Providence Presbyterian Church in the Abbeville County town of Lowndesville was organized in 1842 as a result of the merging of two local smaller churches, New Harmony Presbyterian and Providence. The first minister to serve the church of 80 charter members was the Reverend John D. Wilson. This church was built on two-and-a-half acres and originally included a slave gallery as well as a separate slave entrance.
Providence Presbyterian was significantly remodeled in 1886. Alterations included removing the slave gallery and adding the building’s corner entrance and campanile, or bell tower. The stove that was placed in the church in 1842 remains there today. Providence Presbyterian Church is a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination.
The churchyard sits about 100 yards from the sanctuary and spans appoximately an acre-and-a-half. The first interment dates to around 1845. It was protected with a fence in 1939.
Providence Presbyterian Church: Our Sources
South Carolina Historical Records Form, Church Records Form, Ben T. Carlton, WPA, 1939.
Old Rocky River Presbyterian Cemetery: Also known as Old Rocky River Cemetery – Find A Grave
Settling the South Carolina Backcountry: The Pressly Family and Life Along Hard Labor Creek, 1767-1850, Nancy L. Pressly, BookLogix, Alpheretta, Georgia.
History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina Since 1850, F. D. Jones, D. D. and W. H. Mills, D. D., Eds., Synod of South Carolina, Columbia, 1926.
Providence Presbyterian Info
Address: South Carolina Highway 81, Lowndesville, SC 29659
GPS Coordinates: 34.2103879,-82.6487427
Providence Presbyterian Map
Take Me There
Sherry Martin says
I wrote the history of the Rocky River PCUSA Church, (Echoes from the Pews), which has now departed from that denomination. And yes, the church’s original name was the Bull Town Presbyterian Church. I am now the pastor at the Providence Presbyterian Church, Lowndesville. We are getting ready to work on a cemetery project. I’ll see if I can find the information for the members mentioned.
Sherry Brooks Martin says
Thank you for the beautiful pictures and the information you provided. In my research, using the original session records that were house at Montreat, North Carolina, the Providence Presbyterian grew out of the evangelism of the Rocky River Presbyterian Church. The then minister of the Rocky River Presbyterian Church [Rev. Gamble] in 1826 started preaching in homes in the Lowndesville area due to the interest of the people in that area, and in 1828, Presbytery received under their care the Providence Church [October 1828]. By the end of the year 1829, the Providence Church had ninety-four whites and twenty-seven black members. I hope this information helps to establish that this church began even earlier than believed. Do you know the resource from which the information printed in this article was found? I am interested in researching more information about the church. Thanks so much.
SC Picture Project says
Hi Sherry, this is a great question and hopefully we can get to the bottom of it together. Our source for the information above is the 1939 WPA Inventory of Providence Presbyterian Church, now housed at the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina. The author of Providence’s inventory was Ben T. Carlton, and he came by his information via a variety of sources, including the church’s then-pastor, the Reverend Dodty, and Mr. Jim Banker, who was writing a book on Lowndesville history at that time.
His report also cites two volumes of church minutes. The first, dated 1842-1905, was held at the time by Dr. Robert J. Hutchenson of Lowndesville, and the second, begun in 1906 and still in use in 1939, was held by the church’s clerk, G. G. Baskin. Another source was a author-unspecified documented entitled “Providence (Lowndesville),” and a final source was “History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina since 1850,” edited by Frank Dudley Jones and William Hayne Mills and published in 1926 by the R.L. Bryan Co. in Columbia.
We mention in our article above that today’s Providence Presbyterian Church was formed from the combination of existing two congregations, New Harmony and another, earlier “Providence” church (the exact name of either church is not given in the inventory). This first Providence may be the one to which you are referring.
The inventory says, “According to Mr. Banker’s sketch, prior to 1842, there were two small presbyterian churches some 4 miles distant from Lowndesville, one 4 miles north and the other 4 miles south, ‘Providence and New Harmony.’ In 1842 these two were united under the name ‘Providence,’ and the church was moved to Lowndesville.”
Though the inventory is not explicit, my reading of it is that the first “Providence” church structure was likely moved from its original location to the current Providence location in Lowndesville off SC 82. I do not know this for certain, however, as the author does not specify which church was moved – New Harmony or Providence. I suspect it was Providence because the name Providence was kept, though I guess it is possible that charter members took the building from one congregation and the name from the other.
This is all I know right now, but I will look into it and let you what else I can find. Please let us know if you can add anything. I’d especially like to know more about the role Rocky River Presbyterian Church’s minister played.
UPDATE: According to the 1883 book, “History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina: Volume 2,” written by George Howe and published by Duffie & Chapman, the following connection exists:
“PROVIDENCE CHURCH-(Lowndesville).-This was formed, as we have seen, p. 550, from the Rocky River Church, and absorbed another organization formed from the same, and known, while it existed, as New Harmony Church, of the same name with one of the churches in Laurens District. As the church now exists it was made up of three elders and forty-one whites, and eleven colored members from Providence, as it was, and one elder, sixteen white, and three colored members from the New Harmony [sic], we have mentioned, making in all, four elders, fifty-seven white, and fourteen colored members, and was organized as an individual church, proposing worship in the future in a building then being erected in Lowndesville, and to be known in Presbytery by the name of ‘Providence.’ Minutes p. 188.”
The reference to page 550 of the same book leads us to this short passage:
“PROVIDENCE CHURCH (Lowndesville).-This is a branch of the Rocky River Church. The Rev. David Humphreys preached for several years in this church, which stood about two miles northeast of the village of Lowndesville. Through his labors over one hundred members were added to the church.”
Obviously these sources are not entirely in synch, so we are eager to learn more. I agree that the original Providence was a daughter church of Rocky River (as was New Harmony). If your aim is to “establish that this church [Providence] began even earlier than believed,” I guess the question becomes, was the new Providence considered a separate entity, distinguishable from its namesake, or was it simply the same church, using the same name, serving both original and assimilated members in a new location (in either the same building or a new one, depending on which source you believe)? From the WPA inventory, it appears that, at least by 1939, both members and historians considered them separate. However, since nearly a century had elapsed between the establishment of the Lowndesville church and 1939, it is hard to say how early members felt. The inception date of the first volume of minutes that Carlton records – 1842 – offers us the only valid clue I yet know of. Evidently, the keeper of this volume considered that date momentous as a beginning. Still there is always a chance that another, earlier volume of minutes exists, and I am hopeful you will be able to let us know if these are the minutes you located at Montreat.
Interestingly, I also learned that Rocky River Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which still exists today, itself seems to have been proceeded by a church called Bull Town, established 1772, which moved to the site of present-day “Old Rocky River Presbyterian Cemetery” circa 1776, at which time it adopted its new moniker, “Rocky River.” Thus the same question exists for it – was today’s Rocky River formed in 1772 or circa 1776?
Jim Williams says
I wanted to know if Carroll Allen Bonds is buried there. His wife, Annie Mae Hutchison Bonds, is buried there. I would appreciate if you could let me know.
Bob Hoots says
I am searching for the burial place of my grandparents, J.L. Daniel and Ella Daniel. They had two girls, Grace and Ruth. Both grandparents died before the children were adults. I would very much like any information concerning them. John L. Daniel gave my mother, Ruth, a book that has written in the inside, J.L. Daniel, Lowndesville, SC. Thank you for your help.
Joel Carter says
What a unique 1886 diagonal entrance modification for this 1841 Presbyterian church.
Bonnie Kudla says
I am searching for information on Mary Elizabeth Goff who was born Oct 30, 1830, in Lowndesville, SC. She married 1850 Edward Washington Vann, son of Edward Vann and Rebecca Hinton. The marriage occurred in Madison County, Florida, and she remained there until her death. Is there any information in your records giving Mary E. Goff’s parents’ names, or anything about the Vann family? A response would be much appreciated. Thank you.