Near Pacolet in Cherokee County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
Mulberry Chapel Methodist Church
This African American church, the first in what is now Cherokee County, was most likely built between 1880 and 1890. It served the Whig Hill, Asbury, and Thickety communities of what was Union County before Cherokee County was created in 1897. Jack Littlejohn donated land for the chapel and cemetery.
Regular services ended in the 1940s, but in 1953 Carl E. Littlejohn and others founded the Littlejohn Family Reunion, which holds annual services here every fall. Several members of the Littlejohn family are buried here, as well as Samual Nuckles (d. ca. 1900), state representative from Union County 1868-1872.
Erected 2008 by Mr. and Mrs. James West and the Cherokee Historical and Preservation Society. (Marker Number 11-9.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the South Carolina, Cherokee County Historical and Preservation Society marker series.
Location. 34° 55.802′ N, 81° 39.25′ W. Marker is near Pacolet, South Carolina, in Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 582 Asbury Rd., Pacolet SC 29372, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 10 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Nuckolls-Jefferies House (approx. 0.2 miles away); Littlejohn Family Reunion (approx. 0.2 miles away); Steen Family Cemetery (approx. 3.6 miles away); Whig Hill (approx. 4.1 miles away); Goucher Baptist Church (approx. 4.3 miles away); Flat Rock Cemetery (approx. 5.8 miles away); Marysville School (approx. 5.9 miles away); Jonesville Confederate Monument (approx. 6.6 miles away); Jonesville Veterans Monument (approx. 6.9 miles away); Pacolet River Heritage Preserve (approx. 7.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Pacolet.
1. Organizations Hope to Erect Marker for Historic Mulberry Chapel Methodist Church
March 17, 2008
The Cherokee County African-American Heritage Committee and the Cherokee Historical and Preservation Society Inc. are continuing to identify
The committee and CHAPS are now focusing on erecting a historic marker for Mulberry Chapel Methodist Church, the first African-American church in Cherokee County. The church, built circa 1880-1890, served the Whig Hill, Asbury and Thicketty communities which are now in Cherokee County.
Jack Littlejohn donated the land for the church and cemetery. Much history surrounds this little chapel in the woods. The one-room school, which was nearby, has been destroyed. Carl Littlejohn and others founded the Littlejohn family reunion at this site in 1953 and celebrated the family's history there for years. Some restoration needs to be done on the church and in the cemetery.
"We hope the community will come together and make financial donations to cover the restoration expenses," a spokesman for the heritage committee said. Donations are tax deductible and may be mailed to Cherokee Historical and Preservation Society, P.O. Box 8113, Gaffney, S.C. 29340; designate funds to the
The African-American Heritage Committee hopes to dedicate the marker and celebrate the Littlejohn reunion on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008, on the grounds of the church.
— Submitted October 31, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
2. An Old Church, Once Forgotten, Gets Breath of Life
by Linda Conley
August 24, 2008 at 3:15 a.m.
Mulberry Chapel gave former slaves a place to praise and worship on Sundays, but the old country church was almost forgotten - until now.
The small, white pine church built in 1869 was recently approved for a historical marker by the S.C. Department of Archives and History. The original building still stands just outside of Spartanburg County, down the street from Nuckolls Plantation.
It is one of several structures getting state recognition this fall.
The Littlejohn Family Reunion and the Cherokee Historical and Preservation Society are working on the project. They need $1,625 to pay for the marker.
"This is wonderful,"
Littlejohn's ancestor, Emanuel, was called the "father of the Sunday school." He is buried in the small wooded cemetery behind the church.
Worship services haven't been held in the building for almost 60 years. The Littlejohns held family reunions in the church for years after it closed.
Hilliard and his son Larry keep a watchful eye on the church because they're afraid vandals will destroy the property. Neighbors also are protective and vigilant.
Documents hard to find
Documentation is scarce, but the Littlejohns have been told for generations that a former slave owner told their ancestors they could have the land to build the church on if they picked the cotton to clear it.
Work to get the historical designation stalled for a short time because descendants and historical society members couldn't find a deed for the land.
“The church isn't perfectly documented, but I have run into that problem a number of times over the years,” said Tracy Power, historian at the Department of Archives
Local historians don't think a deed was given to the former slaves. They said the parties probably made the deal with a handshake.
“I get chills every time I come to this church,” Larry Littlejohn said. “It is important to preserve this for my children, grandchildren and future generations.”
Larry Littlejohn hopes the marker is the start of a larger effort to restore the property. His idea is to have it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“I would like for engineers to tell us what we can do to keep it standing,” he said.
Wear and tear has caused the structure to lean considerably. Two large bolts running through it are keeping the building up.
Larry Littlejohn also would like to have the road in front of the church designated as a scenic highway, similar to Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway 11 in the northern part of the county.
“We have Nuckolls Plantation and a former plantation down the street and the church,” he said. “This area played an important
Mitchell helping efforts
State Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, who has been instrumental in securing several local markers, has committed to helping the groups get the designation for the church.
Mitchell assisted last year in getting the original Mary H. Wright Elementary School building on Caulder Avenue placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Part of the school's historical significance involves the state's struggle over racially segregated education. The school's purpose was to help balance the quality of education between black and white students.
In 2004, Mitchell led the effort for Spartanburg to get its second historical marker dedicated to the Harlem Hell Fighters. The group of black soldiers from New York trained at Camp Wadsworth during World War I and later earned medals for their bravery fighting beside the French.
“We have to preserve the few remaining historical black structures we have,” Mitchell said. “I am going to do what I can to make that happen.”
Jane Waters, president of the historical society, said the church needs
“It is such a wonderful place,” she said. “We haven't given up on raising the money.”
— Submitted November 1, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
3. Mulberry Chapel Parishioners Hail Historic Designation of Site
by Janet Spencer
April 12, 2009
For decades, Mulberry Chapel Methodist Church stood nestled among huge trees, shielded from the view of passers-by unaware of its existence.
On Saturday, the small wood-frame structure historians say was the first black church in Cherokee County received the attention it was long overdue — a marker proclaiming its historical significance.
The first worshippers were thought to have been slaves who gathered on the grounds as early as the Civil War era. A handshake deal with nearby property owner Jack Littlejohn yielded about five acres in what was Union County before Cherokee was formed in 1897.
By the late 1880s, Mulberry Chapel had been constructed. Today, the once white-washed building, with its cemetery
Much like the days when homecomings and special events gave cause for “dinner on the grounds,” more than 50 people gathered Saturday morning under the shelter of the trees. And those passing by Mulberry Chapel, in the Asbury community, are sure to catch a glimpse of the addition today.
Saturday’s ceremony centered around prayers of thanksgiving and the safe passage through overnight storms. Strains of “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine” soon filled the air.
The long unnoticed structure, believed to have been built between 1880 and 1890, is on Highway 211, now Asbury Road. The sign marking its place in history was made possible through initial efforts by the Littlejohn family of Cherokee County and the Cherokee County Historical and Preservation Society.
The family turned to Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, who has worked to obtain historical designations, and Chesnee businessman James West, who volunteered to pay the $2,000 cost for the sign.
Both men attended Saturday’s ceremony and participated in the
Mulberry Chapel served its black members, who primarily were residents of the neighboring Whig Hill, Asbury and Thicketty communities. Regular church services stopped in 1940, and in 1953, Carl E. Littlejohn and relatives founded the Littlejohn Family Reunion held on the grounds until about 15 years ago.
Hilliard Littlejohn, a son of Carl E. Littlejohn, participated in Saturday’s ceremony and fellowship. He recalled a very warm Sunday in August when mules pulled the wagons of people attending church at Mulberry.
“They had a bag of feed for the mules and tied them up on the edge of the yard. … One of my fondest memories is passing by the wagons and smelling the country ham that would later be served,” he said. “But we didn’t have a wagon. We walked where we wanted to go and back home.”
Hilliard Littlejohn’s grandfather, Emanual Littlejohn, served as the church’s father of Sunday school. He has the portrait that hung for years in the sanctuary.
Hannah Littlejohn Linder of Gaffney, a sister of the late Carl E. Littlejohn, said the church had provided
“I remember coming here in a buggy with my feet under the seat many years ago,” Linder said.
Mitchell said supporters of the Mulberry project also plan to shore up the structure, a preservation effort that could be costly. The labor will be donated, but materials will have to be purchased, he said.
Hilliard Littlejohn joined many others who talked about the place Mulberry Chapel still has in their hearts. He mentioned a huge rock, shaped like the state of South Carolina, found in the church yard.
Larry Littlejohn, Hillard Littlejohn’s son, has worked for several years to document the history of Mulberry Chapel. He stood in awe of the majestic trees and the activities once again taking place in the church yard.
“See that tree. There’s a tape recorder in it. If that tree could only talk,” he said.
“I know my granddaddy’s looking down, and he’s smiling on us today.”
— Submitted October 31, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
4. My Ancestoral Worshipping Grounds
Since the marker was added, a stained–glass cross was created to go above the front entrance by a lady who lives up the street from the church.
I am Larry Littlejohn, grandson of Carl E. Littlejohn, and current President of the Littlejohn Family reunion. I enjoyed this page and especially the newspaper articles. We held our 58th reunion on the church grounds this past September. I am so proud of this South Carolina treasure.
— Submitted December 5, 2011, by Larry Bernard Littlejohn of Gaffney, South Carolina.
Categories. • African Americans • Cemeteries & Burial Sites • Churches, Etc. • Notable Persons •
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