In South Carolina, churches are more than just a place of worship. They are often the pillars of a community. Worship, education, social events, weddings, funerals and events of all kinds have always taken place inside and on the grounds of our South Carolina churches.
These old photos represent thousands of such events gone by in our beloved state. Some of these churches are still standing, while others were not so fortunate. Let’s take a look at some of the churches that held our faith and our communities together in the early 1900s.
1. A Georgetown County church in 1938.
During the Great Depression, Highway 17 that runs through Georgetown County was a narrow two-lane highway. After the launch of the New Deal the WPA put local men and boys to work clearing the land and swamps to help build Highway 701. This helped bring more people into Georgetown. It was tough time in Georgetown County.
who grew up in Murrells Inlet recalls people taking turns sharing whatever extra food they had.
2. Church near Summerville, SC. 1938.
The "New Deal" was a series of programs set forth by the Roosevelt Administration to accomplish many goals. Among them, it put Americans back to work, improved the quality of life and sub-standard living conditions, built roads and improved infrastructure in our nation's communities. In 1938 when this photo was taken, Summerville was deep in the throes of the Great Depression.
3. Orangeburg Baptist Church. 1920.
The photo of this church was taken at the very beginning of the depression. The drop in pricing for cotton and tobacco caused the Great Depression to hit South Carolina nearly 10 years before most other places in the U.S. This church is in a good state of repair and that could be due to the fact that the photo was taken in 1920.
Note: The name "Orangeburg Baptist Church" is the name the photographer attributed to this photo.
4. SC 1936. Unknown location. Photographed by Farm Services Administration.
In 1936 when this photo was taken in South Carolina the depression had taken it's toll on the folks living here. Major unemployment, poor sanitation and the lack of food and transportation were all mitigating factors in the quality of life. But it seems from the looks of this photo, that caretakers for this church made sure the community gathering place was in especially good condition.
5. SC 1936. Unknown location in South Carolina. Photographed by Farm Services Administration.
The small shack that sits behind and to the left of this massive two-story wooden church is representative of the times in 1936 in South Carolina. This photo, taken by a traveling photographer hired by the U.S. government to document the depression, provides a special insight into the majesty this church provided this community during the Great Depresssion in South Carolina.
6. Presbyterian Church, Camden. 1938.
Starting in the mid-1880s the Camden community was a destination for wealthy northern families to spend the winter. Eventually three resort hotels provided state of the art winter tourism activities well into the 1930s and beyond. (Bethesda) Presbyterian Church was built in 1822 and is one of the few surviving churches designed by architect Robert Mills. In 1985 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
7. A Moncks Corner church. 1941.
The photo of this church was taken not long after hundreds of families (both white and African American) were moved out of the Santee-Cooper basin to make way for the new hydro plant being constructed. Many were relocated to farmlands in Moncks Corner. This church very likely served these families as a place to reconnect and rebuild their lives.
8. Old St Andrews Episcopal Church, Charleston. 1938
According to the book
"Against All Odds,"
this old church was established and built in 1706 to serve planters and their slaves along the Ashley River during the heyday of rice and indigo. During the 1800s The Reverend Drayton (yes, of THAT Drayton Hall on the Ashley) was known to minister here and provided sanctuary for freed slaves. When this photo was taken in 1941 this church was out of service. It stood dormant for several decades before being reopened in 1948.
9. St. James Church, Goose Creek. 1938.
In colonial times, a group of men referred to as the "Goose Creek men" moved out of Charleston to settle to the north on the banks of the Goose Creek. In 1938 when this photo of St James Church was taken Goose Creek was still just that area people referred to outside of town because the town wasn't officially established until 1961. The St. James Church was built in the 1710s and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in what is now the State of South Carolina.
10. Pompion Hill Chapel, Berkeley County South Carolina. 1938.
The Pompion Hill Chapel is still standing near Huger, SC very near the Cooper River. This is the second church constructed on the site. The first was wooden and didn't survive. The second church you see in this photo taken in 1938, was built between 1763 and 1765 using bricks locally made and donated by nearby Paranassus Plantation.
11. A church near Cheraw. 1936.
The inland town of Cheraw in 1750 was a growing village with a good river trade. In fact, it was one of only six places in South Carolina that appeared on English maps at the time. By the early 1900s just prior to this photo Cheraw was considered booming, as was a lot of the state due to the cotton and tobacco industries. But by the time the photograher took this photo in Cheraw in 1936 a great deal of the townspeople were unemployed. The FSA photographers often noted details with their images. When he took this photo, Carl Maydans noted the following: Palmetto church still frequented by white congregation at the Sandhills agricultural demonstration project. Near Cheraw, South Carolina.
12. Church in Pinopolis. Berkeley County. (Date is approximately 1934.)
The Pinopolis community was founded in around 1845. In 1939, five years after this photo was taken, the Santee Cooper Project dammed the Santee River, flooding nearly 175,000 acres and forcing people off their property. Lake Moultrie and the Pinopolis Dam were created out of that project. Pinopolis -
and this wonderful church - were spared only because it had a higher elevation than surrounding areas.
13. St. Stephens Church on Anson Street, Charleston. 1938.
The wife of one of Charleston's richest merchants, Nathaniel Russell, is credited with getting this church established and then constructed in 1836. It was one of the first Episcopal Churches in the country where pews were free to all members, instead of being rented or sold. When this photo was taken in 1938 the church was strictly an African American congregation. According to their website, the congregation agreed in 1987 to open its doors to whites as well as African Americans.
Note: There is a discrepancy in the notes for this photo. The notes on the edge of the photo say this church was on Anson Street. The LOC archives say it was in St Stephens in Berkeley County.
14. Near Jacksonsonboro. 1938.
A little published fact about the Great Depression: In 1932 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President, South Carolina provided the
most popular votes
for the Democratic nominee from New York with
98.03 percent of South Carolina's votes cast for Roosevelt.
It was a sign of the times in the state of South Carolina as the folks here had been suffering from the Great Depression much longer than most of the rest of the country because the depression hit South Carolina nearly ten years earlier than other places in the U.S.
15. Church at a crossroads south of Charleston. 1936.
The photographer notes with the photo detail this as "Church at crossroads on sealevel highway, south of Charleston, South Carolina." The FSA photographer was Carl Maydans.
16. Christ Church, Charleston County. 1938.
This church was built in 1710 in what is now Mount Pleasant. Near the end of the Civil War this church was gutted by Union soldiers and used as a stable. Parishoners rebuilt in 1874 and this site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
17. Church in a cornfield near Manning, SC. 1939.
"Potter's Raid" destroyed much of Manning during the Civil War. The town resurrected only to be hit by fire in 1895. Once again, Manning rebuilt their town and then got hit by a tornado in 1910. And then in 2015 residents in the town of Manning were trapped by the "1,000 Year Flood." All roads leading into and out of the town were washed out or covered in water. Many residents lost their homes and everything thing they owned. But the town's resolve still remains and today Manning is rebuilding for at least the fourth time since the town's inception in 1855.
The names and locations of these churches were detailed in the photographer’s notes. Some of the names of the surviving churches may have been altered over the years.