City Directories and History: The Winnsboro area of Fairfield County has been served by a Presbyterian congregation since circa 1773. The Reverend William Martin, a Covenanter minister from Ireland who settled in South Carolina in 1772, preached at the Wolf Pit, a quarter mile from the present Mount Olivet Church, about the time of the American Revolution. In 1785 there was an established church in the vicinity called Wateree Church, after nearby Wateree Creek. The church was subsequently named Mount Olivet Presbyterian Church and a building was constructed near the present site around 1800. The present building, which was completed in 1869, is significant as a basically intact example of a rural church building, illustrating local construction techniques and stylistic characteristics of the period. The church is a one-story, rectangular, front-gabled building. The church is of masonry construction with brick bearing walls which are four bricks thick. The brickwork is covered with stucco, which has been scored to resemble cut stone. The foundation is granite. The large cemetery northwest of the church contains several historically and artistically significant gravestones dating back to 1795 and is enclosed by a cast-iron fence. Listed in the National Register August 13, 1986. [Courtesy of the S.C. Dept. of Archives and History]
This building as well as Concord Presbyterian are reported to have been constructed by members of the Isenhower family of Chester or Fairfield County, S.C. Members of that family are listed as mechanics as well as carpenters in the mid 19th century. It appears the dates for one or both of these structures maybe inaccurate if the same person is credited with constructing each. Additional research needs to be conducted to clarify the identity of the Isenhower builder and the dates attributed to each structure.
“The first church stood further back from the road than the present brick building. Mr. John Gayden, who lived at the road fork, said that his father, Elijah Gayden, and Benjamin Boulware gave five acres of their land to the Church when it was decided to rebuild. The Present brick building was constructed under the supervision of Mr. Isenhower a few years after the Confederate war. He got the granite slabs used as door
steps from the ruins of the old Benjamin Boulware home.”
Information from: The Bulletin – A publication of the Chester District Genealogical Society
The old cemetery has wonderful carved tombstones but non is more interesting than the one marker to John and Thomas McCullough; “Two brothers lying side by side in one grace who died prisoners of war at Elmira, New York, August 15 & 16, 1864 in the Rome prison camp.”
The Rev. William Martin was highly influential throughout the Catawba Valley region of Lancaster, Fairfield, Chester, and York counties, SC. He is said to have regularly preached in favor of the American Revolution.
Rev. William Martin emigrated from Ireland at least-as early as 1772; he was the first covenanting preacher in the settlement. I have in my possession, from Henry and Margaret Malcolm, a letter written to their son-in-law John Lin, in which they refer to Mr. Martin as being over here in this Rocky Creek settlement. This letter is dated May 30th, 1773, County Antrim, Ireland, in answer to one from his son-in-law, John Lin. The reference to Mr. Martin is in these words: ” We hear it reported here that Mr. Martin and his Covenanters had ill getting their land, and John Cochrane had the occasion of all their trouble.” I suppose that this trouble about laud was, that they expected to settle all down close together in a colony ; but such was then the situation of the country that they had to scatter and select lands at a considerable distance from each other. They were entitled to bounty lands, a hundred acres to each head of a family, and fifty to each member. Those who had means bought from the old settlers. Rev. William Martin bought from William Stroud a plantation one mile square, six hundred and sixty acres, on the north side of Big Rocky Creek, on which he built a rock house and a rock spring house. The place selected for a church was two miles east of Catholic on the Rocky Mount road, near the house now occupied by Mrs. James Barber Ferguson. It is described as having been a log building; was burnt down by the British in 178O.** After Martin was released by Cornwallis at Winnsboro, owing to the disturbed state of the country, he went to Mecklenburg, N. C.
After the war, when Mr. Martin returned to Rocky Creek, he was employed as supply at Catholic for three years. He was dismissed by the people of Catholic on account of becoming intemperate. He however, did not quit preaching. He preached at a school house at Edward McDaniel’s, about a mile or two west of the place, at which a brick church, was afterwards built. He also went down to Jackson’s creek in Fairfield, and preached there. I recollect that Richard Gladney was a Covenanter in that neighborhood, and doubtless there were others. He was also in the habit of crossing the Catawba river and preaching at the house of William Hicklin, who had moved from Rocky Creek to Lancaster. He frequently preached at other places, often at private houses. A congregation afterwards built him a church two miles east from the site of the one formerly burnt down near the Rocky Mount road, on a beautiful hill, in rear of what was called Earle’s House, in a fine grove of trees. The lands are now all cleared up, and there is a negro house now on top of that hill, where the church once stood.
The church has also been called Wolf Pit and Wateree.
*Dr. Howe’s ” History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina.”
** Mrs. Ellet’s ” Women of the Revolution,” 3d vol., article “Nancy Green”; also Dr. Howe’s ” History of the Presbyterian Church,” article ” Mary Barkley.”
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