photo by: Bill Fitzpatrick

December 2, 2015

Restoring the Lower Long Cane ARP Church

  • By: Bill Fitzpatrick
  • Photography: Bill Fitzpatrick

A long wooden bench sits in front of Lower Long Cane Associated Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church, and it is from there on a rainy and cool South Carolina morning that I tried to imagine that time when hundreds of people gathered here to worship.

Those people have all died, the road in front of the church is long gone, and so too are the fields of cotton. When the boll weevil worked its way across South Carolina in the early 1920s, it destroyed the crop and devastated the economy.

“I don’t know what we will happen to our generation passes,” church member John Grier tells me. “There will be no one left to take care of this church. We are down to eight members and I’m the youngest. As you would guess, most of us have family connections to this church. Mine go all the way back to Dr. Thomas Clark.”

Dr. Clark and one hundred families emigrated from Ireland in 1764. After a few years in New York, he eventually moved to this area to live in what was called “the Calhoun settlement.” A few miles from here, the matriarch of the Calhoun family, Catherine Calhoun, was one of twenty-three settlers massacred by the Cherokee Indians on February 1, 1760. The iconic John C. Calhoun was born in this area in 1782.

The Sunday morning service, scheduled for 10:00 a.m., presumably began after I took my leave at 10:30. My friends at South Carolina Department of Archives and History tell us of the important role that this church, organized in 1771 with a structure dating to 1856, had in revitalizing the Associated Reformed Presbyterian tradition.

Now a handful of faithful remain, hoping that their historic church will not return to dust. Learn more about the church and its community below.

Bill Fitzpatrick is a South Carolina writer and photographer.

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