Although this beautiful old brick church now stands alone on the old King's highway among the oaks and pines of the forest, it was once the center of a busy and prosperous community. North and south along the Santee River were rich rice plantations, shipping rice in large casks from their wharves to Charleston to be sent on to England, Holland, Portugal or France. Carolina rice became famous allover the world as being the very finest.

The prosperity of the planters is reflected in the beauty and proportions of the St. James Parish Church. The body of the church is built of brick imported from England but the columns of the portico pews are made of hand-pegged cypress. The flagstone floor has withstood the ravages of two wars. The vaulted ceiling still retains the original plaster work.

Changes have been made over the years. Originally, the building had identical portico. However, in 1847 the one to the rear of the building was enclosed to form a vestry room. A door opens on the west, entering a long aisle leading to a window in the east. This was the window of the original chancel. The church was ransacked during the civil war and the chancel destroyed by northern soldiers. The church was closed until it could be repaired and the chancel was evidently changed to the north side at that time.

At the request of the French Huguenots to be incorporated into the Church of England, St. James Santee was established as a parish on April 9, 1706. It was the second parish of the province, the first being St. Philip's of Charleston. The present building was completed in 1768 and was the fourth to be built in the parish. The first of the four was just a few miles up the Santee river at Jamestown, a settlement formed by the Huguenots after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, Jamestown did not prosper and as the populations moved so did the church in order to be more convenient to the homes of most of the people.

During this time, English settlers were filtering the back country of the Santee area from Charleston and soon become active members of this group. For a time, there was a language problem. The French were allowed to use the Durel translation of the English Prayer book, but asked that there sermons be given in French since the older communicants could not speak English. Since their earliest ministers were French, this presented no problem at first. Later the English complained because they could not understand French. For a time, sermons were given in English and French.

However, as the younger generations of the Huguenots integrated themselves into the colony and as marriages united the French and English families, the problem took care of itself.


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