City Directories and History: A well maintained and very handsome brick building with extensive additions and renovations. Constructed in ca. 1830, the building was remodeled in 1967.
The Varina Davis Trail Stop #3
Witness to History: It has been reported, that from the naval storehouse in Charlotte, N.C., Mrs. Jefferson Davis’s escort procured large quantities of coffee, sugar, bacon, and flour, we started in the cars with the treasure and arrived at Chester, S. C. This was, I think, about the 12th of April (actually it was the 15th) .We here packed the money and papers in wagons and formed a train. The statements goes on to say…. “We started the same day for Newberry, S. C. Mrs. Davis and family were provided by General Preston with an ambulance. Several ladies in our party–wives of officers–were in army wagons; the rest of the command were on foot…..” Wm. H. Parker, Author – https://southernsentinel.wordpress.com/the-lost-confederate-treasure/ (If this statement is accurate, it would have been here that the party left the train from Charlotte and begun their wagon trip across S.C. This is plausible in that the train trestle over the Catawba River at Nations Ford crossing was still intact at that time, not destroyed by Stoneman’s Confederate troops until later in the month.)
Fairfield County author and historian Mr. Val Green writes: “It is about 18 miles from Chester to Salem Crossroads. The route is now called Hwy 18, or Ashford Ferry Road. This road goes almost directly south from Chester, and then turns southwestward into Fairfield County. About 5 miles down Hwy 18 below Chester is the Woodward Baptist Church. This was as far as Mrs. Davis’s party got on the first day, due to heavy rains, after departing Chester. Here is where Varina (Mrs. Jefferson Davis), refused to sleep on the communion table. The next morning they departed, making their way south crossing into Fairfield County, their destination Salem Church and Crossroads.”
Another source states that Mrs. Davis ate a an early breakfast at the Mobley’s house after leaving Woodward Baptist. By all accounts, most likely the handsome Isaiah Mobley, M.D., plantation house, Nine Mile Plantation or the Oaks, some nine miles south of Chester, just off the Ashford Ferry Road was indeed where she dined.
THE VARINA DAVIS INCIDENT: A continuation of: This history is affectionately dedicated to the memory of my Mother, Margaret Colvin Cornwell, (1865-1925) truly a daughter of this church. By Arthur Cornwell via the CDGHS Bulletin
In April 1865, Mrs. Jefferson Davis, with her children and attendants refugeed to Charlotte, N. C. in advance of the evacuation of Richmond where they were given a home and every attention bestowed upon them. From Charlotte they came to Chester, S. C. at the station conveyances were ready take them to their destination for the night which was the lovely and hospitable home of Mrs. Mary I. Mobley widow of Dr. Isaiah Mobley, nine miles out on the Ashford Ferry road. Mrs. Mobley’s home was called The Oaks but affectionately known as the Nine Mile House, by many war-worn Confederate veterans-her doors, and her food were always welcome to any of the boys in Gray. Conditions were very bad-the roads, the weather, the coming on of night-and so progress was very slow in the trip from Chester to Mrs. Mobley’s home.
Mrs. Davis thought it best to stop at the little church by the side of the road. This was Woodward church. Because of sheltering the distinguished guest that rainy, stormy night, this church has become woven into the fabric of S. C. and Chester County’s confederate history. Next morning, however, Mrs. Davis and her party arose very early, probably from beds of the long, hard pews, though the record does not say this, and continued their journey to Mrs. Mobley’s where a good breakfast was served them. A member of the Mobley family in writing of the incident afterwards said that Mrs. Davis seemed hurried and anxious to be on her way and only spent a few hours in the home. Before leaving Mrs. Mobley fixed a lunch and milk for the baby for the continued trip. She also took the baby Winnie, who was in a long dress, and placed her tenderly in the arms of each of her daughters, telling them to remember their beloved President’s little daughter-truly a “daughter of the confederacy.”
Varina left the church early the next morning, crossing Mobley Creek and stopping at the Mobley house, the Oaks.
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HISTORY OF WOODWARD BAPTIST CHURCH AND MANY OF THE FAITHFUL PASTORS
This history is affectionately dedicated to the memory of my Mother, Margaret Colvin Cornwell, (1865-1925) truly a daughter of this church. By Arthur Cornwell via the CDGHS Bulletin
The present brick building was erected in 1830, previous to that there were two wooden structures. The first church was down on Sandy River on land owned by Eli Cornwell, who at the time of his death owned around ten thousand acres of land, according to deeds recorded in the office of Clerk of Court of Chester County. Then around 1800 it was decided to move the church to a more convenient location. The second church was built in 1803, because it was under date of Oct. 11,1802, that one and one-fourth acres of land were purchased from John Franklin. This purchase was made by Elder William Woodward, Richard Evans, Eli Cornwell, Daniel Price, James Huey, Daniel Trussell, Henry Carter, Mason Huey, Jacob Dungan, Nobley Coates and Neguens Whitted. These men were trustees appointed for the purpose of buying a site for the church. The amount paid to John Franklin was three hundred dollars. This deed was witnessed by Jacob Bennett and Charles Boyd. It is recorded in the office of Clerk of Court, John Eli Cornwell, in deed book “I”, pages 111, 112, and 113, under date of Oct. 11, 1802.
It is, therefore, probable that the second wooden church was a temporary structure serving until a brick church could be built. This second wooden church was erected beyond the cemetery in the direction of Chester. Tradition has it that the brick used in the present edifice was brought from England. This is highly probable, as many of the leaders and members of this church were either directly connected with England, or of English descent-many of them remaining loyal to England during the Revolutionary War. Elder William Woodward, for whom the Woodward Baptist church was named, was the son of Thomas Woodward of Fairfield County. The early settlers were troubled with cattle thieves. The nearest court was at Charleston, a distance of one hundred and sixty miles, and it was almost impossible to convict a thief as the prosecutor and witnesses could not always attend the trial. To prevent these outrages a band of honest law-abiding citizens organized a band of rangers called Regulators. In Fairfield County the regulation movement was organized and led by Thomas Woodward, a native of Va. who became famous as “Thomas, the regulator.” In the beginning of the Revolution, Thomas Woodward was very influential in arousing his countrymen to action and was foremost in the post of danger. He was an intelligent, honest and an influential man, and his example had a good affect in this period of strife. He organized the Whig party in Fairfield county.
Thomas Woodward (born 1712-1779) married Jamima Collins in 1732, had two sons, John and William Woodward, for whom Woodward church was named-born in 1763, died 1820-was married in 1781 to Nancy Barrett. Miss Barrett came direct from France to America. Like his gifted father, William Woodward was a born leader, and, well was he qualified for leadership-a brilliant man, a medical doctor, a beloved minister of the gospel, an organizer of Baptist churches, and at one time a member of Congress. So this sacred edifice truly a friendly little church by the side of the road bears the name of one of the finest men of all time.
The old records of the church were unfortunately destroyed by fire some years ago, and the information herein written has been gathered by diligent effort and painstaking searching of many files and consultations with many families, now or formerly connected with Woodward Baptist Church. In 1853 the Reverend George Washington Pickett, D. D. was called to Woodward to be pastor of this congregation. Mr. Pickett was born in King George County, Va., Aug, 30, 1828, and died Apr. 15, 1907. He was baptized when he was seventeen years old, and was married when he was twenty to Miss M. J. True, of Fredericksburg, VA. In 1853 he came to Chester district to become pastor of Woodward church of which he served seventeen years. At one time, near the close of his pastorate with this church, he baptized thirty converts, fifteen of each sex. At another time he baptized fifty-seven persons in one day. His ministry both in Virginia and SC was very successful. In 1871, he moved to Texas and located at Richmond, his first and last pastorate in the state. During his ministry he officiated at the marriage of about two thousand couples, three hundred of them in one year in SC. Although the record is incomplete, he baptized three thousand converts. On the night before he died, then in his usual health, he stated to his congregation that he felt like he was on the brink of eternity and that he longed for that sweet rest which soon awaited. He seemed to feel that the work of life was drawing to a close. He died that night. Mr. Pickett was greatly loved by his people. While serving Woodward church he lived in the old Cornwell home on the Fish Dam road. This was the former home of Eli Cornwell and his wife, Rhoda Colvin. Today there remains only a few broken pieces to show where the old house stood, but nearby is the Cornwell family burying ground.
The Reverend Kamilus Jeter preached for the Woodward congregation for some time having come over from Santuc. He was a popular preacher, and served the congregation very efficiently and faithfully. The Reverend Thomas Dixon, Sr., was pastor at Woodward church in 1895-60. He came down from his home in Shelby, N.C., one Sunday each month to preach at Woodward church. He made the trip on horseback. Mr. Dixon’s wife was Amanda Elizabeth McAfee. He died in Raleigh, N. C. in his 90th year. Mr. Dixon held a pastorate in Shelby for sixty-four years. He was buried in Cleveland county and left the following children: Thomas Dixon, the famous author, the Reverend A. C. Dixon, pastor of the Moody church in Chicago, Dr. Frank Dixon, of Washington, a lecturer, and one daughter, Dr. Delia Dixon-Carroll of Raleigh.
Some years after his pastorate at Woodward church, the Reverend Thomas Dixon returned as he said “to preach once more in the dear old church.” Only one person was present at the special service, who had heard him formerly, as pastor of Woodward, and that was Miss Betsey Sweatt who was the housekeeper in the home of John Bennett Cornwall for a number of years. In the minutes of the church, on the fourth Sabbath in November 1873, the Reverend W. A. Gaines was elected pastor of Woodward church for an indefinite period. Reverend A. P. Pugh, who was assisted greatly by the Reverend Gaines in obtaining his education, was the regular supply preaching every second and fourth Sabbath in each month.
Reverend W. A. Gaines was an older brother of the Reverend Tilman R. Gaines. Mr. Gaines lived about a mile from Chester, not far from the home of General Walker, of the confederacy. He conducted a farm, had a buggy and harness repair shop on Gadsden Street in Chester and served Woodard and other country churches. He assisted in organizing the Chester Association at Woodward church, March 1878, which body met in its first regular annual session at Hopewell church in September, 1878. Mr. Gaines was born in 1831 and died in 1916. He was above the average in intellectual power, although not a graduate of college or seminary. He was a thoughtful preacher, and did a fine work in his ministry in SC and later in Virginia, in old age, he returned to SC and died at Senaca. He reared a family of noble children. Several of them are leaders in education. His son, R. E. Gaines, is a distinguished professor in the Baptist University at Richmond, Virginia. His younger son Dr. Frank P. Gaines was professor at Furman University, President of Wake Forest College and is now president of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia.
Reverend W. A. Gaines was succeeded at Woodward by Reverend John D. Mahon-one of the best of men-a former student at Furman University and for seventeen years pastor of Woodward Baptist church. He was a good preacher, quite popular, and was a lovable Christian gentleman. He was very useful. He moved to Chester from Waterloo, later to Clinton and finally died in Union, S. C. He was dearly beloved by his churches and his brother-pastors in the Chester Association. Many, no doubt, are in this church today who were baptized and probably married by Dr. Mahon. He married the widow Durham, formerly Miss Rebecca Shedd and they had three children: Minnie, Percy and Ernie. While Mr. Mahon was pastor, a Sunbeam organization was promoted. Miss Linnie Smyer, now Mrs. W. W. Isaacs was president. Mrs. Isaacs tells of the first meeting and how Mr. Mahon sat beside her, as she presided, instructing very patiently in the duties of the office. However when many began to move away from the Woodward community the sunbeam organization ceased to exist. But in 1920 the present sunbeam band was formed under the splendid direction of Mrs. Euta Colvin who has carried on the good work until the present time.
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