Saturday, March 19, 2016

South Carolina Churches from the late 1700s

Artist Charles Fraser (1782-1760) painted a series of watercolors of churches & meeting houses in South Carolina. He depicts broad swipes of landscapes allowing the viewer to see the buildings in the ground planned around them. These images are from the Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.


The 1765 church was called "Punkin Hill" locally. The Parish of St. Thomas & St. Dennis was made from the union of the Huguenot Church St. Denis & the Parish of St. Thomas which had been laid off by the Church Act of 1706. In Day on Cooper River, it says: "On a high bluff, raising abruptly from the bed of the river, stands the Parish Chapel, commonly known as Pompion Hill Chapel, taking its name from the hill on which it stands.”

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) THE CHURCH IN ST. ANDREW’S PARISH, APRIL 1800.

Established on the west bank of the Ashley River in 1706, by 1722 the original church had became too small for the parishioners. The church was enlarged in the form of a cross, with a gallery at the west end designated for “people of colour.” Destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt by subscription in 1764, and it covered a great territory. It maintained a Chapel of Ease on James’ Island, which was attended by many Presbyterians on the Island; but, after 1787, the Reverend Thomas Mills states that "the inhabitants of James Island, who were nearly all Presbyterians, or Independents, had procured a minister and organized a Church of their own. After this period, in conformity with the injunctions of the Vestry, my Pastoral duties were generally confined to St. Andrew’s on the main.”

Charles Fraser (1782-1860). CHURCH IN ST. JAMES’ PARISH, GOOSE CREEK.

St. James’ Parish, Goose Creek, was laid off in 1706, and the church was completed in 1719. “So numerous was the congregation of this church that its capacity was found in a few years wholly insufficient,” and a Chapel of Ease was erected about 7 miles from the original church structure.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) CHURCH ON JOHN’S ISLAND.

This was St. John’s Colleton, which had been a part of St. Paul’s but was separated from it in 1734, and served “John’s Island, Wadmalaw Island, Edisto Island, and the other adjacent Islands to the seaward.”


The Stony Creek Presbyterian Church built in Indian Land on Stony Creek near Pocotaligo in 1743. Fraser notes in his Reminiscences even during his boyhood, the Presbyterian "dissenters" never called their places of worship churches.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) A MEETING-HOUSE NEAR JACKSONBOROUGH, 1799.

This is the meeting-house of Bethel Congregation of Pon Pon organized in St. Bartholomew’s Parish in 1728 and first ministered to by the Reverend Archibald Stobo, the Father of Presbyterianism in South Carolina. One historian told of Reverend Robert Baron, sent out to St. Bartholomew’s Parish by the Society for the Propagation of the gospel in 1753, "He arrived at Charles Town June 1st and entered on the duties of his cure on the 7th of that month. Mr. Baron was soon after taken ill, and had a severe seasoning, as it is usually called. His Parishioners were scattered over a great extent of country, and were an orderly and well behaved people. The Presbyterians were numerous, but they all lived together in mutual friendship and Christian charity.”


This parish was often called Sheldon Church because of its proximity to the Bull plantation of that name. “An instance of the hospitality of Carolina, connected with the history of Sheldon Church, has been stated to us b y those who knew the fact. Stephen Bull who live in its vicinity, usually invited as his guests, on the Sabbath, the more respectable part of the Congregation who attended divine service; while his overseer, by his direction, and at his expense, liberally entertained the rest. At that time, seldom less than 60 or 70 carriages, of various descriptions were seen at the Church on the Lord’s Day. It was burnt in 1780 by the British under General Prevost, on their march from Savannah to the siege of CharlesTown.” It was rebuilt on its original lines after the Revolution.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) THE CHURCH IN ST. BARTHOLOMEW’S PARISH, 1796.

“This part of Colleton County was made a Parish, by an act passed Dec. 18, 1708.” The first missionary, sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was a Reverend Mister Osborn, who arrived in 1713. “His cure was very extensive, and his duty laborious. It was 40 miles long, and 30 wide…He officiated at five different places for the accommodations of his parishioners…Mr. Osborn was greatly esteemed and the Church flourished under his care. This prosperity, however, was soon interrupted. In 1715 the Indian War [Yemassee] broke out and the savages destroyed all the plantations in the Parish…The Missionary with difficulty escaped to Charles Town." By 1760, two brick Chapels of Ease had been built. The Church in this sketch was the Chapel of Pon Pon, which was burnt to the birck walls by the British during the Revolution but rebuilt after the war. The locals then called it "the Burnt Church."


The parsonage stood on a slight hill and its lane led dircectly to the church door. In the woods is a small 1759 vestry building, where Parish business could be transacted and where coachmen & grooms might take shelter.

Simple Old American Churches

Old Indian Meeting House Church in Mashpee, MA The oldest Native American church surviving in US

St. James Episcopal Church, Monkton, Maryland

Church, Southeastern United States by Walker Evans 1936 

Christ Church, Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Steeple of The Gilead Chapel in East Haddam, Connecticut

Church, South Carolina by Walker Evans

Old Christ Church (1832) Pensacola, Florida

St Peters, Milwaukee, Wisconsin's first Catholic Church

St Peters, Milwaukee, Wisconsin's first Catholic Church

Old Scotch Church, Hillsoboro, Oregon

Church Interior, Cleveland, Ohio

Sacred Heart Mission Idaho

Old North Church, Beverly Shores, Porter County, Indiana

Pleasant Ridge Cemetery Chapel (1880) Wisconsin

Palo Pintoi Church, Texas

Church with Hand-made Ladder by Walker Evans 1936

James Creek Missionary Baptist Church, Aberdeen, Mississippi

Oldest & Youngest at The Rock Church, Georgia

Friday, March 18, 2016

Born a Slave - Stagecoach Mary Fields" 1st Black Woman in US Postal Service

This former slave was the 1st black woman delivering letters & packages in America's Old West.  

Mary Fields, born in 1832, in Hickman County, Tennessee, was born a slave, grew up an orphan, never married or had children. She was owned by Dr. Elijah Dunn & grew up on his family farm, where she became close with his daughter, Dolly, who was about Mary's age. Unlike most slaves, Mary learned to read & write. After emancipation, Mary stayed with the Dunns for a while, before traveling up the Mississippi & Ohio rivers towards Toledo.

When Mary was in her 30s, she received a letter from her childhood friend Dolly Dunn, who had become an Ursuline nun, known as Sister Amadeus. Mary eagerly accepted her friend’s request to join her at the Ursuline convent in Toledo, Ohio. Soon after Mary’s arrival, however, Sister Amadeus was assigned to head west to become the headmistress of a school for Native American girls in Montana. Mary did not to accompany the nuns; but when she learned that Sister Amadeus was ill with pneumonia, Mary also headed to Montana. Feisty Mary Fields lived by her wits & her strength. She was 6' tall & weighed over 200 pounds.

St. Peter’s Mission, outside of Cascade, Montana (c. 1900)

After nursing her childhood friend, now Mother Amadeus back to health, she decided to stay & help build St. Peter's mission school & protect the nuns. The nuns hired Mary to do heavy work & to haul freight and food supplies. She chopped wood, did stone work, carpentry, & dug privies. Mary was a two-fisted, hard-drinking woman, who needed nobody to fight her battles for her. She smoked homemade cigars & carried a six-shooter plus a shotgun.

 (late 1880s); The Cascade County Historical Society

When the nuns arrived, the mission school consisted of old buildings that were badly in need of repair. Mary soon became the foreman of the other workers at the school. There was one man, however, who did not want to take orders from a black woman, or from any woman. He argued with Mary, & then struck her. While Mary was falling, the man reached for his gun. Mary, in self-defense, snatched her six-shooter & fired. When the bishop in charge of the school heard about the gunfight, he demanded that Mary be fired. Sister Amadeus could not bear to let her friend go under such circumstances. The nuns at St. Peter's Catholic Mission near Cascade, Montana, had became her family.

When forced to leave the mission because of her behavior, the nuns financed a business, so Mary could support herself. She opened a cafe. Mary's big heart & poor cooking skills drove her business into the ground rather quickly. She consistently fed hungry indigents, but most paying customers among the townsfolk did not frequent the little restaurant.

But Mary needed to support herself, so in 1895, when Mary heard that the United States Postal Service was looking for someone to deliver mail from the town of Cascade, Montana, to families in the surrounding areas, she applied for the job. Even though she was about 60 years old at the time, Mary proved herself the fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses & was hired. Thus, Mary became the 2nd woman & the 1st African American woman to work for the United States Post Office Department.

Since she had always been independent & determined, this work was perfect for her. She quickly she developed a reputation for delivering letters & parcels no matter what the weather, nor how rugged the terrain. She & her mule, Moses, plunged through anything, from raw blizzards to wilting heat, reaching remote miner's cabins & other outposts. In the winter, heavy snowfalls plunged the trails under drifts. On several occasions, Mary’s mule could not cross the drifts. Determined to do her job, she walked alone to deliver the mail. Once she walked 10 miles back to the depot.

Mary (far right), with Cascade’s baseball team (c. late 1800s); The Cascade County Historical Society

Mary continued to deliver the mail until she was almost 70 years old, earning the nickname of “Stagecoach Mary.” When she decided to retire in 1901, the nuns at the mission helped her open a laundry service in Cascade. A laundry business, however, was not enough to keep Mary busy; & she spent much time caring for her garden. She would carry bouquets of flowers from her garden to the local baseball team; & her birthdays developed into a town-wide celebration each year, until she died in 1914.

On this day in 1852, Wells & Fargo started a shipping company to the American West

On this day in 1852, in New York City, Henry Wells & William G. Fargo join with several other investors to launch their namesake business. The discovery of gold in California in 1849, prompted a huge spike in the demand for cross-country shipping. Wells & Fargo decided to take advantage of these great opportunities. In July 1852, their company shipped its first loads of freight from the East Coast to mining camps scattered around northern California. The company contracted with independent stagecoach companies to provide the fastest possible transportation & delivery of gold dust, important documents & other valuable freight. 

In 1857, Wells, Fargo & Co. formed the Overland Mail Company, known as the “Butterfield Line,” which provided regular mail & passenger service along an ever-growing number of routes. In the boom-&-bust economy of the 1850s, the company earned a reputation as a trustworthy & reliable business, & its logo–the classic stagecoach–became famous. For a premium price, Wells, Fargo & Co. would send an employee on horseback to deliver or pick up a message or package.

Wells Fargo Express Co. Deadwood Treasure Wagon and Guards with $250,000 gold bullion from the Great Homestake Mine, Deadwood, S.D

Wells, Fargo & Co. merged with several other stagecoach lines in 1866, to become the unrivaled leader in transportation in the West. When the transcontinental railroad was completed 3 years later, the company began using railroad to transport its freight. 

An express freight shipment of 30 coaches, April 15th, 1868 by Abbot Downing & Co Concord, N.H. to Wells Fargo Co., Omaha, Nebraska.

By 1910, its shipping network connected 6,000 locations, from the urban centers of the East & the farming towns of the Midwest to the ranching & mining centers of Texas & California & the lumber mills of the Pacific Northwest. 

Wells, Fargo & Co. 1868 display advertisement from The Salt Lake Daily Telegraph (Utah Territory)

After splitting from the freight business in 1905, the banking branch of the company merged with the Nevada National Bank & established new headquarters in San Francisco. During World War I, the U.S. government nationalized the company’s shipping routes & combined them with the railroads into the American Railway Express, effectively putting an end to Wells, Fargo & Co. as a transportation & delivery business. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

James Madison 1751-1836 was born on this day near what is now Emmanuel Church, King George County, Virginia

One of our daughters & her family live in Richmond, Virginia.  Each time we drive there, we pass one of my favorite churches. I am always taken by the quiet peace of the tiny but elegant Emmanuel Episcopal Church in King George County, Virginia

The 1859 Gothic Revival church, completely surrounded by acres of flat farm fields, is located at old Port Conway, where the colonial King's Highway (now U.S. Route 301) crosses the beautiful Rappahannock River to the historic town of Port Royal in Caroline County on the opposite bank of the river. The community was a waterway and gathering place of some importance in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Just a few years after it was built, during the Civil War (1861-1865), the church was damaged by Federal soldiers. It was reportedly saved from further destruction by a Union soldier who began to play the pipe organ and felt so at home in the little church, that he persuaded his comrades to do it no harm.  After the Civil War, Friends of the Episcopal Church in the North raised funds to help war-damaged churches in the South, and tiny Emmanuel was restored using these funds.

Charles Peale Polk (1767-1822). Eleanor Rose "Nellie" Conway Madsion (1732-1829) of Belle Grove married James Madsion Sr 1749. Belle Grove Plantation.

Emmanuel Church sits just at the edge of Belle Grove plantation. On this day in 1751, future President James Madison (1751-1836), the 4th president of the United States, was born at Belle Grove, the childhood home of his mother, Eleanor Rose Madison.  Madison would become drafter of the Constitution; recorder of the Constitutional Convention; author of the Federalist Papers; and 4th president of the United States.

Madison 1st distinguished himself as a student at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he successfully completed a 4-year course of study in 2 years. Madison returned to Virginia with intellectual accolades but poor health in 1771. By 1776, he was sufficiently recovered to serve for 3 years in the legislature of the new state of Virginia, where he came to know and admire Thomas Jefferson.

Madison played a critical role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where he presented the Virginia Plan to the assembled delegates in Philadelphia and oversaw the difficult process of negotiation and compromise that led to the drafting of the final Constitution. Madison’s published Notes on the Convention are considered the most detailed and accurate account of what occurred in the closed-session debates. After the Constitution was submitted to the people for ratification, Madison collaborated with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton on The Federalist Papers, a series of pamphlets arguing for the acceptance of the new government. Madison penned the most famous of the pamphlets, Federalist No. 10, which made an incisive argument for the ability of a large federation to preserve individual rights. Madison served as the president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. 

Charles Peale Polk (1767-1822), Col. James Madsion, Sr. (1723-1801) of Orange County, Virginia. (His father, Ambrose Madison (1696-1732), who owned 29 slaves, was killed in 1732, when 3 slaves poisoned him.) Belle Grove Plantation.

In 1987, Emmanuel Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and it was renovated in 1997, retaining the charm & simplicity of its original state.

1783 Miniature Portrait of James Madison (1751-1836) by Charles Willson Peale at the Library of Congress.

Perhaps I perceive the church as peaceful and quiet, because there is seldom anyone there. Worship services are held at the church only on the 3rd and 5th Sundays of each month at 10 a.m. But when the church does celebrate communion, hymns are played on the building's original 1860 tracker pipe organ.

1799 Charles Peale Polk (1767-1822). Eleanor Conway Madison Hite (1760-1802) & Son James Madison Hite (1793-1860). (James Madison Hite had been named for a brother who was born in 1788 but died in 1791.) Belle Grove Plantation.

The funny thing is that for several years, while I worked at the Maryland Historical Society, the large, quirky Charles Peale Polk portraits of James Madsion's parents and sister dominated my office, just before they moved to their new home in Virginia. This family, which surrounded me every workday, seeped into my subconscious, and there they remain. Perhaps I am drawn to the tiny Victorian church, so close to Belle Grove in time and space, by forces beyond my ken.

Belle Grove Plantation