This historic church in the hamlet of Liberty Hill is the second to house its Presbyterian congregation. Prior to the Revolutionary War, Scots-Irish settlers built a meeting house at Beaver Creek in 1772. The meeting house was later dismantled and rebuilt on the Lancaster stagecoach road, and the congregation of Beaver Creek Presbyterian Church remains active. In the mid-nineteenth century, some members from Beaver Creek Presbyterian Church joined with another group of Presbyterians who had been meeting in a nearby schoolhouse to establish their own Presbyterian church.
As a result, in 1851, a group of 10 men and 16 women founded Liberty Hill Presbyterian Church. The following year, they built the church’s first sanctuary. That original edifice sufficed for about 30 years. However, as the town grew, so did the church. The congregation tore down its first church and replaced it with this one in 1880. Salvaged materials from the original church were used in the construction of this Carpenter Gothic edifice, including the church bell that peals from the open belfry.
This church was designed by architect Frederick Jay Hay, creator of Allendale Presbyterian Church. The two churches resemble each other in the pattern of their wood siding. Much of the interior of Liberty Hill Presbyterian is made of heart pine. The building of Liberty Hill Presbyterian marked the beginning of a construction boom in the area from 1895 until around 1910.
One of the church’s early minsters, the Reverend John Gardiner Richards, was the father of Governor John G. Richards, Jr. Governor Richards served South Carolina in that role from 1937 through 1941. Both father and son are interred within the church’s graveyard.
The church organ, pictured below, was built in 1820 by James Jackson of New York, whose name is etched onto a brass plate on the front of the instrument. When it was constructed, the solid mahogany, hand-pumped organ was given to Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Camden by Mr. John Chestnut. In 1907, Bethesda replaced the organ and sold the old one for $200 to the late Governor John G. Richards. Due to Richards’ interest in Liberty Hill Presbyterian, he gave the organ as a gift and the instrument was installed in the sanctuary here. The organ continued to be hand-pumped until an electric motor was installed as electricity became available. Mrs. John G. Richards played the organ at Bethesda and after it made its new home at Liberty Hill, she played in this sanctuary until her death in 1957. The organ got a complete restoration by J. Allen Farmer, Inc. of Winston-Salem, NC and was rededicated on March 17, 1996. There is only one other known organ built by James Jackson (1834) and it is located in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ellicottville, NY.
Liberty Hill Presbyterian Church is listed in the National Register as part of the Liberty Hill Historic District:
A small rural community located on a high plateau, Liberty Hill visually and historically reflects both the life-style and the architecture of the pre-Civil War period as well as the turn of the twentieth century. There are several imposing Greek Revival structures, Greek Revival cottages, and an 1880s vernacular Gothic Revival church. The later, turn of the century residences are primarily one-stop, simple clapboard cottages. The town’s history begins as early as ca. 1813 when Peter Garlick’s store (location unknown) was a gathering place for surrounding farmers. Soon, impressive structures were built by planters in the area. Remaining from the 1830s are Cool Spring and the Joseph Cunningham House. The majority of the town’s antebellum buildings, however, were built ca. 1840-1850. During this period Liberty Hill was a very wealthy community. However, the final days of the Civil War ended that prosperity. Nevertheless, the town did eventually reassert itself and appears to have changed very little since the beginning of the twentieth century.
Interior Pictures of Liberty Hill Presbyterian Church