November 19, 2015

Discover Horn's Creek Baptist Church

  • By: Bill Fitzpatrick
  • Photography: Bill Fitzpatrick
Horn's Creek Baptist Church Building

photo by: Bill Fitzpatrick

In 2011, I found myself with the most precious of commodities: free time. One fall morning, I grabbed my Nikon, a few county maps, and set out in the general direction of the Frazier-Pressley House, an eight-sided, three-story plantation home that once backed up to the Cherokee nation.

A trip that should have taken an hour or so took two. When I finally arrived at my destination, I discovered that I had left the printed information on the landmark at home. Sure, the house was beautiful, but if you don’t know the story behind the brick and mortar, what’s the point?

The following week, when I encountered similar frustrations in nearby Spartanburg County, South Carolina, I took on the task of finding a better way to enjoy my state’s collection of 1400+ historic landmarks.

So that’s my story. I have traveled thousands of miles on South Carolina’s paved and unpaved roads confirming addresses, capturing GPS coordinates, and talking to the locals. Back in my Greenville home, I have spent thousands more hours combining my photographs, historic summaries (courtesy of South Carolina Department of Archives and History), and GPS coordinates into a series of eBooks that are now available on Amazon.

I do wish to note a prejudice, though. Sure, I enjoy our state’s historic homes, mill towns, and cemeteries, but those take second place to our churches and synagogues. In the coming months, I look forward to sharing a few of my favorites.

For my first entry, let me tell a story of a church in Edgefield County...

A graduate of Emory University receives a call. “Why don’t you come to Ulm, Germany?” a friend asks, and the young man from Edgefield County, South Carolina, packs his bags.

He soon finds a job working on a restoration project at Ulm Minster, one of the grandest churches in all of Europe. Later in life, he would work on restorations at Asheville’s Biltmore House and other iconic American landmarks.

Fast forward to the present day. I had read in the newspaper that the Edgefield County Historical Society had hired a caretaker to safeguard Horn’s Creek Baptist Church, a South Carolina landmark that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Before and after the Civil War, upwards of 300 black and white families worshiped there together, but those days and the church’s very pews, are gone.

In the last few years the church has been vandalized many times. I had photographed the rural church in 2012, but didn’t give it much chance of surviving another decade. After reading the newspaper story, however, I decided to pay the church that was built around 1790 a second visit. I made the drive, pulled into a gravel lot, and soon met the “caretaker.”

“Nice to meet you. Bill. My name is Barney Lamar.” Here was the Emory graduate of long ago.

"Oh, you are more than just a caretaker," I told him when he shared his career in historic preservation. When he learned that the Edgefield County Historical Society had long-term plans to restore Horn’s Creek Baptist Church to its original condition—and make it self-sustaining to boot—he decided it was time to return home.

The church, and its history, could not be in better hands. We'll keep you posted on the community's efforts.

Bill Fitzpatrick is a South Carolina writer and photographer.

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