Indiantown Presbyterian Church
Near the headwaters of Black Mingo Creek in Williamsburg County, there is a bluff that was once used as a Chickasaw Indian camp site. Archaeological findings indicate that it was probably used until 1700 or later.
This Indian village or camp gave its name to the surrounding area, and when a Presbyterian Meeting House was built nearby it was named Indiantown.
As early as 1725 settlement was begun in the vicinity, and by 1750 numerous grants had been secured. Like the settlers of the older community at King's Tree on Black River, the first Indiantowners were predominately Calvinists. The Williamsburg Church was organized in Kingstree in 1736, and from its congregation came the leaders of the Indiantown Church in 1757.
Early records for the congregation are lost, but it is known that John James, a major of Marion's Brigade, was one of the founding elders.
During the American Revolution the community suffered terrible pillage and destruction. Although Charleston and the coastal areas fell to the British, the back country Scots and Huguenots were far from pacified. In 1780 Indiantown Church was burned by the British Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton as a "sedition shop."
The present building was begun in 1830. It remained almost unchanged until 1910 when the porch was added. In 1919 the church was raised and a brick basement for Sunday school rooms was placed beneath. Originally a plain, sturdily built meeting house, it still retains some of that quality. Its massive beams and joists, its hewn framing and precisely fitted paneling, are irreplaceable. No such trees grow today. In 1948 a fellowship building was constructed.
In 1957 the church observed its 200th anniversary in a three-day program of homecoming reception, special services, and the organization of a new church at Hemingway, S.C. (St. Paul's Presbyterian Church).
The following is an excerpt from A History of Williamsburg by William Boddie (1923):
The Session of Elders of Indiantown Presbyterian Church was the supreme court of all that section. In civil as "well as religious matters, the people required no other tribunal than this ecclesiastical court. No Sanhedrim at Jerusalem nor College of Cardinals at Rome, in its time and place, ever exercised more complete control than did the Session of Elders at Indiantown. A remarkably conservative citizenship has composed the Indiantown Congregation in all its history. It is very possible that no other community in this country has for so many years required so little interference by civil authority. The unwritten law is so high in conception and so strong in execution that hardly ever is it necessary for the State to use its authority in Indiantown.
The Session Records of Indiantown Church from 1819 are complete and existing. On February 12, 1819, the Reverend Robert Wilson James, a graduate of Princeton, and a licentiate of the Presbytery of Harmony, was ordained pastor of the Indiantown Church and of the Bethel Church at Kingstree. At this time, the old Williamsburg Presbyterian Church was maintaining a. feeble organization and had not had a minister for a score of years. The other faction of this old Williamsburg Church, the Bethel Church, had lost most of its leading members by removal to Maury County, Tennessee, and to other states. Indiantown Church was the only strong militant congregation worshipping in Williamsburg District.
For eighteen years, from 1790 until 1808, Indiantown enjoyed the ministry of the Reverend James W. Stephenson. Dr. Stephenson had a remarkable influence upon Indiantown. He came very near Puritanizing it in a single score of years. The other ministers who had followed Mr. Stevenson up to the time of Mr. James' coming were all good men and the church was in excellent condition when he was ordained. Some of these old records in the Session Book here are copied:
"The following infants were received into the church by Baptism, February 22, 1819: Calvin, son of Hugh and Elizabeth Hanna; Alexander James, son of Alexander and Martha McCants; William Hitch, son of John and Jane Price; Mary Scott, daughter of George and Jannet Barr; Frances Jane, daughter of Alexander and Jane McCrea; Samuel Davis, son of Mary Ann and Samuel McGill; Alexander Washington Jackson, son of William and Susan Graham. In the summer and fall of 1819, the following infants were received into the Church by baptism: David Flavil, son of Samuel J. and Jane Wilson; David Edward, son of David D. and Mary Wilson; Sarah Margaret, daughter of William and Esther Daniel; Jane McGill and Elizabeth, daughters of Enos and Mary McDonald. This year Hugh Hanna, George Barr, George McCutchen, Jr., and Samuel J. Wilson were elected and ordained to the office of Ruling Elders. In November, applications for membership from two black men received attention. Upon recommendation of their masters and after satisfying the Session as to their knowledge and piety, Cupid was first admitted to the ordinance of baptism and then to the Lord's Supper; Hannibal, having been previously baptized in the Methodist Church, was admitted to the Supper."
"At this meeting of the Session of Elders, a young woman in the community who had, some years before that time, been charged with incest, applied for membership in the Church, making full confession before the Session. The Session was uncertain about receiving her into full membership and referred the case to the Presbytery, to which the Presbytery at its next meeting replied, 'The opinion of the Presbytery in the above case is, the person in question may be correctly admitted to the communion of the Church, upon giving satisfactory evidence of experimental piety; and that it be recommended to the Session to receive a public confession of penitence for the crime above alluded to. Signed: John Cousar, Moderator.' This recommendation was made known to the applicant, but she declined to make a confession of her crime before the congregation and she was not admitted to membership."
April 30, 1820, "At a meeting of the Session, the Eldership came to the determination to take into consideration and to state formally to this Church Judiciary the conduct of some members that were guilty of unchristian practices. At a meeting held in May, the following members were reported: Hugh Paisley, charged within toxication; John J. McCullough, intoxication; Robert Brown, gambling and fighting; John S. Dick, intoxication ; Samuel James, intoxication; Sam, a black man, theft.
"The Session adjudged it most proper that Hugh Pais-ley shall be conversed with by two of their members in a private manner referring to his crime. George McCutchen, Sr., and Samuel J. Wilson were appointed for this purpose. The Session adjudged that John J. McCullough should be warned of his crime, reminded of his relation to the Church and informed that the Church would proceed farther in the case without his reformation. George McCutchen and James Daniels were appointed to converse with him. The Session adjudged that Robert Brown should be warned of his conduct by a private letter. Hugh Hanna and George Barr were ap-pointed to converse with James Barr and warn him that he had scandalized his Christian profession and that the Session would find it necessary to exclude him from the communion, unless he manifest the fruits of repentance and reformation. The Reverend Robert W. James was appointed to converse with. John S. Dick and Samuel James and warn then against their alleged crimes. Captain John James was instructed to collect the evidence against Sam, the black man, and lay it before the Session.
"The committee appointed to wait on James Barr reported that he would not hear or attend to the warning of the Church. Samuel James acknowledged his offense and professed repentance for it. John J. McCullough acknowledged the crime made to his charge, admitted its being a crime, but excused himself as being under the decree of God. He made a promise that he would endeavor to amend. The Session did not accept Mr. McCullough's excuse and refused to admit him to partake of the Communion of the Lord's Supper until he had further acknowledged his crime and repented. Hugh Paisley came before the Session, acknowledged his crime, was permitted to make profession of his repentance agreeable to the form prescribed in the Book of Discipline. James Barr was suspended. The black man, Sam, was rebuked but permitted to retain his privileges in the Church."
This entry is found in the records of the next meeting of the Session, "The Session of this Church has to lament the apostacy of Hugh Paisley, who has again been guilty of intoxication and appeared in that condition in the presence of the whole church on the Sabbath Day." It was then resolved that Hugh Paisley be cited to appear before the Session on the 2nd day of February for trial for his crime.
"2nd of February, 1821. The Session at this time finds itself at a loss on the cases of two negro men who have been in com Tin union with the Church and whose wives have been removed from them by their owners. These men have taken other wives. The Session is at a loss to determine on the propriety of their conduct. It refers their cases to the Presbytery and. suspends them until its opinion is known.
February 4, 1821, James Daniel, a Ruling Elder in this Church came forward, confessed to the Session that he had been overtaken with the crime of intoxication and professed a sincere repentance. The Session deemed it advisable that James Daniel, in consequence of his standing as an officer of the Church, should make public confession of his crime and repentance.
"October 10, 1822, three black persons in connection with the Methodist Church made application for membership in this. It was the voice of this Session that if they fell under its jurisdiction, it should be satisfied with their piety and knowledge. They were accordingly examined, but being very deficient in knowledge so far as this Session could judge, they were for the present excluded.
"June 1, 1823, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered and the following black members received into full communion: Sena, Phoebe, Jannet, Cupid, and Jenny, of the Methodist Society.
"October 29, 1823, charges next were exhibited against Entrum, a black man on the plantation of Mr. Hugh McCutchen. Entrum was charged with adultery. Two witnesses supported this charge and his own statements amounted to a confession. The Session, after giving the parties a full hearing, decided that Entrum should be suspended from the Church.
"The Pastor of the Church now laid before the Session plans for carrying into operation a Bible class, a Sunday School, and a regular catechizing of the black people, which plans were concurred in and measures taken for their early commencements.
January 22, 1825, David Wilson, a Ruling Elder of this Church, with Sarah Florilla Wilson, his wife, took their dismission from this Church to remove with their family, James Stephenson, Thomas Edwin, Robert Manton, Samuel Addison, and. William McClary, to the State of Alabama.
"December 31, 1825, it has pleased Almighty God, the great head of the Church, to remove from us our venerable fathers, Captain John James, Mr. James Daniel, and Mr. George McCutchen, Sr. While the surviving members of the Session of Indiantown Church feel the heavy affliction and deeply deplore the loss of these very respectable, much esteemed, and good, useful Church officers, they must, at the same time, express their gratitude to a Good and Gracious God for their long spared lives, for the services they were enabled to render by their exemplary and pious conduct, but, above all, for preparing them, as we trust, for glory and honor with himself.
"Captain John James, after filling useful stations in State, as well as Church, with honor to himself, and having through life manifested great liberality of mind and generosity of conduct, was removed by death on October 12, 1825, in the sixty-ninth year of his age.
"Mr. James Daniel was removed from life and from his services among us as a Ruling Elder, September 12, 1826, aged seventy-eight. His life was a retired one, but useful in his sphere. Sound principles appear to have possessed his mind and under the influences of these, the tenor of his life was uniform, unpretending, conscientious, and faithful in all his duties.
Mr. George McCutchen was called from this scene of earthly existence on the 26th day of November and in the seventy-third year of his age. Blessed by his God with a calm and discriminating mind, a paternal temper, and a satisfied and placid disposition, his life was to us, dignified, pious, and lovely.
"It having been made known to the Session and Church by the present Pastor that he intended to resign his pastoral charge in this congregation in the ensuing April, this having been signified almost twelve months ago, it was deemed expedient to take another Pastor. This business was referred to the Reverend R. W. James to correspond or communicate with certain gentlemen on this subject as preparatory to this business.
"It was determined in the Session that there should be a meeting of the Congregation, called for the purpose of electing five more Ruling Elders to our Session on January 29, 1827.
"February 10, 1827, the Congregation met according to appointment and elected Benjamin Britton, James McFaddin, Hugh McCutchen, William McFaddin, and David D. Wilson as Ruling Elders in the Church. David D. Wilson only accepted the appointment and was ordained the 13th of November, 1827.
"Our Pastor, Reverend Robert Wilson James, previous to this, made known to the Congregation his intention of giving up the charge of this Church in May, 1827.
"November, Sam, a black man, belonging to William E. James, was restored to the privileges of the Church by making public acknowledgement and confessing repentance for the crime of fishing on the Sabbath Day.
"October 25, at a meeting of the Session, the following members were admitted to the Ordinance of the Lord's Supper, namely: Alexander McCrea, Jane J. McKnight, Agnes K. Singletary, Sarah A. B. Singletary, Elizabeth Pressley, Sarah Gotea, Mary M. McGill, Sarah A. James, William Pressley, Elizabeth M. Pressley, John J. Clark, Jane P. Clark, Samuel E. Graham, Martha M. Graham, Margaret E. McCrea, Jane E. McFaddin, Elizabeth M. Wilson, Sarah R. J. Snowden, and Jane Barr.
"October 28, Adam Smith was suspended for intemperance on the 14th of March and for want of candour in not stating his reason for not communing on a former occasion when present.
October 28, Samuel James was suspended for intemperance on the 14th of March. The suspension of Samuel James was continued and the next Session unanimously decided that on some day, just previous to the next Sacrament in April, the Session would receive the said Samuel James in full communion in case of his amendment; or if, at that time, there be not satisfactory evidence given of reformation, the Session will proceed to ex-communiate the said Samuel James from the sealing ordinances of the church. And further resolved by the Session, that a copy of these minutes be handed to Samuel James within the space of a few days, signed by the Moderator, and all the Session."
Information compiled by Josh Dukes