Allison Creek Presbyterian Church
Renovated Sanctuary About the Turn of the 20th Century
The History of Allison Creek Presbyterian Church
Allison Creek Church had a smooth beginning, but has had a rugged existence. It has been yoked with three different churches and was considered for closing at least twice. The Minutes of the Session state that it was ﬁrst yoked with Beth Shiloh Presbyterian Church. On December 5, 1868, they jointly issued a call to Rev. W.W. Carothers. In 1941, Allison Creek was yoked with Bethel and Bethel Chapel with Dr. Tilden Sherer as pastor. From 1950 until 1959, it was joined with Northminster Presbyterian Church of Rock Hill.
Allison Creek began with a petition to Bethel Presbytery in the fall of 1853 asking for the organization of a new church several miles north of the Ebenezer Church. A committee of Rev. J. M. H. Adams and ruling Elders F.H. Simril and WP. McFadden organized the church at a meeting of Bethel Presbytery on February 4th, 1854. The Rev. A. M. Watson of Indian Presbytery was invited to sit as a corresponding member. The church, located on a wooded hill, was named for the nearby stream.
Fifteen charter members came from Ebenezer and Bethel Presbyterian churches. From Ebenezer came Augustine Davidson Choate and his wife, Nancy; William Choate and his wife, Rachel; James Simril and his wife, Violet; Joseph Douglass and his wife, Narcissa; Ezekiel Fewell and his wife, Jane; Hugh Herron Simril and his wife, Nancy Partlow. From the lower end of the Bethel congregation, Allison Creek added William Barry Allison, his wife, Mary Susan Currence Allison, and James L. Wright.
Augustine Davidson Choate was born on February 25, 1798 in York County. He died July 2, 1890 and is buried in the Allison Creek Cemetery. His first wife was Dorcas Alexander Garrison. She was the mother of 12 children. His second wife was Nancy Horsley, who is buried by him in Allison Creek cemetery. Choate was a member and ruling elder at the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church. He became a ruling elder at the beginning and held that office until his death in 1890 at the age of 93. He gave seven sons and ﬁve sons-in-law to the Confederate Army. Three of his sons and one son-in-law lost their lives in Virginia during the Civil War.
William Barry Allison was born January 28, 1816, in the Beersheba section of York County. He was the son of Hugh Allison III and Violet Barry. He was a great-grandson of Hugh Allison, Sr., who was born in Scotland in 1714; and came to America on September 13, 1736. William Barry Allison bought a plantation on the headwaters of Little Allison Creek in 1845, and married Mary Susan Currence on October 6, 1846.
William B. Allison volunteered for service with the Confederate States Army in 1861 and served as Lieutenant Colonel with the 18th South Carolina Volunteers. He took part in campaigns in Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and was in heavy ﬁghting around Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia until the surrender in April 1865. Following the war, Colonel Allison returned to his farm and was known throughout the county for his work as a surveyor.
Mary Susan Currence was the daughter of Hugh Currence and Susan Durham. She was born July 23, 1829 and was active in the church until her death. The land upon which Allison Creek Church was erected was given by Mrs. Allison’s brother, John D. Currence, and was a part of the tract on which he lived.
There were ten children born to Colonel Allison and his wife, all of whom were at one time members of Allison Creek Church. One son, William Barry Allison, Jr., was ordained for the ministry. Colonel Allison died November 13, 1896, and is buried in the church cemetery. He served as Clerk of Session from 1857 until 1894. Mrs. Allison died April 4, 1902 and is buried in Allison Creek Cemetery.
The minutes of the Session state that there were four original elders and three deacons. The elders were A.S. Choate, James Simril, Ezelkiel Fewell, and W.B. Allison. Choate and Simril had been elders at Ebenezer and were only installed. Fewell and Allison were ordained and installed. The deacons were James L. Wright, who had been a deacon at Bethel, and Hugh Simril and William Choate from Ebenezer, who were ordained.
The church began in a new building. The original wood-paneled sanctuary and benches continue to be used today. The dedication sermon, the ﬁrst to be preached in the new building, was by the Rev. J. M. H. Adams of Yorkville from the text, Zechariah 6:13, “Even shall he build the temple.”
As with most Presbyterian churches, a school was built near the church in a grove of trees near the present Highway 274. On August 20, 1860, there is note of a day of fasting and prayer in which 20 members were added.
In the 1850’s, John R. Schroh of York, the ﬁrst commercial photographer in America, took several photos of Allison Creek. These pictures have been displayed in museums in the county.
Discipline in the Early Church
Between 1854 and 1871, there were 14 African-American members of Allison Creek. On October 5, 1856, the following was entered in the records: “. . .. and also Mary Choate (colored) and Edney Currence (colored) were examined by the Session and received into the communion of the church.” On August 16, 1860’ “Polly, a servant of J. Kirkpatrick, presented a certiﬁcate from Ebenezer church and was received as a member of the church and had her children baptized.” On March 18, 1866, there is the following entry: “Martha Mason (colored) from Concord Church of the Rock Hill Circuit”. Servants of J. D. Currence and A. D. Choate joined on September 12, 1858. Session members were sent to talk with one slave because she had committed fornication. On April 6, 1862, it was discussed that she was again guilty of fornication, and she was suspended from the church. Another woman was charged with adultery and prevented from participating in communion.
The last recorded African – American member is in 1871. There is a slave cemetery adjacent to the present cemetery. Numerous graves have been recently located. Some graves have markers. Others are merely marked with a large rock. One of the last African-American members was Ester Simril, who joined by certiﬁcate on May 17, 1868 and was dismissed to Liberia, South Africa in 1871. Many former slaves in York County left after the Civil War for Liberia. They built homes there in the style they were accustomed to seeing in the South.
It was not just the African-Americans who were disciplined by the Session. Members of prominent families were not exempt from the Judgement of the Session. On January 17, 1864, a man was found guilty of unchristian conduct and not attending church. He was suspended from the church because he had not attended for ten months. He was readmitted to the church on July 21, 1867. A woman was denied communion for six months on July 7, 1880 because she was guilty of fornication.
Session members met with one gentleman to discuss his unchristian conduct of making disparaging remarks. Within a year, the man moved his letter. Another member closed a road that upset some of the Session members. He quit attending church, so they approached him on July 18, 1880 to discuss his unchristian behavior. In July of 1882, one member was charged with being drunk.
Allison Creek contributed several sons to the Confederate Army as evidenced by the crosses on the graves in the cemetery. Some returned home safely. Others were buried where they fell, and while others still are buried in the cemetery. One who served was charter member, W.B. Allison, who was serving as Clerk of Session. When he volunteered, D. L. Partlow became temporary clerk.
Despite the Civil War and the difficult time of Reconstruction, the church grew. The ﬁrst minister was Rev. J. R. Baird, who served from 1854-1866. June 13, 1861 was declared a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer as requested by the President of the Confederate States and the governor of SC. After losing the Civil War, many Southerners left and went to Brazil. Among those were Rev. J. R. Baird and his wife, who were released to Brazil on September 21, 1866.
In December of 1867, Rev. W.W. Carothers was installed as the second pastor. He served until 1870 and was succeeded by Rev. D. Harrison as stated supply until 1877. Rev. L. R. McCormick was the fourth called pastor and served until 1883. During his service, the church added 42 members through a week of evangelistic services. Rev. Roger Martin was pastor from 1885-1888. Then Rev. J. M. McLain filled the pulpit for two years. He was called in 1890 and remained there until 1900. In 1893, Allison Creek had grown to 130 members. Session records show that they were loyal in attending presbytery and supported the denomination as much as possible.
The Catawba River Dam
In 1904, Duke Power built a power dam on the Catawba River and devastated the area. Much of the area was under water. The nearby Concord Methodist Church was forced to close, and some residents were forced to move. There was an epidemic of malaria. The underbrush had not been cleared and provided a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. Membership began to decline. By 1918, the presbytery was considering closing Allison Creek Church. Forty-eight members kept the church alive.
The next pastor was Rev. W. A. Hafner who began after a short vacancy and served until 1908. One of the couples he married was Fred Cook and Sally Martin on January 29, 1908. Fred was a grandson of Hugh Simril, one of the charter members. The Rev. W. J. Wyly succeeded Rev. Hafner. He served until his death in 1911. Rev. T. P. Burgess served from 1911-1913. The Rev. F. Ray Riddle served until 1915. Then the Rev. R. A. Miller supplied the church for a year. Then, the Rev, J. Grier was called. “Jack” Cook, who served Allison Creek as an elder from 1941 until his death in 1987, was named Thomas Grier Cook
In honor of this pastor. The Rev. A. E. Spencer served until he resigned in 1919. From 1919 until 1941 Allison Creek had supply minister including Rev. R.R. Brown (1919-1920), Rev. J. B. Swann (1921—1922), the Rev. R. H. Viser (1923-1924), the Rev. G. W. Belk (1924-1927), the Rev. C. M. Richards, Rev. A. W. Shaw (1927—1940), and Rev. J. W. Conyers (1940).
In 1941, the Presbytery again wanted to close Allison Creek. Dr. Tilden Sherer, who was serving the Bethel Presbyterian Church, insisted that the church not be closed and began preaching there two Sundays each month. Although Dr. Sherer had served as a college president and could have served more well known churches, he deeply believed in the importance of country churches. While at Bethel, he began another church on Highway 49 that was named Bethel Chapel. It is now Sherer Memorial Church and is a growing church in the Presbyterian Church of America. Dr. Sherer preached at Bethel at 11:00 AM each Sunday and at Bethel Chapel at 2:00 PM. Twice a month he preached at Allison Creek at 5:00 PM. Sunday School began at 4:00 PM.
While Dr. Sherer served the three main churches of the Bethel community, these churches worked together. Bible School was held at Bethel School. School buses were sent to pick up students for Bible School. During this time these three churches were the main churches in the community. Most Bethel students were Presbyterian, but a few went to St. Paul United Methodist or into Clover.
ln 1945, a storm blew off the roof of the church and blew down the two big shade trees on each side of the church. The men of the church had the lumber from the trees milled and used it to replace the roof and build the front portico. The three original steps remain at Allison Creek.
Two are used at the entrance and one is under the shade trees near the current Family Life Center. Other than changing the two front doors to one door, this was the ﬁrst major change in the church building. During the 1940’s, electricity was added. Before that time, two large wood-burning stoves at the front of the church heated the sanctuary. Ornate kerosene lamps were between the windows.
Mabelle Cook Beamguard saved one of these from the trash. The privy was located to the right at the back of the church. It was for women and children. The men were expected to use the woods on the left side.
After Dr. Sherer left in 1950, Rev. Chevis Ligon served for one year. Allison Creek was yoked with Northminster Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill. Northminster later became a part of the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill. While Allison Creek was with Northminster, Rev. H. Bruce Fisher served from 1951-1954.
Centennial Celebration of 1954
On June 6, 1954 Allison Creek celebrated its centennial. Richard Bigger gave the steeple, which has added to the beauty of the church. At the centennial service, Rev. Arthur Martin, Executive Secretary of the Synod of South Carolina, preached at the 11:00 AM service. At the 2:00 PM service Dr. Tilden Sherer gave the history of Allison Creek Church.
On September 19, 1954 Allison Creek Church voted in favor of and declared Allison Creel Presbyterian Church a segregated church. It also voted to oppose the union of the Presbyterian Church.
The ﬁrst Educational Building was added in 1954. This addition had the ﬁrst kitchen and restrooms in the church. There was an assembly room used for youth meetings, the joint opening of Sunday School, and the Men’s Sunday School Class. Upstairs were three classrooms including the first nursery. Previously, the only classrooms were in the enclosed old balcony. One class met in the Session Room. Since the men and women sat on different sides of the church, it had not been a problem for the men to meet on one side and the women on the other for class. There were 57 members in 1954. The building cost $8,000. Bruce Fisher was the minister.
Jack Sadler was the student supply from 1954-1955. The Youth group ﬂourished during his time at Allison Creek. He was related to the Jackson Family, and they were ninety percent of the youth.
Rev. Archie Graham was the minister from 1955-1958. Rev. Walter Baker supplied from 1958-1959. Mrs. Fisher and Mrs. Graham attended the Northminster Church since they lived in Rock Hill. Rev. Graham had knowledge of music and wanted the members of Allison Creek to learn new songs and sing faster.
First Full Time Pastor
By 1959, Allison Creek was able to become a single pastorate again. The ﬁrst full-time minister was the Rev. Grant Sharp. Miles Bigger was chairman of the Pulpit Committee. On the committee were Jack Burrell, Jack Cook, Mary Bigger and Gretchen Martin. Rev. Sharp, who was 27 years old, was from Deland, Florida. He was a graduate of Davidson College and Union Seminary. He married while at Allison Creek and they named their first child Emily Allison Sharp. During the service of Rev. Sharp, the membership was 130 and the Sunday School had an average attendance of 135.
Allison Creek built a brick manse in 1959 on land donated by the Bigger Family. The cost was $25,000. Allison Creek sold the manse in 1990, allowing its ministers to invest in their own homes. The men of the church did most of the building of the manse. Brothers, Jeff and Tom Jackson, did much of the carpentry work for Allison Creek during their lifetime.
Rev. Rohert M. Lominack, ]r. served from 1963-1966. A second educational building was added in 1964-65. It was a brick wing of 48,000 square feet. It had a fellowship hall, a ladies’ parlor, nursery, kitchen, and classrooms. The cost was $40,000.
This building was dedicated on August 2, 1970. The building committee was Jack Cook, Henry Covington, Jay. L. Currence, J.J. Jackson, W. Marvin Martin, Mrs. Boyd Newman, Mrs. John K. Wood and Miss Virginia Bigger.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Allison Creek again had some unstable times. Rev. Walter Baker, a retired minister, supplied Allison Creek until Rev. Samuel M. Busch was called in 1967. He served until 1969. The Pulpit Committee that called Rev. Busch was T. B. Jackson, Marvin Martin, Carl Covington, Elsie Currence, Alexander, and Patsy Alexander. After Rev. Busch, Dr. John S. Land served as supply until Dr. F. Gault Robertson accepted the call to Allison Creek and served from 1971-1976. Rev. John K. McCallum served from 1976-1978. Rev. Tom Malone Supplied from 1978-1979.
On February 4, 1979, Allison Creek celebrated its 125th Anniversary. Rev. Guy Smith, Jr., who is married to Betsy Cook, a former member, preached at the 11:00 A.M. service. After a covered dish meal and fellowship, there was a presentation of the history of the Allison Creek in skits by the youth of the Church.
Family Lifer Center
Growth began again under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Olin M. Whitener, Jr., who served from 1979-1984. The pulpit committee for Dr. Whitener was Jack Cook, chairman, Rick Duke, Betty Montgomery, Steve Jackson, Marcella Truesdale, and Carl Covington was alternate. The membership rose from 171 to 295. Deb Jackson was hired as the first Director of Christian Education for Allison Creek. Clerk, Jack Cook represented Bethel Presbytery at the meeting of the General Assembly in Phoenix, Arizona.
In 1984, a new addition at the cost of $210,000 was added. It included a gymnasium size fellowship hall, dressing rooms with showers, new kitchen, and Sunday School rooms. Rev. Flay Riddle supplied Allison Creek in 1984 and 1985.
In the 1980’s, the Presbyterian Church in the US. joined the Northern Presbyterian Church to form the Presbyterian Church of the United States in America. Bethel Presbytery became Providence Presbytery. Allison Creek’s mother churches changed denominations. Ebenezer joined the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Denomination and Bethel joined the Presbyterian Church in America. Allison Creek remained a part of the PCUSA.
Rev. Al Masters served as minister from 1985-1991. Al came to Allison Creek from St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Taylors, South Carolina. His passion was to tell the old, old stories of the gospel in a fresh and creative way.
In 1991, Allison Creek called the ﬁrst husband and wife co-pastors of Providence Presbytery with the Revs. Anne and David Morgan who served until 1996. Allison Creek celebrated its 140th anniversary with a homecoming in 1994. During this period, Allison Creek faced some challenging issues in the community and denomination. In 1996, Rev. David Riddle was called as a supply pastor for 6 months. Rev. Alan Arnold served as Interim from 1996 until 1999. Rev. Arnold was instrumental in helping heal some divisions in the church. The church was then served by Interim pastors Larry Richards in 1999-2000 and Rev. Hutch Hutchison in 2000.
Rev. Sam McGregor presently serves Allison Creek. Sam was installed as the pastor of Allison Creek on Sunday, February 18, 2001. With his wife Kathryn and daughters Rebecca and Mary Kathryn, Sam has brought a new spirit to the Allison Creek congregation. In March 2001, James McGregor was born.
Allison Creek is a changing church and again is growing. Many new families have moved into the area and joined. In order to reach more people, the church has changed. Dress has become casual. Music and worship services are more contemporary than in the past. Fifty years ago, the prevalent family names were Bigger, Cook, and Jackson. Now there are a variety of names and few of the original family members. The only descendants of the charter members are Tommy Cook’s Family.
Music has been led by volunteers who were unpaid until recent times. On July 6, 1902, Miss Ida Ferguson resigned as organist. Miss Dasie Plaxico was elected organist and Miss Ora Plaxico was assistant organist. The organ was a pump organ. When a piano was purchased, Nancy Cook Wood got the old organ. The organ was in her home until her death. Libby Bigger played some during the early twentieth century. In the middle of the twentieth century, Mabelle Cook played the piano. After Mabelle married, Helen Cook played. Helen Cook played from 1951 until an organ was purchased in 1968. Elsie Currence played while Mary Ann Jackson Chambers directed the choir. Thereafter, the church felt it could hire a music director, Bob Balleu. A number of music directors followed over the years: Pam Foxworth, Angela Ghent, Carolyn McDaniel, Brian McSwaim, Martha MacDonald, Maggie Parker, and Glenda Massey. Cynthia Brown-Stallings helped the music program grow during her ten years at Allison Creek. The music program continues to grow. At present under the direction of Music Educator, Dena Porter, the choir and a praise band lead the congregation. While music has always been an integral part of the worship at Allison Creek, it has taken on new life with the blending of the contemporary and traditional music. The band and choir share these gifts during worship and in the community at regional Bluegrass nights hosted by Allison Creek.
Clerks of Session
The men who served as Clerk of Session served for long periods. In the last ﬁfteen years various men and women have served as Clerk.
The following is a list of Clerks as determined by the Minutes of the Session.
- 1854-1857-Ezekiel Fewell
- 1857-1894-William B. Allison
- April, 1862-September, 1865-temporary Clerk Partlow
- 1895 -? -J.A.M. L. Stewart
- 1916-1953-Walter Mason Bigger
- 1953-1987-Thomas Grier “Jack” Cook
- 1988-89, 1996-97-Bubba Parker
- 1990-91, 1998-99-Patsy Parker
- 1992-93-Ken Kirkman
- 1993-94-Steve Williams
- 1994-95-Lula Covinglton
- 1995-96-Tommy Cook
- 2000-Boyce Barton
- 2001-03-Kenda Cook
- 2004-Lois Pederson
- Alex Bigger 19?-1960
- Virginia Bigger — 1960 until her death
- Lula Covington-1977-1984
- Judy Penland 1984-2002
- Jan Todd 2002-?
Beginning in 1994, the Presbyterian Women of Allison Creek began honoring some of the outstanding women leaders in our church. During a worship service lead by PW, these women are honored with a pin and certiﬁcate.
The caring, supportive hands represent women who seek to build an inclusive community of Presbyterian Women. The leaf represents growth of our personal and corporate response to Jesus Christ as we nurture our faith. The dove indicates our work for peace in our own lives and throughout the world, shown in the globe. At the center of the design is the cross by which our sins are forgiven and we are freed to live in Christ who is at the center of our lives. The overall design is over a butterﬂy, symbol of newness in Christ and the emergence of a new creation, Presbyterian Women.
Honorary Lifetime Members
- 1994 Miss Grace Bigger
- 1995 Mrs. Bernice Cato Newman
- Mrs. Nancy Cook Wood
- 1996 Mrs. Mary Riddle Bigger
- 1997 Mrs. Lula Jackson Covington
- 1998 Mrs. Elsie Bigger Currence
- Mrs. Betsy Bullock Loxterman
- 1999 Mrs. Judy Brock Duke
- Mrs. Vernelle Sings Smith
- 2000 Mrs. Lucille Covington Copeland
- Mrs. Patricia Alexander Parker
- 2001 Mrs. Helen McCarter Cook
- Mrs. Joyce Schmeider Sleeper
- 2002 Mrs. Emma Towery Newton Smith
- 2003 Mrs. Lois Smith Covington