Less Traveled

Page Ivey

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Hallowed Ground: The little church in the forest

Posted 8/19/2013 11:24:00 AM

Tucked away in Manchester State Forest is one of the oldest churches in Sumter.

While the building you see today was built in 1855, the congregation of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (803) 452-9995, 6205 Camp Mac Boykin Road, Pinewood, is nearly a century older.

The original St. Mark’s was built in 1767 but was destroyed during the Revolutionary War. The current St. Mark’s was built in 1855 and is one of the best examples of the Gothic Revival architectural style in the area. The church was designed by Charleston architects Edward C. Jones and Francis D. Lee.

The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
St. Mark’s was the church for six South Carolina governors – two of whom are buried in the church cemetery.

James B. Richardson, who was governor from 1802-04, and John P. Richardson, who served from 1840-42, are buried there. Other governors who were members of the church include Richard I. Manning (1824-26), John L. Manning (1852-54), John P. Richardson Jr. (1886-90) and Richard I. Manning (1915-19).

The first rector of St. Mark’s Parish was the Rev. Charles Woodmason, who traveled around the Carolina backcountry for six years as a minister starting in 1761. He kept a journal, writing about what he considered the lack of morality and religious fervor among the people on the frontier.

He also did not like the way the needs of those folks were ignored by the power structure concentrated along the coast.

He frequently feared for his well being and life as he traveled, sometimes bringing directives and orders from the governor of the colony.

St. Mark’s bonus: If you want to go see St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, you should add a stop at Poinsett State Park, 6660 Poinsett Park Road, Wedgefield, (803) 494-8177. Poinsett offers cabins, camping, boating, fishing and hiking and biking trails that lead visitors through Manchester State Forest. Admission to the park is free.