A Letter from our Chairman
Advocacy for Taveau Church of Berkeley County
Ten years ago, I parked my car on the shoulder of a quiet, country road and stared at a once-stately, but now-crumbling historic church. The pines swayed in the sultry breeze, a few squirrels darted about, and some oversized mosquitos went to work on my unprotected skin. If a car drove past me on that Berkeley County afternoon, I do not remember its passing. Taveau Methodist Church, built in 1835, had my full attention.
Taveau was built as a Presbyterian Church by Martha Caroline Swinton Ball Taveau, a rather eccentric woman, who did not wish to worship as an Episcopalian, the religion of choice for her Cooper River neighbors. Upon her death in the late 1840s, the church became a place of worship for Black Methodists. It would remain an active place of worship until the early 1970s.
If the land could talk, it might tell us of the days of the early 1700s when Elias “Red Cap” Ball discovered that rice could be grown along the Cooper River, and profitably, at that, provided that you used slaves in the process. Decades after Red Cap, Henry Laurens, founding father and slave trader, would work this same land with the next generation of enslaved people. He is buried at what is now-Mepkin Abbey, just a short walk from Taveau.
If this now-abandoned church could talk, what would it say? Would it mention the connections between the Black Methodists who worshiped here and their neighbors who bent their knees at nearby Strawberry Chapel? Maybe we would learn of the faith that kept the enslaved of this life hopeful of an improved life in the next, or stories of the Methodist circuit riders who might have preached their assuring words on this same sandy soil.
In the summer of 2021 I returned to Taveau, this time as board chair of Preservation South Carolina. I am no longer that person from ten years ago who wondered, exactly, what was in front of me. I know now of what I am looking, and it is powerful: Here, in the crumbling boards of this now 50-year abandoned property, is a place from which the voices of the past must be allowed to speak.
Please sign our petition to save this sacred space.