BIGGIN CHURCH - 1712
St. John's Parish Berkeley
 
  
Historic view of Biggin's Church  
 
     The Parish of St. John's, Berkeley is said to have taken its name from the Act of Assembly of 1704 which was superseded by  the Church Act. of 1706 and is described as the largest of the ten original Parishes in the Province. 
     The site on which this Church is situated is said to have received its name from Biggin Hill in Kent, England and was relocated by Landgrave John Colleton of Wadboo Barony at the juncture of three important roads of that day. 
      As we learned in the story of the Huguenots of this section, the Rev. Robert Maule came to the Province in 1707 as an Anglican Missionary and was assigned to this Parish. As he had no Anglican Church building, he was invited by the Huguenots to use their Church where he preached every two weeks. These Huguenots had not been set up as a Huguenot. Parish under the Act of Establishment, but were an independent Huguenot congregation, and probably failed to realize that this use of  their building was the initial step in the absorption of their congregation by the Anglican parish. 
     As the Historical Marker recounts, the Anglican Church on Biggin Hill was completed in 1712. It was burned by forest fire in 1756 and replaced in 1761. Samuel Gaillard Stoney says that the ruin we find today is of the building of 1761. An archaeologist would be required to study the remains to definitely date any parts of the ruins. It. is generally accepted that what we find today is basically that of the building of 1761 as it was restored after the 1781 burning when the British under Col. Coates were retreating toward Charles Town in. July of 1781. 
      After the Revolution the Church was again restored and used until the end of the Confederacy. During the Confederate War the interior was stripped of pews and fixtures. About 1886 the unused building was again burned by a forest fire, and people began using the walls as a ready source of brick. 
     The long, narrow shape of the Parish resulted in the growth of centers of community interest which caused the Parish to be divided into Lower, Middle and Upper St. John's. Biggin, the Parish Church, was in the upper part of Lower St. John's, and Strawberry, Chapel was below Biggin. Bishop Thomas tells that summer services were held at. Cordesville in the early 1800's and a little later in "Whitesville." 
     In Middle St. John's, we are told that about 1800 the Rev. Mr. P. M. Parker held services on the property of General William Moultrie "about a mile from Black Oak." On Jan. 19, 1808, the men of the neighborhood met at Black Oak and raised a Church Building on land given by Mr. Rene Ravenel. Bishop Thomas tells us that in 1846 a chapel was built at Pinopolis and in that same year the old Black Oak building was given to the Methodists, who moved it to Macbeth, and a new church was built at Black Oak. This new building was consecrated in 1847 as Trinity, Black Oak. For all practical purposes Trinity (Black Oak) was merged with Trinity (Pinopolis) and only annual services had been held at. Black Oak for some time when Santee-Cooper took over the Black Oak site in 1941. 
      In its day Trinity (Black 0ak) was one of the important churches in the area because it was located in the heart of a prosperous plantation section at an intersection of roads, the site of a store, a voting precinct, the clubhouse of the St. John's Hunting Club, and the center of the area that sponsored the Black Oak Agricultural Society, which last organization drew members from as far up as the vicinity of Eutawville and Holly Hill. In the immediate vicinity the St. Julien, Ravenel and Mazyck connection owned such plantations as Pooshee, Wantoot, Woodboo, Fair Spring, Hepworth, Chelsea, North Hampton, Indian Field, and Hardport. (Hardput). 
      Bishop Thomas mentions the construction of St. John's Chapel at the Barrows and various plantations at which services were held at different times. Some of these places had services for short periods and all were without services or even a chapel over long periods. 
     The first known church in Upper St. John's was a log chapel built during the ministry of the Rev. Levi Durand. This building is said to have served "overflowing" crowds. By Act of Assembly in 1770, provision was made for a Chapel of Ease to be built near the Forty-Five Mile House, which was the Chapel Hill site on the Cherokee Path about two miles below the present site (1982) of the Barnet's Tavern marker. Chapel Hill was the site of the original log chapel. After the Revolution there was a general rejection of things associated with England and this building probably either burned, rotted or was taken down. The people of the area built on a five acre tract, now the site of Friendship United Methodist Church, a brush arbor which was used for any community gatherings, and as a pulpit for any circuit rider or passing clergyman. Former Anglican families, Baptists and Methodists participated. 
     From the earliest settlement, the movement of settlements was upward. And this was true here, a number of the formerly Anglican families moved farther up in the parish. About 1804 the first Rocks Church was built near the entrance to the Rocks Plantation from the old Santee River Road. In 1808 it was moved about two miles east to Springfield Plantation. There is today in the Cross Community a paved road known as the "Rocks Church Road" leading north from Highway No. 6 and going to Spiers' Landing, and the abandoned section still going under the waters of Lake Marion to the Rocks Church site. In 1814 the old building here was taken down and a new building erected under the supervision of Mr. John Palmer. In the 1840's the Episcopal Church in America was being made aware of Anglican practices which had rarely or never been observed here; and in 1844 the Rocks Church was consecrated as the Church of the Epiphany. With the isolation of the building on an island and the scattering of the congregation by Santee-Cooper, the Rocks Church was replaced by a Chapel which was originally built as an interdenominational church about 1849 in the village of Eutawville, formerly known as Mayrant. 
     Additional information on the history of this Parish may be found in The Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina by Bishop Albert Sidney Thomas. 
     One needs to remember that the parish was a political entity and continued to be so even after the Anglican Church was no longer the Established Church in South Carolina (or America). Problems arose between Berkeley and Craven Counties over the line which included the line between St. Stephen's Parish and St. John's, Berkeley. On Sept. 22, 1735 the General Assembly authorized Governor Johnson to appoint Commissioners and surveyors to resurvey the bounds of several counties in the Province. The Act provided that the surveyor begin at the plantation of Samuel Wigfall, which plantation shall be in Berkeley County, and is at the head of Seewee River, and from thence shall run back a course Northwest five and forty degrees, and make a fair line until they come to Santee River, which line shall be deemed and forever hereafter accounted to be the bounds between Berkeley County and Craven County; and from the end of the said line, the river upward shall be the bounds between the said counties.
     Several years ago, the Berkeley County Historical Society conducted a tour of Pineville (in St. Stephen's Parish) and Eadytown (in St. John's, Berkeley), and were shown a large granite marker which had originally marked the line between St. John's, Berkeley and St. Stephen's, Craven.  Mrs. Gourdin stated they had moved the marker from property they had owned when they sold the property. 
     Upper St. John's, Berkeley is said to have been the section of South Carolina where cotton was first successfully and profitably grown. The story of Peter Gaillard and The Rocks is well known as is that of the Sinklers and their fine horses. From Big Camp on the west bank of the "Old Santee Canal" on into Upper St. James Goose Creek stretched plantations, large and small, that continued to be profitable long after those in other parishes ceased to make expenses. 
 
Information and Article from
"Historic Ramblin's Through Berkeley"
 written by and used with permission of
Mr. J. Russell Cross