This two-story weatherboard home in the former planters’ retreat village of Pinopolis in Berkeley County was built in 1855 as a rectory for Trinity Episcopal Church. It graciously housed the church’s first rector, the reverend J.J. Sams, until 1860.
The second rector to reside in this home was Reverend Peter F. Stevens, a graduate of The Citadel who, in as role as superintendent, ordered the first shots of the Civil War from Morris Island on January 9, 1861. The rectory – Stevens’ home – was robbed and vandalized in 1865, and many believe the act was retaliation for his actions in the war. Stevens moved from the rectory for safety reasons.
Stevens became sympathetic to the plight of African-Americans and was particularly troubled by the fact that his own denomination would not allow them to hold leadership positions. He left the Episcopal denomination in 1876 and joined the newly-organized Reformed Episcopal denomination, which allowed Africa-Americans to become priests; in 1879 he was made bishop of the Diocese of the Southeast. Bishop Stevens spent the remainder of his days helping establish 27 African-American Reformed Episcopal Churches in South Carolina, including St. Stephen’s Reformed Episcopal Church in Summerville.
After Stevens vacated the rectory and left the denomination, the church was unable to afford another permanent priest. It rented out the home for decades, and the last family of renters purchased the property. It remains a private home.
The Old Rectory, as it is still called, is listed in the National Register as part of the Pinopolis Historic District South, which says the following about the area:
Pinopolis Historic District South, which contains thirteen properties, consists of the historic core of the planters retreat community of Pinopolis. The district contains numerous early to middle nineteenth century summer houses, the Gothic Revival influenced Pinopolis Methodist Church (ca.1900), and other later nineteenth century buildings. The buildings of the Pinopolis Historic District South are representative of the development of vernacular building forms and construction technology of the nineteenth century. The absence of stylistic pretensions in most of the buildings is typical of pineland village architecture.
Beginning in the late eighteenth century lowcountry planters sought respite near their plantations, in resorts like Pinopolis, from the fevers associated with the lowlands in the summer. With the decline of the planter classes after the war, many resort villages turned to commercial ventures for their livelihood, however this was not the case in Pinopolis. Preferring to preserve the quiet community atmosphere of their village, the residents of Pinopolis blocked several proposals that would have attracted development. This decision helped Pinopolis retain its integrity as a pineland village. The district’s properties also include some outbuildings.