Monday, December 14, 2015

Methodists and kin of Reconstruction-era Laurens County, SC

Church of the Epiphany (inactive during Reconstruction)
Our series on Laurens County, SC, during Reconstruction looks at Methodist and Episcopal life during that era.

The white Methodists in Laurens had a wooden white building with green blinds. They were part of a preaching circuit begun in 1825 under the legendary circuit rider Rev. Barnett Smith. The black Methodists led by Rev. Child built a church meeting house by subscription in 1870 on land donated by "C. Martin Mills, colored." Hopewell Methodist in the Hopewell Community, which goes back to Bishop Francis Asbury, and Harmony Methodist have no records of the Reconstruction period. Harmony’s records were destroyed in a fire. Hopewell apparently didn’t keep any. The Clinton Methodists organized a Clinton circuit in 1868
with five point charge of churches which eventually grow to seven, including Leesville, Clinton, Salem, Hopewell, Sardis, Rehoboth, and Sandy Springs.[1]
          In Laurens, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal formed in 1867 with nineteen members in a converted barn on Caroline Street given by a prominent family in Laurens. Mount Pleasant A.M.E. started in 1870 under a brush arbor which was used five years under the leadership of Griffin Coleman Johnson who died in 1873. The first building was finished in 1875. Shiloh Methodist Church and Sunday School formed under a brush arbor at the Burnt Factory. Rev. J.B. Traywick said, "I feel as highly honored standing under these spreading oaks preaching Jesus, as if I stood in St. Paul's Cathedral in London!" A building was finished in 1875.[2]
            The black members of Leesville Methodist Church began brush arbor services in 1865. Under that thatched shelter, beginning February 3, 1866, the faithful held Sunday school, prayer meeting, and church service.[3] In Waterloo, Smyrna African Methodist Episcopal had formed by 1874.


The Church of the Epiphany, Episcopal, was built in Laurens in 1846, a "neat little brick building, situated on the prettiest part of [West] Main Street." After the war, because of the small number of members who could not afford a resident rector, worship was discontinued until 1882 when a priest from Wellford consented to officiate once a month.

[1]           Scrapbook, 460.
[2]           Scrapbook, 430‑4 31; 493.
[3]           Scrapbook, 458.