel he crafted for Gen. Lafayette to use when laying the cornerstone for the DeKalb monument in front of Bethesda Presbyterian Church in 1825. The trowel was for a long time in the possession of the Masons of Kershaw Lodge No. 29 in Camden. In 1893, it was sold to the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina in Columbia.

Young also made the six coin silver Masonic “jewels” belonging to the Camden Lodge.  These jewels are symbolic shapes used in Masonic rites and ceremonies and were donated for safe keeping to Camden Archives and Museum in 2006. His silver stands in high regard to this day, commanding impressive prices when discovered at auctions and estate sales.

Alexander Young was a public spirited man, involved the affairs of his community. An avid Presbyterian, he served on the committee to acquire the lot for Bethesda Presbyterian Church in 1820.  Two years later he helped supervise the construction of the church, designed by renowned architect Robert Mills.

Alexander and Elizabeth Young raised their family of five sons and two daughters here in Camden. Alexander Young passed away in Camden on May 30, 1856 at the age of 73. He is buried in the Young plot at the Quaker Cemetery

From August 28 through January 19, the Camden Archives and Museum will feature an exhibit of Alexander Young’s silver and  focus on the life of this talented man who chose to spend the vast part of his adult life in Camden. A master craftsman, a brilliant mind and a public servant -- come celebrate this man of Camden’s past. The Camden Archives and Museum is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.  Admission is free. For more information, call (803) 425-6050.