2330 Old Church Road
City Directories and History: One of the oldest church congregations in the region is Old Catholic Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Robert Lathan wrote, ” One of the oldest Presbyterian church, in fact, with the exception of Richardson’s… so far as is know, in Chester County, is Catholic. At this place from May 1759, until 1773, a period of fourteen or fifteen years, Covenanters or Reformed Presbyterians, Associates and Presbyterians, worshiped together.”
Other writers have stated that the church was organized a little later but certainly well before the American Revolution, William
Richardson was regularly preaching at the location called Catholic (meaning universal). The first church building was on a three acre lot given by John Bailey. Earliest know members included; Steel, Bailey, Brown, King, Corder, Culp, Currey Dunn, Nixon, McCalla, Hemphill, Harbison, Johnson, Coulter, and Harper. Not until 1788 did the congregation build a new larger house of worship. Again in 1839, the congregation bought from James McDowell, five additional acres of land and commenced to plan the building of a large brick church. This building was finished in 1841. Not until the 1870’s, under the leadership of the Rev. James White, did the church have a wooden floor installed, replacing that of the original brick flooring. It was also during this time that the gallery for the slaves and the exterior steps removed.
Click on the More Information / Newspaper Article > link found below the picture column for additional data or pictures.
William Martin was born at Ballyspollum, near Ballykelly, County Londonderry, Ireland on 16 May 1729. On 2 July 1757, he was ordained a Covenanter minister in an open air service held at The Vow, between Ballymoney and Kilrea, County Antrim. As the only Covenanter minister in Antrim and Down, the two counties became his parish, so to speak, and Rev. Martin, though resident at Kellswater, had supervisory responsibility for Covenanter groups at Ballymoney, Dervock, Cloughmills, Leighmore and Cullybackey. Rev. William Martin was no shrinking violet. On top of his mammoth preaching and pastoral duties, he was vocal in his opposition to the High Church (Anglican) authorities who openly discriminated against the Presbyterians. The oppressed Presbyterians were subjected to excessive rent demands and when payment could not made, the tenants were evicted. During this period, many agents were active in Northern Ireland, representing that South Carolina was offering a bounty to settlers. Many of the poor and oppressed Scots-Irish had migrated to South Carolina. It was during this time that Rev. Martin “received a call to Rocky Creek”, a small settlement in South Carolina.
In Rocky Creek, South Carolina, there were about five or six Presbyterian groups including Associate, Covenanter, Burgher, Anti-Burgher, and Seceders. These groups combined to build a church on Rocky Mount Road, about 15 miles southeast of Chester. They called the Church “Catholic” indicating that all of the various groups were to worship there. By 1770, the Covenanters wrote to Ireland requesting that a minister be sent to South Carolina. It was probably in response to this call that Rev. Martin decided to go to South Carolina.
The traditional story is that there many incidences of violence resulting from the conflict caused by the high rents and evictions. Following one such incident, Rev. Martin preached a sermon calling for his entire congregation to accompany him to South Carolina. In 1772, a total of 4671 families responded to Rev. Martin’s call to South Carolina and around twelve hundred Covenanters and others, including Roman Catholics, left Ulster under the leadership of Rev. Martin. A total of 5 ships took the emigrants to the New Country.
- The James and Mary, departed Larne on 25 August 1772 and arrived in Charleston on 18 October 1772.
- The Lord Dunluce, sailed from Larne on October 4 and arrived in Charleston on December 20.
- The Pennsylvania Farmer, sailed from Belfast on October 16 and arrived in Charleston on December 19.
- The Hopewell, sailed from Belfast on October 19 and arrived in Charleston on December 22.
- The Free Mason, sailed from Newry on 27 October and arrived in Charleston on December 19.
(Information courtesy of Boydroots.net – an excellent write up of Rev. Martin’s Movement)
BETHLEHEM MEETING HOUSE
Very little is known about this Presbyterian house of worship. From some notes of Rev. Saye and Daniel Stinson – “Cedar Shoals rather stands in the place of two former places of worship to wit: Lower Fishing Creek and Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a branch of Catholic and was supplied by the minister of Catholic for quite some time. Under the ministry of Mr. Brainard, it began to flourish. Later it was supplied by Rev. J. L. R. Davies, but he gave it up for what he considered a more important enterprise in the upper part of the congregation. The Gaston connection resided between Lower Fishing Creek and Bethlehem.” Mr. McCulluch continued to preach at Catholic in the year 1807 and 1808, preaching one-fourth of his time at Rocky Mount. At the first of the year 1809, he began preaching in the neighborhood of Beckhamville, at a newly built church called Bethlehem, a branch of Catholic. The church was therefore organized in 1809.
Copies of the original notes of Trustees of Bethlehem Meeting House – Jan. 31st. 1826 – “Pursuant to notice, an election was held for Trustees at said meeting house and the following persons was hereby elected, viz: John Ferguson, Manager; Dr. Wm. Cloud, Wm. Anderson, Esqr. Gardner Jamieson, Benjamin Jackson and John Ferguson. Witness Joseph Gaston was elected in the place of Gardner Jamieson and John B. Gaston, Secretary.” (Signed) D. G. Anderson (Information courtesy of and from: CDGHS Magazine)
See the Built of Brick Jaunt – Driving Tour
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