St. Paul's in the Valley

The Breese family is one of many Charleston families buried at St. Paul's in the Valley. The cemetery is naturally maintained and has been cited as one of the most beautiful in the south. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Suddeth)

St. Paul’s in the Valley, the forerunner of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Brevard was established in the Dunn’s Rock area in 1857 by families from the low country of South Carolina who had established a summer colony there.

Before the church was built services were held in the carriage house of Montclove, the summer home of Francis W. Johnstone. The families that attended early services were those of Francis Johnstone, William Johnstone, Pinckney Johnstone, McKewn Johnstone, Robert Hume, John Gadsden, Dr. Ruthlege and Henry Eubanks. Exactly when these meetings began is unknown, but on June 5, 1856, the congregation received communion from Rev. James Hanckel, a duly ordained rector and resident in the summer colony.

Francis Johnstone sold the small congregation a piece of land near Dunn’s Rock that fronted the Greenville Road, now US 276, for a token of ten cents and the residents began raising money for a building. Episcopalians in Flat Rock contributed $500 and the Hume family raised more than $600 from friends and family in Charleston. Friends of Dr. Rutledge made gifts of a communion set, a Bible, a prayer book, an alms basin and a christening bowl.

The building had pews for 120 people and balcony seating for enslaved people and servants. Though named St. Paul’s in the Valley, since it was painted white it was often referred to as “The White Church.”

According to a report from Hanckel to the convention in 1861, the church had 23 members, 20 white, three colored, with 23 children.

He also commented that visitor attendance was high. With the onset of the Civil War, most of the summer residents closed their homes. Still, services continued to be held until 1864 when Hanckel returned to Camden, South Carolina, taking the altar vessels and church register with him for safe keeping. A decade later sporadic services began again, but the congregation at St. Paul’s in the Valley never revived.

In 1883, congregation members sought to build a permanent place of worship in the Town of Brevard. Jane Lowndes Hume, the widow of Robert Hume, sold an old Wedgewood dish that had been in her Lowndes family for over a century to start the building fund.

The Humes again raised money for the new church from family and friends in Charleston, Wilmington, Asheville, New York and Boston.

The church was consecrated in 1891 and named St. Philip’s. The name was chosen because many of the church’s founders including the Humes were originally from Charleston and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, which dates back to 1713, was their home parish.

Though the White Church no longer stands along the Greenville Road, the over seven acre large cemetery remains.

The earliest burial is marked by a large monument that says, “Our Little Amelia, who fell asleep in Jesus on the 14 days of March 1857.” Because Amelia died in March before the church building was even completed, Hanckel hadn’t returned to the area, and the burial was not recorded in the church book. After years of diligent research by Dorothy Hudson, it was discovered that Amelia was the daughter of Rutledge.

There are over 400 known graves, including those of enslaved people marked only with rough stones. Two Civil War veterans are buried there, one Confederate and one Union, and veterans of WWI, WWII and the Korean conflict. The cemetery is still active with lots limited to parish communicants.

To learn more about Transylvania County History, visit the Transylvania Heritage Museum at 189 West Main St. The Museum is open Thursday through Saturday, from noon until 4 p.m. The Museum’s new exhibit “Mountain Legacies: Exploring Appalachian Culture,” will run until mid-October. The exhibit and accompanying programs are supported by North Carolina Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Trending Video

Recommended for you