314 South Church Street
City Directories and History: One of Unions outstanding pieces of Gothic Revival architecture, the Episcopal Church of the Nativity, was constructed in circa 1855 at a time the style was sweeping the South. The altar is reported to be constructed of solid granite and made by an unknown local contractor. The imposing Tiffany widow behind the altar was added later.
One of the early rectors of the church, the Rev. J. D. McCollough also carved the walnut chair, table, and railings in use at the church. Rev. McCollough as well as sisters Charlotte Poulton and Mrs. Mary P. Dawkins were the leading force inspired to build the stone church. Though started in 1855, the church was not completed until Sept. 9, 1859.
Minister, architect. McCollough was born at Society Hill on December 8, 1822, the only child of John Lane McCollough and Sarah DeWitt. Educated at St. David’s Academy and South Carolina College, where he earned both B.A. and M.A. degrees in 1840, McCollough then became a Society Hill farmer. In June 1842 he married Harriet Bell Hart. He returned to Columbia in 1847 to prepare for the Episcopal ministry with the Reverend Peter Shand, rector of Trinity, Columbia.
In January 1848 McCullough moved his family to Glenn Springs in Spartanburg District, where he continued his theological studies, designed a small wooden church for the resort village, and carved its interior furnishings. The diocesan magazine called it “a happy specimen of simple Gothic,” with a “proper” (deeply recessed) chancel and tower.
In July 1850 Bishop C. E. Gadsden consecrated Calvary, Glenn Springs; ordained McCollough; and appointed him rector of the Church of the Advent in Spartanburg. After designing a temporary chapel for his tiny new congregation and starting missionary activity in Union, Yorkville, and Anderson, he began supervising construction for a permanent Spartanburg church and opened St. John’s Episcopal School for boys.
A craftsman without formal training, McCollough was nevertheless aware of the new ideas that were transforming Episcopal church architecture. “Ecclesiologists,” influenced by the high-church Oxford movement in England, emphasized the relationship between theology and architecture, believing that new churches should mirror fourteenth-century English Gothic design. Recessed chancels, dark interiors, stained glass, pointed arches, battlements, and cross-topped spires replaced Georgian simplicity. These concepts were disseminated to American churchmen through the journal of the New York Ecclesiology Society. A series of articles on “proper” church architecture in the Gospel Messenger, the diocesan magazine, disseminated these ideas to South Carolina.
In the decade before the Civil War, McCollough designed or was supervising architect for seven ecclesiological churches: Christ Church, Greenville (1854); St. Stephen’s, Ridgeway (1854); Nativity, Union (1859); Christ Church, Mars Bluff (1859); St. Mark’s, Chester (1860); Grace, Anderson (1860); and Advent, Spartanburg (begun 1852, consecrated 1864).
But McCollough’s Spartanburg (map shows it in Union Co), school failed, and he was bankrupt. He moved in 1857 to Winnsboro and later to Union. In 1859 he returned to Spartanburg and Advent, serving as chaplain with Holcombe’s Legion during the Civil War. During Reconstruction, desperately poor South Carolinians could no longer build expensive churches. In the postbellum years McCollough provided far simpler designs for churches at Rock Hill, Gaffney, Lancaster, Blacksburg, Willington, Greenwood, Clemson, and Saluda in North Carolina.
In 1874 McCollough resigned as Spartanburg rector, but he continued missionary activity, starting congregations in Gaffney, Blacksburg, Walhalla, and Seneca and serving at Glenn Springs, Union, and Chester. He moved to Walhalla in 1890 to become rector of St. John’s, which he may have designed. He certainly was the architect for the second Calvary, Glenn Springs, and with his son, Edward, designed St. Andrews, Greenville, which was completed posthumously. McCollough died on January 23, 1902. He was buried at the Church of the Advent in Spartanburg.
Bainbridge, Judith T. “Building the Walls of Jerusalem”: John DeWitt McCollough and His Churches. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 2000. (http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/mccollough-john-dewitt/)
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