History of Purity
The Church is the people, not the building. Still yet, the buildings we worship in help to tell our story. As early as 1770, Scotch Irish Presbyterians worshiped in the sparsely settled South Carolina back country at a site two and one-half miles southeast of the present city of Chester. They gave their small meetinghouse the name of a nearby creek, Bull Run. Presbytery records of 1787 reveal that the congregation had changed the name from Bull Run to Purity and listed the names of three elders, the earliest existing record of a Purity
Session. Members built a larger log house on the same spot in 1795. The rock wall that still surrounds the Old Purity Cemetery was paid by subscription in 1813. The congregation erected a spacious clapboard church on the site of the earlier structures in 1832.
First House of Worship
Second House of Worship, 1795
Third House of Worship, 1832
John Douglas, a son of the congregation, became the minister in 1836. He saw that the village of Chesterville was growing but had no Presbyterian church. With his own funds, he built a brick “lecture room” in the village. The congregation in town flourished. Purity became a strong growing church with its strength turned more to the town than the country. In 1854 members erected the present brick sanctuary on Wylie Street “near the new court house.” Regular services at the church in the country were discontinued in the 1880s. The lecture room was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Charleston in 1855 and though greatly altered still stands to this day as part of St. Joseph's Catholic Church.
Lecture Room, 1839
New Church Building on Wylie Street in 1854
By 1850, Purity ordained deacons as well as elders. The first mention of Purity’s organized church women appeared in 1870. They have been a vital force in the life of the church, promoting missions, Bible studies, and local causes. Since 1975, women have served as deacons and elders. Members met the needs of the growing congregation by enlarging the sanctuary in 1890, adding a pipe organ, balcony seating, and stained glass windows. The facade of the church was greatly altered to its present configuration under the leadership of Rev. George Summey. Summey designed and built the circular frame for the rose window. The three-story Sunday School building was built in 1916. Additional classrooms and the Fellowship Hall were added in 1983.
Purity after 1890
During Purity’s long history, over twenty-five ministers have led the work and worship of this congregation. Purity established two other local Presbyterian churches as well as several area missions. Twenty-one sons and six daughters of the congregation have become ministers of the Gospel, or entered into full-time Christian service.
We at Purity Presbyterian Church look over our 230+ year history with great thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness to our congregation. Purity continues to be a solid witness for Jesus Christ. We strive to honor the tremendous legacy which has been handed down to us even as we embrace the new ways in Jesus is calling us to be his church.
Sanctuary Renovations 2003
Though the years, music has been an important aspect of worship. Purity continues to be blessed with talented voices and instrumentalist who give graciously of their time in the Chancel and Handbell Choirs.
Photograph by Terry Ehrlich©2005
You can learn more about the history of our church by reading one of the four books written about our congregation.
History of Purity Church, 1865. by John Douglas
History of Purity, 1938 by Dudley Jones
Purity and Its People, 1987 by Edward Dawson
The Art of Purity, 2005 by Purity Presbyterian Church