Who really started the Presbyterian Church in Edgefield County?

When I came to Edgefield in 1989, the women in the church wanted me to know right off who really started the Presbyterian Church here. Frankly, I wasn’t interested in the 19th Century history of the church. I was more interested in how we could grow the present church so it would have a future into the 21st Century.

Samuel Leslie Morris

The 19th Century women of the Edgefield Presbyterian Community were irritated by the fact that its first resident Southern Presbyterian pastor, Samuel Leslie Morris (1882-89), seemed not to acknowledge the contribution of one of their own, Martha Eliza Wardlaw Hill, with getting Presbytery interested in the county in 1877.1

I think the women in the early 1900s had a point, but they also tended to exaggerate Mrs. Hill’s contribution and slight Mr. Morris’s role. For instance see Mrs. Hill’s obituary in the Edgefield Advertiser, April 03, 1895.

Mrs. Hill might be said to have been the founder of Presbyterianism in Edgefield County. It was through her efforts only and by her untiring perseverance and energy that the Edgefield Presbyterian church was built. (Emphasis mine)

Periodically we all need a reality check in assessing our ministry, and our need of each other should be a check on any spirit of hubris. Charles Wesley reminds us, “God buries his workmen (and work women) but carries on his work.”

Martha Wardlaw Hill 2

Rev. Morris wrote his Autobiography (1932) and didn’t share the limelight with others. He only credits his wife with a contribution to his ministry. John Chapman in his History of Edgefield County recognizes Mrs. Hill (pictured left) as the “Mother of Presbyterianism in Edgefield County.”2

So, who was it that really planted the Edgefield Presbyterian Church? Rev. Morris? or Mrs. Hill? Neither one alone, both together, and with other people’s help is the short answer.

I was surprised in my research to find five Presbyterian Churches within a 10 mile radius of Edgefield village none of which was the first Presbyterian Church in the county. (Yes, it was five churches, and not four.) But I’ll relate more on this at a future time.


1 Morris, S. L. (1932) Samuel Leslie Morris: An Autobiography.

2 Chapman, John Abney (1897). History of Edgefield County from the earliest settlement to 1897. (Newberry, SC: E. H. Aull).


Martha Wardlaw Hill monument

Edgefield Village Cemetery

Samuel Leslie Morris Tomb Inscription

Main Mausoleum,
Crest Lawn Cemetery,
Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia

both are from FindaGrave.com

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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