St. John’s Lutheran Church in the Newberry County town of Pomaria was established by German settlers in 1754 (1) and incorporated in 1794. The congregation’s first minister, the Reverend Luft, built the church’s original home – a log cabin. In 1763 the church received a royal grant for 100 acres, and a second church was built shortly afterwards. Completed in 1809, this building is the third to serve St. John’s and also the oldest Lutheran frame structure in the state.
The South Carolina Lutheran Synod met here in 1824 and again in 1838. After that year, the church changed synod affiliations. Another frame building adjacent to the church, seen below, housed a school and was operated by St. John’s until 1921. Education has been a component of this church since its formation.
The congregation of St. John’s met here until 1950, when it built the brick structure across the street that houses the church today. Though the white frame church is no longer in use, the congregation maintains the historic building. During a visit in 2017, photographer Jackie Thomspon was able to see details not normally seen such as these Roman numerals which would have been early identifiers for the pieces of wood used to construct this structure.
The sign below, rendered nearly illegible by the elements, reads, “This Lutheran church stands on a royal grant of 100 acres made in 1705 to John Adam Epting and Peter Dickert, elders of the Dissenting congregation on Crim’s Creek. The origins of St John’s date as early as 1754 when the Reverend John Gasser settled near here. The church was incorporated in 1794 as ‘the German Lutheran Congregation of St. John’.” (Please note that Reverend Gasser was actually the second leader to serve this church.)
St. John’s Lutheran Church is listed in the National Register:
(White Church) St. John’s is unusual architecturally, reflecting a more sophisticated design than is usually found in rural 19th century churches in South Carolina. This ca. 1809 church is believed to be the oldest frame Lutheran church building in South Carolina. St. John’s retains some beaded siding, a dentiled cornice, and a jerkin-head tin roof. The front façade features paneled entrance doors with an arched panel above, and an unusual configuration of windows with matching pairs in three successive tiers. The rear reveals a semi-circular chancel, believed to date from ca. 1892, with two Gothic style windows. All other windows feature solid-paneled shutters, surmounted by semi-circular window arches. The interior features a wooden barrel-vaulted ceiling and wide board walls.
Narrow wooden stairways in the front corners of the church give access to a slave gallery. It is believed that St. John’s Church was established in the 1750s by German settlers. The present building is believed to have been constructed in 1809 as the third structure to serve the St. John’s congregation. A small, rectangular mid-nineteenth century clapboard school building is located east of the church, within the nominated acreage. Located to the north of the church is the church cemetery which contains several early graves with fieldstone markers.
St. John’s Lutheran Church: Our Sources
1. Many thanks to Jason Jolley of Lexington for helping us clarify that St. John’s Lutheran was established in 1754 instead the “early 1750s.” He also helped us identify an incorrect word in our translation of the historical marker – Crim’s. 🙂