City Directories and History: “Ebenezer has had four church buildings. The first was constructed of logs. Dr. J.H. Thornwell, Jr., writing in 1890, describes it as a square structure which would seat one hundred and fifty people. Each family furnished its own seat, or bench, and was at liberty to remove it when dissatisfied. The pulpit was in the corner, raised nearly to the roof, and was closed in all around, the preacher entering through a door, which was always shut and bolted. A sounding board was overhead. The seats were raised one above the other, from the pulpit to the back, the back seats being nearly up to the ceiling. An aisle led by ascending steps to the raised seats. There were shutters, but no glass, and two entrances on either side. There were no doors, but after services, rails were crossed in these entrances to keep sheep and other intruders out. The building was used until 1826, when the frame building was erected. Doctor Thornwell further states that this structure stood about 150 yards west of the 1890 sanctuary, on the opposite side of the road.
W.J. Miller, writing in 1904, states that the first meeting-house (Associate Reformed) was located west of the present (1890) church and stood on the opposite side of the road (Ebenezer Road). He further records that tradition says the Presbyterians built their house of worship north of the graveyard. After the Associate Reformed congregation gave up the location, the Presbyterians built a frame church near the present location. It is more likely that the Associate Reformed meeting-house was the one north of the graveyard, and probably within the present wall. Mr. Miller was born in 1845, and states that he is quoting tradition. However, when Doctor Thornwell wrote in 1890, there were those still living, for example Peter Garison, born in 1820, who would have remembered worshipping in the log church. Therefore, it may be safely concluded that the first Presbyterian meeting-house is the one which stood across the road, and the Associate Reformed meeting-house was the one which stood to the north part of the cemetery.
There is in the church records a plat of the tract of land conveyed by Dr. Edward Jennings to John H. Barry and Josina Garison, agents for Ebenezer congregation, containing one acre and one quarter and 22 poles, “whereon the new Ebenezer Church stands.” The tract is surrounded by Doctor Jennings’ land, church land, and academy land. All that remains of the date is “September 26.” Unfortunately the year has been torn from the plat. However, it must have been about 1826 since that is the accepted date for the construction of the second building. Moreover, in 1829, Doctor Jennings sold the balance of of the tract from which Ebenezer’s tract came, to Edward Avery. Doctor Thornwell further writes that on July 27,1826, Ebenezer acquired the lease to three and one-half acres of land for 74 years at $16.00. No trace has been found of this lease; however, Doctor Thornwell evidently had it in hand when he wrote. Therefore, one may assume that about 1826, Ebenezer acquired the tract from Doctor Jennings for the purpose of erecting a new building, this site being the high point of ground of the area, and that on July 27,1826, Ebenezer acquired the land first owned by the Associate Reformed congregation, which included the cemetery.
The second church building was a plain wooden structure, about 36 feet by 48 feet. It stood to the right of the present sanctuary, where the old School building stood, and faced the academy. At that time a road leading to India Hook ran between the two buildings. Originally this building had two doors, one on either side according to the custom of the day, and the pulpit was in one corner. At a later time, probably during the fall and winter of 1873- 74 (as the Session minutes record that repairs were done to the building at that time) these doors were closed up, and a door was placed in the front, as shown in the picture included in this book. The pulpit was cut down and placed in the front of the entrance. The small settee now in the parlor was used as the preacher’s seat. This was before the three-chairs style had come into use. When the 1890 building was built, this settee was acquired by W.A. Fewell. When his home on Oakland Avenue was sold for a business in the 1970’s, his son, W.M. Fewell, was kind enough to return the settee to the Church. In the early years members owned their seats; however, they were made free in later years. When the congregation resolved to build a new building in 1890, this frame building of 1826 was sold to E.P. Steele. On September 20,1890, Doctor Thornwell preached the last sermon in the building, using as his text Rev. 3:21: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and will open unto me, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me. ”
The third building was erected in 1890, as discussed in the section on Doctor Thornwell’s pastorate. At first it had a steeple. During Doctor Dendy’s pastorate the steeple was removed and a columned portico was added. The rear of the church inside was remodeled. The pulpit at first occupied a recess and the choir was on a platform to the right of the pulpit. There was a door in the recess. The door was closed up and placed to the side. The pulpit was moved forward and the choir was placed to the rear of the pulpit. This building was used for church services until the last Sunday in August, 1955. Thereafter, it was used as a Sunday School and Bible School assembly room, and for the Men’s Bible Class until 1960, when the Deacons, deciding it was unsafe, locked the doors, never to be opened for use again. This building, together with the old Sunday School building, erected in 1940, was dismantled in November 1972.
The fourth building was erected in 1955, and is still used today. The John C. Bailey Activities Building was completed in 1972. At the dedication of that building, Mrs. J.M. Salters, then aged 88 and in the last year of her life, had a unique distinction and was so recognized. She was the last known person to have worshiped in the wooden church razed in 1890, she was present at the dedication of the brick church in 1890, at the dedication of the educational building in 1940, at the present church in 1955. ”
[Courtesy of the Historic of Ebenezer Presbyterian Church by S.B. Mendenhall – 1985]
Also see an extensive written history of the academy and history at: Ebenezer Academy
“Lt. James Henley Thornwell. Jr., born 13 May 1846 in Columbia, S. C., was the son of the famous philosopher and distinguished leader of the Presbyterian Church and also controversial president of South Carolina College, Rev. Dr. James H. Thomwell and Nancy White (Witherspoon) Thornwell. He was only 16 when he joined and was appointed lieutenant. He was later elected lieutenant of Co. B, 4th Regt, SC Reserves and Co. C, 19th Battalion of Cavalry. After the war he entered S. C. College and graduated in 1868. He read law with Wilson and Witherspoon in Yorkville and was admitted to the bar in 1869. He switched to the ministry a few years later and was licensed to preach in 1874. From 1882 to 1907 he served Unity Presbyterian in Fort Mill and Ebenezer in Rock Hill. He died 30 December 1907. Dr. Thornwell married Florence Earle and they had nine children.” Information from YCGHS, September 1993
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