Allendale County, SC on the Savannah River, Welcome!

Coosawhatchie Church  or  Beech Branch Baptist Church

Beech Branch Baptist Church was constituted 12 September 1759 as Coosawhatchie Church, and became Beech Branch Baptist Church in 1822.  The present lot was granted in 1796 and occupied in 1815.  The building was remodeled in 1908 and 1960.  Electricity was installed and the porch added in 1959, when weekly morning services began.  The annex was built in 1962.  The historical marker was erected by the Beech Branch Baptist Church, Luray, S.C. in 1963. (Historical Marker 3-2).  The location of the church is 9 miles north of the Allendale-Hampton lines on road 41, then turn right on road 104 and go approximately 1.2 miles.  (taken from South Carolina Highway Historical Marker Guide, published by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1998, modified by Dr. Frank O. Clark).

From: "Allendale On The Savannah",  Copyright ©1970

Transcribed by Judith Presnell Canant (Judy) April 2000.   Digital copy Copyright ©2000 Judith Presnell Canant, all rights reserved.


Constituted September 12, 1759 as Coosawhatchie Church. This church became in 1822 Beech Branch Baptist Church. The present lot was granted 1796 and occupied by 1815. The building was remodeled in 1908 and 1960 electricity having been installed and the porch added in 1959, when the weekly morning services began. The annex was built in 1962.

They Carried Bibles, Guns

In the southern tip of Allendale County, in a thickly wooded area, stands Beech Branch Church, formerly Coosawhatchie Church, over two hundred years old and the oldest church in the county, eighth of the "Particular" or "Separate" Baptist Churches formed in South Carolina.

Three men played prominent parts in founding Coosawhatchie Church. These include The Rev. Oliver HART, pastor at Charleston; the Rev. Francis PELOT, pastor at Euhaw, and the Rev. James SMART, who is called, with justification, the founder of the church.

Early in 1759, the Rev. Mr. SMART migrated from the Lunches Creek Church and with others from the Pee Dee section, settled on lands north of Euhaw Church. Whether or not he had been requested to come and form a new church is not known.

In that year of 1759, the years of the founding of Coosawhatchie Church the Cherokees were on the warpath to the southwest of the neighborhood of the first church. The Nuscogees (Muscogees?), whose chief tribe were the Yamassee Indians, had their principal town on the lower part of the Coosawhatchie River.

During that period, a fearful Indian war was raging in the surrounding countryside and no help could get through from North Carolina or Virginia. The proprietors appealed to the King for aid. A regiment of British Regulars sent to the scene proved inadequate and not until 1761 was a stronger force, under command of Colonel James GRANT, able to crush the Indian power in the region.

In the meantime, and despite disturbed conditions in the land about them, 19 persons were constituted into a church by the Rev. Oliver HART and the Rev. James SMART, first pastor, and his wife, Elizabeth; Henry SMART; Thomas and Ann Walker; Mary LARACY; Phillip and Mary HOGATT; Richard and Martha BAGLEY; Thomas and Elizabeth COLLINS; John and Mary DADE; Joseph and Rachel JOHNSTON; Solomon and Catherine WOOD; and Henry DAVIS. In the beginning there was no meetinghouse. It is presumed that services were held in homes or in the open.

The first meetinghouse, a 16 by 20-foot structure was erected in 1769 on a one-acre lot on Duck Branch, donated by Thomas COLLINS.

It was a day of privatin. Bibles, hymnals and rifles were carried to church services. They served to show peaceable intention and to proclaim that the bearers would defend themselves and the principles, which their church upheld.

Although no copies of the by-laws, articles of faith or Church Covenant are available it is believed there were no great differences from such commitments as propounded now. If this is true, the early settlers submitted themselves to discipline of the church, and in all probability were punished if they engaged in various offenses. Discipline awaited those who were found guilty of drunkenness, dancing and fiddling. Quarreling, dueling, cursing, fighting, adultery, fornication, failure to support the church and failure to express fellowship without due and just cause, were offenses on which the church frowned.

In those early days members of churches took such membership seriously and felt it their responsibility to see that no one behaved in such manner as to discredit the church. Lack of law enforcement agencies, inadequate or poorly organized courts, may have fostered this attitude.

In 1796, James SMART, Jar, son of the first pastor, obtained 71 acres of land on Beech Branch waters of the Coosawhatchie River. He granted seven acres to the church and later by will left the remainder for the church’s use. This constitutes the present property of the church.

In 1802, the church withdrew from the Charleston Association and with four other churches formed the Savannah River Association. Later, in 1958, Baptist churches in Allendale and Hampton Counties formed a new association now known as the Allendale-Hampton Association.

From its earliest days Beech Branch had Negro members. Generally they were the slaves of white members of the church but not always. They were usually listed without surnames, as "John, property of E. SMART."

In 1857 the colored membership had grown so large that two of the number were named to assist the white deacons and were called assistant deacons. One of them was given permission to preach to other colored members, but the church refused to issue a license.

The assistant deacons had two principal duties. They acted as monitors over the other colored members with reports being made to the church, and assisted the white deacons in the observance of the Lord’s Supper.

Up until 1920, communion was served in the church from a service consisting of sterling silver goblets, silver pitcher and a silver plate for the bread. The colored members were served wine in water glasses and bread was served on plain diner plates.

About 1868 colored members began adopting surnames, in many cases they took the names of their former owners.

Between 1868 and 1870 a movement to organize a colored church had been made in Allendale. Around 1870 large numbers of colored members were dismissed from Beech Branch to join other churches. It was probably around 1900 that the last colored member left.

From earliest times records indicate, baptismal services took place, first, in Dr BREELAND’s Mill Pond, later in a small pool of water in the Coosawhatchie River between Barton and Fairfax, and more recently in other churches having indoor pools.

There is no existing record which shows the part played by the men of Beech Branch during the Revolutionary War, but it is believed that some of them served with Marion and Sumter, as well as with General Green, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. However, records do reveal that Beech Branch played a most important part in the Civil War, as shown by Confederate markers in the churchyard cemetery. The earliest mention of the graveyard in the present location is found n an entry dated November 8, 1817.

On September 12, 1959, Beech Branch Baptist Church held a Bicentennial Celebration with the revival minister being the Rev. Wyatt Garrett. During the celebration "Highlights of Two Hundred Years of Beech Branch," was presented.

BEECH BRANCH CEMETERY -- among the oldest graves.

Rev. James SWEAT. Erected by his sons and Savannah River Association. 1860

Robert FITTS. 1818-1892 Robert GIFFORD. 1830-1888

Mary FAUST. 1881-1895 Lydia Freelove GIFFORD. 1822-1915

Solomon GREENLEAF. 1846-1882 Iola May GIFFORD. 1860-1939

Ellen GIFFORD. 1826-1887 Jessie Mears FOLK. 1879-1912

Ebenezer GIFFORD. 1788-1867 Joseph S. BRUNSON- June 14, 1852-Oct. 25, 1922

R H JOHNSTON. 1815-1884 Cornelius PARNELLE - Nov. 30, 1883-May 8, 1887

Lewis MANKER. Died 1862 Latitia WOOTEN. Born 1834

Thomas YOUMANS. Died 1884 Henrietta Jane FORRESTER. Oct. 30, 1841

Isham FAUST. 1800-1875 Elizabeth BELGER. Aug 10, 1836-Feb. 28, 1899

Jemima Ginn FAUST. 1795-1872 Catherine W BUFORD. Died 1905

H C PARNELLE William SCOTT. Died 1910

Wife of H M PARNELLE May 25, 1816-May 28, 1891


Complete Cemetery List is on the Barnwell County server

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