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General Information


Early Religious Effort in Old Pendleton District 1785-1970 - H54 by Annie Lee Boggs

General Area History:


It is estimated by Ramsay in his history of South Carolina (1808) that in 1755, there were not even 23 families settled between the Waxhaws on the Catawba River and Augusta on the Savannah River.  Since much of the upcountry was Indian land, settlement had centered in the coastal counties.  Prior to 1768, the only court held in South Carolina was held at the City of Charleston.  In 1768, however,  South Carolina was divided into six judicial districts, with courts to be held in each.  What is now Oconee County was in the Ninety-Six District.  At the end of the Revolutionary War, all of  present-day Greenville, Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens counties was Cherokee land.  There was some white settlement in this area, and forts had been erected in various places to protect the settlers.  The judicial set-up in South Carolina becomes quite fluid (and quite confusing) from this time on until 1868.  A law passed in 1783 recommended the division of the judicial districts into counties of not more than forty square miles, with each county to have its own courts.  This was accomplished by 1785, with the Ninety-Six District being further divided into Abbeville, Edgefield, Newberry, Laurens, Union and Spartanburg counties.  The lands of present-day Oconee County were temporarily attached to the adjoining counties of Laurens, Abbeville and Spartanburg.


The Indians had sided with the British during the Revolution, and were forced to surrender their land.  In 1785 a treaty was signed with the Cherokee Indians at Hopewell, the home of Andrew Pickens; the following year, a treaty was signed with the Choctaws at the same location.  At about this time it was estimated that the white population of the area was 9,500.  By 1789, the residents of present-day Oconee County were having difficulty with their judicial assignment, and the area was separated off into Pendleton County.  A courthouse was set up at the site of the present-day town of Pendleton in 1790.  The next year, however, the Ninety-Six District was divided into upper and lower regions.  The upper region, composed of Pendleton and Greenville counties, was named the Washington District; a district courthouse was set up at Pickensville near the present-day town of Easley.  In 1798 the name "county" once again changed to "district"; Oconee County was in the Pendleton District, and court was held in Pendleton. The population was increasing rapidly; according to Ramsay's history, by 1800 it stood at 17,828.  The area was, however, still sparsely settled.  In 1808, according to Ramsay, there was only one acre of cleared land for every eight acres of uncleared land, and only one inhabitant per 36 acres.  Education was "at a low ebb," although some schools had been established; one newspaper was being published, by John Miller in Pendleton.  In 1826 Pendleton District  was further subdivided into Pickens and Anderson districts.  The county seat of the Pickens District, which encompassed present-day Oconee County, was located at Pickens Courthouse, or "Old Pickens."


While some of the settlers during this early period had come from the lowcountry of South Carolina, many were Scotch-Irish immigrants who had fled Ulster for Pennsylvania to escape religious persecution.  They then traveled down the Great Wagon Road from Harrisburg, through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and into the piedmont region of the two Carolinas.  Some wealthy plantation owners from the lowcountry did begin to build second homes in the upstate, mostly to take advantage of the more moderate summer climate.  John C. Calhoun was one of these; his home, Fort Hill, was later deeded to the state by his son-in-law, Thomas Clemson, and became the site of Clemson University.


In 1868 Pickens District was divided into Pickens and Oconee counties.  The area was still a rural one, centered around courthouse towns which usually had a courthouse, several churches, a school, and a few dozen citizens.


Early Presbyterianism:


The early settlement of South Carolina took place along the coast.  The first minister to preach to Presbyterians in South Carolina was Rev. Archibald Stobo, who arrived in Charleston in 1700.  Until 1704, he was the pastor of the "Mixed Presbyterian and Independent Church" there, the only place of worship for Presbyterians in the entire colony.  There was probably no organized presbytery in South Carolina until the 1730s.  Early Presbyterians were organized under the Presbytery of Orange, Synod of New York and Philadelphia.  By 1760 there were eleven Presbyterian ministers in the colony, concentrated in areas near the coast.  By 1784 membership in the Carolinas was increasing, resulting in a desire to form a local presbytery.  Following the various Indian treaties signed in the late 1780s, settlement of the Upstate accelerated, mostly by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who had traveled down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania. By 1789, the year the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church was established, there were ministers appearing in some upstate areas, including the Waxhaws, Saluda, Rocky River, and Upper and Lower Long Cane.

Among churches which had been organized in the upstate at this point were Richmond/Carmel (1787), Bradaway/Broadway (1788), Good Hope (1789) and Roberts (1789).  It was also at this time that Hopewell (Keowee) or the "Old Stone Church" was established.  In 1790 the list of Oconee County churches expanded with the addition of Bethlehem and Philadelphia (or Ebenezer).


Rev. Thomas Reese, who was serving Hopewell (Keowee) Church at the time, eloquently described the possibilities for church growth in the region.  Noting that circumstances were "favorable to virtue and religion," he also noted that "As the country is in its infancy, we have yet to expect that these congregations will soon become much stronger, and in the course of a few years, if peace continues, it is probable that each of them will be able to support a minister.  It is a pleasing reflection to the friends of religion, that as the people travel westward, the gospel travels with them, or soon follows after them; that God inclines the hearts of ministers, respectable for learning, worth, and piety, to settle in these uncultivated regions."


Southern representation at early meetings of the General Assembly was limited, since meetings were always held in the North, and travel was complicated and expensive.  Thus figures on the development of churches in South Carolina are scarce. The western "frontier" of South Carolina was considered a missionary territory, with ministers traveling around and "supplying" a number of churches.  Indeed, a number of the same ministers served the various Presbyterian churches in Oconee County.  Salaries were often left unpaid; the largest contribution toward the salary of Rev. John Simpson, first pastor at Roberts Church, was $5.00, and some members were

only able to give a few pennies, or gifts in kind such as corn, wheat, and whiskey.  Often these itinerant preachers were not even reimbursed for travel and lodging.  Consequently,  some ministers turned to teaching, opening early academies and schools.  Often they found this work more congenial, and left the ministry, contributing further to the shortage of qualified pastors.


In 1796 Rev. Andrew Brown was appointed to spend time as a missionary on the South Carolina frontier, at a salary of $16.66 per month.  In 1797 he apparently had charge of the Bethlehem and Philadelphia churches on Cane Creek in present-day Oconee County.  In his history of South Carolina, Walter Edgar estimates that only 8% of the white population in the upstate belonged to churches at this time. Church membership, however, was increasing, largely as a result of massive ecumenical camp meetings.  The early churches were simple, usually built of undressed logs.  They had few windows, and were furnished with benches rather than pews.  No musical instruments were employed in the services.


It was during this time that Nazareth/Beaverdam (1803) and Bethel (1805) were organized.  Edgar states that membership had almost tripled, to 23% of the white population, by 1810.  As for the Presbyterians, by that time there were only 9 ministers to serve 25 churches and 634 congregants in the entire Presbytery of South Carolina. By 1826 Mills' "Statistics of South Carolina" indicated that there was a dominant Presbyterian presence in Abbeville, Chester, Fairfield, Greenville, Laurens, Pendleton, Richland and York districts.  In Oconee County, Westminster and Richland had been organized in 1834.  Ministers continued to be scarce, however, and most only stayed in one church for a short time.  It was not until 1859 that the concept of a  permanent pastorate became popular in the church.


By 1870 there were still only 29 ordained ministers in South Carolina Presbytery, and only 13 of these were devoting their full time to the ministry.  During this time the Presbytery continued to employ "domestic missionaries" to supply vacant pulpits.  By the late nineteenth century, after a restructuring of the Presbytery to form Enoree Presbytery, there were 19 ministers left in the Presbytery of South Carolina to serve 39 churches, and rural churches continued to languish on into the 20th century. (For more information on the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina, see: Howe, George,  History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina; History Of The Presbyterian Church In South Carolina Since 1850, edited by F. D. Jones, D. D. And W. H. Mills, D. D.; and Strupl, Milos, History of the Presbytery of South Carolina, 1784-1984.)


by: Nancy S. Griffith at ngriffit@presby.edu in Apr-2001


History of the Presbyterian Church in SC:  

Montreat Conference Center:

Although there is a Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, the best place to find material on the "Southern" church is at Montreat.  Here's what the Society says about this on their website: The Presbyterian Historical Society serves its constituency from two regional offices, one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and one in Montreat, North Carolina.


The Philadelphia office documents "northern stream" predecessor denominations and their work, congregations, and middle governing bodies in thirty-six states, and the work of the current denomination's national agencies.


The Montreat office documents "southern stream" predecessor denominations and congregations and middle governing bodies in fourteen southern states. For records from congregations, synods, and presbyteries in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia, contact the Montreat office first. For all others, contact the Philadelphia office first.


Presbyterian Historical Society, Box 849, Montreat, NC 28757, (828) 669-7061, Fax (828) 669-5369


(Society library is closed forever.  Records from the Montreat office will be relocated to either Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, or to the PHS site in Philadelphia, with some artifacts remaining at Montreat.)


Presbyterian Historical Society, 425 Lombard Street, Philadelphia PA 19147-1516, (215) 627-1852, Fax (215) 627-0509



The Special Collections area at the Thomason Library, Presbyterian College, Clinton SC contains a quantity of Presbyterian materials, including minutes of the Synod of South Carolina (and its successors, the Synod of the Southeast and the Synod of the South Atlantic), the Minutes of the General Assembly, incomplete sets of South Carolina presbytery minutes, many histories of churches in South Carolina, biographies of area ministers, sermons, and the papers of 19th century ministers Ferdinand and William Plumer Jacobs.  The library also has extensive information on Presbyterian College and Thornwell Orphanage.  The library's catalog can be searched online at: http://library.presby.edu/.  Special Collections librarian is Nancy Griffith, e-mail ngriffit@presby.edu.


South Caroliniana Library at USC has over 474 titles listed on South Carolina Presbyterianism, including local church histories.  They also have over 800 issues of the "Southern Presbyterian," which was a prominent journal during the late 19th and early 20 centuries.  Their catalog can be searched online at: http://www.sc.edu/uscan/.

Presbyterian Church in America Historical Center:  (Archives and Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church)

Bold print indicates those churches which have documents & other historical materials on file in the Historical Center. "Est." - Date of establishment, or organization, indicates when the church was officially recognized as a particular church.

Email and web links are provided where known. Please notify the Historical Center of changes and corrections.
Please consult the directory at
for addresses, phone numbers & pastors' names.






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Grace Church





Presbyterian Church (USA):

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approximately 2.4 million members, 11,100 congregations and 14,000 ordained and active ministers. Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation. Our heritage, and much of what we believe, began with the French lawyer John Calvin (1509-1564), whose writings crystallized much of the Reformed thinking that came before him.


The earliest Christian church consisted of Jews in the first century who had known Jesus and heard his teachings. It gradually grew and spread from the Middle East to other parts of the world, though not without controversy and hardship among its supporters.


During the 4th century, after more than 300 years of persecution under various Roman emperors, the church became established as a political as well as a spiritual power under the Emperor Constantine. Theological and political disagreements, however, served to widen the rift between members of the eastern (Greek-speaking) and western (Latin-speaking) branches of the church. Eventually the western portions of Europe, came under the religious and political authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Eastern Europe and parts of Asia came under the authority of the Eastern Orthodox Church.


In western Europe, the authority of the Roman Catholic Church remained largely unquestioned until the Renaissance in the 15th century. The invention of the printing press in Germany around 1440 made it possible for common people to have access to printed materials including the Bible. This, in turn, enabled many to discover religious thinkers who had begun to question the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. One such figure, Martin Luther, a German priest and professor, started the movement known as the Protestant Reformation when he posted a list of 95 grievances against the Roman Catholic Church on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. Some 20 years later, a French/Swiss theologian, John Calvin, further refined the reformers' new way of thinking about the nature of God and God's relationship with humanity in what came to be known as Reformed theology. John Knox, a Scotsman who studied with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, took Calvin's teachings back to Scotland. Other Reformed communities developed in England, Holland and France. The Presbyterian church traces its ancestry back primarily to Scotland and England.


Presbyterians have featured prominently in United States history. The Rev. Francis Makemie, who arrived in the U.S. from Ireland in 1683, helped to organize the first American Presbytery at Philadelphia in 1706. In 1726, the Rev. William Tennent founded a ministerial 'log college' in Pennsylvania. Twenty years later, the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University) was established. Other Presbyterian ministers, such as the Rev. Jonathan Edwards and the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, were driving forces in the so-called "Great Awakening," a revivalist movement in the early 18th century. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Rev. John Witherspoon, was a Presbyterian minister and the president of Princeton University from 1768-1793.


The Presbyterian church in the United States has split and parts have reunited several times. Currently the largest group is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has its national offices in Louisville, Ky. It was formed in 1983 as a result of reunion between the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS), the so-called "southern branch," and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA), the so-called "northern branch." Other Presbyterian churches in the United States include: the Presbyterian Church in America, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  By: Presbyterian Church (USA)

Synods - Current Regional Governing Bodies:

SC Foothills Presbytery (Greenville SC): 150 Executive Center Drive, Suite 226, B-14, Greenville, SC 29615, 864-288-5774, fax 288-5778, Rev. George G. Wilkes III - Executive at gwilkes@foothillspresbytery.org

2006 Membership






Fair Play

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