English Motivation

On March 24, 1663, the English monarch Charles II, known as much for his addiction to wine, women and song as his love for governance, stopped his personal pleasures long enough to grant eight members of English nobility a sprawling tract of land that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  The goal of these Lord Proprietors was to colonize the land and exploit its assets.

Sounds simple.  It was not. 

Why would anyone of sound mind move to the undeveloped coastal areas of Carolina?

The Spanish in Florida would threaten any new settlement, as would the native Indian tribes.  In the unhealthy climate even a simple mosquito bite could kill.

To encourage development, the Lord Proprietors offered a few financial incentives and one startling promise: freedom of religion.  As detailed in the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, those not of the Anglican faith would have the same rights of those who were.  The news traveled fast and it traveled far.

People of All Faiths Arrive

Wanting to worship as they wished, Quakers, Jews, and French Huguenots, made their way to Carolina’s coast. Once here, they built homes, established communities, and did indeed worship as they wished.  Even when the earlier privileges were diluted or revoked in the early 1700s, many of the earlier settlers stayed put.  Carolina was their home.

In the middle part of the eighteenth century, the colonial government, wishing to settle the middle part of the state, organized townships.  By the 1750s, various religious groups, including French Huguenots, German and Swiss Lutherans, Quakers, Scots-Irish and Welsh from Pennsylvania and Delaware, settled in (now) Orangeburg, Columbia, Camden, Abbeville, Society Hill and Lexington. Encouraged, the colonial authorities considered how best to organize the raw and untamed Upcountry.  The careful plans of Lowcountry Anglicans were of no interest to the colony’s newest arrivals, the Scots-Irish Presbyterians.

The Scots-Irish Presbyterians were the last of the large religious migrations to arrive in colonial-era South Carolina.  Many arrived in the Upcountry by traveling the Old Wagon Trail, a well-established route that began in Pennsylvania.  The earliest settlers claimed land in the Waxhaw region, an area just south of Charlotte. In another decade or so small groups would make their way past the Waxhaw region to the Abbeville area.  It was known, then, as the Calhoun Settlement, and for good reason.  The earliest American ancestors of  John C. Calhoun called the land their own.  So did the earliest relations of William Randolph Hearst.  A pocket of Scots-Irish Presbyterians also settled in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina.

Such religious pluralism would be enough to reasonably argue that South Carolina’s religious history is the richest of any of the original thirteen colonies.  But against the story of Jews and Quakers, Presbyterians and Anglicans is an even greater story of faith and perseverance.

Africans arrived in Carolina, stripped of freedom and hope, at least for this world.  But for the next, well, Master Jesus would be there to reward them for their faithfulness.

These songs are our Negro Spirituals.  In 1892, the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak offered:

…inspiration for truly national [American] music might be derived from the Negro melodies. I was led to take this view partly by the fact that the so-called plantation songs are indeed the most striking and appealing melodies that have yet been found on this side of the water, but largely by the observation that this seems to be recognized, though often unconsciously, by most Americans…

After the Civil War, African-Americans were quick to form their own congregations.

Through the Years

South Carolina has been known as a “God-fearing” state, not surprising given that a high percentage of its earliest settlers were God-fearing people.  The descendants of the early faithful were eager to honor and extend the religious nature of their ancestors.

However, in recent years, the important of “church” to the state’s general population has waned. Mainstream religions struggle to attract new members.  “Sunday” is no longer a day of rest, at least for many.  In the epic battle between earthly pleasures and religious discipline, the pendulum has been swinging toward the former.

Yet, whether one attends a church or temple, or not, it is nearly impossible to take a drive on South Carolina’s backroads and not be in awe of an abandoned place of worship. Who once worshipped here?  Where did they go?

Are these places worth saving?

This program makes clear that we believe they are!

Thank you for your interest in South Carolina’s Sacred Spaces

Bill Fitzpatrick
Author and Photographer, South Carolina's Sacred Spaces
Vice President, Preserve SC Board of Directors

NOW SHIPPING: SOUTH CAROLINA’S SACRED SPACES 

By Author & Photographer, Bill Fitzpatrick

Proceeds Benefit Preservation South Carolina’s Endangered Sacred Spaces Fund 

This magnificent book contains 248 pages filled with magnificent photographs and stories of some of the most interesting sacred spaces in South Carolina. Writer and Photographer Bill Fitzpatrick takes us on a tour of the famous and less known churches while introducing us to the people who go about the business of guarding their church’s history and our states spiritual heritage.

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