"The praying grounds of our people": church celebrates 150th anniversary

"The praying grounds of our people": church celebrates 150th anniversary

FORT MOTTE, SC (WIS) -- Founded by emancipated slaves, a church in Fort Motte is celebrating its 150th anniversary this weekend.

"This is the ancestral home of our people," said Jackie Whitmore, who is a descendant of the founders of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

It was founded in 1867 on ground donated by Augustus T. and Louisa McCord Smythe, who owned the nearby Lang Syne plantation.

The newly-emancipated slaves established a church and a school on the site.

"It is a testament to what people can do through their faith and their belief," Whitmore said. "The church was organized by African-American men and women immediately after slavery time in 1867 and the church still stands 150 years."

Whit mire's third grandfather was the Lang Syne plantation carpenter and helped organize and build the church. He is a descendant of the people whose names are on the original deed.

Pastor Wesley Brown continues a family legacy of ministering to the flock of the church. His great-grandfather, James Samuel Brown, was the church's fourth pastor in the early 1900's.

"The Lord blessed me, four generations down, to stand in the same pulpit as my great-grandfather," he said. "Not just only my great-grandfather but all the members that are here at this church right here are descendants of those free slaves."

The church rises above the red clay fields on Fort Motte Road. The original church cemetery is about a half-mile away, across a soybean field.

"This right here was the meeting place for the community," Brown said.

"When you know that the people during such periled times organized a church and a school, that's an esteeming fact," Whitmore said. "I think that when younger people, younger generations know that it helps continue the great legacy that they started and that the generations to come will keep on holding the banner up high."

The oldest living male member of the church, Eddie Cheeseboro, 98, said he remembers helping his father, the church sexton, clean the sanctuary on Saturdays as a child.

"I remember Sundays you could hardly get in the door," he said.

As church members moved away, Whitmore said they came back on Sundays.

"Even though people moved away to Columbia and the other areas throughout the Midlands, our family people, they came back home. They came home to this church. That's how powerful significant they felt and dedicated to this church that they came back home here to this church," Whitmore said. "They drove the distance to come here and go to church here."

"Over the years our people have stood the test of time," he said. "Sometimes when you start out doing those kinds of things, people will say that you can't do it. They don't have the faith and belief in you. But they had belief in God."

Whitmore, Cheeseboro, and Brown said the spirits of the former members are still there.

"Every time I enter into that pulpit I just feel my great-grandfather...Pastor Henry Duncan and all the pastors that came before my time," Brown said.

"They had the desire that things would be better for them and their families and their generations down the line and here we are 150 years later, still a testament in their belief and in their faith," Whitmore said.

South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn is the guest speaker at a gala Saturday night in St. Matthews.

Pastor Darrell Jackson, Sr. of Bible Way Church of Atlas Road is the guest speaker at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church celebration at 3 p.m. Sunday.

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