City Directories and History: The oldest remaining church in Ridgeway, and the oldest public building in the area,
St. Stephen’s (ca. 1854) is a gem of modified Gothic Revival architecture. The church features a steep flared gabled roof with a rose window in the gable. The front entrance is on the west end with double doors. A steep gabled pavilion with double doors is on the south side. The exterior was originally of pine, painted maroon. Around 1920, the church was brick veneered. A wing, containing the parish house and church school, was added in the 1940s. The pine interior is given a finish, which is rare, described as a “lost art.” It was stained or painted in natural brown (pine-like) and while the paint or varnish was still wet, rubbed vertically with heavy burlap bagging, giving the wood a “natural finish” of wood grain
appearance. The sanctuary furnishings are mahogany. Windows were originally of clear glass, papered with a stained-glass-like paper. In 1949 stained glass windows designed and made by the Payne Studios of Patterson, N.J. were installed. The church has been in continuous use. The grounds include a well-kept cemetery with tombstones bearing the names of builders and early families. A handsome wrought-iron fence and gateway encloses the churchyard. Listed in the National Register May 6, 1971. [Courtesy of the S.C. Dept. of Archives and History]
When the Rev. Cranmore Wallace held the first Episcopal services in the Aimwell Meeting House and baptized several of the Dais, Palmer, and Thomas children, the church was born. In 1825 and 1826 the Rev. Edward Thomas, a missionary of the Advancement Society, had visited Fairfield and preached at the Courthouse. However it was not until E.G. Palmer fitted up a house on what is now Palmer Street in Ridgeway, circa 1841, that the Ridgeway Episcopal Church had a home. Bishop Davis consecrated St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church following a donation of ten acres for the church by Mrs. Edward G. Palmer, Aug. 4, 1854.
“Oldest church in Ridgeway, as well as the oldest public building in the area, St. Stephen’s was entered into the National Register in 1971. Its interior wood of heart pine is original and was cut from Mr. Palmer’s land. The foundation and chimney brick were baked on the Thomas family’s plantation, and land for the church and its adjacent cemetery was given by a third founding family, the Davises. Of Gothic Revival design, its original maroon-painted pine exterior was brick-veneered around 1920. Architect for St. Stephen’s was the Rev. John Dewitt McCollough, who also designed other South Carolina churches, including Christ Church, Greenville. Names associated with the church’s founding and with Fairfield County history are found on gravestones in the churchyard.”
Information from: Names in South Carolina by C.H. Neuffer, Published by the S.C. Dept. of English, USC
R&R NOTE: The Rev. John D. McCollough was a prolific designer of Episcopal churches across the two Carolinas. His work included some 16-18 documented buildings.
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