Usually I skip a brick church. But this large Greek Revival church was hard to pass by. I had just started taking photos one morning when a large pickup truck pulled in behind me to ask what I was doing. Turned out that the man stopping was a local judge and a caretaker of the historic church which had suffered some recent vandalism. So after I held up my camera, he generously offered a tour of the closed up building. Over the next forty-five minutes I learned quite a bit of history.
Salem Black River Presbyterian Church (sometimes called “Brick Church”), near Mayesville, was the first brick church in South Carolina. That building, built in 1802, was replaced with the present structure in 1846. When Sherman’s army marched towards the sea, they destroyed most churches, but missed this one by only a few miles.
A slave gallery extends along three sides of the church and boxed pews divide the ground floor into four sections. A few years before this structure was built, church records show 42 white members and 118 black. After emancipation, the former slaves formed nearby Goodwill Presbyterian Church in 1867. There is also a well maintained cemetery behind the church that has a reputation for being haunted, with graves dating back to 1794. According to my guide that morning, it’s the reason for a lot of the vandalism from late night ghost hunters. Services are still held at the church twice per month.