2017-12-01 / Society

South Carolina's Lowcountry Colonial Parish Churches and Dissenter Meeting Houses: An Architectual Study

By Sara Richardson Stork Chapter Regent William Capers Chapter DAR

The William Capers Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution convened at St. Martin's in-the-Fields Episcopal Church to host Andrew W. Chandler, a Columbia, SC, architectural historian, and former (1985-2016) National Register Coordinator at the SC Department of Archives & History.

South Carolina’s Lowcountry Colonial Parish Churches and Dissenter Meeting Houses, the first segment of the talk, was an architectural history and study of the Church of England in Charleston and the Lowcountry region as manifested by the houses of worship constructed in the various parishes by early English settlers to the colony.

It recognized the pivotal role played by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), established in London in 1700, in not only supplying clergymen for South Carolina’s early parishes but also in directing the construction of churches within those ecclesiastical/governmental jurisdictions.


St. James Santee Parish Church, Old Georgetown Road, McClellanville vicinity, Charleston County, built 1768 St. James Santee Parish Church, Old Georgetown Road, McClellanville vicinity, Charleston County, built 1768 Anglican (later Episcopal) church architecture in early S.C., as well as furnishings within the churches, was dictated largely by the Book of Common Prayer. The churches tended to be rectangular in plan, with lineal gable roof, and arched window and door heads. They also contained architectural ornamentation with Christian symbolism. Main entrances were located on one of two gable ends, while each side elevation contained smaller pedestrian entrances.

The lecture was accompanied by a Power- Point presentation providing visual examples of S. C.’s colonial church architecture. It demonstrated characteristics of early church form and design from the city of Charleston parishes of St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s to the rural parishes of St. Andrew’s, St. James’ Goose Creek, and Santee, as well as others from St. Helena’s, in the lower coastal region of Beaufort County; to Prince George, Winyah, and All Saints, Waccamaw, in the northern coastal area; from Christ Church near Charleston to St. Mark’s parish church near Pinewood in Sumter County, and its affiliated Church of the Holy Cross at Stateburg.


Pompion Hill Chapel-of-Ease, St. Thomas Parish, East Branch, Cooper River, Berkeley County, built ca. 1763 Pompion Hill Chapel-of-Ease, St. Thomas Parish, East Branch, Cooper River, Berkeley County, built ca. 1763 In the second segment of the presentation, Andrew illustrated both the differences and similarities of the early Anglican parish churches with their contemporaneous counterparts, and the Dissenter meeting houses of the SC Lowcountry.

Primarily Congregational and Presbyterian in the early colonial period, they were square in plan with pyramidal-shaped roofs, and their windows and doors were generally flat-arched. Simple and unadorned, they transitioned to a rectangular plan with lineal gable roofs, divided or separate front doors, and side entrances.


Andrew W. Chandler Andrew W. Chandler While both Anglicans and Dissenters viewed their respective churches and meeting houses as places set apart for the worship of God, Dissenters focused more on the congregants rather than the physical building.

The presentation included examples of the square, pyramidal-roofed variety, in such buildings as the earliest version of the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street in Charleston; the Old White Meeting House, Dorchester, near present-day Summerville; the Pon Pon Meeting House at Parkers Ferry in Colleton County; and the earliest version of Stony Creek Presbyterian Meeting House near Pocotaligo. Later examples included the Williamsburg Presbyterian Meeting House in Kingstree; the Indiantown Presbyterian Meeting House in northeastern Williamsburg County; the Antipedo Baptist Meeting House in Georgetown; the Salem Black River Presbyterian Meeting House near Mayesville in Sumter County; and the High Hills Baptist Meeting House in the Stateburg community of Sumter County.



Old White (Dissenter) Meeting House, Dorchester County, built 1696-1700 Old White (Dissenter) Meeting House, Dorchester County, built 1696-1700

1799 Charles Fraser Watercolor of Meeting House near Jacksonborough, Colleton County; built before 1730 for Bethel Congregation of Pon Pon (Edisto) 1799 Charles Fraser Watercolor of Meeting House near Jacksonborough, Colleton County; built before 1730 for Bethel Congregation of Pon Pon (Edisto)

John’s Island Presbyterian Church (Dissenter Meeting House), Charleston County, built ca. 1740 for 1710 Congregation; remodeled and enlarged post-Revolution John’s Island Presbyterian Church (Dissenter Meeting House), Charleston County, built ca. 1740 for 1710 Congregation; remodeled and enlarged post-Revolution

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