This church in historic Cheraw was founded and built in 1842 by Cheraw resident and Irish immigrant and master builder Conlaw Peter Lynch. At the time, he and his family were the only Catholics in the community. Despite their small number, the Catholics of Cheraw nonetheless desired their own house of worship.
The resulting St. Peter’s Catholic Church may look familiar; the architectural plans for the church were the same as those used for Market Hall, also designed by Lynch. In fact, Lynch left his mark multiple places – he was also responsible for designing Cheraw’s Town Hall and the Old Merchant’s Bank as well.
St. Peter’s was severely damaged by Union troops during the Civil War and did not recover afterwards. The sanctuary sat vacant for decades, falling into disrepair. In 1909 a wealthy priest name Father Charles DuBois Wood was able to use his own funds to restore the church.
During the restoration, the present stained glass windows were added; one is dedicated to Conlaw Peter Lynch and his wife, Eleanor. The pews that were installed during the project are said to have come from the private chapel of Napoleon’s brother, Jerome. Other projects to maintain the building have occurred over the decades, including the addition of vinyl siding to the church’s exterior in 1987.
St. Peter’s Catholic Church is listed in the National Register as part of the Cheraw Historic District:
Around 1736 Welsh Baptists came to South Carolina and settled in the Pee Dee region. In 1766 Eli Kershaw, who had been given a grant of land along the Pee Dee River, laid out the town of Cheraw. It was incorporated in 1820. Located at a key navigational point, Cheraw began to develop as a commercial center of interior South Carolina; however, the Civil War and Reconstruction temporarily halted this progress. For a time development was impeded and rebuilding was delayed. Although the town eventually prospered, much of its physical character remained unaltered. The town of Cheraw also played an important role in South Carolina military history. During both the American Revolution and the Civil War, British and Union troops used St. David’s Episcopal Church as a hospital. The meeting house style church still stands today. Additionally in 1825, Revolutionary War figure Marquis de Lafayette stayed in Cheraw during his tour of the United States. Located within the district are a variety of architectural styles that include the early frame homes of the 1800s (often called upcountry farmhouses, or essentially I-House in type), antebellum structures with Classical Revival details and Greek Revival porticos, and Victorian houses from the turn of the century. The district also includes several churches, a cemetery, and the towns’ original boundary markers dating from 1766.