Around 1817, Jacob Barrett (1792-1871) opened Columbia general store Barrett’s. Barrett worked closely with his brother, Isaac (c. 1791-1834), who owned Charleston general store Isaac Barrett & Co. The brothers would buy and sell goods for each other. He also traded enslaved people and horses, and owned Camden general store Jacob Barrett & Co.
In his memoir Random Collections of a Long Life: 1806 to 1876, Edwin J. Scott (1803-1884), who begrudgingly apprenticed under Barrett from 1817 to 1823, described the Columbia store and Barrett’s merchant activity,
“At Barrett’s we kept dry goods, groceries, provisions, liquors (both at wholesale and retail), hardware, crockery, shoes, hats and saddles. Besides all of this, he sometimes bought a drove of hogs and made bacon for sale. He also speculated in negroes, horses, and real estate. Though hardly able to sign his name, and never looking into a book, he had unerring judgment as to the value of all sorts of property and a keen perception of the character and standing of his customers. One so shrewd, stingy and unscrupulous, situated as he was, could hardly fail, in such flush times, to become immensely wealthy, especially as he was aided by his brother Isaac in Charleston, who also was a keen business man, and, as his partner, bought goods and sold produce for him. Nothing that promised gain came amiss to him. At one time Isaac sent him a hundred Jersey wagons, costing with the harness, $25 each. These he sold in a few months at $75. Again, a cargo of government soldiers’ condemned coats or jackets, bought at a great sacrifice, were readily taken by the planters for their negroes at an advance of one or two hundred per cent. over cost. A gang of some twenty negroes from Charleston he soon disposed of at very large profits, keeping for his own Armstead Booker, a good-looking, active carriage driver and barber, who attended to his horses and in the store, and Aunt Nancy, a first-rate cook, with her children.”1
1 Moore, John Hammond. Columbia and Richland County: A South Carolina Community, 1740-1990. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.