Historic Cedar Creek church to close May 6

 

Cedar Creek Methodist Church to be closed after May 6 service. | Darlene Embleton

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – After 274 years, the doors of the historic Cedar Creek Methodist Church on Cedar Creek Road will close on Sunday during a special ceremony. In attendance will be the few remaining and some former members including Margaret Gardner, her sister Julianne Hendricks and Sandra Jones. The three women who grew up attending the church together with their families – the Eargles, the DuBards and the Howells as well as many friends of the church.

Gardner, 96, who attended the church until a few years ago, said her mother played the piano there every Sunday.

“That’s where she taught me to play,” Gardner said, recalling the joys and telling the stories of growing up with family and friends in the tight knit church.

Located in the Cedar Creek community in the edge of Fairfield County, the church is on the historic registry and is rich with various versions of its founding. One version is that it was originally founded on the banks of the Saluda River and later moved to the Cedar Creek area where, in 1762, land for a second building was purchased from two Indians. There, under the pastorate of Rev. John Nicholas Martin, a long building was erected about 16 by 30 feet, with a dirt floor.

Another version is that it was moved to the current location on land granted by the King of England to Pastor William Dubbart. It was said at one time to have Presbyterian leanings. But Ben Hornsby, a historian and pianist for the church’s sister church, Bethel Methodist Church in Fairfield County, says he finds no documentation of a Presbyterian affiliation in the church’s DNA.

For years, life for the Eargles, Dubards, Fridys, Levers, Howells and other Cedar Creek families centered around the charming, white country church. But by the mid-1900s, many families with children were moving their memberships from quaint one-room country churches, to more modern United Methodist Church facilities featuring worship bands, organized youth events and social centers with basketball courts.  By 2011, the church’s membership had dwindled to a handful as most of the members had died or moved away.

“It was about then that we became aware that our church and the property it sat on was not ours, but belonged to the S. C. United Methodist Conference,” Jones said. Still, the few remaining members, including Margaret Gardner, then in her 90s, fought to keep the doors open, paying the apportionments and maintaining the building and cemetery as best they could.

“My father, Joseph DuBard, always looked after the church and even left a sum of money in his will for the church’s upkeep after he was gone,” Jones said. “While that money was part of close to $100,000 the church eventually turned over to the Conference, the effort to maintain the church was carried on by those who didn’t want it declared closed.”

On June 12, 2015, Jones wrote to The Voice, asking for help in fighting for the preservation of the historic church.

“Time is of the essence,” she wrote, “as members with ties to the church are dying out.”

While Bill DuBard and his wife Margaret moved their membership years ago, they still live in Cedar Creek and support the maintenance of the Cedar Creek church.

“It’s a shame,” Bill DuBard said, “that the church has just dried up. There isn’t any indoor plumbing and the air conditioning unit was vandalized for its copper piping years ago.”

In June of 2017, the Conference dealt the final blow, voting to close the church for good. While the last members, as well as their descendants, are not comfortable with the closing, they accept it. Their worry now is what will become of it? Who will pay for the upkeep? Will the Conference sell the property? The questions are many, Jones said.

Both DuBards hope it can be maintained as a benefit to the community. Margaret DuBard said the boards of the Blythewood and Upper Fairfield County Historical Societies are supportive of preserving the church as well as the cemetery.

“I would love to see it used as a wedding venue or for gospel music events,” Margaret DuBard said.

Rev. Cathy Jamison, a former pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Blythewood and the current Columbia District Superintendent and Secretary to the Cabinet of the S.C. United Methodist Conference, confirmed that the fate of the church and property are not known at this time. But she said the funds handed over to the Conference are earmarked for the upkeep of the cemetery and cannot be used for anything else.

She also said the resolution affirmed by the Annual Conference in June 2017 includes a clause recommending the property be preserved because of its historical significance.

“So it’s up to the Conference trustees, who have the responsibility for all Conference properties in South Carolina, to decide the fate of the property,” Jamison said. “While I really can’t comment on things I don’t have power over, I can make recommendations. Unfortunately there’s not a stockpile of money for the preservation of the building so that would have to be a community fundraising effort. The plan for the future of the property is evolving,” Jamison said.

The ceremony for the closing of the church will be held at the church at 1209 Cedar Creek Road on Sunday, May 6, at 4 p.m. Leading the service in the community landmark will be the current pastor of the Fairfield Circuit, Rev. Alice Deal.

Those interested in the preservation of the church property can call Bill DuBard at 754-0710.


Barbara Ball contributed to this story.

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