St. John's 150th Birthday
In 1858, plantation life was a fixture across the rolling farmlands of Lower Richland county. Crops of rice, indigo, and cotton provided comfortable lifestyles for the owners; their slaves did the planting and harvesting. After schools were established for the white gentry, a yearning for a church of their own emerged among the landowners.
Laura Jervey Weston provides a detailed account of the organization of St. John's Episcopal Congaree in her history of the first hundred years of this congregation.
Gov. James H. Adams and Dr. William Weston led the drive, and on May 2, 1858, an organizational meeting was held. St. John's Episcopal Congaree was organized, and wardens and vestrymen elected.
St. John's and Zion Episcopal of Eastover have always had a close working relationship. Zion is older than St. John's and offered use of its meeting rooms while organization was taking place. In the early days, rectors were called to serve both St. John's and Zion.
Dr. Weston donated the land for the church, where the cemetery, already in use for many decades, was enclosed with a brick wall. The church was built by slaves. "Mr. Walker," the architect, supervised the construction, and donated the marble baptismal font.
The first burial service held in the church was that of Gov. James Hopkins Adams on July 14, 1861. Of the first 56 persons baptized into the church by Mr. Hanckel, 19 bore the family name of Adams.
The outbreak of the War Between the States brought suffering and hardship to the St. John's congregation. The historic cemetery bears a large number of graves of those who lost their lives fighting for the Confederacy.
The Lower Richland community was not spared the privations and hardships of Reconstruction in South Carolina, and many items such as carpet and books were stripped from the church building. By 1900, some order was restored to South Carolina government, and St. John's moved forward to renew its severely- depleted membership.
In 1921, the congregation chose All Saints Day, November 1, as its "Homecoming Day." This annual celebration continues, on schedule, today.
During the depression years of the 1930s financial affairs were at a low ebb. St. John's persevered through the 1940s and was able to add to its main building, installing a new organ and heating system.
By January, 1957, a new Rectory was built, across Elm Savannah Road from the church. Christian Tucker Weston sold an acre of land to St. John's for $1. James Hopkins and Dr. Theodore Hopkins sold an adjacent acre for $1 for the Rectory.
Laura Jervey Hopkins put together the history of the first hundred years of St. John's as "a labor of love, and in humble gratitude to God for the privilege of being a member of St. John's."
The Next Fifty Years