The history of Sardist Methodist Church in Orangeburg County, South Carolina dates back to before the Revolutionary War. The old wooden building standing today is the third, built in 1872. The church isn’t used on a regular basis any longer, but the small cemetery surrounding the building is still maintained. It includes an “Unknown Indian Grave” among the burials primarily from the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Coddle Creek Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is believed to have been organized by 1755. Settlers to this area of North Carolina (north of Charlotte) included Presbyterians from Scotland as well as Associate Presbyterians and Reformed Presbyterians. The first church used was a log building that was replaced in 1839. It was later destroyed by fire and this current church was dedicated in 1884. A cemetery with graves at least to the mid-19th century is behind the building and a detailed history of the church is included on their website.
On the way to Clemson, South Carolina for a recent football game, I made a short detour into Pendleton, South Carolina to get a couple of photos of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It was built in 1822 to serve families locating from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and some other areas. Pendleton was a trading center between the coastal areas of South Carolina and the Cherokee Trading Path and was also known for fine cabinet and carriage makers and for ironwork. A cemetery surrounds the church and includes Civil War veterans and Thomas Clemson, a philanthropist from Philadelphia who donated the land and money to establish an agricultural college that was later renamed in his honor.
Union Christian Church is part of the President Calvin Coolidge Historic Site in Plymouth, Vermont. The Village of Plymouth Notch has a few homes, this church, a schoolhouse, general store and cheese factory and is said to look basically unchanged since the early 19th century when Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the 30th U.S. President.
The Greek Revivial church was built in 1840 and was initially a Congregational Church. Nearby is Plymouth Cemetery, which includes the graves of several generations of the Coolidge family, including the grave of the former president.
I just returned after spending a few days driving around the lower half of Alabama adding some new old churches. One of them, Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, is isolated in rural Clarke County near the community of Carlton. It was a rainy morning and the red clay roads leading to the church and cemetery were starting to fill with water but were passable. The Baptist church was organized in the 19th century.
However, the more well-known feature of this church is the death masks created by Isaac Nettles that are included on a few of the grave markers. Isaac Nettles was described as a “brilliant recluse and inventor” who created the masks for three relatives and a fourth man who liked them and requested one from Isaac. The masks were made from mud while the subjects were alive. Later, the molds were cast in concrete for the grave marker. The folk art nature of the graves helped them to be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
One of the oldest Baptist churches in Georgia, Big Buckhead Baptist is located in a remote section of southern Georgia. Although the church was organized circa 1774, the Greek Revival building was built in 1845 and is the fourth church built on the site. It’s also another Georgia church building with the separate entrances for men and women. Supposedly inside there are hoof marks on some of the pews made when the wood was used to help Confederate cavalry cross a nearby creek. On the couple occasions I’ve stopped by, the church was locked so I wasn’t able to confirm that story. There is also a small cemetery across the road surrounded and partially hidden by trees. And just a few hundred yards down the road was the Carswell Grove Baptist Church mentioned in an earlier post.
Palmer Chapel Methodist Church served the Cataloochee Valley in western North Carolina prior to becoming part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was built in 1898. Just north of the chapel is the Palmer Cemetery with graves scattered up a steep slope. Grave markers here are dated in the mid 1800s through 1929.
This church is located in Sumneytown in eastern Pennsylvania. Frieden is German for “peace” and the German speaking Lutherans in the area organized the church in 1857. Its history shows that it served both the Lutheran and German Reformed congregations until 1957. The Lutherans moved to a separate location (not sure if there’s a story there?) and the German Reformed side merged with the Congregational Church to form the UCC. It’s still in use, but was locked up the couple of times I’ve stopped by, so I’ve not seen the inside.
The cemetery that surrounds the church is in good shape, though the oldest markers near the church lean precariously as you can see in the feature photo above.
This past summer I drove a lot of miles through the Dakotas in a little over a week. I added over 40 churches to the project and one of my favorites was Wolf Butte Lutheran Church. It had a lot of what I look for – it was abandoned, weathered, and isolated.
Wolfe Butte last had regular services nearly 30 years ago (1988). It was built in 1909 and stands large on the prairie surrounded by farmland. There’s also a small cemetery to the side of the church.
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.