Mount Pleasant Magazine Nov/Dec 2023

31 | | our town BY MARY COY Gone but not Forgotten East Cooper’s First Place of Worship With many historic churches dotting the skyline, Charleston is often called the Holy City. People forget that there is a good share of picturesque old churches on the other side of the Ravenel Bridge as well: St. Andrew’s, Christ Church, St. Paul’s, Friendship AME, Mount Pleasant Presbyterian and more. But where was the very first place of worship east of the Cooper? The answer lies in an area the Sewee tribe called Wappetaw, meaning “sweet water.” In 1696, a ship carrying 52 New Englanders arrived on the shores of Sewee Bay. These immigrants from Ipswich, Massachusetts, were known as dissenters because they did not follow the doctrine of the Church of England. The group was comprised not only of Congregationalists but also of Huguenots, or French Protestants, and Presbyterians. In those days, all of South Carolina was under the Anglican church’s authority. However, dissenters were granted religious tolerance here, a practice that many of the 13 original colonies did not follow. Ironically, several of South Carolina’s early governors were dissenters, one of whom invited the new settlers to the area. Other Congregationalists had arrived a bit earlier in what is now Summerville and in downtown Charleston, establishing places of worship there. These later arrivals established Wappetaw Independent Congregational Church on what is now 15 Mile Landing Road in Awendaw. The population grew quickly, and an additional Congregationalist meeting house was soon established nearby on the Cainhoy peninsula. Unlike the affluent planter class who were mostly Reminiscenes of the cemetery of Wappetaw Independent Congregational Church. Photo provided.