51) The History of Bethel (A Review)



By Rev Frank Strickland


A Review by Maxie Duke

      The Rev. Frank Strickland, pastor of the Bethel Presbyterian Church, wrote, compiled and published the two-hundred year story of the oldest continuing church in Oconee County.  Hot off the press, it is a hard-back full page rendition of the events in the church’s life spanning the earliest settlements of this area.  The history begins with the migration of the German and Scots-Irish down “The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road” in oxen-drawn Conestoga wagons, and works through numerous wars into the atomic and electronic age of soft living and one-world thinking.

     In a written Perspective Judge Alexander Macaulay proclaims Bethel Presbyterian as the “seed” church of the Presbyterian Churches in Oconee, the Piedmont areas of South Carolina and in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and at least one in Texas.  He   further states “Frank Strickland has authored and compiled a history that is not only a celebration of this faith community, but a valuable resource for those who would better understand who we are and why we are here.”   

     Strickland deals with the huge store of material by dividing the readers’ attention into the first hundred years,—from 1805 till 1905 when the parishioners celebrated the Centennial, then the second hundred years—1906 till 2005 and the Bicentennial Celebration. 

    General Andrew Pickens grew up in the Waxhaw Settlement of Lancaster County. The Waxhaw Presbyterian Church is credited with being the cradle of  Presbyterianism in the Piedmont section of the Carolinas.  Years later, General Pickens is credited with founding the Old Stone Church in 1789 and Bethel Presbyterian Church around 1805.  Pickens County, South Carolina, was named for him, as were counties in Georgia and Alabama.

     The church registers, baptisms, deacons and ruling elders are cited as the book moves along through the years.  Beginning in 1952 Rev. Ace Tubbs is profiled, followed by Rev. Trent Howell Jr., and the addition of classrooms described. The Sesquicentennial Anniversary celebration was held over two days, August 10th and 11th and was well attended.  Twenty-five years later, another Homecoming was celebrated in September 1980 with attending persons listed as guests.

    In 2002 a renovation of the sanctuary was made possible by a generous gift of Millicent Compson Massey, $100,000, in memory of her late husband and his family.  When she died, another matching sum was presented to the church to continue its faith in the community. Much of the work was accomplished by members of the congregation who returned the hall to its original open beams, changed out stained glass windows, and refreshed the pews and furnishings.  No other sanctuary in the county is more restful, dignified, and at peace.

    The book is large, a bit heavy, but handsome with its dark green cover and golden emblem of the church itself on the front.  The church underwrote the publication and printed 250 copies. 108 copies were pre-sold.  It is a treasure of history for the area.  To get your copy write to the church at  P.O. Box 617, Walhalla, SC 29691 or call Frank Strickland at 864-784-7268.

August 10, 2012