St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in the small town of Blackville dates to at least 1890, when Blackville became an unorganized mission of the diocese under the care of the Reverend A. E. Cornish (1). The congregation out of which it arose, however, formed before the Civil War. These members initially borrowed the Methodist church for services.
In May of 1891, the Reverend Cornish listed 16 communicants. By 1892, a chapel had been built, and on February 4, 1898, St. Alban’s was consecrated by Bishop Ellison Capers. Bishop Capers had been a Confederate general in the Civil War.
The chapel cost nearly $500 and was located near Hutto’s gin “in a cotton field on the very edge of town” (1). This small structure served the congregation just shy of 20 years. By 1914 the chapel was deemed unsafe by its minister, the Reverend A. E. Evison (2). Indeed, a storm destroyed the chapel and a new lot was purchased directly (2).
The present church, crafted in the Gothic style with wood shingles, is generally said to have been constructed in 1918, as recorded in the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina (1). Confusion arises, however, as the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1922 does not show the building. St. Alban’s first appears on Sanborn’s next map, made in 1933 (2).
Regardless, the church had become an organized mission by 1918. It was not until 1942, however, that the second church was consecrated, this time by the Right Reverend Thomas Neely Carruthers (1). [Editor’s note: Although the date is given as 1942, Carruthers was not elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina until 1844 (3,4). Only a bishop can consecrate a church, meaning that the date is either off by two years, or the church was consecrated instead by Carruthers’ predecessor, the Right Reverend Albert Thomas. We are unsure which is the case, so if you can help, please let us know.]
Like many of South Carolina’s historic churches, St. Alban’s has suffered its share of destruction. The church was badly burned on December 29, 1966, but congregants restored it in time for Christmas Eve service the following year (5).
Detailed History of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
The following profile appears in A Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, 1820-1957. The profile notes that St. Albans in Blackville had missions in Bamberg, Midway, and Branchville.
St. Alban’s Church dates from 1890, but services of the [Episcopal] Church were held in Blackville many years earlier. In 1862, the Rev. Barnwell Bonum Sams began labors in this part of the diocese. Mr. Sams’ title was “Rector of Holy Apostles’, Barnwell, and Missionary, Blackville”. He reports that through the courtesy of the Rev. Ir. Wilson, who loaned the Methodist Church for the purpose, he held services in Blackville on the first Sunday in every month – the congregations being quite as large as those in Barnwell. (The Rev. John H. Cornish had held services in Branchville in 1857).
The attendance was swelled by the presence of many war refugees from the low country. Bishop Davis reports his first visit to Blackville on July 17, 1862, when he preached and confirmed one person “the first confirmation ever held there”. The service was in the Methodist Chmch conducted by Mr. Sams. These services were continued through 1863 and 1864; the Methodist Church was still used. Bishop Davis made a visitation on December 15, 1864. After the war, the services in Blackville were very irregular. In 1870, Mr. Sams was holding services in Bamberg, and the next year also at Brier Creek Church, Midway, which was loaned for the purpose. Midway was on the same road as Bamberg. After Mr. Sams left Barnwell in 1871, his principal work was at Midway, but this was difficult because there was no Church building at Midway – the services generally were held in a room loaned for the purpose. Mr. Sams took charge of St. Matthew’s parish in 1873, so he had then less time for work in this field. His services were now confined to Midway. In 1875, Mr. Sams moved the services from Midway to Bamberg, the prospects there being better, as well as because the Methodist lady who had loaned her parlor for the services found that it was no longer convenient to do so.
In 1876, Mr. Sams reported 40 services at Bamberg and four at Blackville. He also held services at Ridge Spring in 1877. Services in Bamberg were 30 in 1878 with none in Blackville. In 1879, he was missionary to Graniteville, but still held services in Bamberg where the people could do little, but he stated, “as long as I am not otherwise engaged, I propose to hold services for them.” In 1880, Mr. Sams left this part of the diocese to take charge of the seacoast missions. The Rev. R. W. Barnwell had charge in 1884, reporting eight communicants and eight week-day services. In 1906 services were held in Bamberg by Rev. S. C. Beckwith. At a still later time from 1912 to 1916, a mission, called St. Paul’s, Bamberg, was conducted by the Rev. J. W. Sparks and later by the Rev. A. E. Evison. It was discontinued in 1916.
Beginning in 1887, the Rev. A. E. Cornish did extensive missionary work in this section of the State. Among the many places he visited was the town of Blackville. In 1890, Blackville is first listed as an unorganized mission of the diocese. In May, 1891, Mr. Cornish reported 16 communicants; eight services; Sunday School, teachers and pupils, 28; salary paid $25.00. So began St. Alban’s. In 1892, he reports that a neat little chapel, costing upward of $500.00, had been built – “the generous work of the few Church folks in that town” (near Hutto’s gin). The lot was given by Mrs. A. R. Carroll.
Mr. Cornish removed to Charleston in 1894 and was succeeded by the Rev. S. E. Prentiss. In 1895, this mission was reported for the first time under the name of St. Alban’s. The removal of the Turner family was quite a loss this year, but there was a gain in the coming of the Hammond family. Mr. William Morrison was the first reported officer of this Church. He was for many years both warden and treasurer. St. Alban’s Chapel was Consecrated by Bishop Capers on February 4, 1898. The Rev. Mr. Kershaw preached, Mr. Prentiss read the request, and the Rev. Dr. Porter the sentence. In 1902, the Rev. T. T. Walsh succeeded Mr. Prentiss as minister. There were now nine families and 17 communicants. St. Alban’s next minister was the Rev. Charles E. Cabaniss, who came in December, 1904. Then in 1905, the Rev. S. C. Beckwith had charge for about one year. After a vacancy for a year or so, the Rev. J. C. Waring had charge. After his brief charge, the Rev. T. T. Walsh, now general missionary of the diocese, held services.
The Rev. A. E. Evison became the minister in 1909. In 1914, Mr. Evison relates that the little chapel “in a cotton field on the very edge of town” had become unsafe. It would shake and rattle when the wind blew and was finally demolished by a storm. A movement for a new Church had resulted in the raising of $600.00, a new lot was bought, and in about 1918 the present pleasing Gothic Church was built. The old lot reverted to the Carroll family. After nine years of devoted service, Mr. Evison was succeeded by the Rev. A. Rufus Morgan. In 1919, St. Alban’s stepped up to the position of an “organized mission”, Mr. Morrison was still the warden and treasurer. The next year Mr. Thomas L. Wragg became Avarden, Mr. Morrison still treasurer. Mr. Morgan continued until April, 1920. In October of this year, the Rev. C. W. Boyd took charge but only for a few months. In 1922, Miss Mary B. Thompson gave to St. Alban’s the sum of $1,500.00, as a memorial to her mother, a faithful member of the Church, to be known as the “Addie Thompson Memorial”, in trust with the Bishop of the diocese, the income to be used for the “upkeep and furnishing of St. Alban’s Church.” If St. Alban’s should be “discontinued or abandoned”, the income is to be used for the education of a candidate for Holy Orders in South Carolina. The Rev. Howard Cady succeeded in 1925 and until November, 1926, when the Church was vacant for a period. In 1929, the Rev. Joseph Burton had oversight but gave only one Sunday a year, the congregation now worshipping in Barnwell.
When the Rev. John A. Pinckney took charge of Allendale and Barnwell in 1931, regular worship was resumed in St. Alban’s and greatly renewed interest was manifested. Mr. Pinckney left in 1937, going to Tryon, N. C. The next year, the Rev. Theodore Porter Ball took charge, the Church now becoming very active. St. Alban’s was admitted into union with Convention as an organized mission in 1940. Later in the year, Mr. Ball was transferred to the diocese of Upper S. C. Dr. O. D. Hammond was then, as for many years, the warden, and Mr. Nick V. Martin, secretary-treasurer. W. H. Hanckel, a candidate for orders, officiated in the summer of 1941. Mr. Martin now kept up the services by lay reading, with occasional services by visiting ministers. For many years, the women of the Church were organized as a guild; but in April, 1940, it was made into a branch of the Woman’s Auxiliary which became very active in promoting the work of the Church.
The Church had remained vacant for some years until the Rev. William L. Martin took charge in 1945. Mr. Martin resigned February, 1947. The Rev. Gordon D. Bennett took charge in 1948. The Church was Consecrated by Bishop Carruthers on May 2, 1948. Mr. Bennett left November, 1950; Rev. R. J. Hobart then took charge for a year, followed by the Rev. George Milton Crum. Mr. N. V. Martin continued to serve for years as lay reader and superintendent of the Church school. Mr. L. L. Pearson was lay reader also, and Miss Ruth Hoffman, organist. The Rev. Gordon Mann took the charge in March, 1954, but left the latter part of the year when the Rev. H. D. Bull succeeded, serving until September, 1955, when the Rev. Walter D. Roberts took charge. The officers of St. Alban’s at this time (1955) are: warden, N. V. Martin; secretary-treasurer, Miss Pearle Hoffman. In 1944, a large lot was purchased, adjoining the Church, with a view to the erection of a parish house.
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church: Our Sources
1. A Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, 1820-1957, Albert Sidney Thomas, 1957.
2. South Carolina Historic Property Records, South Carolina Department of Archives, March 10, 1981.
3. Bishop Carruthers, Obituary, The State, June 15, 1960.
4. Bishop Thomas Carruthers Dies; South Carolina Episcopal Head, New York Times, June 14, 1960.
5. Bill Segars, Personal Files, Hartsville, 2008.
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