07) Brief History of Old St. John's Meeting House


 Addendum - February, 2014

                                                                                     IDA MCCOLLOUGH AND THE PAUL HAYNE CIRCLE

Maxie W. Duke

February12, 2014

            Digging into history is such fun--so many twists and turns, so much to discover and learn.  And never let it be said that you can’t make new friends while learning.

            Bill Segars, a construction person in Hartsville, SC, has been interested in the history of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, particularly in the Upstate, for years now.   He takes the Keowee Courier, an excellent source for happenings here in the Golden Corner.

            Recently he ran across someone who had documented the life of one Rev. John DeWitt McCollough, an Episcopal preacher with many talents, one of which was architecture.  Rev. John, using Richard Upjohn’s Carpenter’s Gothic style, designed 20 church buildings in SC, ten of which are completely gone now.  One is unrecognizable, one has been enlarged and brick veneered, and one is not a church any more, but is the Blue Ridge Art Building in Seneca.  The others have been added on, brick veneered, and altered. He has visited all the buildings except one in Saluda, North Carolina, which is on his list to visit and appraise.

            “So tell everyone,” he said, “especially the City of Walhalla, what a jewel they have in the St. John’s Church building.  In my opinion, Old St. John’s Meeting House is one of the remaining original ones, even with its moving history.”  St. John’s was moved from Short Street to Jack Kelley’s property in 1982, and then to Kaufmann Park in 2009.

            While living in his vacation home in Saluda, NC, it is believed that Rev. McCollough designed St. John’s Episcopal Church, now Old St. John’s Meeting House and Wedding Chapel. He became the rector of St. John’s in 1891, a position he held till his death.  He died in Walhalla on January 26, 1902, and is buried with his family at The Church of the advent in Spartanburg.

            Rev. McCollough’s daughter, Ida, one of twelve children, was a school teacher/missionary who came to Walhalla in 1893 at age 40 perhaps to tend to her ageing father.  She started a school in her home which was situated in the parking lot area of the former Davenport Funeral Home on W. Main Street.

            In 1895 she and Miss Sallie Norton (Mrs. W. L. Verner) established the Paul Hayne Literary Society, the third oldest literary society in SC, for the purpose of improving their minds and cultural appreciation by reading and writing.  The name was chosen to honor Paul Hamilton Hayne, 1830-1886, who was a Southern literary critic, magazine editor, poet and writer.  Miss Ida’s School was probably consolidated with the Walhalla Graded School system in 1902.

            The Paul Hayne Circle members know all that, but this writer did not.  And readers of the locals, especially the City Fathers, Chamber of Commerce, etc., will know a bit more too.

(Note:  Miss Ida’s given name at birth was “Eliza Heron,” but her birth date, October 15, 1853, matches other census records for Miss Ida McCollough, and the Rev. John DeWitt McCollough.  There is also a discrepancy in the spelling of the McCollough name.)                                                                       

Sources:  Bill Segars, Hartsville, SC &  Rev. George B. Shealy, Wahalla:  Garden of the Gods, p. 170-171.

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