The historic Old Stone Church in Clemson has been a fixture of the landscape for over 200 years. The church began as Hopewell-Keowee Presbyterian Church in 1789. By 1791 the congregation, which had been admitted to the South Carolina Presbytery, was worshiping in a log cabin near the Keowee River.
The log meeting house burned a few years later, and construction on this church began in 1797. The stone church was completed in 1802. This remained the house of worship until the congregation moved to Pendleton in the 1820s. In the late nineteenth century, as the church and graveyard began to fall into disrepair, the Old Stone Church Commission was formed to restore and maintain the property.
The cemetery actually predates the church. The oldest grave in the churchyard belongs to Charles Miller whose father, John, was a newspaper publisher in London before continuing his trade here. Charles Miller is interred on a corner of the church property that was part of his father’s land grant before it was deeded to the church in 1800.
Old Stone Church is one of the older structures remaining in Upstate South Carolina. Revolutionary War General Andrew Pickens, namesake of Pickens County, and his son, Governor Andrew Pickens, Jr., are buried here.
Today the Old Stone Church continues to be maintained by the Old Stone Church Commission. The church, which has no heating or air conditioning, holds special worship services during the year. It is closely affiliated with Clemson University and Old Fort Presbyterian Church.
Grave of Eliza Huger
Pictured below is the grave of Eliza Huger in the cemetery of the Old Stone Church. As photographer Ann Helms explains, “There are numerous legends about Eliza, but little has been confirmed about how she lived and died. The most often told tale is that Eliza was born to an important Charleston family, and she ran away from home to New Orleans. Two of her brothers followed to bring her home. Finding her in a house of prostitution (with a client), they shot her dead.”
“Upon returning her body to South Carolina, no church would allow her to be buried in its cemetery. Finally, she was allowed to be buried by the Old Stone Church, provided a wall was built around the grave to keep her sinful spirit in. Over the years, the wall kept falling apart and new repairs never lasted long. Lightning has also struck the grave numerous times, obliterating all words except Brothers Sorrow. To this day, people toss coins onto the grave for good luck. But if someone takes a coin, well, watch out!”
The Old Stone Church and Cemetery are both listed in the National Register:
The Old Stone Church is significant architecturally as a masonry adaptation of meeting house architecture and as a representative of the early pioneer church in South Carolina. Many prominent men are buried in its cemetery. On October 13, 1789, the congregation of Hopewell-Keowee Church asked to be taken into the Presbytery of South Carolina. Construction of the Old Stone Church began in 1797, replacing the congregation’s log meeting house that had burned. The natural fieldstone rectangular structure with medium gable roof was completed in 1802. It is six bays deep with high fenestration. The windows are the size of its doorways, all of which are topped with a flat arch. Exterior stairs lead to the slave gallery at the rear of the church. During the 1890s, the Old Stone Church and Cemetery Commission was organized, a wall put around the graveyard, and repairs made to preserve the old building.