Established on June 17, 1819, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Pendleton is, to a great degree, the “mother church” of Holy Trinity, having long been a part of the local ministry of the Episcopal Church in the upper part of South Carolina. It is an important and tangible piece of the Holy Trinity story.
When pioneers moved into the Cherokee Territory after the Revolution, they brought their religion with them. One of the first, General Andrew Pickens, brought Presbyterianism into Pickens County District, comprising the present Pickens, Oconee, and Anderson Counties, resulting in the founding of Old Stone Church in 1789. This was roughly around the time of the founding of the town of Pendleton (1790) when it was selected as the seat of local government in northwestern South Carolina.
The Early Episcopalians
A different influx came over the next few decades, when Charleston residents, seeking a more healthful climate, built plantation homes in the country around Pendleton. Many were Episcopalians. The prevailing religious denominations in the upstate were Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian. The Protestant Episcopal Society for the Advancement of Christianity in South Carolina was active in organizing these groups, though progress was slow.
In Bishop Theodore Dehon’s report to the 26th Diocesan Convention (1814), he wrote:
“It is with pleasure I mention that the congregation of Episcopalians in Columbia collaborated and organized, under the labors of a Missionary of the Protestant Episcopal Society, have, with the aid of donations for the work, from many zealous and benevolent individuals, of our community, finished arrangements for the erection, in that place, of a building for the purpose of Christian worship, according to the uses of our Church. This Success of exertions in a place, where three years ago, the Liturgy of our Church was scarcely known, affords encouragement to similar efforts in other places, notwithstanding the unpropitious circumstances, which confessedly exist.”
The Bishop’s skepticism notwithstanding, the following year at Convention the Hon. Theodore Gaillard, a deputy from Trinity Church, Columbia, moved a resolution, commending the work of the Advancement Society and appealing for its support so that it might extend its work into the upper part of the state, “particularly in the Pendleton District.” Certainly there were some Episcopalians in the area because a group, organized into a mission, worshipped in the Court House and the present-day Farmers’ Hall, there being no church building yet in Pendleton.
Construction of the Building
At the 1822 convention Bishop Nathaniel Bowen reported visiting for the first time “through the North Western extremity of the state” and administering the rite of confirmation in Pendleton. Efforts, however, had already been made toward the erection of a church. In 1820 subscriptions were taken, Bishop Bowen leading the list with $100. Mr. Benj. Dupre, Col. John E. Calhoun, and Col. James Grishaw, comprising a committee, procured a lot from the Pendleton Circulating Library for $39.00.
Despite abundant supplies of native timber, lumber for the building was hauled in ox carts from Savannah, Georgia. The original structure was completed in the fall of 1822 and consecrated by Bishop Bowen in 1823. The bell tower added later contains a bell from the ship, Seabrook, which sailed many years ago from Charleston to Edisto Island; the original bell was given to the cause of the Confederacy during the war. Part of the building is the winding stairway, opening off the vestibule, which leads to the balcony to which the slaves were restricted.
Through The 19th Century
In 1829 there were only three pews, a paucity which may be accounted for in the by-laws of St. Paul’s. Article 1 stated that every pew was entitled to one vote, and Article 7 said that pew assessments were to be paid every six months. According to Article 3, the treasurer “shall publish all cases of vacancy on the next Sunday after such vacancy or vacancies be filled.” In 1833, five pews were added as well as a vestry room.
The present organ was purchased in 1848 by popular subscription ($300.00). Prior to the installation, Dr. Thomas Dart “raised the tunes.” Mrs. John C. Calhoun was active in raising the funds because she complained that Dr. Dart “failed to carry the tune” and because of the “hissing sound he made.” Then in 1854 a rectory was acquired at a cost of $1,100, possibly reflecting the new prosperity resulting from the building of the Blue Ridge Railroad, 1853. Some years later, 1860, the churchyard was enlarged one and one half acres by purchase, and fenced in front in 1890.
Rise of Holy Trinity in Clemson
In the mid-to-late 20th century many parishioners began to migrate their church attendance from St. Paul’s to Holy Trinity in Clemson. Eventually Holy Trinity took over custodial care of the St. Paul’s building and grounds. It remains consecrated space, however, and worship leaders from Holy Trinity hold two regular services per month at St. Paul’s (on first and third Sundays). It is also occasionally used for weddings and other special services.
St. Paul’s Churchyard
In the Churchyard lie many of the state’s most celebrated men and women. Among them are: Mrs. John C. Calhoun, a lifelong member of St. Paul’s (John C. Calhoun is buried at St. Philip’s in Charleston); General Barnard E. Bee, who gave the name “Stonewall” to Gen. Thomas Jonathan Jackson; William Henry Trescot, historian and U. S. diplomat; The Rev. Jasper Adams, first president of Hobart College; The Rev. Paul Earle Sloan, St. Paul’s only postulant for Holy Orders; and Thomas G. Clemson and his wife, Anna Maria Calhoun.
Historic St. Paul’s is located at 328 E. Queen St., Pendleton, SC 29670.
St. Paul’s mailing address is 193 Old Greenville Highway, Clemson, SC 29631.