Steeple Chase Part II

Old Saint Andrew’s Parish, Charleston

The oldest surviving church in South Carolina is nestled along the Ashley River. The sanctuary was constructed in 1706 to serve the planter families that lived and farmed along the river, and the cemetery adjacent to the church serves as the final resting place of some of the area’s most illustrious families. Inside the building, most of the pavers, the baptismal font and the tablets displaying the Lord’s Prayer, Ten Commandments and Apostles’ Creed are original.

Circular Congregational Church, Charleston

A group of “dissenting” English Congregationalists, Scots Presbyterians and French Huguenots came together to create a meetinghouse in 1681. Eventually the street leading to the meetinghouse became Charleston’s famous Meeting Street. When growth demanded a larger building, Robert Mills completed the plans. But when the church, the first domed building in the US, was completed, it seemed odd to residents that the church lacked the typical steeple. In 1838, the 182-foot-tall steeple went up. The adjacent graveyard is the city’s oldest burial grounds, with monuments dating from 1695.

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Charleston

Established 1670, St. Philip’s is the Mother Church of the province, and originally stood on the site where St. Michael’s stands today. A hurricane, then a fire, destroyed the church’s next two structures, but the present building has stood since 1838 despite wartime shelling and an earthquake that almost destroyed the city.

In St. Philip’s churchyard are the graves of John C. Calhoun, seventh vice president of the United States; Edward Rutledge, signer of the Declaration of Independence; Charles Pinckney, signer of the Constitution; and Dubose Heyward, author of Porgy.

Bethel AME Church, Georgetown

The earliest European settlement in North America was in Georgetown, in 1526. But it was not until 1726 that a permanent settlement, named for King George II, took root. Here was the seat of rice and indigo plantations shipping to customers around the world. Amid the large African-American population, the Gullah tradition and language (a Creole blend of Elizabethan English and African languages) flourished. By 1865, when Reverend A.T. Carr established Bethel A.M.E. Church, thousands of newly free African-Americans populated Georgetown. The church became the social center that it remains today.

Old Brick Church, Jenkinsville

Surrounded by a blue granite wall, foundation and steps, the Old Brick Church, or Ebenezer Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church, was obviously built to last. Since 1788, the church has stood as a reminder of the original colonial congregation. On an interior wall is the penciled apology from the Union soldier who took part of the flooring to build a bridge over a nearby river during the Civil War.

Church of the Holy Cross, Stateburg

Revolutionary War hero General Thomas Sumter (nicknamed the Gamecock and the inspiration for the University of South Carolina mascot) donated the land for this church and the chairman of the building committee suggested a “rammed earth” construction. Today, this technique is undergoing a resurgence as a sustainable building technique. Joel Poinsett, the diplomat credited with bringing the poinsettia to this country, is buried in the church’s cemetery.

Antioch Christian Church, Allendale

The second Disciples of Christ Church (also called the Christian Church) to be built in South Carolina reflects the denomination’s belief in simplicity in its worship. This square, clapboard building no longer houses a congregation, but maintains it six-paneled doors and hand-hewn pews, an excellent example of the meetinghouse style of church architecture.

Old Stone Church and Cemetery, Clemson

In 1790, Hopewell Presbyterian Church was established in this Upcountry area, first in a log building (destroyed by fire), then in the current fieldstone-and-mortar structure, completed in 1802. Revolutionary War Generals Andrew Pickens and Robert Anderson served the early congregation as founders and elders. US Vice President John C. Calhoun also worshiped here. This was the first church in South Carolina to have both white and African-American members.

Pon Pon Chapel of Ease, Jacksonboro

In 1725, an act created a chapel of ease along one of the busiest roads of the era. However, the history of the chapel has been anything but one of ease. It was built in 1725, burned, then replaced in 1754; burned in 1801 and rebuilt in 1819-1822; then reduced to ruins in 1831. In 1737, John Wesley, the famous Methodist minister, preached two sermons here. “Pon Pon” was the Indian phrase for “settlement.”