Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fredonia -'"the first Universalist Church"

I gave a sermon once starting "The Universalist Church started here in the Carolinas. I know that's true because I read it on the internet - and if you can't believe Wikipedia, who can you believe?"

Yes, Wikipedia and other sources state that the first Universalist Church in South Carolina and perhaps the whole United States of America was at Freedonia Meeting Hall in Newberry County, South Carolina. Tellingly, they don't say when or where the Church was.

I bring this up because James asked me this question last week, I had to admit that no one knows where it was - and that I was doubtful of the "first" designation. He asked another local expert who suggested it might be Liberty Church (in Feasterville); and I went ahead asked a Newberry County historian who had never heard of it (I should state that the historian was in the middle of a picnic and miles away from any Newberry reference books).

See my earlier post on the actual pointlessness of putting the name first to "something in the air"
but I hope to use this area (and later the comments) to put some documentations on Fredonia.

In Clayton's book, he mentions that in 1845 he was to alternate preaching monthly between two Churches in Newberry County, Hartford and Fredonia.

An obit of Rev. Elijah Linch mentions that he last preached at the Fredonia Meeting House in June of 1842.

this page
lists Fredonia as appearing in a genealogy book:
Newberry City Equity 1868-1869, and Washington Equity Records 1816-1843.
I have not however seen this book.

as time goes by, we will add whatever else we find on Fredonia here on this page.
Please add what you know in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

The following article, which was entitled "South Carolina Convention," is found on Page 560 of "The Universalist Union" (Volume VII - Octavio IV, From November 20, 2841, to November 12, 1842.):

"A letter from Br. Albert Case, Charleston, S.C., states that the South Carolina State Convention of Universalists will hold its annual session in Newberry, commencing on the 12th of August, and continue in session three days. A general Invitation is extended to all preachers and other friends in Boston, New York, and elsewhere to attend. Those going from the north will call on Br. Case, in Charleston.

"The convention will be held at Fredonia meeting house, five or six miles south-westerly from Newberry C. H. and one mile from the road leading from the Court House to Belfast."

Based on the above, I believe that the meeting house was located somewhere along what is now highways 34 and 121, known variously as Boundary Street and Newberry Highway. The "road leading from the Court House to Belfast" would likely be Belfast Road.

Steven Rowe said...

Thanks anonymous - at least one person I showed this too, thinks that Rev Case got confused with Hartford, but the road to Belfast (at least on Mills 1825 Atlas) isn't a mile from Hartord. The 1825 map suggests that the southern part of Belfast Road was not the road to Belfast in 1825. that road ended at Mcconnells house, between what was then the north and south fork of Beaver Dam Creek.
so I wonder if Fredonia was on Island Ford road?

Steven Rowe said...

While I will eventually do a full blog post, I am some slight more evidence that anonymous is correct.
I read the book listed in the post, and it shows the will of Thomas Burton (1818-1860) which says that he plans to give his large tracts of land to various folks, except for the path to a spring and the acreage of the Fredonia Meetinghouse House.
The acreage that he owned was too vast to be sure exactly where the building was, but his wife and her family (his absence is clear) founded Smyrna Presbyterian which is on the current Belfast Road. Hmm.

waltezell said...

Maybe "earliest known" carries more weight than "first."

I don't understand your use of "tellingly" which implies that if references didn't specify the location of Fredonia, maybe it didn't exist at all. But then you seem to assume that it did exist.

There is a big difference between relying on the internet for "facts" and giving weight to specific sources that happen to be found on the internet, such as footnoted Wikipedia articles.

I am interested in one footnote in particular.

10.^ Universalist magazine, Volume 9 p48 ed. Hosea Ballou 1828

That is cited as the source for this statement in the Wikipedia article on the Universalist CHurch of America:

"The first Universalist church in South Carolina (and possibly in America) was the Freedonia Meeting Hall situated in Newberry County.[10]"

Steven Rowe said...

OK, so lets go to page 48 (and 47) - it happens to be on Google Books, and we note that its the widely reprinted article from the Wilmington NC Liberalist. Freedonia is not mentioned, the meeting house mentioned is probably the one at the current Chapman Summers cemetary. GW noted that Freedonia is only mentioned after the 1st SC Universalist Convention.
David Martin has been the source of many articles by Church of the Brethren historians. but I guess I need to write one as well - listing the legends and well as some about universalism and the Faternity of Baptist Brethren, which would be useful in looking at Kentucky as well.,%20Volume%209&f=false

Steven Rowe said...

"Tellingly" in this case implies that it doesn't give enough evidence to support the allegation.
I have no doubts that "Freedonia" existed. But the evidence indicates that it wasn't the first Universalist (large or small u) Church. See later mentions on this blog about the origins of the word "Freedonia".
but, yes, I do need to write about David Martin, who's influence on small u Universalism in the Carolinas and Kentucky is immense.