Newly formed Faith Presbyterian Church holds first service in Williamston


History of both churches in this post

The first official service for the newly formed Faith Presbyterian Church was held on May 24th, 2015 in the Williamston sanctuary on Mill Street. The second service was held the following week in the Pelzer sanctuary. The church was formed by a union of the congregations of the Pelzer Presbyterian Church and the Williamston Presbyterian Church.

In the planning stages for several years, the two churches officially became one when the union was approved by the Foothills Presbytery on April 28. They are being led by Rev. Aaron Ochart.

Before officially becoming one church, the congregations were yoked and shared a pastor, Rev. John Hallman in 2005. Over the years, the two churches were brought closer together through joint Wednesday evening Bible studies, a shared Food Bank ministry, and joint services.

In 2008, a plan was proposed by the Sessions to combine all services for the two churches on a rotating schedule. That plan received a wide majority from each church, but did not pass the eighty-five percent threshold set by the Sessions of both churches.

In 2012 the Sessions worked together to create a plan for combined services starting in 2013. The congregations were informed of the plan, the reasons for combining services, the financial outlook of each church, and the eventual goal of merging the two churches. In December of 2012, both congregations approved the plan for combined services and began meeting together.

The formal move towards merging the two churches began in the summer of 2013. Presbytery officials were notified and in the spring of 2014, the Sessions elected a Unification Committee with two members from each church. They wrote a Unification Proposal which was approved by both Sessions and presented to members.

On June 8, each congregation voted on the plan which was approved by both churches above the sixty percent margin set. The congregation was then asked to submit names for the new merged church which did not relate to either of the previoius names. More than thirty names were submitted. Faith Presbyterian Church received a majority vote.

In 2014, the Pelzer Presbyterian church had 44 members on the rolls with about 20 being active. Williamston Presbyterian had 65 members with about 40 being active.

There was some consideration of moving the organ, which is one of only two existing in the US according to church members.

But it was decided that “Due to cost of refurbishment, architectural changes to the building and public sentiment, this move is currently not feasible nor wise.”

Both churches have historic significance to the area . . .

The Pelzer Presbyterian congregation dates from 1881 and was formally organized in 1883 by prominent members of the Town of Pelzer, including mill president Ellison A. Smyth. The Pelzer Presbyterain Church is on the National Historic Register.

The Williamston Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest in the the Williamston area, established in 1852 and the founding of the town of Williamston.

History of Pelzer Presbyterian Church

The Pelzer Presbyterian Church building was constructed in 1896. It was one of five sanctuaries constructed in the town of Pelzer, mostly with funds donated by the Pelzer Manufacturing Company. It is the only one of the original five churches still standing.

The historic pipe organ was purchased from the George Jardine Organ Company of New York and was donated to the church in 1897 by Captain Smyth. Smyth also donated the leaded and stained glass windows which adorn the sanctuary and front vestibule.

The hand-pumped organ has twenty-three pipes hand-painted with goldleaf which adorn the face of the organ. It was restored to its original appearance in 1972 and was converted from pump to electric operation. It is one of only two known to exist in South Carolina. The Victorian chamber organ arrived from New York by boat to Charleston and was transported to Pelzer by rail.

Before the church was formed, the family of the president of Pelzer Company, Captain Ellison Adger Smyth, was joined by other Presbyterians from Williamston and Piedmont for services.

During the first year, in 1881, the Presbyterians met with Baptists and Methodists and organized a Union Sabbath School which met in a hall over the Brown, Williams & Company store (which no longer exists.)

During the first year two years, the Presbytrerians secured preachers as they could. A petition to organize as a church was sent to the Spring Meeting of the Presbytery in 1883.

On Oct. 29, 1883, they were organized as a church of the commission of the SC Presbytery.

Charter members were Ellison A. Smyth, Julia G. Smyth, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. B. F. Guy, A. B. Carpenter, Thomas Sedden and Walter Camerson. Rev. Calvin L. Stewart was the first minister of the church.

On Nov. 20, 1881 the Rev. Calvin L. Stewart delivered the first known sermon preached in Pelzer.

“Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,” Philippians 1:27.

The sermon was preached at the special requst of Captain Smyth.

Rev. Stewart was also the pastor for Williamston Presbyterian Church, as well as the Presbyterian Churches in New Harmony, Piedmont, Lickville, Belton, and Honea Path.

Stewart resigned after six months and there is no record of a regular pastor during 1884-1885. Rev. Stewart was recalled as the stated supply pastor in 1886 and served for nine years. The church membership in 1897 was 142.

In 1896 the church building was built and a new pipe organ, along with stained glass windows, donated by Captain Smyth, was installed in 1897.

A Sunday School building, possibly the first in the state built for that purpose, was erected in 1905. In 1950-51 the rooms were completely renovated as they are today.

Another milestone inthe history of the church occurred on Jan. 9, 1946, when the General Manager of Pelzer Mills, Charles A. Gibson, presented a deed for the church property to the church.

In 1936, the sanctuary of the church was completely renovated with new carpet, pews, hymnals, altar cloths and choir drapes, The carpet and pews replaced the original ones installed when the church was built.

(Information compiled by Nelle Hogg Deanhardt, revised in 1983 by Debra Brooks Gray.)

History of Williamston Presbyterian Church

The Williamston Presbyterian church dates back to the founding of the Town of Williamston in 1852 when West Allen Williams donated a large piece of land to the Presbyterian denomination to be used for a church.

The Williamston Presbyterian Church was build in 1856 on Center Street and had only eight communicant members.

Rev. Ezekiel Foster Hyde, a native of Ontario Canada was the organizing minister. He was the minister at Midway Presbyterian and Broadway Presbyterian Church in Anderson and preached in Williamston once each month.

Pelzer Presbyterian minister C. L. Stewart served as the church minister for thirty years.

The church was incorporated as an Elemosynary corporation on March 18, 1955.

The present church manse was built in 1953. Rev. Joseph Stowe was installed as the first fulltime minister. In 1955 the present educational building was added to the sanctuary and in 1961 new pews and a new heating system were installed. A new heating system was installed in the manse the followng year.

The first church organ, a reed organ is located in the adult Sunday School room and is in good condition. The Hammond organ presently used for services was purchased around 1950. Mrs. B. C. Hand was the first church organist.

In 1856, the offering for the first year was $17. $5 was sent to the Presbytery and $12 was spent on congregational needs. In 1979 the church had 120 members and a budget of $31,813.

In 2014, Williamston Presbyterian had 65 members with about 40 being active.