Lower Three Runs Baptist Church was organized in 1789 (exact date unknown) with 12 charter members. The church was located on the north side of Lower Three Runs Creek near what is known today as Patterson's Mill. This land was purchased from Preston Harley. Apparently the church building was located there from the beginning, evidenced by a tombstone with a date of death listed as 1807. However, the land was not legally purchased until May 8, 1824 and recorded in the Barnwell County Courthouse on August 12, 1850. The purchase price for the 2 acre site was $5.00. The land was described as being near Harley's Bridge. The deed indicates that the church house was already built before the land was purchased. Some would date Lower Three Runs as being organized even earlier than 1789. Lewis Shuck in his History of the Barnwell Association dates the original church as being organized in 1780. However, Dr. Joe M. King in his "A History of South Carolina Baptist" dates the organizing date as 1789. It is this latter date that the church accepts as the official date of organization. Furman also dates Lower Three Runs in his Charleston Association History as being constituted about 1789.
The original name of the church came from the creek of the same name. However, in 1804 the church changed its name from Lower Three Runs Baptist Church to The Columbian Baptist Church of Christ on the Lower Three Runs-later the church was known as "Old Columbia" or The Columbia Baptist Church. There is no record of why the name was changed. This continued to be used until 1868 when this congregation merged with a daughter church (Tom's Branch) and both began to use the mother church name again and continues to do so today. Thus since 1868, the name has been Lower Three Runs.
LOWER THREE RUNS AT TOM's BRANCH.....
March 22, 1840,The Columbian Baptist Church organized another congregation at a location known as Tom's Branch. The new church was given the name of the original mother church, Lower Three Runs. However, after several years this congregation became known as Tom's Branch. This new name was just referred to locally because all of the official records of the associations and South Carolina Baptist Convention referred to it as Lower Three Runs. This congregation and the mother church's congregation both existed from 1840 until 1868. It was in 1868 after the mother church's building had been destroyed that the two congregations became one again. Both groups became known as Lower Three Runs, officially and locally..This combined congregation continued to worship at the Tom's Branch site until the present land was purchased and the present building built in 1885.
ORGANIZATION OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION....
When the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845, delegates from Lower Three Runs (1840) congregation were there. Church records indicate that "a call was made to attend an assembly of Mission Societies, Churches, and other religious bodies of Baptist Faith, to meet in Augusta, Ga,.on May 8,1845. To this assembly the church sent as their delegates, Joseph Furse and Isaac Woods. From the deliberations of this assembly originated the Southern Baptist Convention". Lower Three Runs has been a cooperating member of the Southern Baptist Convention from then until the present.
THE YEAR 1865.....
The year of 1865 might well be the year of years in the history of the church. This year would see the second largest membership in the church's history, its building destroyed in the war between the states and the ultimate disbanding of the mother church at the original site which which would bring about the union of the mother church and the daughter church which would result in the continuation of the original church. In the year of 1865, the total membership of the church was 213. There were 35 white members and 178 black or colored members. It was in 1865 that the soldiers of the northern army (Sherman's troops) tore down the building to make a bridge across the Lower Three Runs Creek to replace the one that the confederate soldiers had destroyed in their effort to slow the progress of the union forces. Material not used for the bridge is said to have been burned. After the destruction of the church building, the congregation met outdoors until 1868 when the site was disbanded and the original congregation merged with the Tom's Branch congregation and formed the Lower Three Runs of today.
In 1868, the bulk of the 213 members of Columbia (The original Lower Three Runs, ) transferred to that membership (Tom's Branch) their letter, and to keep alive the memory of the mother church, the Tom's Branch was locally and officially renamed Lower Three Runs Baptist Church. Thus the history of the preset Lower Three Runs Baptist Church is the continuation of its mother church of the same name.
CHURCHES ORGANIZED OUT OF OR BY LOWER THREE RUNS..
Barnwell First Baptist Church----1802.....Mt. Hope------1806.....Tom's Branch---1840.......Mt. Olivet---1849......Cypress Chapel (later Dunbarton)-----1849
The Lower Three Runs was known as the mother of churches. The court house having been moved to the present county seat, in 1802 a number of its members were dismissed to organize the church in Barnwell. The church was organized in a blacksmith shop on the location of the present Barnwell church. Soon afterward other members were dismissed to organize the Mount Hope church which for many years has passed out of existence. In 1840 other members were dismissed to organize a church on Tom's Branch, which later was known by that name. In 1865 after Sherman's destruction of the original Lower Three Runs and its failure to rebuild on its old site, the bulk of its membership who were then living in the Tom's branch community transferred to that membership their letters and to keep alive the memories of the mother church Tom's Branch was renamed the present Lower Three Runs. This church is a continuation of the former church of that name. In 1848 other members were dismissed to organize Mt. Olivet near Barnwell, and Cypress Chapel (Dunbarton) churches.
From "A Baptist Church For 200 Years 1789-1989, A History of Lower Three Runs Baptist Church, Martin, South Carolina," by Billy L. Mew, published on the 200th anniversary of the church!
The Coming Of The Savannah River Plant
The 1950's saw growth with the coming of the Savannah River Plant. New folks moved to the area looking for work. Others were transplanted from the plant area and became new neighbors, friends and some became new church members. The largest membership for the church in modern times (since 1865) came in 1957. Membership climbed to 131 resident, 42 non-resident for a total of173 members. The following account from our church records will help us to understand the impact of the facility. "when the AEC Plant came to South Carolina in November of 1950, and Ellenton (Also Dunbarton & Myers Mill) and the surrounding area were taken into its territory, Mr. Parkinson asked our church to release him as our pastor in June, 1951. . Our church called Dr. J. T. Sanders to be our pastor in the summer of 1951.. Our church had Bible Week during the month of January. This course was on different books of the Bible and was very helpful to the ones who attended the classes. Our church began having prayer meeting services on Wednesday night in the spring of1952, led by different members. The coming of the AEC plant brought new people into our community. To reach these folks our church had Rev. Lamar Malphus as assistant pastor. Rev. Malphus conducted prayer meeting services and preached every Sunday night in the summer of 1952. He taught a class on Training Union work and Mrs. Dave Wilson taught a class for the Juniors. We organized a Training Union, but a number of the new folks moved away and the interest began to wane, so our Training Union was disbanded. Due to a small number of children in our church and a small number in the Methodist church,(Spellwell) the churches had a joint Sunday School for a number of years, but each church organized a Sunday School in 1952. We had a good Sunday School and it helped our church in reaching the members of the church'. We also had a very good Bible School this year.
Our W.M.U. grew in size. we began to have program leaders in the society. We had two mission study classes every year." PLEASANT MOUNTAIN INFLUENCE Pleasant Mountain Baptist Church ( a neighboring church) decided to disband in 1984. Most of its members became active at Lower Three Runs at that time. These families have become a very important part of Lower Three Runs. Pleasant Mountain Church continues to have worship services each fifth Sunday at 3:00 in the afternoon. These four or five services each year are well attended. The Pleasant Mountain church family was a welcome addition to Lower Three Runs.
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