Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rise of Black Baptist churches in Laurens County, SC

"A Negro Camp Meeting in the South" (loc.org)
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with the remarkable rise of Baptist churches led by African American freed slaves.

Baptists also found themselves in the midst of the massive post-War social upheavals of the period. Out in the Beaverdam community of Laurens County, Beaverdam Baptist Church for example, organized in the early 1800s, had in the year the War ended, 1865, the largest colored membership in its storied history – seventy-six black members. No longer enslaved, black members of Baptist churches soon began withdrawing to form separate fellowships, motivated by their new opportunity for a voice and a vote in church affairs. Their white brethren, who believed in congregational church government, encouraged and supported their believing former slaves demonstration of their own leadership in their own local churches.[1] 
But there were other, less altruistic, outside political forces fueling the departure of black members from churches as well.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Baptists of Reconstruction Laurens County, SC

Langston Baptist Church, oldest continuous
Baptist church in Laurens County, SC
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with an introduction to Baptists in Laurens County, SC.
The Baptists in Laurens County, SC, were a peculiar people, distinct in their ecclesiology and their method of adult believer's baptism by immersion. The Hurricane or Harrykin Baptists between Clinton and Martin’s Depot (today's Joanna) were very sensitive to their method of baptism by immersion. Warrior Creek Baptist Church continued to carry on strict and public church discipline, holding strongly to the Baptist doctrinal ideal of a regenerate church membership as a core aspect of congregational government. Regenerate church membership means that

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Joys of Pastoring in Laurens County, SC

Clinton, SC, Presbyterian Church organized 1855
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with the fun that W.P. Jacobs had pastoring his Clinton, SC, Presbyterian flock.
Being a pastor in Reconstruction-era Laurens County, SC, must have been quite an experience. On the other hand, perhaps a pastor of any denomination can probably recognize similar attitudes and actions today. Alas, some things never change!
        When the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Clinton, SC, Dr. William Plumer Jacobs, discovered to his surprise that the Presbyterian Church was no longer popular in the Clinton, SC, area of his time, he asked people why. His number one answer: All the members were hypocrites. Number two: There was continuing resentment that the 1855 organization of the Clinton church had about broken up Duncan's Creek Presbyterian Church as they had lost thirteen members to the new Clinton church. Dr. Jacobs noted, “"It would seem to indicate that the Duncan's Creek Church was almost broken up already."[1]

Dr. Jacobs provides a number of examples of the joys of pastoring in Laurens County, SC. For example, when Dr. Jacobs offered to preach to the young people at night providing they buy the candles and oil, the session complained that the teenagers would not pay the bills and the church would go into debt over candles and oil. Mr. Phinney volunteered to buy the items and light them himself so that the church would not be in danger of fire.
            Prayer meeting did not go over well either. The very idea was considered absurd.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Presbyterians of Reconstruction-era Laurens County, SC

Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church, oldest church in Upstate
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with a sketch of Presbyterianism in the county.

Because of the heavy Scots-Irish settlement of much of Laurens County, the Presbyterians early on had the preeminence in terms of numbers and influence. Dr. Jacobs came in 1864 to pastor the Clinton Presbyterian Church. At the end of the war in 1865, the church had thirty white members, only a few colored, no Sabbath school, no choir, no prayer meeting, no church collection, no officer's meetings, no ladies' society, and only two services a month.[1]

The Laurens Presbyterians had a "neat little brick building on Church Street with a yard in front, enclosed with a beautiful iron fence" put up in 1850. "The Sunday School is in a flourishing condition" with 115 members. The colored Presbyterians had a church called Mt. Pisgah in Jersey on Hance Street, built for a school house and used as a church and school until 1878 when it was used only for worship.[2]

            Rev. Zelotes Lee Holmes continued his work as a Presbyterian evangelist, organizing Lisbon Presbyterian Church south of Laurens near the Beaverdam community in 1871, as a chapel for his family and an outreach to those in the community. At the same time Holmes also pastored the ancient Little River Presbyterian Church. In 1870, Little River, progressing with the times,

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thornwell: A home for War orphans

William Plumer Jacobs
William Plumer Jacobs
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with an home for War orphans in Clinton.
In the midst of Reconstruction Laurens County, SC, Dr. William Plumer Jacobs was sensing God’s leadership in other new areas. Seeing the great need of post-War orphans abounding across the South, Jacobs wrote in his diary in July 1872, " If one dollar is offered me for the Home of the Fatherless this month or one child is tendered me I will take it as God's call to this work, and if I enter upon it then my lot is fixed for life in Clinton."

Jacobs did not come to this matter of establishing an orphanage haphazardly or suddenly. It was the product of a long period of God’s preparatory work in his life.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Rise of Black Churches in Laurens County, SC

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with the rise of black churches.
Bethel AME in Laurens. Built by freed slave Columbus White. Razed 2008.
Christians of African descent in Laurens County, SC, during the era of Reconstruction saw it as a duty to form their own churches, and white Christians felt a duty to help them. Leaving the white churches was "self‑inspired secession." In the white churches the Negro had no "voice in the government of his religious organization. At first the whites opposed the negroes' leaving, but the Baptists with their tradition of religious freedom "were the first to sanction and even encourage such separation."[1] The first South Carolina African Methodist Episcopal "Conference resolved that a separate religious organization was necessary for the Negro. Leaders argued that prejudice ruled out both races worshiping at the same altar.[2] Morgan Scurry, born a slave near Chappells in Newberry County, thought everybody should belong to the church and be a Christian. He added his thoughts to the racial separation of the churches many years later in the Slave Narratives,

Friday, September 25, 2015

Church life in Reconstruction-era Laurens County, SC

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with a vignette of church life.
Dr. William Plumer Jacobs
            "The spirit of the christian religion teaches that men should be to each other forgiving and merciful. But such I think is not the spirit of the present day," wrote Thomas Workman on September 16, 1875. He was quite concerned about religion and how it fit into life. "I hope though that things will take a turn for the better before long, at least that is to be expected."[1] Dr. William Plumer Jacobs of Clinton desired to do great things for God. What Dr. Jacobs found when he arrived in Clinton back in 1864 was not what he had expected.
            In Charleston where Jacobs grew up, the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists were all against the Episcopalians and Catholics. But in Clinton, he wrote, "the various churches interpreted literally the saying of St. Paul, 'Fight the good fight of the faith.'" These people majored on

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Laurens County, SC, schools during Reconstruction

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with a survey of education and institutions for children during the period.
Though privately tutored education was more emphasized than public education before the War Between the States, some poor schools and academies were in operation in Laurens County. The first public school in Laurens County, the Wadsworth poor school, was established in 1805 as a free school or “poor school” for anyone who wanted an education. [1] The first school house in Laurensville was later on Reedy Fork Creek near the residence of Colonel Ball, and its first teacher was Charles Stone. But there were others. Laurensville Male Academy was established in 1848 and stood on the corner of Main and Academy Streets. Frank Evans was its principal[2] as it focused on a classical form education.[3]
One of the more well known institutions of learning across the state was Laurensville Female College,

Friday, September 04, 2015

Thomas M. Workman, genius inventor of Laurens County, SC

Sanctuary of Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with a genius inventor living between Laurens and Clinton.


Out in the Rocky Springs community, a young genius named Thomas Madison Workman (1847-1921) was writing and thinking ahead of his time. He wrote in his unpublished diary, "I believe this country needs some efficient means of irrigation." He proposed such ideas as windmills to fill above‑ground cisterns placed on a hill in order to power the water through pipes across the fields. The cistern could also be used for "raising fish, ducks, and many other things that would be desirable." Plus, telegraph wires could be run along the pipes and one could "be in constant communication with anybody."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Economic crises and Christ's redemption

Tyre harbour
Tyre harbor today (Wikipedia)
Isaiah shows that God's control of financial systems points to the redemption found only in His Son Jesus Christ (Isa. 23:15-18).
Financial systems globally are in turmoil, this time in response to  currency devaluations and slowdowns in the Chinese economy, the world's largest. But the prophet Isaiah, who deals with financial downturn across the system as a result of the decline of the commercial heavyweights Tyre and Sidon, shows us good news from Isaiah 23:15-18. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Global economic forces and God's purposes

The Triumphal Arch in Tyre, Lebanon
Tyre's Triumphal Arch (Wikipedia)
Isaiah shows that God controls financial systems for His purposes

We are in the midst of a lot of global economic changes. We are hearing in the media about what the experts call a "correction." Does the Word of God have anything to say about global economies? Yes, in fact, Isaiah 23 tells us that the Lord uses global economic forces to bring forth His purposes (Isa. 23:10-14)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Global economics and God's glory

Satellite caption of the Mediterranean Sea.Image via Wikipedia
The Mediterranean: Tyre controlled the seas
This is the first of three posts on the economic mayhem going on across the globe. Tune in for the next two in order to get a full picture. 

All economies make corrections from time to time. We are experiencing another one. Hopefully, it is not a catastrophic correction. Our world's economies are more interconnected now than ever. As Greece teeters near default, the European Union shudders at the ramifications of yet another bailout. When China devalued it currency again recently, shock waves are being felt across stock exchanges and global food and petroleum markets. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Laurens County (SC) living in 1872

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with life in 1872 Laurens County.
Clinton (SC) Presbyterian Church built 1855
         As Laurens County, SC, dealt with the Conspiracy Arrests in 1872, the doctrine of human depravity continued to show itself elsewhere in the county as well. The Laurensville town council warned robin shooters in March, 1872, that because of careless and reckless shooting, the ordinance against discharge of firearms would be strictly enforced. Also the corncrib of the widow Mrs. Minerva Dial was robbed of twenty‑ five bushels and her house of a sum of money. These were days when, "it is necessary in these times to sleep with one eye open, and your shot gun well loaded."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Primer on South Carolina's Reconstruction

A view of SC's Reconstruction General Assembly
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with a primer on SC Reconstruction history. 

In order to better understand Laurens County’s role in South Carolina Reconstruction history, a short overview of Reconstruction across the state may be helpful.
        After the Confederacy fell in April 1865, SC Governor A.G. Magrath was removed by the victors and sent to Federal prison. U.S. President Andrew Johnson, who was taught to read and write in Laurens County many years earlier by a young sweetheart, pardoned most of those who had taken part in the war. He also appointed Benjamin F. Perry of Greenville as provisional governor. Perry was a Unionist who had opposed both nullification and secession, but he also held the respect of many South Carolinians. Perry immediately

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Laurens and Clinton Conspiracy Trials

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with the 1872 Conspiracy trials in response to the Laurens Riot of 1870. 
The prisoners from Laurens and Clinton lived quite a hard life in the Columbia jail. They were attended by the Presbyterians of Columbia, "and representatives from almost every class of the old regime kept dropping in upon us." Soon they were hailed as moral heroes instead of alleged Ku Klux prisoners. In four weeks in prison, they never had the prison food. Instead, they were brought food from the outside. The prisoners ate better than boarders in "any hotel in Columbia."[1] 

On their first Sunday in prison, the local Columbia ladies brought "turkey and roast pork with all the necessary trimmings, rice, chicken salad, tea and coffee, etc." Dr. William Swan Plumer brought "the largest tin bucket in his hand with 'soup for the prisoners.'" Colonel John S. Preston sent them "a ten gallon keg of beer, which was opened and enjoyed by all."[2] 
           There was a continuous stream of visitors, among them many ministers. They received two sermons on Sunday and nightly devotions from local pastors,

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Laurens County Conspiracy Arrests

The W.D. Simpson house in Laurens, SC,
as far as J.N. Wright ventured into Laurens
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with the response to the Laurens Riot of 1870 with the surprise Federal arrests of leading men in Laurens and Clinton at the end of March 1872.

Laurens County folk did not know what new things were in store for the New Year 1872, and it was to be a year to remember. The Laurensville Herald reported the local hunting news on March 1, 1872: 
"WILD CAT - A party of the chase‑loving gentlemen in the lower part of this District, a few days since, captured a well‑grown specimen of this primitive animal, on the plantation of Captain William Young, south fork of Duncan's Creek. More are supposed to be in the vicinity.

By the end of the month in Laurens County, some of these “chase-loving gentlemen” would themselves become the chased. And Joseph Crews would be the hunter. His long awaited revenge for the Laurens Riot and its aftermath was about to be unleashed.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Legal Fallout from the Laurens, SC, Riot

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues, with a description of the legal fallout in the wake of the Laurens, SC, Riot of 1870Racial and political tensions in post-War South Carolina continued to boil over in the Upstate. The first round of arrests and trials began. Here is the story:

The fallout came quickly from the Laurens and Clinton Riots and the successive dark and violent days of 1870. In January 1871, several Laurens and Clinton men were arrested by the State Constabulary and indicted under the Enforcement Acts. 

They were hauled before the federal Grand Jury in Columbia. By blackmailing the wealthiest in the county, "it was thought that these gentlemen, with the prospect of the penitentiary immediately before them, would 'pay out' handsomely."

Monday, July 06, 2015

Joseph Crews' escape from Laurens, SC

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with the aftermath and fallout of the Laurens Riot of 1870, including the ignoble escape of the infamous Joe Crews from town.
An antebellum-style handcar in New Bern, NC
In the wake of the Laurens Riot, rumors flew of groups coming to burn Laurens, that Governor Scott was sending a complete regiment of black militia, that the President was going to declare martial law, and the superstitious were pointing to the bright appearance of the aurora borealis every night. Patrols were detailed every night for the protection of the citizens.[1]
            Four days later the contingent of US Regular troops arrived in Laurens in response to the riot under command of Captain Estes who garrisoned his men in the abandoned railroad depot. Then six days after their arrival, on October 30, 1870, Joe Crews appeared before Captain Estes demanding U.S. protection and safe conveyance out of the county. He looked so haggard from ten days on the run that the Captain agreed to help him, and

Friday, June 26, 2015

Days of Terror in Laurens County, SC

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues, with a description of the days of terror in the wake of the Laurens, SC, Riot of 1870.

The Laurens Riot took place October 20, 1870, the day after the general election, and racial and political tensions in post-War South Carolina were bound to boil over somewhere. The account of the Laurens Riot is found here, but the aftermath was even darker. Here is the story:

By nightfall the whole thing seemed to be over, that is until riders from surrounding counties and outlying areas came into Laurens and into the barrooms in Clinton,[1] having heard the rumors flying of race war.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Laurens, SC, Riot

Laurens, SC, Courthouse viewed from the direction of Tin Pot Alley
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues, as the 1870 Election sparks a major riot on the Square in Laurens.
             It was rainy the morning after the election,[1] Wednesday, October 20, 1870. Court was in session, and Wednesday being the great court day, a large group of whites and blacks were on the square as everyone attended court in those days.[2] Some number of blacks had come to "receive their rewards" from Joseph Crews and his cronies for their election work.
            About eleven that morning on the Courthouse Square, a fist fight began near Tin Pot Alley, Joe Crews’ politico-military compound. According to later testimony presented before the Grand Jury, the fight started when a white Republican constable apparently called a citizen Democrat named Johnson "a tallow‑faced son‑of‑a‑

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Laurens County, SC's most corrupt election

Laurens County Courthouse built 1838
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues with an account of the corrupt and violent 1870 election in Laurens County, SC. 

 As the 1870 fall election season got fully underway, Laurens County chairman of the Radical Republican Party, Joseph Crews, continued making election speeches across the county, and the more he talked, the more ridiculous his speeches became. 
He told black voters that they possessed the State government and must keep it or die, that it was necessary to their liberty and safety that he be elected to the SC House, that he had given them arms and bullets and they must use them, that they had the torch and matches were cheap, that everyone over fifteen years old could vote – he had passed the law himself. On top of it all, Crews consolidated his election machine in an old, dilapidated building called

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Clinton, SC, Riot of 1870

The Clinton, SC, Square.
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues, with 1870 election tensions building to a race riot in Clinton.

In Laurens County and throughout South Carolina, as the 1870 fall election season approached, tensions continued to increase, fomented by outside political influences and internal racial fears. 

On a dark night in mid-August, Dr. William P. Jacobs of Clinton, SC, was in for a real surprise on his way home from Cross Hill after marrying a couple.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Black militias in the 1870 Laurens County, SC, election

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues, concerning black militias in the 1870 election.
A postbellum SC Black militia (Source:
            Post-war racial tensions in Laurens County, SC, were exacerbated by the tense political atmosphere and the organizing of independent groups determined to keep freed slaves in their place. During the election of 1868, the Ku Klux Klan first organized in the upstate in Abbeville County and was thought to be connected to similar organizations in Edgefield and Laurens dedicated to the destruction of the Radical party and the killing or banishment of its leaders. In Laurens, Union, York, and lower Greenville counties, disguised men visited voters to warn against voting Republican.[1] In turn, carpetbagger Governor Robert K. Scott organized black militias to warn black voters that they must

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Infamous Joseph Crews

Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues, acquainting us with the notorious Joseph Crews
Joseph Crews' grave in
Laurens (SC) City Cemetery,
not with the rest of the family

The infamous Joseph Crews was the brother of Thomas B. Crews, the editor of the Laurensville Herald. He was also a state legislator, and the owner of a steam‑powered saw and grist mill in Clinton. After the war, Crews led Radical Republican agendas in Laurens County to help elevate the freed slaves in society and subjugate the white Democrats. But Joseph Crews was no liberal‑ minded man with a great vision a vision of equality for all. He "had been a Negro trader [i.e., a slave trader], and had been accused of grave crimes," and was involved in the infamous Greenville, Columbia, and Laurens Railroad fraud.[1] In fact, Crews was notorious as a slave trader before the war, kidnapping slaves and Indians in the Gulf States and selling them in the Carolinas and Virginia, the price increasing as they moved north.
          George Patterson grew up at Kilgore's Bridge on the Enoree River and had been born a slave of Joe Patterson. In the 1930s, George Patterson gave a Works Progress Administration interview mentioning his father’s connection to Joe Crews. Patterson’s mother was an Irish woman working for the Patterson family, not legally a slave, but she was married "by his 'Marster'" to his father, a full blooded Indian, who was sold to his master by Joe Crews, "the biggest slave trader in the country." Crews had stolen him "when he was a young buck" somewhere in Mississippi along with some other Indians and sold him into slavery with the "niggers." He "drove them just like cattle and would stop at various plantations and sell the Indians and niggers into slavery."2
          During the war Crews avoided the draft, stayed at home, and cheated on a private scale, which lent him no great amount of respect from Laurens County veterans. In 1870, Joseph Crews served simultaneously as a lieutenant colonel of militia, head of the county election commission, and a candidate for the state house of representatives. John Leland, principal of the Laurensville Female College at the time, contends he made more money on the black citizens than he did on the black slaves, but "'to give the devil his due,' Joe has been known to perform some acts of real kindness, and even of charity."[3] Crews “was a man of mediocre ability but of considerable influence in the legislature. He had failed in business before the war, . . . [and] was a good‑hearted fellow," but his integrity was not respected.[4] Crews would go on to become a member of the state legislature. In several important committee appointments, he would become known as the most radical member of the General Assembly. Crews would also eventually be appointed ranking officer of the state militia.[5]

[1]           Thornwell Jacobs, The Life of William Plumer Jacobs (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1918), 89. Crews was also a master intimidator. Dr. William Jacobs of Clinton, SC, in lamenting loudly the death of the railroad, received a letter from Joe Crews in early 1871 that as Jacobs was a young man he might live to see the railroad built back.
[2]           George Patterson, in Slave Narratives, (II, i, 226‑229), interviewed on May 27, 1937, edited by R.V. Williams. When he was set free, he and his father stayed with Joe Patterson to bring in the crop that year 1865, and then went to Spartanburg.”Patterson continued a lively interview: "I've never seen a moving picture. Once a man offered to give me a ticket to a movie, but I told him to give me a plug of tobacco instead." He said that when colored preachers "are educated they learn to steal everything a man has, if they can." Patterson continued his interview, "You remember Joe Crews and Jim Young‑‑what they did in this state? Well, they tried to lead all the niggers after the war was over. I was the one who got Jim Young away from the whites. I carried him to Greenville, but he got back somehow, and was killed. Joe Crews was killed, too. The Ku Klux was after them hot, but I carried Jim Young away from them." In the woods, Patterson said of years past, there were wild turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, and wild hogs with six inch tusks. Cattle ran wild and were dangerous at all times. (II, i, 230), May 31, 1937: When there was a surplus of apples and peaches they made brandy, a surplus of corn or rye‑‑whiskey, 40 cents a gallon. Butter 5 cents/lb., Eggs 6 cents/doz., Hens 10 cents, Salt deer $50/barrel. Plenty of wild turkeys, ducks, wild geese on the River. Turkeys, he said, tear up gardens and planted seed.
[3]           Leland, 52, 70. His sometime partner in crime, Young J. Owens, chairman of the county Republican committee, had deserted to the enemy early in the war.
[4]           Simkins and Woody, 93, 204,128.

[5]           Benjamin Ginsberg, Moses of South Carolina: A Jewish Scalawag during Radical Reconstruction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), 102.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Emerging Black Leadership in Reconstruction-era Laurens County, SC

Fleming Cain Colored School, Laurens County, SC
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues, exploring the emerging African-American leadership in Laurens County.
War’s end and the beginning of Radical Reconstruction brought massive social change. In Laurens County, freedom brought opportunities for local former slaves to develop as community and political leaders. Most whites did not hate the freed blacks. They just wanted them to stay in the same condition as before the war.  However, some freedmen did not fit the prescribed mold. Here are a few you might like to know:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Farm Labor and Freed Slaves in Reconstruction-era Laurens County, SC

Rendering lard in Laurens County, SC
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction continues, describing the adjustments of whites and blacks to a world where slaves were freed.
For whites, the freeing of the slaves was a fearful dilemma. African-Americans, free at last, were in shock at their newfound freedom. This brave new, free world was a confusing thing to everyone involved. Laurens resident William Watts Ball gives his white perspective: