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

Early America - 1610 The earliest Church of England in Jamestown, Virginia

William Strachey was born in 1572, in Saffron Walden, a small market town in Essex, England, to William Strachey (d. 1598) and Mary Cooke (d. 1587).  At the age of 16, he entered Emmanuel College at Cambridge University in 1588. In 1595, William married Frances Forster living near her home in Crowhurst in Surrey. Initially, Strachey supported his family from his inheritance from his father.  In order to meet growing family expenses, Strachey purchased 2 shares in the Virginia Company & sailed to Virginia on the Sea Venture in the summer of 1609.  This is his description of the church at Jamestown.

See CWF here The eastern corner of the 1608 church excavation sits behind a statue of John Smith

The Church at Jamestown

This description of the church constructed within the palisade at Jamestown, along with the account of the Sunday procession of the governor and his company, was written in 1610. It was included in Strachey’s letter to an unknown noble lady in England in 1609.

To every side, a proportioned distance from the palisade, is a settled street of houses that runs along, so as each line of the angle hath his street. In the midst is a market place, a store-house, and a corps de garde, as likewise a pretty chapel, though (at this time when we came in) as ruined and unfrequented. But the lord governor and captain general hath given order for the repairing of it, and at this instant many hands are about it. It is in length three-score foot, in breadth twenty-four, and shall have a chancel in it of cedar and a communion table of the black walnut, and all the pews of cedar, with fair broad windows to shut and open, as the weather shall occasion, of the same wood, a pulpit of the same, with a front hewn hollow, like a canoe, with two bells at the west end. It is so cast as it be very light within, and the lord governor and captain general doth cause it to be kept passing sweet and trimmed up with divers flowers, with a sexton belonging to it. And in it every Sunday we have sermons twice a day, and every Thursday a sermon, having true preachers, which take their weekly turns; and every morning, at the ringing of a bell about ten of the clock, each man addresseth himself to prayers, and so at four of the clock before supper.

Every Sunday, when the lord governor and captain general goeth to church, he is accompanied with all the councilors, captains, other officers, and all the gentlemen, and with a guard of halberdiers in His Lordship’s livery, fair red cloaks, to the number of fifty, both on each side and behind him; and, being in the church, His Lordship hath his seat in the choir, in a green velvet chair, with a cloth, with a velvet cushion spread on a table before him on which he kneeleth; and on each side sit the council, captains, and officers, each in their place; and when he returneth home again he is waited on to his house in the same manner.

Early Churches in original 13 British American colonies

There is an excellent, unassuming little blog on all 48 of Virginia's earliest churches, simply called Colonial Churches.  It was written by a fellow called Kallicrates, who described himself as "history buff riding around Virginia in a Mini Cooper or a road bicycle." His pen name is borrowed from Kallicrates (Καλλικράτης) who was Athenian architect, flourishing in Greece in the 5th century BC, who designed the Temple of Athena Nike on the Athenian Acropolis &, with Ictinus, the Parthenon.  The same gentleman compiled a list of early churches in America for Wikipedia. Our modern-day Kallicrates's descriptions of each Virginia church, its architecture & surrounding landscape are superb. I will post a few of his compilations here & hope that, if you are intrigued by old churches as I am, you will visit his fine work.

1610 St. John's Episcopal Church, established in 1610. Oldest English-speaking parish in continuous existence in US. 4th Parish 1728

1632-82 St Lukes said to be the oldest church in the US in one of the 13 original colonies, David King, Newport Parish Church.

1666 Christ Church, Durham Parish, Charles County, Maryland, established 1666, Oldest Episcopal 1732 building in Maryland.

1681 Old Ship Church Hingham, MA only remaining 17th-century Puritan meetinghouse in the US

1685 Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, NY Oldest surviving church in NY

1698 Old Swedes Church, in Wilmington, Delaware is the oldest Swedish church in continuous use in the US

1699 Great Friends Meeting House in Newport, RI Oldest surviving church in RI

1703 Six Principle Baptist Church, North Kingstown, RI Perhaps oldest Baptist Church in US

1703 St Mary's Episcopal Church in Burlington, NJ, oldest church in NJ

1706 Old St Andrew's Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC Oldest Church in SC

1707 Old Narragansett Church Episcopal in Wickford Rhode Island is the oldest surviving Episcopal church in the New England

1743 Augustus Lutheran Church in Trappe, Pennsylvania, is the oldest unchanged Lutheran church building in US in continuous use by the same congregation.

1780 Barratt’s Chapel in Frederica, Delaware is the oldest house of worship built by and for a Methodist Society that is still in use in the US

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.