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Churches of Edisto Island, South Carolina

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Churches of Edisto Island

Edisto Island, South Carolina

While on the road the Winter of 2017 we spent some time in March on Edisto Island; enough time to find and photograph some unique people, places and structures.

One morning’s trek back up SC 174 to photograph a couple of eye-catching church buildings grew to several days, several places and several kind South Carolinians who extended themselves to me.

A tip of the hat and a thank you to :

Librarian Marilyn Bowman of the Charleston County Public Library on Edisto, Island,

the Rector Weyman Camp of the Trinity Episcopal Church,

and Craig Williams congregant of the Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island

These folks proved to be exceptionally gracious, welcoming and informative, local Edistonians at their finest, proud South Carolinians all.

Trinity Episcopal ChurchFounded in 1774, the present church (the third church building), consecrated in 1881, stands on the sight of the old sanctuary.

The church was occupied by Federal troops during the Civil War, destroyed by fire in 1876 and damaged by the hurricane of 1893.

The sanctuary was rebuilt and features beautiful interior work done by a former slave.

The old bead-board and blown glass windows have been lovingly preserved.The Trinity Episcopal (now Anglican) Church graciously provides a building’s worth of space for the Charleston County Public Library on Edisto Island.

The Library has wonderful staff and a wonderful presence.

New Englanders (Yankees) are wont to judge towns by their Town Library.

Edisto gets high library marks and high book store marks.

Down the road a-piece stands the two buildings of New First Missionary Baptist Church.

The new sanctuary and community building  and beyond it the historic sanctuary of the New First Missionary Baptist Church.

This Church was founded and built in 1818 by the wife of an Edisto plantation owner, Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend.

Many slaves worshipped here, and after the Civil War it was turned over to the African-American congregation.

Descendants of 19th century members continue to worship today in the New First Baptist Missionary Church next door.

The historical sanctuary now houses the congregation of The Episcopal Church On Edisto.A theological dispute that became a political and legal dispute at the Diocese level resulted in a segment of the Trinity Episcopal Church (now Anglican) congregation and leadership leaving and becoming the The Episcopal Church On Edisto.

“Our brother in Christ, the Rev. Albert C. (Chick) Morrison, has offered our
continuing worship community the use of the historic sanctuary of the New First
Missionary Baptist Church for our worship services on an ongoing basis.  We are
very blessed by the generosity of this very kind Christian man and his

The Episcopal Church On Edisto

The Zion Reformed Episcopal Church, “the Episcopal Church of Color”.The Zion Reformed Episcopal Church was founded after the Civil War by African-American members of the Trinity Episcopal Church who were unwilling to be restricted to sitting in the upstairs galleries of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Presbyterians settled Edisto Island and their Church buildings and Church property attest to that fact.

A Presbyterian congregation was meeting on Edisto Island possibly as early as 1689.

The original building was erected in 1710, which later burned and was replaced in 1807.

The present church was constructed under the supervision of E.M. Curtis, a Charleston builder and completed 1836.

The beautiful Classic Greek Revival architecture reflects the prosperity of the Edisto planters and served both the white and black islanders until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.

It has a large graveyard with many fine gravestones dating from 1792.

A large balcony with exterior entrances was built for  slaves.

The church interior has been beautifully restored, today, to include its original high pulpit .

Researcher Agnes L. Baldwin wrote that the earliest settlers on Edisto Island were Welsh and Scottish immigrants, and that Rev. Archibald Stobo “had begun preaching on Edisto in 1722 and that (the church) had been established by at least 1710.”

She continues, interestingly, “at first the Presbyterian worshippers shared their building with the Baptists, and relied on circuit riders for their pastors, but by 1722, they alone were using the church.”

Historically, Anglican and Presbyterian churches made earnest efforts, Baldwin writes, but could not compete with Baptists and Methodists in attracting Black churchgoers. The Allen AME Church, The Old First Baptist Church and many other smaller churches on Edisto, today, are historic and teaming with churchgoers every Sunday. Many drive long distances to attend.

… There is a Presbyterian Church that is black, now, down the road. The Rev. McKinley Washington, pastor of Edisto Presbyterian Church, is in his 70’s. He served for 27 years as a legislator, first in the House, then the Senate. In 1964, he organized a branch of the NAACP and led a successful voter registration drive. Today, the beautiful bridge that leads to Edisto Island is named for him, and he gathers, still, a loyal congregation.

(The Reverend McKinley Washington retired May of 2012.)

Interviewed in 2007, Washington said that his church started shortly after the Civil War in the same way many black churches began. “Blacks worshiping in the balcony of the white church, The Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island, just up S.C. Highway 174, were asked to leave — during a service, the story goes. They finished their worship that day in the shade of an old oak tree.”

Their first church structure was assembled with material from Palmetto trees. Eventually, a tiny church building was uprooted from Edingsville Beach, floated up the river to Murray’s Landing, then set in place at Cypress Bottom Road and Highway 174, Washington said. In 1968, the current brick structure with its huge Presbyterian cross was erected. It’s name is Edisto Island Presbyterian Church.

The Manse of the Presbyterian Church On Edisto

The two-and-a-half story manse is thought to have been built for the Church’s minister around 1790.

The land for the manse was donated to the Church by Henry Bowers in 1717.

Though updated with modern conveniences, modifications to the Presbyterian Manse have been few over time, and the house remains virtually the same in appearance as when it was built.

It is the oldest structure on the island associated with a church.

Botany Bay Road beyond the Allen AME Church The Allen AME Church across the salt marsh down the Botany Bay Road.

Home of the community-wide food bank.

I am hoping I have been fair and just to all in my written comments.

Expanded Image Gallery ~ Churches of Edisto Island

Categories: Uncategorized
Posted by bigdawg on March 26, 2017

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