The modern Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church was formed in 1903. In their centenial year, the Synod published a history of the denomination. Included in this volume is sketches of each of the congregations of the ARP. I have copied here the descriptions of the churches of York County, S.C.
- Hickory Grove
- Neely’s Creek
- Rock Hill
Bethany Church, in York Co., S. C., owes its origin to the introduction of hymns into the worship of the Presbyterian Churches in the vicinity of Kings Mountain. This innovation caused the withdrawal of a number of families from the Presbyterian Churches These sent Andrew Ferguson and John Miller to a meeting of the Associate Reformed Synod of the Carolinas, held at Black River, in Sumter Co., S. C., asking for supplies.
Rev. James Rogers preached for them for awhile at least. Sometime afterwards they petitioned for the stated labors of Rev. Wm. Dixon, a licentiate of the Associate Reformed body. For eighteen months or more they worshipped in a log cabin on the head of Crowder’s Creek on the skirts of Kings Mountain. The people worshiping at this point, and the people at Sharon and Carmel, united and called Rev. Wm. Dixon, who was ordained and installed at Sharon in the year 1797.
Bethany proper was organized at a stand near the place where the present church now is, in 1797. Bethany enjoyed the services of Mr. Dixon for about thirty-three years. For the most of this time it was in connection with the Associate Synod. After Mr. Dixon’s death, the church was supplied for a few years by Rev. Mr. Banks, but his abolition sentiments made him unpopular, and he returned to the North.
The next pastor of Bethany was Rev. R. C. Grier, D D., who was ordained and installed in June, 1841, and this pleasant and profitable relation continued for seven years. At which time Dr. Grier was called to the Presidency of Erskine College. In 1849 Rev. E. E. Boyce, D D., became pastor and this continued until 1885. During the long pastorate of Dr. Boyce, the church grew and prospered, and continued to be a great force for good in the community.
After Dr. Boyce resigned the church remained vacant for about two years, being regularly supplied with preaching by the Presbytery. In 1887 Rev. R. M. Stevenson, the present pastor, took charge of the church.
Carmel, York Co., S. C., appears on the roll of the Associate Presbytery of the Carolinas before 1811, Rev. Wm. Dixon preached there from its organization probably until near his death. In a sketch of Sharon congregation by the Rev. R. A. Ross, D. D., it is said that, in the latter part of 1796 or the beginning of 1797. Sharon united with Bethany in the northern part of York Co., and with Carmel in the South, in a call to Rev. Wm. Dixon then recently come from Scotland, which call he accepted. In the same sketch it is said that, in 1826, Sharon, Tirzah and Carmel Hill united in a call to Rev. W. M. McElwee which he accepted. It disappears from the roll some time in the 30’s.
Clover is situated in York Co., S. C., about ten miles from Yorkville, the county seat, on the line of the Carolina and Northwestern Railway. The church was organized May 24th, 1893. For some time previous to the organization, Rev. R. M. Stevenson preached there one night in each month, and after the organization, Mr. Stevenson was called as pastor for one fourth his time, and was installed Nov. 23rd, 1893, and still continues as the pastor. Soon after the organization the people built a neat house of worship.
Ebenezer Church was situated about three miles west of the present city of Rock Hill, in the present village of Ebenezer. It was just across the road from the present Presbyterian Church by that name. It is probable that there was some sort of an organization there in the way of an A. R. P. church during the Revolutionary War, as the Presbyterians date their organization from 1786, and the A. R. Church occupied the place first. It was made up originally of Burghers, Antiburghers, some Presbyterians, and some Covenanters, and was said to have been the only church in all the surrounding country. The wish to introduce the Watts Hymns by a part of the congregation caused trouble, which ended in the formation of a Presbyterian Church and some of the members also joined Tirzah Church.
Dr. Thos. Clark preached there some time as stated supply.
Rev. William Blackstocks was installed May 8th, 1794, in connection with Neely’s Creek, and demitted [sic] his charge in 1804. The records also show that he was again pastor from 1811 until July 12th, 1815. On April 3rd, 1820, Rev. Eleazer Harris was appointed stated supply at Neely’s Creek and Ebenezer, and must have continued to supply the church for a good many years Mr. Harris conducted a very successful High School at Ebenezer, which was largely patronized.
This church appears on the minutes in 1822, as having twenty families and thirty-two members, and the record says it was disorganized about 1828.
For many years previous to the organization of a church at this place, there had been occasional preaching by A. R. P. ministers at Unity, an undenominational chapel, one mile west of the place where the A. R. P. church now stands. With the building of a new railroad through York Co., a village sprang up, which was called Hickory Grove, and with the coming of this railroad came the organization of an A. R. P. church, on Dec. 6th, 1888. The church was organized by Rev. J. C. Galloway in the home of Mr. J. N. McDill, with twenty-nine members, all of them having been transferred from Smyrna. In time a large and handsome church was built. The church was supplied with preaching by Revs. J. H. Peoples, J. B. Cochran and H. R. McAulay. In the fall of 1891, it united with Smyrna in a call for the pastoral services of Rev. J. P. Knox, and he was installed in Dec. 1891 continuing pastor until May, 1899. In March, 1900, Rev. J. L. Oates was installed pastor of Hickory Grove and Smyrna and still continues as pastor. At this time it has grown to be a large and flourishing congregation.
Within a year from this the elders of this church are: J. N. McDill, Moses White, J. W. Castles, J. C. Wylie, J. N. McGill and J. R Mitchell.
The congregation of Neely’s Creek was organized about 1790. On the 8th of June, 1794, Rev. William Blackstock was settled as pastor of Steel Creek, Ebenezer and Neely’s Creek.
This relationship continued until 1804. The churches constituting the charge of Rev. Blackstock were rent by the McMullan-Dixon difficulty and Neely’s Creek, according to Rev. R. Lathan, left the Associate Reformed Church and went into the Associate Presbytery. During its connection with the Associate Church, Neely’s Creek was ministered to by Revs. William Dickson, Abraham Anderson, D. D., Thomas Ketchin, John Mushat, A. Whyte, and supplies sent occasionally from the North.
In August, 1847, Neely’s Creek was organized as an Associate Reformed Church. On the 26th of July, 1849, Rev. R. F. Taylor was ordained and installed pastor of Neely’s Creek. He served until 1851. In the fall of 1853 Rev. L. McDonald was installed as pastor for half time. Rev. McDonald continued as pastor until the fall of 1870.
At a meeting of First Presbytery on 4th Sept., 1871, the united congregations of Neely’s Creek and Union presented a call to Rev. C. B. Betts. He was installed on 3rd of Nov., 1871. This pastorate ended in the fall of 1889. After a vacancy of three years Rev. D. G. Caldwell was installed as pastor. Rev. Caldwell resigned in 1894 and Rev. Oliver Johnson was ordained and installed Oct 18, 1894. The first elders of Neely’s Creek were, Alexander Harberson, Samuel Lusk and Thos. Spencer.
They were succeeded by Thomas Wylie, John Campbell, William Campbell and Jackson Spencer. Since the organization in 1847 the following persons have been inducted into the office of ruling elders in Neely’s Creek congregation: In 1847, Thos. Boyd, John Roddy, William Wylie and Samuel Wylie. In 1849, A. Templeton Black, David Roddy and Jonathan McFadden. In 1857, Matthew S. Lynn. In 1861, David C. Roddy. In 1868, D. T. Leslie and John T. Boyd. In 1874, J. R. Patton, W. W. White and A. J. Walker.
The following constitute the eldership at the writing, 1903: Rev. Oliver Johnson, pastor. Elders, D. T. Leslie, W. White, A. J. Walker, J. T. Ferguson, T. M. Allen, W. S. Leslie, G. A. Gettys, W. S. Boyd, D. F. Leslie.
Olivet church was situated in York Co. S. C., near where the town of McConnellsville now is.
It was organized by the First Presbytery in 1843, although there was preaching there before that time. Rev. R. A. Ross, D. D., was installed pastor in 1843. Dr. Ross had charge of Olivet in connection with Sharon and Smyrna, and the joint service of installation was held at Sharon on Dec. 6th, 1843.
It seems that the church building there was for the convenience of the different denominations living in the vicinity, and many of the friends and supporters of the congregation, and who attended on Dr. Ross’ ministry were not members of the A. R. Church. Dr. Ross continued to preach there until after the Civil War. The war and its results fell very heavily on that community, and after the war the few remaining told Dr. Ross that they were obliged to let him discontinue preaching there.
The members were absorbed in the surrounding churches, and it ceased to be an A. R. church.
In July, 1895, Mr. A. S. Rogers, then a student in Erskine Seminary, was sent to Rock Hill, S. C., by the Board of Home Missions, to open a mission in that city. He found sixteen members of the A. R. P. Church there, and commenced work. Armory Hall was rented and the first service was held July 7th The attendance and outlook was encouraging from the beginning, and at a meeting of the First Presbytery, held at Clover, S. C., Sept. 30th of the same year, the Presbytery appointed a commission to organize a church there, and also appointed a committee consisting of Revs. Oliver Johnson, C. E. McDonald and Hon. D. E. Finley to co-operate with a committee of the congregation in raising funds and in building a house of worship. On Nov. 19th, 1895, Revs. J. S. Moffatt, J. T. Chalmers and elders Joseph Wylie and Matthew White organized a church of twenty-six members with W. F. Strait, M. D., R. T. Wright and J. M. Lauridge, elders, and L. Black and J. L. White deacons. At the close of the Seminary in June, 1896, Rev. A. S. Rogers, who had completed the course, and been licensed at the spring meeting, was returned to Rock Hill, and appointed to the field for a term of five years. Mr. Rogers canvassed the church for funds to erect a building, and was successful in raising them. The present beautiful and commodious building was begun in 1897, and completed in 1898. The building is of pressed brick, with granite trimmings, and fine architectural effects. It has had a steady and rapid growth, and now has about one hundred and fifty members, and bids fair to become one of our strongest churches. On Dec. 19th, 1901, Rev. A. S. Rogers was installed as pastor, and continues until the present time.
Sharon church is situated in the western part of York Co., S. C., and was organized by Rev. James Rogers in the summer of 1796. Its origin is due to the introduction of Watt’s Hymns into Bullock’s Creek and Beersheba Presbyterian churches. Owing to this innovation, a number of families left these churches and were organized into an Associate Reformed Church. In the winter of 1796 Sharon united with Bethany in the northern part of the county and Carmel in the southerın part of the county in a call to Rev. William Dixon, recently came from Scotland. This call he accepted, and he was ordained and installed at Sharon June 5th, 1797.
About 1804 or 1805 Mr. Dixon, the pastor of Sharon, and Rev. Peter McMullen, withdrew from the Associate Reformed Church, owing to the position of the Church on frequent communion, and the dispensing with days of tasting and thanksgiving in connection with the sacrament, and Sharon went with its pastor.
Very soon after, probably in 1805, this church and some others were organized into the Associate Presbytery of the Carolinas. Mr. Dixon continued to be pastor until 1824 or 1825.
In 1826 it united with Tirzah and Carmel in a call to Rev. Wm. M. McElwee, which he accepted, and was installed in April, 1827, and continued pastor until 1832.
During the latter part of his pastorate the church was much vexed and torn by the controversy on slavery and Free Masonry, and Mr. McElwee, feeling that his ministry here was unfruitful, demitted his charges and removed to Pennsylvania, and became a minister of the U. P. Church, where he died a few years ago.
About 1835 Sharon was again organized into an A R. Church, tradition says by Rev. Thos. Ketchin, who had recently come over from the Associate Church. The church was supplied with preaching by various ministers until Rev. R. A. Ross was called by Sharon, in connection with Smyrna and Olivet, both in York Co. He was ordained and installed in Dec. 1843, and continued pastor until 1893. This was a long and remarkable pastorate of fifty years.
The Synod met with this church in Oct. 1893, and joined with the congregation in celebrating with appropriate exercises the semi-centennial of this long and useful pastorate. Dr. Ross was too feeble to attend these exercises, and died shortly after, on Nov. 25th, 1893.
The congregation was vacant until 1896, being supplied principally by Revs. W. S. Castles, W. A. M. Plaxco and J. E. Johnson On July 23rd, 1896, Rev. J. S. Grier was installed, and continues pastor at the present time. The session of Sharon, at the present time, consists of Samuel Blair, J. P. Blair, R. A. Gilfillan, W. M. Ross, W. S. Love, R H. G. Caldwell, S. A. Mitchell, J. H. Shever, S. A. Gilfillan, W. A. Maloney and J. L. Rainey.
About the year 1832, William McGill, Esq., removed from Crowder’s Creek, York Co., to King’s Creek, York Co. About the same time three brothers, by the name of Black, moved into the same neighborhood from Diamond Hill, Abbeville Co.
Mr. McGill had been a member of the Associate Church of Bethany, S. C., and the Blacks of the Associate Reformed Church at Diamond Hill, and they agreed to join forces and procure some preaching. At the request of these men, Rev. Thos. Ketchin preached at the home of Mr. McGill some time in the year 1834. This was the first movement toward the organization of a church. Soon afterwards, seven families living in the northern outskirts of Sharon congregation, united with Mr. McGill and the Blacks, and built a stand near where the present church stands, probably in 1834, and there preaching was held.
In the year 1835, Mr. John Darwin, a generous member of the Presbyterian church, donated the land or which the present church now stands, and a small building was erected. During the early years of this church it was supplied with preaching by Revs. Thos Ketchin, Eleazer Harris, John and David Pressly, Joseph McCreary, L. C. Martin, R. C. Grier and J. H. Boyce.
It was formally organized in 1843, by Rev. R. C. Grier.
In the same year it united with Sharon and Olivet, in a call to Rev. R. A. Ross, and he was installed in Dec. 1843. In 1852, Dr. Ross resigned, and soon after Smyrna united with Sardis, in Union Co., in a call to Rev. J. R. Castles, and he was installed in 1854. During the pastorate of Mr. Castles, a larger and more substantial building was erected. Mr. Castles demitted his charge in 1862, on account of ill health, demitted this charge in 1868, and removed to Arkansas by Revs. Robt. Lathan and R. A. Ross.
In 1863, Rev. Monroe Oates was installed, and demitted this charge in 1868, and removed to Arkansas.
From 1868 to 1871, the church was supplied chiefly by Rev. Robt. Lathan and R. A. Ross.
In 1871, Rev. R. A. Ross was installed for half his time, and continued pastor until the latter part of 1890 or early part of 1891, when on account of age and infirmity, he resigned.
In 1873, the church was burned by an incendiary, and another church was built on the same site. During the pastorate of Dr. Ross, Hickory Grove congregation was organized out of a part of the membership of Smyrna.
Rev. J. P. Knox was installed pastor of Smyrna and Hickory Grove Dec. 3rd, 1891, and continued pastor until May, 1899. Rev. J. L. Oates was installed over the united charge of Smyrna and Hickory Grove in March, 1900, and still continues the pastor.
During the lifetime of Smyrna, it has had a steady growth; its members are liberal and well grounded in the faith, and while it has lost a great many by removals at various times, yet it still ranks as one of the best country congregations in the Synod.
The elders at Smyrna at present are: Thomas McGill, R. M. Plaxco, J. B. Whitesides, W. M. Whitesides, J. A. McGill, J. E. Castles, and J. W. Quinn.
Some time previous to 1800, there was a preaching station at Joseph Miller’s, several miles west of where Tirzah church now stands, and there was also an A. R. church at Ebenezer. The attempt to introduce Watts Hymns into the Ebenezer church caused trouble, and those members in Ebenezer who would have nothing but the Psalms, united with these Associates who worshipped at Joseph Miller’s, and organized Tirzah congregation, and located it seven miles south east of Yorkville, on the Yorkville and Landsford road.
The organization was effected about 1803. Rev. Peter McMullen is said to have presided at the organization, and the first elders were: Joseph Miller, Thos. Barron, Samuel Barron and Charles McElwain.
The first church was built of logs. Revs. Wm. Dixon, Eleazer Harris, John Cree, and Isaac Grier, preached as supplies at Tirzah. In 1827, Rev. Wm. M. McElwee was installed pastor of Tirzah and Sharon, and continued until 1832, when he demitted his charge and went North on account of the slavery question. A new house of worship was erected in 1827.
Rev. Thos. Ketchin preached there after Mr. McElwee left. It continued to be an Associate Church until 1834, at which time it came into the A. R. Presbytery of thie Carolinas and Georgia.
Rev. Laughlin McDonald was pastor from Dec. 1839, until Oct., 1851. Rev. S. C. Millen was pastor from 1852 until 1855. In 1857, the church was moved to a more central location, two miles north of where it stood, and was located where the present church now stands.
In 1859, Rev. Robert Lathan, D. D., was installed over Tirzah and Yorkville, and continued until 1884, when he was called to a chair in Erskine Seminary. Rev. J. C. Galloway, D. D., was installed in 1884, and demitted [sic] his charge in 1893. Rev. B. H. Grier was installed in 1894, and resigned in 1901.
A few years ago, a beautiful and modern church building was erected, which is an ornament to the community. Tirzah, like many of our country congregations, has been very much weakened by the removal of many of its members to the towns and cities, but it is still a hale and vigorous congregation. Since Rev. B. H. Grier left, in 1901, this church has been vacant.
The church at Yorkville, S. C., was organized by the First Presbytery in the fall of 1853.
Soon after its organization Rev. S. C. Millen, D. D., was installed pastor, and continued his ministry until 1857, when he resigned. For two years the congregation remained vacant. In the spring of 1859 Rev. Robert Lathan assumed the pastoral charge, and continued until the fall of 1884, when he was called to a chair in Erskine Theological Seminary. Rev. J. C. Galloway, D. D., was called in Sept., 1885, and remained until Dec. 31st, 1893, when he resigned to take charge of Gastonia and Pisgah in North Carolina. The church was vacant until August 17th, 1894, when Rev. B. H. Grier was in stalled, and he remained until July 3rd, 1901, when he removed to Ora, in Laurens Co., S. C
Since that time the church has been vacant for two years, but Rev. W. C. Ewart has recently accepted a call there and will soon be installed.