Our History

The history of St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church,
Chapin South Carolina
     When St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church on the Wateree was founded, the portion of land those struggling German and Swiss settled was the Western frontier. The South Carolina Synod history speculates that St. Jacob’s was “probably organized in 1760” but the only fact we have as to its early existence is that on November 13, 1787 seven ministers representing about ten congregations met to form the “Corpus Evangelicum”. St. Jacob’s, Piney Woods Church, and St. John’s (Pomaria), in the north western part of what is now called Lexington district, are among the reformed and Lutheran churches mentioned as already established and having “houses of worship”. The German Lutheran Church of St. Jacob’s on the Wateree was one of 15 churches incorporated by the legislature in 1788. Excepting the date of 1754 for St. John’s Church it is not difficult to believe that St. Jacob’s was formed not long after this, and prior to the American Revolution. When Dr. Muhlenberg visited Charleston in 1774 there were only two Lutheran ministers in Saxe Gotha – Lewis Hochheimer and J. N. Martin. The Rev. Christian Theus, Reformed minister, was serving in the back country and any one of these with the Swiss Minister Gasser, J. Luft, or Rev. Froelich could have served in this time of uncertainty, but of this we have no evidence.
     The first pastor of whom we have record is Rev. Frederick Joseph Wallern whose name appears in the first minutes of the Corpus Evangelicum as ministering in Newberry district but we know nothing of the date of his arrival.
     In January 1824, six ministers gathered at St. Michael’s Church to organize a synod. Five are mentioned as ministering in Lexington district which included part of Newberry. It is likely that Godfrey Dreher who was elected president for this organizational meeting had been serving St. Jacob’s church along with Revs. Rauch, Franklow, Metze, since ministers were not regularly called in parish alignments were not rigid.
     The Rev. Jacob Moser was ordained April 4, 1824 and St. John’s Church by the newly formed Synod of South Carolina and at the subsequent meeting in November of that year St. Jacob’s church along with St. John’s and Zion are listed as in “J. Moser’s charge”. A donation in the amount of $.50 is recorded as handed in from St. Jacob’s church; three from Zion and $2.88 and 1/2 cents from St. John’s. In the first parochial report Rev. Moser has in his parish 96 communicants. He baptized 36 and confirmed nine while 18 were buried in the three congregations. During the next year Mr. Moser already is at work to establish one or more Sunday Schools in the limits of his charge.
     Mr. Martin Whites had the honor of being elected first delegate to the Synod and his name appears in the minutes of 1826 and 1827 in this capacity. By the year 1828 there were 134 communicants and trouble was arising and St. John’s Church over property matters. A committee appointed to “harmonize Rev. Moser and his people” met Mr. Moser and a “respectable member” of that church but the opposition did not appear. In 1829 Rev. Moser was absent from Synod and an anonymous letter was received relative to the difficulties. This beginning of troubles in St. John’s is mentioned because it seems apparent that behind the latter difficulties arising in St. Jacob’s church was basically a personality conflict between the Rev. Moser and the Rev. Mr. Dreher, a story of rivalry and resentment between ministers serving the same congregations. Rev. Moser asks to be relieved of Zion Church which he apparently shared with Mr. Dreher.
     At the meeting of Synod 1834 George Lindler and William Haltiwanger are both delegates representing two different pastors but belonging to the same congregation. There is also a petition from St. Jacob’s relative to “difficulties” which have arisen and asking help of Synod for adjustment.
     (These “difficulties” out not to be passed in embarrassed silence simply because they happened and are overweight. It is quite possible that St. Jacob’s greatest contribution to the Lutheran Church in the south lies in the fact of these “difficulties” which eventually led to, not only sad division, but in the long run to a much needed balance of Confessional Lutheranism in South Carolina). The committee appointed, recommended that both Pastors discontinue their laborers at St. Jacob’s; that St. Jacob’s not employee neither one; that the charges be placed under the care of Dr. Hazelius of the Seminary and that a day of humiliation and prayer be observed. Dreher and Moser are doing knowledge their past wrongs and willingness to hear “gossip” about each other and make up. As doctrinal errors had been alleged against Rev. Dreher, he consented to an examination which he passed acceptably. Charges against Rev. Moser were deemed not supported by evidence and he also was cleared. In 1835 Mr. Dreher is absent from Synod and the feeling against him is apparent when he is not reelected Treasurer after 10 years of service and twin President Mealy of Savanna denies having acted unkindly and a visit to Rev. Dreher. He is further humiliated like being asked to sign a pledge to be cooperative.
     Dr. Hazelius reports in 1835 that it be recommended that the elders of St. Jacob’s resigned their office and a new election for a new set of officers be held. That they then vote on a new Pastor exclusive of either Dreher or Moser and that if this is not done, the Rev. Rauch be appointed to preach in the Baptist Church to those who are favorable to the Synod.
     No request for supply came to Synod in 1836 from either party and when Rev. Dreher asked about its condition and prospects Ministerium moved that it did not consider this church as connected “with the other Lutheran churches forming a body under the care of this Synod”.
     From 1837 to 1853 St. Jacob’s did not hold connection with any Synodical body but was adequately ministered to by the Rev. Godfrey Dreher. The old church still was in use and, according to the History of the Synod by S. T. Hallman, Dr. D.A. Richardson remembered that in 1847 he had worshiped with this congregation and a “dilapidated log house standing on the site of the present building (old church) and that on the site of the house on which he sat during service the pans holding several of the logs between two windows had rotted off and the logs had fallen out”. It was time to build a church without a doubt. Rev. Dreher had many churches in his charge assisted by men from the Tennessee Synod and one of these, the Rev. Daniel Efird, took over at St. Jacob’s in 1852. In 1853 a new church building was erected by David Bookman to the satisfaction of the members and the wonder of the neighborhood which flocked to see the gallery. In that same year Daniel Drafts represented Salem, St. Peter’s, Zion’s, St. Jacob’s, Piney Woods, St. John’s, and St. Paul’s at the meeting of the Tennessee Synod and Rev. Daniel Efird is assisted by Rev. Adam Efird in Lexington.
     First delegate to this new Synodical relationship is listed as John Wetes (sic!) From St. Jacob’s. The Synod met this year at Piney Woods Church and this established a Synodical tie that was to last until 1923. For a matter of 20 years, Daniel Efird served a parish consisting of St. Jacob’s, St. Peter’s (Piney Woods), St. John’s, and Bethlehem through good times and bad times and the Civil War. In 1869 we find he is busy building an Academy and can’t come to Synod. This is no doubt Pine Ridge Academy which served so long and so well.
     In 1870 Adam Efird died and Mr. U. B. Whites was delicate to Synod. Daniel Efird now lists eight churches in his care and the following year the Rev. A. L. Crouse comes to assist him. As sometimes happens this new relationship of the venerable and the newly ordained Pastors was not a happy one and there are indications of trouble.
     By the meeting of Synod at St. John’s in 1876 there are memorials from certain members of the churches and Daniel Efird’s parish of troubles existing between persons “who are to have been members” which must eventually result in disruption. More important perhaps is the presence of Dr. J. W. Eargle, making the first of a long series of appearances as a delegate from St. Jacob’s.
     In the year 1880 there are 990 members in the seven Church Parrish served by Daniel Efird assisted by newly ordained J. A. Cromer and E. L. Lybrand. There are still signs of difficulty and in 1881 a petition to hold the next meeting of Synod at St. Jacob’s is at hand. The majority up hold their pastor and his resignation is not accepted. The parish now consists of Bethlehem, St. Jacob’s, and St. Thomas and the trouble gradually subsides.
     The Rev. J. S. Koiner was called to the St. Jacob’s charge in 1883 according to the report of the President of the Synod, Socrates Henkel. After only two years as pastor Rev. Koiner resigned to accept a position as professor at Concordia College which was established and supported by Tennessee Synod at Conover, N. C. Rev. Jacob Killian Efird supplied the parish during 1885 and was succeeded by Dr. JP Smeltzer of the South Carolina Synod. Illness calls to Dr. Smeltzer to resign in 1887 and he died the following year. J. K. Efird again served the congregation until 1889 when this Synod received a petition from St. Jacob’s asking for the examination and ordination of W. L. Darr who had already begun work by this time two of the congregations listed a total of 615 souls and current expenses of $350.
     A report of the “State of the Church” in 1890 tells us that “the material is on the ground for a new church at Chapin” and this house of worship was dedicated in June 8 293 as Mt. Horeb, Chapin and added to the existing Parish.
     The next Pastor to serve the St. Jacob’s parish was the Rev. Jacob Wike took up the work when Rev. Mr. Darr moved to Statesville N. C. It is notable that the report of the State of the churches points out that “in the midst of strife in North Carolina and Virginia (over the doctrinal differences between Tennessee Synod and the United Synod South) with churches withdrawing and venerable men being stricken from the roll, South Carolina churches show a spirit of beneficence and commendable peace and prosperity.
     St. Thomas is replaced by the new congregation Mt. Horeb in 1897 and in 1898 any parsonage is built for Pastor Wike. Wike did not long remain and the Rev. J. F. Deal became Pastor. A significant and important contribution of St. Jacob’s parish lies in the number of young men, newly ordained who, over the years have begun their ministry there.
     At the turn-of-the-century, in the year 1901 we had the first full parochial report from St. Jacob’s listing 314 confirmed members; 269 resident communicants; 138 communing during the year; 101 families represented; 107 children and 14 Catechumens. Value of the property is set at $600; $157.85 paid on the Pastor’s salary; the parsonage is valued at $500 and benevolence reached a comparative high of $180. There are 19 teachers and 116 peoples in Sunday school. No young Peoples’ society has yet formed in the Women’s Missionary society has not as yet been activated.
     Pastor Deal resigned in December of 1902 and was succeeded by Rev. O.B. Shearouse on the first Sunday in August. Pastor Shearouse came from South Carolina Synod and apparently was the first to make the step in the direction of reestablishing goodwill and communication between and Tennessee and South Carolina Synods. Shearouse resigned in June, 1905 and was succeeded by Rev. Enoch Hite in January, 1906.
     This year, 1906, so the construction of a new church by St. Jacob’s. Reported to decide as costing $2000 this is only the third church building in the history of the congregation and was built with no indebtedness!
     The resignation of Rev. Hite shook it until September 22, 1910 when Rev. W.J. Roof accepted the call. Pastor Roof was another whose ordination was requested by the parish. He remained only until the division of the parish in 1911 or 1912. At this time St. Jacob’s and St. Thomas called Rev. J. C. Wessinger and Mt. Horeb and Bethlehem kept Pastor Roof as minister. By 1914 St. Jacob’s had reached a total of 515 members. Rev. Wessinger resigned after four years and in 1916 the application of the Rev. of R. M. Carpenter from the district Synod of Ohio was accepted by Synod and he became pastor of the parish. The parochial report of 1920 indicates St. Jacob’s has 475 members; total property valuation is $6000 but of more significance is the reunion of the Tennessee Synod with the North Carolina Synod after 100 years of separate existence. St. Jacob’s now belongs to the North Carolina Synod, South Carolina conference, for the Synodical group.
     Pastor Carpenter resigned in 1923 and a dearth of pastors left the parish fake it until 1925. Meanwhile St. Jacob’s made plans to build a new parsonage on a lot balked in the town of Chapin and his new parsonage was ready for occupancy when Rev. Edgar Z. Pence was installed as pastor in 1925. One of his first acts was the establishment of Luther League groups in the parish and St. Jacob’s is reported to have two groups numbering 95 members. Upon his resignation in 1928 student Thomas Weeks, Senior at the Seminary was called and installed September 29, 1929 and began one of the longest periods of service in St. Jacob’s history, serving until 1940. Ministers serving since 1940 are: Rev. J. Shelton Moose, 1940 to 1944; Rev. J. Kenneth Webb, 1944 to 1950; Rev. Voight Kleckley, 1951 to 1952; Rev. George Kahl, 1953 to 1954; Rev. William McCray, 1955 to 1957; Rev. Robert L. Swygert, 1957 in 1961; Rev. John W. Wessinger, 1961 to 1979; Rev. Andrew D. Eargle, 1979 to 2006. The present pastor is the Rev. Kevin Powers.
     In 1955 St. John’s withdrew from the parish leaving Mount Olive and St. Jacob’s in a parish relationship. Both churches have services every Sunday.
     Under the leadership of Rev. J. Kenneth Webb, a Sunday school building was constructed with dedication service team held on May 30, 1948 no record of the structure was included in the historical sketch prepared by Rev. W. Richard Fritz, D. D., for the dedication service of the present church building on October 26, 1958.
     When the parish relationships between Mount Olive and St. Jacob’s was dissolved on April 1, 1959, the Rev. Robert L. Swygert, Pastor, resigned as pastor of the parish and accepted a call extended by St. Jacob’s of active April 1, 1959. During 1959, a spacious and comfortable parsonage was built adjacent to the church building. Pastor Swygert served St. Jacob’s until May 29, 1961. Rev. George H. Anderson supplied as pastor until the Rev. John W. Wessinger became pastor. The Rev. John W. Wessinger served St. Jacob’s from October 1, 1961 until 1979.
     During this time there were 15 males serving on the Church Council. The first woman elected in 1975 to serve on the Church Council was Francis Slice.