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Hodges Presbyterian Church — Hodges, South Carolina

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Hodges Presbyterian Church

If you can help Hodges Presbyterian recover and rebuild, please send a check to Hodges Presbyterian Church, at 4413 Main Street in Hodges, South Carolina, 29653 or Trinity Presbytery at 554 Davega Drive in Lexington, South Carolina, 29073.

Hodges Presbyterian Church, located in the tiny rural hamlet of Hodges in Greenwood County, was established in 1899. Its roof and steeple caught fire and collapsed the night of August 19, 2019. The blaze occurred during a storm and is believed to have been caused by a lightening strike near the base of the steeple’s belfry (1).

Hodges Presbyterian Church Fire

Hodges Presbyterian Church, Evening After Fire
(Scott Krause of Columbia, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

Despite tremendous damage to the roof, steeple, and nave of the church, the central and front portions remain intact. These include the alter, sanctuary, fellowship hall, offices, and session room (in Presbyterian churches, a small room where the pastor and elders – or Session – meet). Miraculously it also includes the prayer books and hymnals protected behind each pew (1). It is unclear whether the church’s bell, warped by heat, will be able to be restored (1).

Hodges South Carolina Church

Hodges’s Presbyterian Church, 12 Years Before Fire
(Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2007 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

Hodges’s congregation formed in December 1899 when local Presbyterians gathered to build a house of worship. Included were 49 members from Greenville Presbyterian Church in nearby Donalds and one from Upper Long Cane Presbyterian Church (2). (A separate article, also published by Greenwood‘s Index Journal, says members came from Greenville Presbyterian and a church in Cokesbury (3), which we presume was Mount Ariel Presbyterian.)

Hodges Presbyterian

Hodges Presbyterian, Two Years Before Burning
(Dennis Hawkins of York, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

On December 8, 1999, members elected four elders and three deacons (2). The elders were J.C. Mundy, John L. McCord, A. Bartow Crawford, and Jim Henry McCord; the deacons were A. Floyd Seawright, Robert James Nickles, and Will Andy McCord (2).

Hodges Presbyterian Church Steeple

Hodges’s Steeple with Tower, Belfry, and Spire
(Tom Taylor of Greenville, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

The following March (1900), property was purchased from Lawrence K. Dantzler (2). Construction soon followed, and by 1901, the stately American Gothic church was ready for services (2). The wood lap church originally had amber-tinted windows, but these were later replaced with stained glass (2,3). Its steeple, supported by a bell tower, was added later.

Hodges Presbyterian Church in South Carolina

Side Elevation of Hodges Presbyterian Church, Before Fire
(Tom Taylor of Greenville, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

On July 5, 1901, members of Hodges Presbyterian called their first pastor, William J. Wyly (2). Just under 60 years later, in 1959, it called its first full-time minister, Larry Crocker. In anticipation of the Crocker family’s arrival, a large manse was constructed in 1960 on a lot given to Hodges Presbyterian by Mrs. Jessie Nickles, a relative of Robert Nickels, one of the church’s founding deacons (2).

Hodges Presbyterian Church Steeple

Close-up of Original Steeple’s Bellfry and Spire
(Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2007 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

Crocker had not yet graduated seminary at the time he was called to pastor Hodges Presbyterian and thus traveled back and forth from Atlanta each week (3). His wife Helen and their children resided at the newly-constructed parsonage, located on SC 185 West (2, 3). In 1961 the Reverend Crocker, fresh from commencement, began his resident service (3).

Hodges Presbyterian Church

View of Side Elevation Showing 1950s Expansion
(Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2007 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

Renovations were made to Hodges Presbyterian in both 1951 and 1954 with the cost coming to $15,000 (3). During this era, multiple rooms were added to the church, including a trio of Sunday School classrooms, a pastor’s study, a kitchen and dining hall, and perhaps most importantly, two restrooms (3)! The sanctuary was updated with carpet and new furniture at this time as well (3).

Hodges Presbyterian Church SC

Original Entrance with Steeple and Portico
(Tom Taylor of Greenville, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

Another important addition to the church was its set of stained-glass windows. In 1995, just before the church’s centennial, the original amber windows were replaced with stained glass windows depicting Christian symbols (3). The Reverend David Seabrook presided over Hodges Presbyterian at the time (3). Mercifully these were not destroyed by the 2019 fire.

Hodges Presbyterian Church Window

Detailed View of Large, Stained Glass Windows as Seen the Church’s Exterior
(Tom Taylor of Greenville, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

By 1961 the church’s original membership of 50 had more than tripled! That year Hodges Presbyterian listed 152 people in its congregation (3). This is roughly equal to the total number of residents who live in the Town of Hodges today (4).

Hodges Presbyterian Stained Glass

Stained Glass Oculus, or Oeil de Boeuf, in Original Steeple
(Tom Taylor of Greenville, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

The current minister of Hodges Presbyterian is the Reverend Hampton Hunter, who has served the congregation since February 2016 (1). Hodges Cemetery, located off church ground’s, founded in 1870, holds the mortal remains of over 800 people (5). The church is a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Synod of the South Atlantic, which is known as Trinity Presbyterian.

Hodges Presbyterian Church: August 20, 2019

The following images, as well as the photograph at the very top of this page, were taken by aerial photographer Scott Krause, who documented the church as it appeared just after 6 PM on August 20, 2019 – less than 24 hours after the fire was extinguished.

Hodges SC Church, 2019 Fire

Scott Krause of Columbia, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Hodges Presbyterian, Burned Steeple

Scott Krause of Columbia, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Hodges Presbyterian Fire Damage

Scott Krause of Columbia, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on Hodges Presbyterian Church

Hodges SC Fire Damage

Portion of Hodges Presbyterian That Suffered Most Intensive Damage
(Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

The following reflection comes to us from a long-time volunteer firefighter in South Carolina who asks to remain anonymous, “because these thoughts are not about [him] – they are about any firefighter who is called to this service.”

Like those at Hodges, he too has been called to help prevent the collapse of some of South Carolina’s oldest and most cherished churches. His words below specifically reference his first such fire, a blaze he battled in his home town just two short years into his service. His words also give specific testament to the sacrifice and skill of the firefighters at Hodges the night of August 19, 2019.

Seeing a church building burning is totally different than seeing a house or a business on fire. Typically, firefighters pride themselves on staying calm and doing their job in an orderly, 1-2-3 manner. We can do the job at hand much better if we don’t get involved emotionally. That said, I can tell you that a church building fire or knowing that someone is in the burning building stretches most firefighters’ limits.

No one should have to see a wooden cross burn, a brass alter cross glowing red from the heat, or a charred Bible lying in wet ashes. Then to come out of the building – hot, tired, and soaked in sweat – and see members of the congregation who you know and respect, wrapped in blankets, shivering from the winter night’s cold air, praying together … I can tell you that I matured in the fire service very quickly the first time I witnessed these things.

I’d like to point out the excellent job that the firefighters did to save Hodges Presbyterian Church, as it is. I wasn’t there, but viewing the photos, the firefighters on the scene did an exemplary job of saving what they did. Through a firefighter’s eyes, I can easily see that this building fire had the potential of being a total loss, flat on the ground – gone. This was not your normal “room and content” fire. There is typically a lot of open space in a church, allowing fire to spread quickly. Through firefighting skills, this group was able to prevent total destruction of this church.

I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of the fire stations on scene were volunteer departments. There is just no large city, or paid-station employees, close by for mutual aid. Look at the scene photos – different color bunker gear (some black, some yellow) – tells me different stations responded and worked together. Most everyone who responded to this call stopped what they were doing in their personal life to help, for the love of helping others in the time of need, basically for no pay. If you were to talk to any of these firefighters, they would tell you what I’ve written.

Hodges SC Fire Department

Hodges Fire Station Seen Just Beyond Church
(Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

Hodges Presbyterian, Post Fire

Windows of Hodges Presbyterian, Protected by Plywood in Early September
(Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

Hodges Presbyterian Church: Help Readers Learn More

We would like to be able to share more of the history of Hodges Presbyterian Church. If you can help, please fill in the form below.

You can fill in as much or as little information as you have. We really appreciate your help, and we will credit you for your contribution. Learn more about our Adopt-a-Landmark program. Thank you!

Hodges Presbyterian Church: Our Sources

1. Faith Amid Flames: Hodges congregation receives outpouring of support following church fire, Damian Dominquez, The Index-Journal, Greenwood, August 20, 2019.

2. Hodges Presbyterian ready for big celebration, Dec 4-5, The Index-Journal, Greenwood, November 27, 1999.

3. Hodges Presbyterian Remodeled in ’51, ’54, The Index-Journal, Greenwood, August 26, 1961.

4. Census of Population and Housing, United States Census Bureau, Washington, D.C., 2010.

5. Hodges Cemetery: Also known as Providence Baptist Church Cemetery, Find-a-Grave.

Hodges Presbyterian Church Info

Address: 4413 Main Street, Hodges, SC
GPS Coordinates: 34.286338,-82.246850

Hodges Presbyterian Church Map

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