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History

SETTING  Long before there was Christian influx and influence in this area, there were small beginnings in other places: French Huguenots established a colony on South Carolina’s shores in 1562. This was 45 years prior to the VA settlement, and 58 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Calvinists came to VA in 1607. Francis Makemie (known as the father of American Presbyterianism) came to America in 1683. He invited six ministers to Philadelphia in 1706 where the first Presbytery was formed. Thus Presbyterians created the first independent American denomination.

BEGINNINGS The Ulster Scots were filling the Carolina back country by 1760-65. In 1770 Presbyterian   missionaries from the Synod of New York and Philadelphia visited the area of Long Cane (an area today known as Abbeville and Greenwood counties), here in upper South Carolina. A church was formed just northeast of present day Greenwood called Rocky Creek (name later changed to Rock Church). Other churches were established in the area: Ninety Six in 1850; Cokesbury in 1874. With population and commerce developing in an area southwest of Rock Church some members there began meeting closer to their homes and businesses. The first building used for Sunday School and prayer meetings was the old Presbyterian High School purchased in 1850. This meeting place was known as The Chapel. As the town of Greenwood became more and more the center of the congregation, some thirty years later in 1883, fifty nine (59) members from the Rock Church were listed as charter members of a newly organized First Presbyterian congregation.

THE FIRST ORGAN

This organ was presented to The Heritage Room, First Presbyterian Church, Greenwood, South Carolina in memory of Martha Wharton Barnette by Payne Henderson Barnette, Sr., Husband, Payne Henderson and Martha Jay Barnette, Son and Daughter-in-Law, Martha Wharton Barnette and Brian Lee Blatt, Daughter and Son-in-Law, Lee Barnette Blatt, Grandson, Edith Elizabeth Barnette, Daughter, April 16, 1993. This rare and beautiful Mason-Hamlin organ is over one hundred years of age and was the original organ used in The First Presbyterian Church 1883-1899.

DEVELOPMENT

Rock Church and this Church shared ministers until 1890. A new church building (presently Alexander Hall) was completed in 1899. Growth continued with splendid pastoral leadership. Between 1908 and 1921 membership grew to 500. A Sunday School building was completed in 1924. Mission and service by this congregation continued to expand. In 1950, 709 communicants were listed as members. Up until this time the congregation had been led by a total of eleven ministers. The twelfth minister, Dr. Robert L. Alexander was to serve the church with the longest tenure: sixteen years (1951-1967). During this time the congregation’s membership swelled to 1,000, and the present sanctuary and office complex were built. The congregation added a children’s wing to its plant in 1973.

MISSION & OUTREACH

This congregation has been one intent upon and vigorous in mission and outreach throughout its history. Its mother church, Rock, suffering loss of members considered closing its doors, and was without a pastor for fifty years (1906-1956). Through the efforts of members of this daughter Church the ministry of Rock Church was reactivated in 1956. This congregation had also been instrumental in helping to establish the Second Presbyterian Church in 1947 through beginning an outpost Sunday School in the Mathews Mill Village, which was organized as a congregation in 1948. Its name was later changed to Fraser Church. The growth of the city prompted the Presbytery of South Carolina to purchase land in 1968 on the northern side of the city for future development. Planning and surveys were conducted, and meetings of interested people were held. With a strong contingent from the membership of the First Presbyterian Church forming the largest nucleus, the Westminster Church congregation was organized in 1981.

 

The staffs of the First Presbyterian Church have contributed to its mission throughout the years. Many dedicated Associate Ministers, D.C.E.s, musicians, secretaries, interns, and custodians have added to the rich history of sharing and caring. Officers and committees who have given unselfishly of their time and talents have supported them. The congregation has been benevolent minded in sharing its wealth, monetarily and leadership wise, with needs and people far beyond its geographic and cultural surroundings. Such causes have included: child care and outreach within the community, support of denominational institutions and programs in this nation and around the world, mission trips by members to points of service wherever there is need, and a continuing expansion in the current day to respond to areas of hurt and concern.

TODAY

Vital outreach continues as the congregation will be increasing its support of outreach through the mission programs of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). By the gifts of leadership and support from this church to other congregations development in the area, our denominational strength is at an all time high and this particular church’s financial and leadership dedication has not diminished. The traditions set in motion by those with the first visions for ministry here continues.

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FOR EXTENSIVE INFORMATION ABOUT AND EXHIBITS OF THE HISTORY OF THIS CONGREGATION see the following:

A Centennial History of the First Presbyterian Church   Greenwood SC (1883-1983) *

A History of the 1st Pres. Church, Greenwood, SC (VCR) *

“The Heritage Room” (filled with items, exhibits, photos, mementos, furniture, etc. from our history).

(in the educational wing near Alexander Hall – open on Sundays -

at other times access may be secured through the Church Office if needed)

* in Church Library