“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Rock Hill in York County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

First Presbyterian Church / Church Leaders

First Presbyterian Church Marker image. Click for full size.
circa June 26, 2007
1. First Presbyterian Church Marker
First Presbyterian Church
This church was begun in 1854 as Antioch Chapel of Ebenezer Church under the leadership of Rev. John G. Richards, on land of the Steeles and Workmans, 3 mi. south of Rock Hill. Mission moved in 1858 to this site, obtained from A.T. Black and later paid for by Mrs. Ann Hutchison White and J. Spratt White. The Church was organized on Nov. 13, 1869, with 46 charter members led by Rev. R.E. Cooper, pastor.

Church Leaders
First ruling elders: J.F. Workman, H.H. Hart, M.D.L. McLeod. First deacons: Wm. Whyte, A.H. White, J.N. Steele, R.W. Workman, David Gordon. Three pastors have been Moderators of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church in the U.S.: Rev. W.T. Hall, Rev. W.L. Lingle. Rev. Alexander Sprunt. The longest pastorate has been that of Rev. Francis W. Gregg 1910-1947.
Erected 1969 by Congregation on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Church. (Marker Number 46-8.)
Location. 34° 55.457′ N, 81° 1.498′ W. Marker is in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in York County. Marker is on East Main Street near Saluda Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 234 E Main Street, Rock Hill SC 29730, United States of America.
Other nearby markers.
(First Presbyterian) Church Leaders Marker image. Click for full size.
circa June 26, 2007
2. (First Presbyterian) Church Leaders Marker
At least 10 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. U.S. Post Office and Courthouse / Citizen's Building (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Village of Rock Hill / City of Rock Hill (about 600 feet away); Andrew Jackson Hotel / Vernon Grant (about 600 feet away); Episcopal Church of Our Saviour (about 600 feet away); Black Plantation / Hampton Campaign (about 700 feet away); McCrory's Civil Rights Sit-ins / "Friendship Nine" (about 700 feet away); First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church / Dr. Arthur Small Rogers (approx. 0.2 miles away); White Home (approx. 0.2 miles away); Upper Land's Ford Road (approx. 0.2 miles away); The "3C's" Railroad (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Rock Hill.
Also see . . .
1. First Presbyterian Church website. (Submitted on September 5, 2008, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.)
2. First Presbyterian Church. The First Presbyterian Church began in 1855 as the mission church, Antioch Chapel, of Ebenezer Presbyterian. (Submitted on September 16, 2008, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

3. Moderator of the General Assembly. The Moderator of the General Assembly is the chairperson of a General Assembly, the highest court of a presbyterian or reformed church. (Submitted on January 18, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 
Additional comments.
First Presbyterian Church and Church Leaders Marker image. Click for full size.
circa June 26, 2007
3. First Presbyterian Church and Church Leaders Marker

1. First Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church of Rock Hill consists of two major sections, the sanctuary, completed in 1895, and the educational building, built in 1922 with some minor modern additions. The sanctuary was designed by noted South Carolina architect Charles Coker Wilson. It has a polygonal central block with an octagonal roof capped by a cupola. There are eight gables projecting from this central block, five of which contain round stained glass windows which light the sanctuary. Principal entrances are on Main Street and Saluda Street, each consisting of three pairs of double doors flanked by brick pilasters and rounded-arch multi-light transoms set within stepped brick surrounds. There is a portico with large brick arches at the west end of the Main Street facade. At the east corner is a five-story bell tower with triple windows set in rounded arches at the first level, rectangular windows at upper levels, vertical brick panels, an open fifth level above a corbelled cornice, and a flared pyramidal roof with a finial. There is a secondary gable on the Saluda Street facade with a steep gable roof and a smaller entrance. Several of the larger gables have finials and are flanked by crest-like finials. The roof is slate. There are thin terra cotta bands along several wall surfaces.

The interior of the sanctuary
Rev. Alexander Sprunt image. Click for full size.
Men of Mark in South Carolina: Ideals of American Life, Volume 1 by James Calvin Hemphill
4. Rev. Alexander Sprunt
lies under the main roof and features large ceiling arches which highlight the five circular stained glass windows. The windows are flanked by engaged columns and have keystones above and smaller arched windows below. From the apex of the ceiling hangs a large chandelier. The ceiling arches descend to engaged fluted columns. Two of the windows, above the main entrances, are behind small balconies with balustrades of turned balusters. The organ and pulpit area project into the sanctuary, with pews placed in a curved pattern and the floor sloping to the pulpit in the southwest corner. On the west side are two rectangular stained glass windows with Biblical scenes.

The 1922 educational building, designed by Rock Hill architect A.D. Gilchrist, extends to the rear of the sanctuary, with a long wing parallel to Black Street. The Saluda Street facade has steep gable roofs over the entrance doors. The sanctuary has had no major alterations except to the tower. In 1926, a tornado toppled the original tower. The current tower is somewhat shorter than the original. There are two small additions to the educational building. On the east end of the rear wing is a small addition housing a stairwell. On the west facade is a modern office addition.

The First Presbyterian Church of Rock Hill is significant in two areas: the importance of the congregation to the development of the religious and cultural life of Rock Hill and the quality of the architectural design by noted South Carolina architect Charles Coker Wilson.

First Presbyterian Church began as a mission of Ebenezer Presbyterian in 1855 and was originally known as Antioch Chapel. Located on the Steele property south of the infant village of Rock Hill, it was created for the convenience of members of Ebenezer who lived in the vicinity. Among the early supporters of the church was Mrs. Ann Hutchinson White and her family. It is thought that Rev. John G. Richards, pastor of Ebenezer, preached one of the first sermons in Rock Hill at Antioch Chapel in the spring of 1855. As the village grew, it was decided that Antioch should be closer to the center of the population, and the present lot on Main Street was purchased from Alexander Templeton Black for $79 in 1858. The chapel building was moved to the new lot. In 1859, Bethel Presbytery met at Antioch, the first church court to meet in Rock Hill. The group grew as the village expanded, and by 1869, fifty-two members of Ebenezer petitioned for the organization of a separate church at Rock Hill. The organization was accomplished on November 13, 1869, and the new group took the name First Presbyterian Church. The minister of Ebenezer continued to serve both groups. In 1873, plans were begun6for the construction of a new brick church, and it was completed by 1875. The old chapel was sold to the city and moved to the southeast corner of Black and Saluda Streets where it was used as a school until 1888. The first full-time pastor, Rev. William Beatty Jennings, was called in 1883. Soon, First Church became active in the formation of daughter churches. A chapel in the Pineopolis area of the city was built in 1883-84 to serve workers at the new Rock Hill Cotton factory. This chapel, originally located in the mill village at the corner of Ebenezer Avenue and Wilson Street, was later moved to the Standard Mill Village and replaced with a larger chapel on Wilson Street. The church also became involved in the development of educational opportunities in Rock Hill. Rev. J.S. White, stated supply, was instrumental in leading the establishment of the first public graded school in Rock Hill in 1888.

Along with Bethel Presbytery, the church built and sponsored Presbyterian High School in 1891. This building later became the first public high school and is now part of the Withers Building complex of Winthrop College.

As the congregation continued to grow, a new sanctuary became necessary. After interviews with several architectural firms, a committee selected Charles Coker Wilson. construction of the present sanctuary began in 1894 and was completed in March 1895. By 1907, the church had become an influential congregation, not only locally but on a statewide level as well. It was the largest Presbyterian congregation in South Carolina at that time. Over the years, three current or former ministers have served as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., the highest church office in the denomination. About this time, the first pipe organ in Rock Hill was installed by local builder Julian Starr in 1905. As the Oakland section of Rock Hill developed a larger population, a movement was undertaken to form a daughter church in that area. In 1913, Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church was organized with 192 members from First Church. The church completed a new educational building in 1922, designed by Rock Hill architect A.D. Gilchrist. On November 26, 1926, a tornado struck Rock Hill and caused damage to several downtown buildings. The bell tower of the church was toppled. It was soon replaced with a shorter tower.

First Presbyterian Church has achieved significance through its influence in the City of Rock Hill. The cultural, educational, and religious life of the city have been influenced by the church from the earliest years of the village. The congregation led in the creation of public primary education, and it formed the first secondary school. It has helped to shape a number of neighborhoods through the development of chapels and missions in the mill villages, and through the creation of a daughter church in the Oakland section. Its pastors and members have provided enlightened leadership in numerous civic, business, and cultural affairs of the city.

A second major area of significance is the architectural design and the importance of the architect of the sanctuary, Charles Coker Wilson. From plans submitted by a number of architects in early 1894, a church committee selected Wilson's concept. The building was constructed by Watkins and Hardaway, Inc. of Birmingham, Alabama. The design is a combination of a number of influences of the Late Victorian period, including elements of Romanesque Revival and Late Gothic Revival. The Octagonal central block with projecting gables, the rose windows, and the five-story bell tower provide strong statements of the ecclesiastical nature of the building. The level of architectural detailing and the impressive facade provide evidence of the wealth and influence of the congregation. The interior of the sanctuary utilizes the Akron plan, with pews angled in a circular alignment to provide excellent site lines to the pulpit.

The architect, Charles Coker Wilson {1864-1933}, was one of the important and successful South Carolina architects of the period. Born at Hartsville, he was educated at the University of South Carolina and later studied at l'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. During his practice, he did extensive work in college architecture, including buildings at the University of South Carolina, Coker College, Presbyterian College, Wake Forest College, and entire campus designs at Meredith College in Raleigh and Chicora College in Columbia. Other projects included a number of high schools, hospitals, homes, textile mills, hotels, and office buildings. He served as Columbia's City Engineer and2!s Architect for the State House in Columbia for a number of years. He organized the South Carolina Association of Architects {now AIA} and served as its first president. Wilson had a major influence on architecture in South Carolina for a number of years.

First Presbyterian Church was designed during the early part of Wilson's career. He began his practice in Roanoke, Virginia in 1890. The church was designed while he practiced there. By 1895, he had moved to Columbia. The project was undertaken prior to his study in Paris, which occurred between 1899 and 1900. Many of his later buildings reflect the incorporation of Beaux Arts elements, while the church predates that influence and reflects an eclectic mixture of Late Victorian design elements. The quality of the design and the importance of Wilson to South Carolina architecture add to the significance of the church. (Source: National Register nomination form.)
    — Submitted January 18, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

2. Rev. Alexander Sprunt, D.D.
Presbyterian clergyman, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, July 10, 1852. His father, Alexander Sprunt, a merchant, whose marked characteristics were rigid exactness and faithfulness to every trust committed to him, came from Scotland to Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1853, where he served as British vice-consul. His mother, Jane Dalziel Sprunt, was a woman of strong intellect, high morals, and great piety, and to a great extent she molded her son's character after her own. The family left Wilmington in 1862 and went to live on a farm in Marion county, South Carolina, where they remained four years. Of this, the hardest period of young Alexander's life, he says: "Though a mere child, I plowed many a day, but never regretted it in after years."

In 1866 the family returned to Wilmington and he again entered school. In 1869 he went to Upper Canada college, Toronto, Canada. He returned to the United States and entered Davidson college, North Carolina, from which he was graduated A.B. in June, 1875. Later he took a course at Union Theological seminary, Hampden-Sidney, Virginia, graduating in 1878. Davidson college conferred the degree of D.D. upon him in 1897.

He began his career as minister in Winchester, Virginia, in 1878, as assistant to Reverend H.M. White, D.D., pastor of Loudon Street Presbyterian church; the following year he became pastor of Augusta church, Augusta county, Virginia, where he remained until 1885, when he went to Henderson, North Carolina, to take charge of the Presbyterian church, remaining there until 1891. In 1891-92 he was superintendent of evangelistic labor in the synod of North Carolina; in 1892 he was the stated supply of the First Presbyterian church, Memphis, Tennessee, and from 1892 to 1901 he was pastor of the First Presbyterian church, Rock Hill, South Carolina. In the year last named he became pastor of the First Presbyterian church, Charleston, South Carolina, which position he still (1907) retains.

Doctor Sprunt thinks the most potent influences in his life have been his home and his contact with men leading active lives.

He finds his most enjoyable and healthful relaxation in athletics, for which he acquired a love during his college days.

As so frequently occurs, "circumstances over which he had no control," and not himself, chose his profession, but he is composed of the stuff of which successful ministers of the Gospel are made. His faith is of the same sturdy and uncompromising kind that enabled the original Scotch Covenanters, among whom some of his ancestors may have been, in spite of the most bitter persecution, to uphold their church and increase its membership. He is what has been aptly called a "Bible-preacher," which means that he seeks inspiration for his sermons in the Scriptures rather than in sensational newspapers. Charleston is proud of him, both as a citizen and as a minister. No movement for the betterment of the city or any class of its people ever asks in vain for his moral support or his active personal assistance.

He was married to Ellen Richardson Peck, second daughter of the late Reverend T.E. Peck, D.D., LL. D., of Union Theological seminary, in Virginia, April 30, 1879. They have had six children, five of whom are now (1907) living.

His address is Charleston, South Carolina. (Source: Men of Mark in South Carolina: Ideals of American Life, Volume 1 by James Calvin Hemphill, pgs 384-387.)
    — Submitted January 18, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

3. Francis Whitlock Gregg
Born 1873, died 1958. He graduated from The Citadel in 1892, attended Columbia Theological Seminary and had several charges in South Carolina. He settled in as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Rock Hill, SC for 27 years. After retirement he became the first Judicial Court Judge in South Carolina. While on maneuvers at The Citadel he met Elizabeth Cole Guy. They later married and had two sons, Capt. David Brainard Gregg and Capt. Samuel Guy Gregg. (Source: Citadel Alumni Association (2003).)
    — Submitted January 18, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

Categories. Churches & ReligionNotable Persons
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 4, 2008, by M. L. 'Mitch' Gambrell of Taylors, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 1,787 times since then and 48 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 4, 2008, by M. L. 'Mitch' Gambrell of Taylors, South Carolina.   4. submitted on January 18, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.
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