Formed in 1848, the Church of the Holy Apostles survived the burning of Barnwell during the Civil War. Endurance may come to the church naturally, as its roots lie in Charleston, a city acclaimed for its ability to rebuild after destruction. The church was estalished when a group of men – including Charleston rector, the Reverend Thomas John Young – met in a Masonic Hall and decided that Barnwell should organize an Episcopal church and join the Diocese of South Carolina. The new church was largely supported by St. Michael’s in Charleston, whose members contributed funds for its establishment and also provided its first pulpit and altar. St. Michael’s even supplied the fledgling church with an interim rector.
By 1856 the congregation was flourishing and ready to build. Its first permanent rector, the Reverend Edwin A. Wagner, sold the property adjacent to his home to the church for five dollars. Construction then began on the new church, which was completed in 1857. Its English-Gothic design was influenced by Wagner, an Englishman. He desired a church that complemented his residence on the adjoining property, which was built just prior to the construction of the church.
In 1865, much of South Carolina from Aiken to Charleston was ravaged by Federal troops. Barnwell was no exception. It is said that when General Sherman and his troops occupied the town, the Church of the Holy Apostles was used as a horse stable, and its storied baptismal font – reputedly a medieval relic donated by the Reverend Wagner himself – was used as the water trough. Fortunately, the church and many of its treasures survived, though not without damage. Its prominent east window, a gift from Governor James Hammond, was buried by church members and thus spared from destruction. Also preserved was the church’s silver, which had been hidden in a well that is now covered by a gazebo in the churchyard.
The Rectory was built between 1856 and 1857 by the Church of the Holy Apostles’ first rector, the Reverend Edwin Wagner, on land that he owned adjacent to the church. Despite the fact that Wagner privately held the Gothic home, it was referred to as the Rectory.
Following the Civil War, the home was sold to a string of owners for use as a residence, including South Carolina legislators James Aldrich and Dr. Angus Bethune Patterson, who operated his medical practice from the home in the early twentieth century. (Like Aldrich, Dr. Patterson also served in the South Carolina House of Representatives.) The Rectory’s last private owner – said to be the business manager for legendary singer James Brown – donated the building to the church in recent years.
Both the Church of the Holy Apostles and the Rectory are listed in the National Register:
An example of Gothic Revival architecture, the one-and-a-half story Rectory, circa 1857, is one of Barnwell’s few remaining antebellum structures. Similar in design to a structure in A.J. Downing’s Architecture of Country Houses, the Rectory illustrates the “Carpenter’s Gothic,” a symmetrical cottage popularized by Downing and A.J. Davis. The exterior walls are of cypress board and batten construction. The façade is characterized by two dormers, trimmed in bargeboard, one on each side of a projecting pointed arch bay with portico. The portico is supported by four built-up lattice columns.
Built for Reverend Edwin Wagner, the first rector of Barnwell’s Church of the Holy Apostles, the Rectory has also been the home of men active in local and state political affairs. Subsequent owners served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, including James T. Aldrich (1878-1882, 1884-1889) and Dr. Angus Bethune Patterson (1906-1910). Patterson also served in the state senate from 1912-1916 and 1924-1928.
The church is significant for its architecture and as one of the few remaining antebellum structures in Barnwell, which was almost completely destroyed by Gen. William T. Sherman’s troops. The church is an excellent example of a Gothic Revival structure which combines, in its exterior appearance and interior arrangement, simplicity of plan and an architectural and ecclesiastical propriety not found in many rural areas of South Carolina. The design of the church was planned by Barbot and Seyle, noted Charleston architects and built ca. 1856.
The features include cypress board and batten construction consisting of a nave, chancel, vestry, and tower, a double front door with a Gothic window above with simple tracery surmounted by ornamental dripstone, and a square gabled tower with an ornamental cornice surmounted by a wooden cross. The tower has louvered vents and double shouldered corner buttresses, and there is a small gable transept at right rear. The chimney on the right side was added in 1867. The original stained glass windows, though repaired, are magnificent. The window behind the altar was given by James Hammond, Governor and U.S. Senator. Church tradition holds that the windows were taken out and buried before Sherman came. The church was damaged and used as a stable by Kilpatrick’s Calvary. It was restored and regular services began again in 1883.