Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church

This church and cemetery is located 5 miles east of Clinton near Newberry line in Laurens County, South Carolina. This church was organized in 1764.


Duncan Creek Church is situated in Laurens district, on the waters of Enoree, a branch of Broad river. It was principally composed of emigrants from Ireland and Pennsylvania with their descendants, some of whom settled here as early as 1758. The original settlement was made three years before Braddock’s defeat, by Mr. John Duncan, of Aberdeen, Scotland, who first emigrated to Pennsylvania, and thence removed here and settled on the creek which bears his name. He was the highest settler by ten miles in the fork between the Saluda and Broad rivers, and the only man at this time who had either negro, wagon, or still, in this part of the world. His nearest neighbor was Jacob Pennington, living on the Enoree below.

About the year 1763 or 1764, Messrs. Joseph Adair, Thomas Erving, William Hanna, Andrew McCrory and his brothers, united in building a house of worship. In 1766 they were visited by Mr. Duffield, Mr. Fuller, and Mr. Campbell. Mr. Duffield was probably George D.D., who was licensed by the presbytery of Newcastle in 1756, and was sent by the synod of New York to Carolina in 1765, and was afterwards settled in Carlisle and Philadelphia. Campbell was James Campbell, who joined the South Carolina presbytery in 1758, and became pastor of the Bluff church in North Carolina. Afterwards they were visited by Rev. Hezekiah Balch, licensed by the presbytery of Newcastle in 1768-9. Mr. Balch advised the people to choose elders. This was done. Andrew McCrory, Joseph Adair, and Robert Hanna, were elected, and ordained by Mr. Balch. James Pollock and Thomas Logan having come into the bounds of the congregation a short time before, the former from Pennsylvania and the latter from Ireland, on producing certificates of their membership and ordination, were chosen elders of this church. The communion was also administered, the number of communicants at that time being about sixty.

The manners and dress of these first settlers must have been quite primitive. Their dress was as follows: hunting shirt, leggings, and moccasins, adorned with buckles and beads. The hair was clubbed and tied up in a little deerskin or silk bag. At another time they wore their hair cued and rolled up in a black ribbon or bear’s-gut dressed and dyed black. Again it became a custom to shave off the hair and wear white linen caps with ruffles around. The women’s dress was long-eared caps, Virginia bonnets, short gowns, long gowns, stays, stomachers, quilted petticoats, high wooded heels. There was little market for produce except to the new settlers. Trade was carried on in skins and furs. Deer and beaver skins were a lawful tender in payment of debts. Winter skins were 18 pence sterling, Indian-dressed skins $1 per pound.

Testimony of James Duncan, son of the first settler

Source: “History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina”
George Howe, 1965, Volume I, pp 335-336


National Register Properties in South Carolina

South Carolina Department of Archives and History
National Register Properties in South Carolina
Duncan’s Creek Presbyterian Church

(Old Rock Church) Duncan’s Creek Presbyterian Church, built ca. 1842, is one of the earliest examples of rural church architecture in the upper part of the state. Its unadorned simplicity and solid stone construction are characteristic of buildings erected by early Scotch-Irish settlers in the Southeast. A simple rectangular building constructed of irregular stones, the church stands as a reminder of mid-nineteenth century rustic church architecture. The gable end is the main entrance façade and is centered with double doors flanked by two narrow windows at a slightly higher level. Its simplicity, uncomplicated symmetry, and fine stone masonry are features that make it a valuable record of upcountry rural architecture. One of the few changes made in the church was the removal of the original rear slave gallery in the first third of the twentieth century. Many churches in Laurens County are “daughters” of this old church as members of its congregation left to establish new churches in neighboring areas. The church is situated on a wooded site and is flanked by a cemetery containing carved stone markers of both Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers. The earliest grave dates from 1776. Listed in the National Register November 15, 1973.

County’s oldest church recognized for resilience, ministry

Very interesting blog post, with photos

photo credit – Gerald McCrary

The following served in the Revolutionary War, and their names are listed on a marble tablet, placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution, on the front inside wall of Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church:

Joseph Adair, Sr.
Joseph Adair, Jr.
James Adair, Sr.
Leonard Beasley
J. Bell
John Copeland
John Craig
James Craig
Robert Hanna
Thomas Holland
Robert Long
Thomas Logan
Thomas McCrary
Joseph Ramage
William Underwood
George Young, Sr.

Mr. Adair

Mr. Adair shares a brief history of Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church with schoolchildren in Clinton, South Carolina on a tour with the South Carolina Genealogical Society – October 12, 2018

Historical excerpts

The following historical excerpts were taken from the South Carolina
Magazine of Ancestral Research:

The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Volume XII
Fall 1984 Number 4

While the early records of Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church (near Clinton, SC) were destroyed by fire in 1844, a record of the first elders was kept and recorded in the book beginning in 1844 and going through 1891. A copy of this record may be seen at the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, Montreat, NC, as well as a copy kept by the church itself. Only the names of the earliest elders are published here.

These were the first Elders ordained by Revd. Hezekiah Balch, before or during the war:

Andrew McCrery
Joseph Adair Sen
Thomas Ewing
Robert Hanna – ordained in Pennsylvania
James Polock
Thomas Logan – ordained in Ireland
These six, first bench of Elders

These six Elders were ordained in October 1788, by Revd. Joseph Alexander.

Thomas McCrery
Joseph Greer
Samuel Laird
Robert Long
James Craig
Robert Bell

From The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol 13

Hazel Crowson Sellers of North Carolina in her book on Old South Carolina Churches says that John Duncan was joined by his friends Joseph Adair and Robert Long, both of whom were Revolutionary War soldiers, and that Hezekiah Balch held services at Duncan Creek as early as 1752. Joseph Palmer, a minister, is also said to have been a friend of John Duncan, and was so popular that when he went to Indiana in 1828 a number of the old friends followed him.

The present building at Duncan Creek is said to be the third erected on the lot, having been built in 1842, and the earliest known grave is that of Susannah Long, dated in 1776. A number of soldiers went from this church to fight in the patriot’s cause.


Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church Facebook Page
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SC Picture Project


McGrew, G. E. “Epitaphs from Duncan’s Creek Presbyterian Church.” The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, vol. 49, no. 4, South Carolina Historical Society, 1948, pp. 225–30, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27571985.

From The Laurens Advertiser
The Laurens advertiser. (Laurens, S.C.) 1885-1973, August 16, 1905
Money raised to Build Church Yard Fence.
Bad weather But a Pleasant Day
A Gathering of the Old and the Young.

Dr. W. S. Bean, who was at one time pastor of the Church, made an address in which he gave a brief history of the Church.
Excerpted, from the speech given at the event –


About 1763-64 Joseph Adair, Thomas Erving, William McCrorv and his brothers united in building a house of worship. In 1766 they were visited by Mr. Dufneld, Mr. Fuller and Mr. Campbell. Mr. Dufneld was from New Jersey, sent by Synod of New York to Carolina in 1765 and afterward settled in Carlisle and Philadelphia. Campbell afterwards went to Bluff Church, North Carolina. Afterwards, Duncan’s Creek was visited by Rev. Hezckiak Balch.

Mr. Balch advised the people to choose elders, Andrew McCrory, Joseph Adair and Robert Hanna were elected and ordained by Mr. Balch. James Pollock and Thomas Logan, having come recently into the congregation, Pollock from Pennsylvania and Logan from Ireland, both having been ordained elders before, were also elected and installed as elders at Duncan’s Creek. There were about sixty communicants. Mr.Hezekiah Balch, who thus may be called the first organizer of the Church, was not its pastor. He was from Harford County. Maryland, and grew up in North Carolina, where his father moved when he was a child. He graduated at Princeton College in 1762, and labored as evangelist, south of Hanover Presbytery.

In May 1771, he with six others was set off by the Presbytery of New York and Philadelphia as the Presbytery of Orange. This was the mother Presbytery of the Synod of South Carolina, from which South Carolina Presbytery was set off in 1784, the boundary line being drawn between the Presbyteries, along the line between the States of North and South Carolina.

—–To return to Duncan’s Creek.

The Church was served for ten years from 1770-1780 by James Cresswell, John Harris and Joseph Alexander, probably to the close of the Revolution. There was a considerable stir in the Church in 1788 when Mr. John Springer from Georgia undertook using one of Watt’s Psalms instead of the old Rouse’s version. Mr. Springer was teaching at Ninety Six. A Mr. McCarra, pretending to be a Presbyterian minister from Scotland, came among the Churches in this section and using Erskine sermons, gained much applause for awhile. But he lived a loose life, was detected as preaching other men’s sermons and finally the Churches were closed against him.

Duncan’s Creek lost a good many members at this time; some went to the A. R. P. Churches on account of the Psalm trouble, others went to the Baptists. In 1788, Rev. James Templeton served the church for five ?? was held here in 1788 and the Mr.McCarra who had troubled the church was charged with disorderly conduct and interdicted from preaching. At this meeting, Mr. John Newton was ordained by the Presbytery of South Carolina as Pastor of the Bath-Salem Church (afterwards Lexington church Georgia) and be was the first Pastor ordained over any Presbyterian congregation. Mr. Newton lived at Lexington, Ga., where he died and is buried. Theological Seminary was established there about 1830. So Duncan’s Creek was the ordination place for the first Presbyterian pastor in Georgia, and he became the father of the Theological Seminary at Columbia.

In 1789 Mr. Humphrey Hunter visited Duncan’s Creek Church and preached for the people and also at Little River.

In April, 1790, these two churches presented a call to Presbytery for his services, but Mr. Hunter having used some other hymns besides the Rouse’s version the congregation cooled off toward him, and he declined to call. After this the church was supplied by James Templeton. Messrs Williamson, Hunter, Wilson, A. Brown and John B. Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy was called to the pastorate and was ordained by Presbytery at Duncan’s Creek church 1786. Mr. Kennedy claimed the liberty of using cither version of the Psalms in worship, but this gave offence to some who were more zealous than discreet, and he omitted the Old Version altogether, and this gave offence to a number who left the church altogether.

These strifes and the death of the old elders diminished the church very much by the close of the century. Rev. John B. Kennedy continued in charge of Little River and Duncan’s Creek. Two of the early settlers and elders in this section at that time were Col. David Glenn, an Irish immigrant who came from Savannah to South Carolina and settled on the Enoree, at Glenn’s Mills. Col. Glenn fought at Cowpens with Morgan, at Eutaw Springs and at the siege of Ninety Six. He was nearly captured by “Bloody Bill Cunningham,” but escaped into the cane brakes of the Enoree, He was the father of Dr. George Glenn, an elder of the Aveliegh Church Newberry.

John Boyce was a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian who was in the battles at Blackstock, King’s Mountain, Cowpens and Eutaw. He was a Presbyterian elder at McClintocks Church on Gilders Creek. Duncan’s Creek was served down to 1838 by Rev. Arthur Mooney, A. J.Pearson, Wm. Quillian, J. B. Kennedy and John McKittrick.

About 1838 the church was in a very feeble state and had almost ceased to exist. Many of the old members had removed to other places. Some had drifted into other churches, some had died and some were careless as to prosperity of the church, elder George McCreery was old and frail but living at that time. The church was irregularly ministered to by Rev. John B. Kennedy.

In 1844 Rev. Edwin Cater gave the church one-fourth of his time and during his ministry the church was revived and a good many were added to its membership. Mr. Cater ordained as elders Mr. Robert Clintock and Dr. Thomas Wier. Rev. S. B. Lewser succeeded Mr. Cater, and preached until the fall meeting of Presbytery until 1849. Rev. E. F. Hyde then served the church for one-half his time. In 1850 he was giving one-fourth of his time to the church and the membership varied from 27 to 43.

Here Dr. Howe’s History breaks off, and I know not where to get the continuation. But doubtless many of the older people will remember the state of the Church from that time on. The present stone building was built be tween 1830-32. And to-day the old Church still stands, deserted by its former neighbors, lonely under its majestic tress, keeping guard over the numerous graves of those old pioneers and their descendants, who first penetrated what was then a wilderness and took possession of the new land.

Many stormy years have passed over the old Church. Indians were a terror and a danger for many years, then came the beginnings of the Revolutionary troubles and the fierce and bloody feuds between the Tories and the rebel factions.

Even after the close of the Revolutionary War there were some disorders and disturbances, arising from the bitter passions that had been stirred. Isaac Watts and his new version of the Psalms stirred up another strife, and the Church was often rent and torn by the struggle between the young preacher who wanted Watts, and the old Scotch-Irish element who preferred Rouse.

Wandering preachers came along who preached fine sermons which they had stolen out of other men’s books and expressed pious and moral sentiments which they did not illustrate in by their lives.

Elders were known as brewing the finest whiskey in this section, and no doubt many of those early preachers were asked to take a toddy when they came in from a long ride.

Here and there the slavery question came in for discussion and one minister disagreeing with the Presbytery, resigned his Churches and went to the free State of Ohio.

Sometimes the Church languished and seemed ready to die; and then again it would revive and flourish for a while. Other Churches organized later, like Clinton, Bethany and Shady Grove drew away members, and some drifted into Baptist and Methodist Churches.

The Civil War no doubt impoverished many who had been in comfortable circumstances, and it swept away many of the old landmarks all over the South. Ku-klux times succeeded, and perhaps some of our old members may know those who left the State and remained for years, or settled down in Arkansas and Texas. We may well hope those stormy years have passed away, that no more war shall call away our young men and desolate our homes.

Could those old fathers of the Church rise from their graves they would rub their eyes. They would be astonished to hear that slavery had been over forty years, that Rouse was no longer sung in Duncan’s Creek or Watts either, and that the “kist of whistles” had been brought in to help out the music. They would wonder why elders no longer distilled whiskey and preachers no longer took toddy on their personal calls.

But after all, they would find many things the same. Friendship and neighborly kindness, love and marriage, sickness and death, sin and suffering, would he still part of the experience of all lives. Still for us who are “pilgrims and strangers heroes all our fathers were,” there remains the same old Gospel, the same hope of forgiveness, and the same prayer would rise from our lips today as one household of faith.

“O, God of Bethel, by whose hand
Thy people still are fed,
Who through this weary pilgrimage,
Hast all our fathers led.
Our vows, our prayers, we now present
Before thy throne of grace;
God of our fathers be the God
Of their succeeding race.”