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Seneca in Oconee County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Old Pickens Church

Sole Remnant of Town of Pickens

 
 
Old Pickens Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
1. Old Pickens Church Marker
Inscription.
Old Pickens Church
A Presbyterian congregation was probably organized in the 1840s. It is impossible to fix an exact date because the church records were destroyed in a fire around the turn of the 20th century. Construction on the church began in 1849 and was completed two years later. The bricks were made from clay dug from the banks of the nearby Keowee River. The heart pine floors of the church are original, as are the pulpit and pews. There is a side entrance that leads to a gallery used by slaves. The cemetery contains over 200 graves sites. The earliest, belonging to Lt. Joseph Reed, bears the dates of 1750-1825. The church is the sole survivor of the lost town of Pickens Courthouse and today is in the care of the Historic Pickens Foundation.

Pickens Courthouse
With the creation of Pickens District, a location for the district's courthouse had to be selected. In 1828 this site was chosen and named Pickens Courthouse in honor of revolutionary War hero, General Andrew Pickens. The town as laid out was eight blocks long by four wide. By the mid-1800s, the town had expanded to include hotels, general stories, a jail, an academy, a Presbyterian Church and many residences in addition to its courthouse. In 1868, Pickens District was divided into Pickens and Oconee Counties and "new" Pickens, fourteen
Old Pickens Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
2. Old Pickens Church Marker
miles away, became the new county seat. Many structures, including the courthouse, were moved to the new town. In the 1960s, much of the old town of Pickens was flooded by the water of Lake Keowee.
 
Erected by South Carolina Heritage Corridor.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the South Carolina Heritage Corridor marker series.
 
Location. 34° 47.483′ N, 82° 53.2′ W. Marker is in Seneca, South Carolina, in Oconee County. Marker is on SC Highway 183. Touch for map. Marker is located next to the church. To find the church, proceed southwest on SC 183 (E. Pickens Highway). After you cross over Lake Keowee from Pickens to Oconee County, look for a sign on your right for Historic Pickens Courthouse. Marker is in this post office area: Seneca SC 29672, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 10 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Andrew Pickens (here, next to this marker); Old Pickens Presbyterian Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Henry Craig (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Six Mile Veterans Monument (approx. 4 miles away); Fort Prince George (approx. 4.6 miles away); Newry Soup Kitchen
Old Pickens Church Marker -<br>Pickens Courthouse image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
3. Old Pickens Church Marker -
Pickens Courthouse
(approx. 4.7 miles away); Newry World War II Memorial (approx. 4.7 miles away); The Church Bell (approx. 4.7 miles away); Keowee Town (approx. 5.3 miles away); Keowee / John Ewing Colhoun (approx. 6.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Seneca.
 
Also see . . .
1. Old Pickens Presbyterian Church. Old Pickens Presbyterian Church story begins with the 1828 establishment of a town named Pickens Court House, South Carolina. (Submitted on October 31, 2008, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

2. Old Pickens Presbyterian Church. Old Pickens Presbyterian Church, built 1849-51, is an excellent intact example of a mid-nineteenth century church built in the meeting house style and constructed of brick rather than the more common frame construction. (Submitted on October 31, 2008, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

3. Old Pickens Presbyterian Church Notes and Cemetery Index. Various articles on the church and a survey of the cemetery conducted during 2002. (Submitted on August 5, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

4. Craig Family Cemetery Notes and Index. Index of the adjacent Craig
Old Pickens Church - Front (West Side) image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
4. Old Pickens Church - Front (West Side)
The historical markers are to the left of the front entrance.
Family Cemetery. (Submitted on August 5, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 
 
Additional comments.
1. Old Pickens Presbyterian Church
Old Pickens Presbyterian Church, constructed in 1849-1851, is a two-story, rectangular, brick building with a gable roof, and is located off S.C. Highway 183, approximately one-quarter-mile west of the boundary line separating Oconee and Pickens Counties. It was built in the style of a typical mid-nineteenth century meeting house. The building has had only minor alterations since its construction and retains a high level of architectural integrity.

The brick walls of the church rest on a solid brick foundation pierced by regularly spaced openings for ventilation. The roof has a boxed cornice with returns; a small brick flue is located near the north end of the northwest roof slope. The church was wired for electricity in the 1940s, but there is no running water or modern plumbing in the building and the electricity has since been disconnected. The wood shingle roof was replaced in the early 1960s with wood sheathing, sawed from timber cut from the property, and covered with asphalt shingles. A new shingle roof was installed in 1989. Through the years necessary painting has been done, for
Old Pickens Church - South Side image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
5. Old Pickens Church - South Side
the most part, by local citizens interested in the preservation of the building.

The façade (southeast elevation) has a central double-door entrance with sidelights and transom. A paired window above the door provides light to the interior gallery. Simple brick pilasters frame the entrance and extend from the foundation to a brick belt course about the gallery window. Similar pilasters are located at each end of the façade.

Each side elevation contains three sixteen-over-sixteen windows. The northwest elevation also has a single door entrance at its western end, providing access to the gallery. The rear (northwest) elevation has two sixteen-over-sixteen windows. All windows and the side door are intact but have been boarded to protect the building from vandalism. Each door and window is surmounted by a simple wood lintel.

The interior of the church is well-preserved. The walls are finished in plaster applied over the brick. The original pine floor is intact, as are the original unpainted pews constructed of poplar and pine. A small platform at the southeast end of the building leads to a built-in pulpit. A gallery extends across the southwest end of the building and is supported by large columns. A Celotex ceiling was installed in the 1940s over the original wood ceiling was installed in the 1940s over the original wood ceiling. Though the wood stove
Old Pickens Church - Entrance Detail image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
6. Old Pickens Church - Entrance Detail
has been stolen, the flue is still intact. The church’s original collection plates – actually cloth pickets attached to long wooden handles – are stored off site for protection; though the cloth has long since been replaced, the handles are original.

The church was probably constructed by volunteer labor and with donated materials. Oral history holds that the bricks were fired by riverbank clay in the bottoms of the Keowee River across the road from the church.

A cemetery containing over 200 marked graves is also located to the rear and sides of the church. In the original section, the earliest marked gravestones, that of American Revolution veteran Lieutenant Joseph Reed, dates from ca. 1825. The newer section of the cemetery dates from 1967, when graves were relocated here from cemeteries in locations flooded by the construction of a dam on the Keowee River. Records indicate 217 internments, some marked with elaborate gravestones and others with simple fieldstones.

The setting around the church has become increasingly rural and isolated since the old town of Pickens was abandoned, and nothing but the church remains to mark the site of Old Pickens.

Significance
Old Pickens Presbyterian Church, built 1849-1851, is significant as an excellent example of a mid-nineteenth century church built in the meeting house style and
Old Pickens Church - Window Detail image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
7. Old Pickens Church - Window Detail
constructed of brick rather than the more common frame construction. It is also significant for its association with the mid-nineteenth century town of Pickens Court House (now often called Old Pickens) and as the only extant building surviving from the old town site.

Pickens Court House was established in 1828 to serve as the seat for Pickens District, a new judicial district created from Pendleton District. Pickens Court House was never a large town, and only has a little over one hundred inhabitants by 1860, when it boasted the courthouse, several shops and stores, an academy, a news paper (the Keowee Courier), a hotel, a stable, a school, a jail, a Masonic lodge, and a church – Old Pickens Presbyterian Church, which was the only church ever active in the town and where worship was open to Christians of all denominations.

Pickens Presbyterian Church, with fourteen members and two ruling elders, was accepted into the Presbytery of South Carolina in 1847, and construction began on this sanctuary soon afterwards. An 1858 deed states that the building belonged “to the denomination to be used by such other orthodox denominations of Christians as may choose to worship therein.”

In 1868 the town of Pickens Court House was abandoned when Pickens District was divided into Oconee and Pickens Counties and a new town – present-day Pickens
Old Pickens - Rear (West Side) image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
8. Old Pickens - Rear (West Side)
– was established approximately fifteen miles northeast to serve as the seat of the new Pickens County. Most of the buildings in the old town of Pickens were town down or dismantled and moved to the new town of Pickens or to Walhalla. By 1875 one newspaper account stated that the only buildings still standing in Old Pickens were a few houses, the academy, and Pickens Presbyterian Church.

After the abandonment of Pickens Court House, activity at Old Pickens Presbyterian Church – renamed in 1883 to avoid confusion with the Presbyterian congregation in the new town of Pickens – declined, though the church continued to serve not only its own congregation but also area Methodist and Baptist congregations as well at various times. The Presbyterians ceased holding regular services here after 1919, but periodic homecomings, reunions, and special services were held here from the 1920s to the 1960s. The congregation of Pickens Presbyterian Church, consisted of only two members – Furber Lawrence Whitmire and Hettie Guntharp Whitmire, who had settled nearby along the Keowee River after World War I and farmed there – was officially dissolved by the Presbytery of the Piedmont (now Foothills Presbytery) in 1968. The Old Pickens Presbyterian Church Perpetual Care Committee, a group of area Presbyterians interested in the preservation of the church, organized
Old Pickens Church - North Side image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
9. Old Pickens Church - North Side
in 1984 and maintains the sanctuary and cemetery with help from the Foothills Presbytery. (Source: National Register nomination form.)
    — Submitted August 4, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

2. Preserving the Past to Look Toward the Future
Foothills Mission and News Report
By Sue H. Poss
June 2005

Old Pickens Presbyterian Church is the last remaining building of the town that was Old Pickens. And members of the Historic Old Pickens Foundation Board want to make sure the building is around for years to come.

The board has begun the first phase of a renovation project that includes strengthening floor joists and replacing a part of the flood with matching pine boards. The artificial ceiling is being removed.

The church is the only remaining building of the town that was the economic, political, and religious center of the Pickens District until 1868 when it was divided into Pickens and Oconee Counties. In addition to the church and cemetery, the thriving little town, originally called Pickens Court House, included six mercantile establishments, a newspaper, a doctor's office, several law offices, blacksmith shops, a jail, a Masonic Lodge, a Post Office, and a school.

The HOPF Board is considering whether, in
Old Pickens Church Cemetery image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
10. Old Pickens Church Cemetery
the future, it will be possible to locate the buried foundations of these former structures.

This interior renovation is being funded by a $3000 grant from Region One of the South Carolina Heritage Corridor matched by funds of the HOPF Board. The Church and Cemetery are named sites on the Corridor. Visitors to this site will find two large plaques erected by the Heritage Corridor that recount the history of the town of Pickens Court House and provide some information about General Andrew Pickens for whom the town was named.

The immediate goal is interior renovation of the Church. Members of the Maintenance and Renovation Committee themselves are repairing pews and scraping window sills and repainting them with correct outdoor paint. In the future, peeling paint on the walls will be tested and replaced with architecturally and historically correct paint. Professor Daniel J. Nadenicek, Chair of the Clemson Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, is offering helpful guidance in renovating and preserving the site.

Several churches in the Presbytery have offered assistance. Ron Post, a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, is chairing the maintenance committee. Volunteers from Seneca Presbyterian Church began beautifying the entrance off Route 183. The church is included in the budgets of Easley and Liberty Presbyterian Churches
Old Pickens Church Cemetery image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
11. Old Pickens Church Cemetery
and individual members of Westminster Presbyterian Church have contributed more than $1l00.

"Today the only original building that stands on the site of the "town that disappeared" is the Old Pickens Presbyterian Church and its cemeteries," said Charles Dougherty, honorably retired pastor now living in Salem, SC. "It should be noted that the one remaining building is the one which provided the community with its most basic needs: faith, family, and country.

In 1830 a commission was delegated from the Anderson Presbytery to establish a congregation in the new community. Once organized, the 14 charter members of Scotch, Irish, and English descent met in homes, the school house, or the Courthouse until construction of the church was completed in the mid-1840.

The congregation worshipped on alternate Sundays, sharing its new church home with the Methodists.

The building was constructed by volunteer labor and donated materials and is a perfect example of a mid nineteenth century church, Dougherty said. Bricks were fired from the nearby river bottom just across the road.

The Church is listed on The National Register of Historic Places, and registered as an American Presbyterian and Reformed Historic Site by the Presbyterian Historical Society.

In August 1999, the Foundation was chartered with the mission to maintain the church
Old Pickens Church Cemetery image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
12. Old Pickens Church Cemetery
building and adjoining cemeteries. The earliest gravestone in the cemetery bears the dates 175001825 the name of Lt. Joseph Reed, a survivor of the Revolutionary War. The interior of the church has had little change since the church was abandoned in 1868. The original pulpit, flooring, and pews remain intact.

"The foundation members are working diligently to raise funds to restore and maintain the building for its historic value and to be able to hold special worship services," Dougherty said.

The Foundation is seeking support from individuals and other foundations to preserve the church and cemeteries as close as possible to their original state.
    — Submitted August 5, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

 
Categories. Cemeteries & Burial SitesChurches, Etc.Colonial EraSettlements & Settlers
 
Craig Family Cemetery image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
13. Craig Family Cemetery
Located on a hill adjacent to the Old Pickens Church Cemetery. This cemetery is used and maintained by the Craig family, specifically the descendants of the three sons of Robert Craig and Rachel Speed Craig: William Speed Craig, John Craig, and Arthur Craig.
Craig Memorial Cemetery Monument image. Click for full size.
By Brian Scott, October 26, 2008
14. Craig Memorial Cemetery Monument
Robert Craig and Rachel Speed Craig had three sons. William Speed had thirteen children, John had eleven, and Arthur R. had three.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 31, 2008, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 1,643 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 31, 2008, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.   3. submitted on August 4, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.   4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. submitted on October 31, 2008, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.   14. submitted on November 1, 2008, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
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