City Directories and History: 1946 – UN, 1963 – Harper S. Gault, 1975 – Carroll M. Pitts
John Gardiner Richards (1828 – 1914) was pastor of Ebenezer Presbyterian Church in Ebenezerville, S.C., and also of the Rock Hill Chapel of the Presbyterian Church (1854 – 1858). Mr. Richards preached the first sermon ever preached in Rock Hill, S.C., in the spring of 1855. He was the father of Governor John G. Richards of South Carolina and was responsible for the construction of this dwelling.
This fine home was constructed about 1855 and retains its original appearance in 2012 even though it is used for commercial purposes. Following his departure from York County to Liberty Hill, SC the house was sold to the Rev. W.T. Hall and after the Civil War in 1869 to Eliza M. Alston the wife of John A. Alston the teacher at the Ebenezer Academy. One of the last Mayors of Ebenezer, Mr. Harper Gault, a well respect newspaper editors and writer lived here as did the Carroll Pitts family.
The late Wm. B. White, Jr. felt strongly the community needed to be recognize the role of the early church and education in Rock Hill with an approved S.C. Marker. He proposed in a letter dated Feb. 19, 2007 that the following should be stated on either side of the marker and placed along Pendleton Street to tell the story of early religion and education.
At the meeting of Presbytery on March 30, 1854, Ebenezer obtained permission to employ John G. Richards, a licentiate under the care of Tuscumbia Presbytery in Alabama. He began his duties April 1. Later in the year he was extended a call to Ebenezer, a call which he accepted.
On October 7, 1854, Presbytery being in Session at Ebenezer, Mr. Richards was ordained and installed as pastor. “A large and attentive congregation assembled.” Rev. William Banks, moderator of Presbytery, presided and posed the constitutional questions. The sermon was delivered by Rev. William J. McCormack from I Tim. 4:12:”Let no man dispise thy youth.” Rev. P.E. Bishop gave the charge to the pastor and Rev. J.M.H. Adams gave the charge to the congregation. “It was a solemn and interesting time to the congregation, a season long to be remembered. The services were very impressive and touching, eminently calculated to impress the mind with a sense of God’s goodness to us, and his mercy to a lost and ruined world.”
Mr. Richards gave two thirds of his time to Ebenezer and the remainder to a new house of worship which had been erected roughly three miles south of Rock Hill to accommodate a number of the members of Ebenezer who lived in what was termed “the southern congregation.” Antioch Chapel, as it was called, was built there for the convenience of these worshippers, chief among whom were the Steeles and Workmans, on whose land the structure stood. Under Mr. Richards’ leadership the Chapel was established as a mission of Ebenezer.
Rock Hill now a city of more than 40,000 population, began with the coming of the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad and the erecting of a depot in the woods three miles east of Ebenezer Church in 1852. The original name of this station was “Ebenezer Depot.” The citizens of Ebenezer would not allow the railroad to come through their village, fearing lest the sparks from the locomotives should set their barns on fire and the noise scare their cows. The Rock Hill post office was established on April 17,1852. Soon a village grew up nearby. Mr. Richards records in his diary that, in the spring of 1855, he preached what was said to be the first gospel sermon ever preached at Rock Hill. He added that there were only four families living in Rock Hill then, all members of Ebenezer Church.
As Rock Hill assumed importance, Ebenezer’s session, deeming their action in the best interest of the Kingdom, moved the Chapel to Rock Hill. It was rolled to the present site of the First Church.
The church grew steadily during the whole of Mr. Richards’ pastorate. It was blessed with a gracious outpouring of the Spirit and revival during the fall of 1857, and at the communion season 29 were received on profession of faith. On June 15,1858, Session resolved to have weekly prayer meetings on each Wednesday evening, a practice which continued well into the twentieth century, although not continuously. This was a time when the Session exercised its duty to discipline church members. In 1854 Kesiah, servant of Capt. Edward Avery, who had been suspended from the privileges of the Church, was restored. In 1855 a member who had been guilty of violating the rules of the Church was visited by a committee of the Session. The committee reported that he confessed his sin and professed repentance. Another who had not partaken of the Lord’s Supper for two or three communions was visited by a committee of the Session to obtain his excuse for his absenses. Another member, although not during Mr. Richards’ pastorate, reportedly confessed the intemperate use of intoxicating liquors, which he used because of his belief that it would relieve a malady of the kidneys from which he suffered. Since this member’s relation to the Church had given the Session much painful conference with him, at which, “after a full and hearty conference with reference to his spiritual state, — he gave Session a promise, not only of careful living in the future with respect to drink, but of making a fair and patient effort of using the means of grace” from which the malady had detained him.
As a sidelight on the time an account appearing in the Yorkville Enquirer concerning the celebration of the 80th birthday of the nation on July 4,1856, at Ebenezer is recorded here. The meeting was held in the beautiful grove at 11 A.M. A procession was formed under the leadership of Col. L.P. Sadler, Marshal of the Day. Two bands were in attendance, the Ebenezer Band and Bethel Band. Prayer was offered by Rev. J.G. Richards. There was a declaration by William Hart, of Mecklenburg County, styled the junior orator. The oration was delivered by G.B.P. Alston, son of Gen. John A. Alston, and long-time teacher of the Academy. This was followed by reading the following toasts, music being rendered by the bands between each one: The Day; Governor James H. Adams; The President of the United States, Franklin Pierce; Senators Evans and Butler; the Representatives in Congress; the Union; York District; North Carolina; States Rights; the Memory of Washington; the Ladies. It is described as a great occasion.
In 1858 Mr. Richards accepted a call to the Liberty Hill Church. Rev. Alexander Sprunt wrote of him in later years: “The pastorate of Mr. Richards was full of fruits, and was closed with regret by the whole congregation of Ebenezer Church.” [Information courtesy of the Historic of Ebenezer Presbyterian Church – S.B. Mendenhall, 1985]
Alston – Gault House ca. 1856
Built in 1856 by John G. Richards,.Captain John A. Altson who taught at Ebenezer Academy purchased the home from Rev. Richards. Known locally as the “House of Wicker”, it was also once the home of Harper Gault, “The Old Corn Merchant”.
Rev. Richards was installed as pastor on Oct. 7, 1854. According to his diary, Richards preached the first sermon ever preached in the Village of Rock Hill in 1855. At the time, he says there were only four families living in the village and all of them belonged to Ebenezer. In the year 1858, Richards accepted a call to the Presbyterian Church in Liberty Hill, S.C. His pastorit in that community lasted for nearly 30 years.
His father was Stephen Malone Richards of English and Welsh descent. He was about 5 ft 6 inches tall, and as a young man his weight was about 135 pounds but dropped to less than 100 in his mid life.
OBITUARY OF MRS MARY ALSTON BARKER
The following was printed in The Evening Herald (Rock Hill, SC), April 6, 1932, under the heading, “Romantic Memory of Old South Left by Resident of Ebenezer.”
A romantic memory of the Old South is left by Mrs. Mary Alston Barker, 88, of Battle Creek, Michigan, a girlhood resident of Ebenezer community, who died in January at the home of a daughter in Battle Creek, with whom she had lived many years.
Mrs. Barker will be remembered by older residents of Rock Hill as the former Mary Alston, sister of Col. W. B. Alston, for many years an educator in the city, conducting a school which has gone down in local annals as one of the most successful pioneer schools of the upper part of South Carolina, a school which had more than a local reputation. Mrs. Barker and her brother, Col. Alston, lived with their parents and others of the family in the residence in Ebenezer now occupied by the Bolin family, and later in the residence now owned by Mrs. T. R. Carothers, at the turn of Oakland Avenue.
General John Augustine Alston, father of the family, was at one time president of Mr. Zion College, famous old school in Winnsboro. The daughters were educated, in the pride of old Southern aristocracy, in music and languages. She was one of the few members of the Michigan Daughters of the Confederacy.
Mrs. Barker visited here 19 years ago, as guests of the widow of her brother, Col. Alston, her great nieces, the Misses Alston on Oakland Avenue, and was greeted by two brothers, Butler P. Alston and J. Gadsden Alston, advertised the “Fort Mill Academy” in the Lancaster Ledger, January 18, 1860. Under the title “Annals of the Confederacy,” an account of the life of Capt. Butler Pearson Alston was printed in The Record (Rock Hill), Sept. 14, 1922. The article stated that he was born in York, Oct. 24, 1836, son of Gen. John Augustine and Eliza Alston. His father taught at Mount Zion and St. David’s. Butler P. Alston was captain of Co. B., 6th Regt, SC Vol, under Col. John White of Fort Mill. On Jan. 4, 1866 he married Miss Alice M. Davis of Charleston and had one child, Alice, who died as a young mother. Further, he was a member of the Methodist church of Rock Hill and for nine years was principal of Rock Hill Academy. He was buried at Laurelwood Cemetery in Rock Hill, S.C.
From a Battle Creek paper comes the following: Only a year ago she played the piano, such numbers as Tannhauser and Strauss wrote, with ease and perfection. She played 180 classical numbers from memory. Six years ago she gave a public piano recital at the Sanitarium. Greek, Latin and German remained with her for years after the ordinary student forgets _ A girl of 17 when the Civil War broke out, she had four brothers in the war against the ‘Damyanks,’ and one was only 16 when he died from a bullet at Richmond. Her father, a distinguished jurist, militia general, died a year before the war broke, prophesying it. Mrs. Barker’s education was extensive and the best the South could provide, both as to the classics and music. Her husband died in 1886. (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
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