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The History of Edisto Presbyterian Church, USA

Edisto Presbyterian church located on Edisto Island, South Carolina was organized by Rev. Ishmael Moultrie in 1865, who served as its first pastor. He gathered parishioners in his home to teach them the word of God. He obtained the honor of being the first untrained minister to be ordained by the First Negro Presbytery of Catawba in 1866. He built the first negro church on Edisto Island out of palm branches. This Church was located on the corner of Wharf Road now known as Steamboat Landing Road and Highway 174. A few years later, they were able to obtain a Church that was being used by the white people during the summer months on Edisto Beach. The church was taken down piece by piece and rebuilt on J.D. Murray Landing. The church was later moved to Highway 174. Later in 1964 the present church was built on Cypress Bottom Road.

Seven Pastors have served this congregation over a span of one hundred fifty-four years. They served with a passion that would transform the lives of the congregation. They are Rev. Ishmael Moultrie, Rev. James Mahoney, Rev. William Metz, Rev. Ural Brewer, Rev. Dr. McKinley Washington, Jr., Rev. Dr. Frank Portee,III (Designated Pastor) and Rev. Dr. Charles C. Heyward, Sr. (HR Stated Supply Pastor).

After the death of Reverend Moultrie, from 1892 to 1908, three ministers served the Edisto United Presbyterian Church. The three men were not resident ministers; they only came to preach once or twice a month. During this period, the Church’s progress was impeded. The following three ministers who served the Church were: Reverends Hunter, Adam Frazier and Carlyle. In 1908 Reverend J. Manoney became the pastor and immediately continued to rebuild the church’s programs Reverend Moultrie started. The school that was organized by Reverend Moultrie was reopened in the church. Reverend Manoney served until his death in 1916.

In 1916 Reverend William L. Metz came to the Edisto United Presbyterian Church. Reverend Metz was born near Columbia, South Carolina. He went to a Presbyterian Day Mission School and later to Biddle University and Seminary, now known as Johnson C. Smith University. When he came to Edisto Island, he came with his family from Sumter, South Carolina. He found the school to be in poor condition. He sought to do as much as he could to raise the standard of education for the people on Edisto Island. He started the Larimer School, the only school in the area. Dr. Metz wrote articles in a paper about his mission work and involvement in education on the Island, signing them “Uncle Billy.” The paper was called The Afro-American Presbyterian. Under Reverend Metz’s leadership and ministry, students left home to go to school for additional training. They became ministers, teachers, Sunday school missionaries, morticians, doctors and may other vocations. Reverend Metz had a vision for the future of his congregation and made sure that the families of the congregation planned for their future. Together they worked hand in hand, and he encouraged families to educate their children. He exemplified great leadership commitment and dedication to the church, school and community. Dr. Metz’s ministry on Edisto Island and throughout Atlantic Presbytery was one of leadership and action. Through his teaching and caring for, and leading the congregation, the school and community were very informed about the affairs of the church and the World. Reverend Metz paved the way for so many people who still talk about him today. He left a great legacy for the church and the larger community. We continue to build upon his legacy today. He served from 1916 until he retired in 1946.

In June of 1946, Reverend Ural L. Brewer came to the Edisto United Presbyterian Church and added more vigor to the progress of the Church and expanded its mission work. He was a man of great courage and insight. He and his wife Alleen worked together and formed an adult school and taught people how to read. The people were taught how to read the Preamble in order to register to vote during important elections. Mrs. Lula B. Bligen assisted in the adult school through the training that she had received from the Larimer High School under Reverend Brewer. He organized Ocean King Lodge, a Masonic Order: Due to the success of Larimer High School many of the students went to college to better themselves and their families. During his pastorate, there were three young men who attended Johnson C. Smith Seminary and became ordained ministers. The Brewers planned many church and community programs for the entire Island. Boys and girls came from the Seaside and the Borough communities to participate in Vacation Bible School, which lasted for about five hours a day for approximately two weeks. Reverend Brewer worked diligently on the Island to improve the lives of the African American community. Some of the white Islanders grew very disturbed with Reverend Brewer due to the progress being made on the Island. A cross was burned in his front yard at the Manse, but that did not stop his mission work on the Island. Reverend Brewer died in 1962. At his funeral service a visiting minister from Horse Head, New York gave a contribution to the Edisto United Presbyterian Church to build a new Manse in memory of Reverend Brewer.

Reverend McKinley Washington, Jr. served as Supply Pastor from 1962-1964. In January 1964 Reverend McKinley Washington, Jr. was ordained by the Atlantic Presbytery and became the pastor of Edisto United Presbyterian Church. He brought with him a lot of new and innovative ideas that added growth to the mission of the Church. A new edifice was built through a major fundraiser called “Homecoming”. The Homecoming Rally became an annual fundraiser for the Church. Mrs. Lillian W. Spears chaired this annual event for several years. Then it was chaired by other Elders of the church. The new edifice was dedicated on February 8, 1970. The land for the new edifice was donated by two sisters, Esther Foreman and Gertrude Johnson (members of the church). The Edisto Church journey continued to grow as the membership increases each year. In January 1978, The Edisto United Presbyterian Church burned its mortgage. And on the fourth Saturday of April 1978 Reverend Washington started the annual Edisto Island parade. On June 10, 1983 in Atlanta Georgia the Church became one body again, the reunion of the Presbyterian Church, US and the United Presbyterian Church, USA. After this event, the church is now known as the Edisto Presbyterian Church, USA.

Edisto Presbyterian Church, USA has served the entire Island with its many programs. Larimer High School was the only High School on the Island for many years. Reverend Washington was instrumental in helping to establish the Economic Opportunity Commission for Charleston County and the first seven Head Start programs in South Carolina, with Larimer Center Head Start being among the first seven. The church also housed a Nursery Program for infants of working parents on the island. The church purchased the old white school building to expand its cultural, economic, recreational, and educational programs for the entire community. The Community Center housed the adult education program, after school program and summer tutorial programs. The Larimer Center was completely renovated and housed the senior program and a Health Care Program for the island. In addition, the church purchased property for a mobile home park for residents on the island. And handles other rental property that affords people a place to live. In 1975 Reverend Washington was elected to South Carolina House of Representatives where he served for fifteen years before being elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1990, serving six counties in District 45. Reverend Washington organized, raised funds, and chaired The Commission to Design the Tuskegee Airmen Monument. The monument was dedicated on Memorial Day May 26, 1997 at the Walterboro Army Airfield, Walterboro, South Carolina. He served the area with compassion and integrity. In 2000, he was elected to the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. He served as Chairman of the Commission from 2000-2003. In 1993 a bridge over the Dawhoo intercoastal water way was named and dedicated in Reverend Washington’s honor. At the Avery Institute at the College of Charleston the McKinley Washington, Jr., Auditorium was named and dedicated in his honor. On February 23, 2003, the church hosted a Commentary and Collection of Documents of Rev. Ishmael Moultrie. In May 2012 after 50 plus years of faithful, dedicated and committed service to Edisto Presbyterian Church, USA. Reverend McKinley Washington retired as our pastor after a half century of service.

The Reverend Frank Portee, III served as (Designated Pastor) from 2013- 2016. Under the Leadership of Reverend Portee, III the Good Samaritan Clinic was established at the Larimer Center.

The Reverend Dr. Charles C. Heyward, Sr. (HR) was called at the August 2016 stated meeting of The Charleston Atlantic Presbytery to moderate the Session. Then in November 2016 he was called to serve as Temporary Stated Supply. A new Audio Video system was installed in the Sanctuary, Narthex, and the Fellowship hall. A new roof was installed. In partnership with the Presbyterian Church on Edisto the Edisto Presbyterian Church has hosted the Charleston Atlantic Presbytery Meeting at PCEI. The Spring Gathering of Charleston Atlantic Presbytery Presbyterian Women was hosted by EPC on April 18, 2019. The founding committee of PCAAY includes Rev. McKinley Washington, Elder Margaret Rivers, Elder Irene M. Whaley, and the late Elder Sandra Singleton Wright.

Updated: April 2019

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