In 1804, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, occupied the White House. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began their exploration of the West. Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor of France. Locally, the first house of worship for Episcopalians in Eutawville was completed.
The name of the first Church of the Epiphany structure was the Rocks Church, due to its proximity to the Rocks Plantation, a Gaillard family homestead. The plantation home and outbuildings originally stood where the pavilion and nearby structures are currently at Rocks Pond Campground. The name of both the church and plantation is due to the pockets of limestone in area soil and farmland. The Rocks Church was a chapel of ease for St. Stephen’s Church, in St. Stephen, among the first Episcopal churches in South Carolina.
In 1808, the church building was moved to a location on land belonging to Springfield Plantation, home of Joseph Palmer. This structure was replaced by a larger building on the same site in 1814.
It was not until March 4, 1844, that the building was consecrated under its present name, Church of the Epiphany, by the Rt. Rev. Christopher Edwards Gadsden, second bishop of the South Carolina Diocese. The church was completely destroyed by fire in 1926. A larger, brick structure was built which was consecrated Dec. 11, 1927, by the Rt. Rev. William Alexander Guerry, sixth bishop of the diocese.
In 1830, the families who had summer homes in an old village called Pineville, abandoned it and headed for the development of another area – less prone to “fever epidemics” – later known as current-day Eutawville.
Dr. Thomas William Porcher built the first summer home in Eutaw Village, as it was known then, in 1836. The main road through Eutawville today bears his name: Porcher Avenue.
As more area plantation families began to build summer homes in Eutaw Village, a need arose for a place for church services.
In 1849, the construction of Epiphany Chapel was completed. It was not consecrated so that other denominations could use it.
A century later, the Rt. Rev. Thomas W. Carruthers consecrated the chapel, but out of sad necessity.
With the development of the Santee-Cooper Dam, the land on which the Rocks Church stood was deeded to the South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) on May 22, 1941. As the Santee River was dammed and the area flooded to form Lake Marion, the church and its cemetery occupied the island created by the new lake. The last service held at the Rocks Church occurred on May 17, 1942. All that remains of that church now is a brick pillar topped with a granite marker. It is surrounded by the graves of many of the church’s founding families.
The Rocks Church was de-consecrated in 1954, and the men of the Epiphany Parish in Eutawville dismantled the building, leaving the front porch and steps to provide a foundation for the monument, which now marks the site where the once-great holy edifice stood.
The building that now serves as the Church of the Epiphany (located at highways 6 and 45 in Eutawville) was built in 1849. The church annually sponsors a pilgrimage to Church Island, just two miles past Rocks Pond Campground. The island is accessible only by boat.
Dozens of graves silently tell the stories of dedicated families, community members and war veterans who lived and served in the Eutawville area. A tall, brick pillar, which serves as a memorial marker for the church, bears a marble plaque documenting its history: “Epiphany Episcopal Church Upper St. John’s Berkeley, established 1804, building consecrated 1844, destroyed by fire 1927, rebuilt and consecrated 1927. Due to rising waters of Santee Cooper reservoir, church made inaccessible for Divine services. Move from consecration Sept. 5, 1954.”
The plaque concludes: “These church grounds and cemetery remain hallowed. This marker is placed in loving tribute to relatives and friends asleep here ‘til the consummation when He shall come in His eternal glory.”
In the 205-year history of Epiphany, the church has survived four different buildings in three different locations; a civil war that divided family members; two World Wars that claimed some of the church’s most promising young men; and a massive public service project that swallowed the homes and lands of most of its people.
During its bicentennial year, the church sponsored the “Tour of Historic Places in Upper St. John's Parish,” which included:
• Lawson Pond Plantation, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1823 and is probably one of the few surviving examples of the plantation houses of the cotton farmers of the early 19th century that survived intact.
• Loch Dhu Plantation (1812), which means “black lake,” is said to have been used as a Confederate hospital during the War Between the States.
• Numertia Plantation, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in the 1840s of handmade bricks and long leaf pine.
• Walnut Grove Plantation, built in 1818, was a place of refuge for the wives and sisters of Southern soldiers and Confederate scouts.
The Church of the Epiphany is a listed site for the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, a federally designated National Heritage Area.