History of First Presbyterian Beaufort

First Presbyterian Beaufort historical markerPresbyterians came early to Beaufort's shores–perhaps as early as 1562, when Jean Ribaut scouted the area for the resettlement of persecuted French Protestants–efforts which lead to the establishment of several Huguenot communities along our coast.  Typical of the times, Beaufort saw prolonged conflict among the English, French, and Spanish colonial expeditions. 

In November 1684 Lord Cardross and about fifty Scottish Covenanters settled in a Beaufort neighborhood now called Spanish Point and founded the then-southernmost outpost, virtually on the doorstep of the Spanish forces to the south.  The Spanish soon overran them, and the Scots retreated north to Charlestowne. Not until 1743 did the area enjoy a permanent Presbyterian presence when in Prince William's Parish, twenty miles northwest of the original English settlement, a congregation was established at Stoney Creek.
Although there is some evidence of sporadic Presbyterian activity within the Beaufort community throughout the nineteenth century, documentation is sparse and inconsistent.  The Stony Creek fellowship represented the only enduring bastion of Presbyterian worship anywhere near Beaufort until the early twentieth century.
The Session of First Presbyterian Church first met on May 19, 1912 at the home of Benjamin Burr.  Dr. N. Keff Smith soon began a regular supply ministry to Beaufort from the Bethel Congregation in nearby Walterboro, and by March 1913 $1,725 had been raised for a building fund. However, financial problems caused the return of these pledges in 1915 and, for like reason, Dr. Smith requested to be relieved of his call later in the same year.
The congregation continued to meet in various public and private accommodations, however, and in October 1921 a contract for purchase of the property where the church now stands was sealed.  In 1925, as fund raising continued, Francis B. Mayes, still two years from ordination, began a supply ministry to the church.  It was under his guidance, and with the individual planning and labor of many members, that a building was erected by 1929. Despite more financial setbacks (including a bank failure and the bankruptcy of the contractor's bonding company), the 78 members finally saw the culmination of their sanctuary's furnishing.  Mr. Mayes continued his able ministry to the First Presbyterian congregation (except for his years of conscripted chaplaincy during the war) until May 1949.

By early 1946 membership had increased almost sixty percent to 123, and by 1959 to 206, another sixty percent.  The early sixties saw completion of a two-story education building and a new manse.  By happy chance, the latter was located no more than a stone's throw from the Scottish Covenanters' 1684 encampment.  The manse was sold in 1987 or 1988.
In 1983 the sanctuary was remodeled to enlarge the chancel area, enclose the front porch to make the vestibule, and a new porch and steps were added. 
In recent years, as our membership passed 500, another historical link was forged when we assumed the care of the old Stony Creek Chapel at McPhersonville.  Another cycle of church growth was marked when Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery asked for 100 First Presbyterian Church members to become the founding families of the Sea Island Presbyterian Church, whose new home was completed in late 1991.
In 1995-1996 the educational building was remodeled and the office complex was added.  The sanctuary was renovated again in 2000-2001 to enlarge the old office wing to make room for a parlor and choir room on the ground floor.
First Presbyterian continues a tradition of worshipping and caring for Stony Creek Presbyterian Church, and has added new services at River Oaks Community. 
   March 2019