This historic church in Winnsboro dates to the time when Scots-Irish settlers began establishing homesteads in the Upstate – then called the backcountry. In 1772 the Reverend William Martin, an Irish immigrant and Covenanter, or Reformed Presbyterian minister, settled here and began preaching about a quarter of a mile from the current church site in an area called Wolf Pit of Wolf Pen. Martin is thought to be the father of Presbyterianism in Fairfield County, particularly the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) denomination.
By 1785, a Presbyterian church, called Wateree Church, had formed near its namesake Wateree Creek. This congregation likely developed under influence of the Reverend Martin. The church eventually was renamed Mt. Olivet, and a building to house the congregation was built in 1800. This church, which was located near the current church, served the congregation until after the Civl War.
In 1869 members of Mt. Olivet moved into this stuccoed brick building. The church’s walls are four bricks thick. Church lore states that the clay used for the bricks was extracted from the creek bed behind the original church. The granite foundation was also locally quarried; Winnsboro remains well-known for its abundance of blue granite. Though the church underwent interior modifications during the late-nineteenth or early-twentieth century, its original architectural integrity remains intact. Interior changes include the addition of a drop ceiling, altering the previous vaulted ceiling.
Mt. Olivet’s churchyard was established before the present church was built. It was used by the congregation as far back as 1795, the date of its earliest headstone, though earlier graves may exist. A cast-iron fence defines the boundaries of the churchyard, which contains the graves of veterans from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Two modern buildings now share the six-acre site with Mt. Olivet Presbyterian Church.
Mt. Olivet Presbyterian Church is listed in the National Register:
The Winnsboro area of Fairfield County has been served by a Presbyterian congregation since before 1785. The Reverend William Martin, a Coventar minister from Ireland who settled in South Carolina in 1772, preached at the Wolf Pit, a quarter mile from the present Mount Olivet Church, about the time of the American Revolution. In 1785 there was an established church in the vicinity called Wateree Church, after nearby Wateree Creek. The church was subsequently named Mount Olivet Presbyterian Church and a building was constructed near the present site around 1800. The present building, which was completed in 1869, is significant as a basically intact example of a rural church building, illustrating local construction techniques and stylistic characteristics of the period. The church is a one-story, rectangular, front-gabled building. The church is of masonry construction with brick bearing walls which are four bricks thick. The brickwork is covered with stucco, which has been scored to resemble cut stone. The foundation is granite. The large cemetery northwest of the church contains several historically and artistically significant gravestones dating back to 1795 and is enclosed by a cast-iron fence.
More Pictures of Mt. Olivet Presbyterian Church