The first attempts at planting a Presbyterian Church in Edgefield, SC, began in the 1820s and continued up to 1859. The Civil War and reconstruction postponed the accomplishment of this effort until 1876. John Chapman’s History forms the basis for various histories of the Edgefield Presbyterian Church. It forms almost word-for-word in the early part of the History recorded in Jones and Mills, History. Both of these are worth consulting.
The Edgefield Advertiser adds some interesting details to the story. For instance, Mrs. J. W. Hill, was the impetus for the new beginning in 1877. She was the daughter of the Hon. Francis Hugh Wardlaw (1800-1861) and Ann Gresham Lamar (1812-1863). (See Hill below).
Mrs. Martha Wardlaw Hill pictured above from Gist’s Presbyterian Women of SC
Mrs. Hill remained a loyal Presbyterian even when her parents became Episcopalians. She never gave up on the idea having a Presbyterian Church in Edgefield Village, so she kept her church membership at First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA in the intervening years between 1859 and 1877. The sum of money raised for this purpose before the war was lost during hostilities. (No doubt it was in Confederate currency in a bank at the end of the war).
After reconstruction (1876), Mrs. Hill found three other persons in the county who were Presbyterians: (1) Mr. S. H. Manget (see Manget below); (2) Mrs. R. S. Anderson (see Anderson below; and (3) Miss Etta Rainsford. (see Rainsford below.) Mrs. Hill enlisted them in a plan to get the Presbytery to organize a church. Three of the four then lived in Edgefield Village at the time. Miss Etta Rainsford lived at Pine House, later Trenton.
At this point it is beneficial to consult a letter from the Rev. J. L. Martin to a “Dear Friend” in Edgefield (see Martin below). No doubt that the “Dear Friend” was Mrs. Hill! He then reports to her on the minutes of various Presbytery meetings and their actions in regard to establishing a Presbyterian Church in Edgefield Court House, SC.
SC Presbytery had met in Abbeville, SC, 16-18 September 1875. At that meeting the matter was referred to the Executive Committee of Domestic Missions, Chairman Rev. R. A. Fair. Fair was requested to make a visit to Edgefield and report back on the prospects for establishing a church there. He was unable to pay the visit, but corresponded with someone, presumably Mrs. Hill, and discovered “the way was clear.”
At a subsequent meeting in Anderson CH, 5-8 April 1876, Rev. J. L. Martin and Rev. R. A. Fair were instructed to pay a visit. This is very Presbyterian in tone—they were instructed, i.e. ordered. What was a referral now became an instruction to do so. Presbytery was under some pressure to do something for Edgefield!
In obedience to their charge, the Revs. Martin and Fair visited Edgefield Fri., 26 May 1876. They preached morning and evening on Sat., 27 May, in the Baptist Church. On Sun., 28 May, they preached in the Methodist Church in the afternoon.
At the Presbytery meeting in Ninety-Six, 4-7 October 1876, they reported on their visit to Edgefield and were further directed to make three additional appointments before the next meeting.
Rev. J. L. Martin preached in Edgefield, Sun. 26 Nov. 1876. Rev. R. A. Fair preached there, Sun. 28 Jan. 1877. Rev. Dr. John LaFayette Girardeau preached on Sun., 24 Dec. 1876. Rev. Dr. W. S. Plumer, Sun., 25 Feb. 1877. Rev. W. F Pearson preached Sun. 25 Mar. 1877.
The two men charged by Presbytery to get on with the Edgefield project called out the big guns in Girardeau and Plumer. They sent a strong message that they had indeed kept the order given to them by the Presbytery.
Rev. Dr. John Lafayette Girardeau and Rev. Dr. William Swan Plumer
A petition was presented to a Presbytery meeting in Greenwood, 4-7 April 1877, calling for the organization of Edgefield Presbyterian Church at Edgefield CH. It was signed by the following members: Johnston’s Depot: W. E. Latimer; Edgefield Court House: S. H. Manget (later to relocate to Trenton); Mrs. R. A. Anderson; Mrs. R. F. Lake; Mrs. J. W. Hill. Pine House: Miss Etta Rainsford. Other folks not members signed: John R. Bee; R. S. Anderson; L. Hunter; George Youngblood; J. W. Hill; W. E. Lynch.
In the next post I want to review the organization of the church and its first resident pastor. (Not Rev. S. L. Morris! but a mystery man erased from history.)
References and Notes
Anderson, Mrs. Richard Samuel; née Agnes McCord (1841–1917 buried Edgefield Village Cemetery) Findagrave ID #70269015
Chapman, John (1897). History of Edgefield County from the Earliest Settlements to 1897. (Newberry, SC: Elbert H. Aull, Publisher and Printer). P. 300-301.
Jones and Mills. (1926). History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina since 1850. (Columbia, SC: R. L. Bryan Co., for the Synod of South Carolina), p. 655-657.
Hill, Mrs. J. W., née Martha Eliza Wardlaw (1842-1895, buried Edgefield Village Cemetery) Findagrave ID #90115706
Manget, Mr. Samuel Hypolite. (1841-1892, buried Edgefield Village Cemetery) Findagrave ID #67460520.
Martin, Rev. J. L., stated clerk of the Presbytery of SC. “Early Records of Edgefield Presbyterian Church.” [Letter]. Dated 14 June 1877. Addressed to “Dear Friend.” The transcript of this letter was published in The Edgefield Advertiser, 22 Dec. 1999. Rev. C. Richard Barbare: “An Essay on the History of Edgefield Presbyterian Church.”
Rainsford, Etta; later Mrs. John Bunyan Norris (1852-1928 buried Magnolia Cemetery, Augusta, GA) Findagrave ID #12244273
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