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“No pillar of the African American community has been more central to its history, identity, and social justice vision than the Black Church.”

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Professor, Historian, Filmmaker, and Advisor of African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund

"Taveau’s restoration, however, is about more than just preserving a historical structure because of its unique architecture. It would also be a testament to the faith of the Black men and women who preserved Taveau as a place for their worship and coincidentally, passed down 175 years of Black worship experience including inspired preaching and soulful spirituals. Taveau tells this important story as well as the story of the local area, its land, its people, and its culture."

—Reverend Clayton J. Jones, Sr. 

Taveau is lifted off its 1835 foundation.

Charleston Post & Courier video   

Community Event at Mepkin Abbey.

"Our hope is built..." song during community event at Mepkin Abbey.

A two minute video that provides a brief overview of Taveau.

Personal recollections of Taveau from those who remember it as an active church.

A Sacred Space for the Ages

Brief History

Martha Caroline Swinton Ball Taveau, wishing to worship as a Presbyterian amidst the Cooper River Anglicans, built Taveau on Claremont Plantation in 1835.

Taveau, built during a tumultuous time, is an eyewitness to our nation’s history and an important site in the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.  The expertise of the early enslaved Africans created the infrastructure that allowed the cultivation of rice to occur along the southeast Atlantic coast, most profoundly in the SC Lowcountry.  There is no available information that tells us what the enslaved were taught during Taveau’s “Presbyterian era” (1835-1847).

In 1847, upon the death of Mrs. Taveau, the church became the worship home for Black Methodists. Taveau was likely part of a Methodist Mission Circuit based in Charleston, a relationship that reflected the growth of Methodism in America in the 19th Century.

After the Civil War, and when a new Black Methodist Conference was organized, Taveau began a new page in its history. The unique strains of Gullah Geechee culture were reflected in the worship and development of community in this rural area. Taveau stood not only as a sentinel to the trials and accomplishments of its congregants but the activities within its walls helped shape the character of its people and community through Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights eras.  By the early 1970’s Taveau’s congregation dwindled so it merged with a nearby congregation in Cordesville and the church ceased to be used.

The fact that Taveau still stands is a testament to its original construction and to the faithfulness of an economically poor community that did their best to maintain their historic church. Its immediate future, however, is different than many abandoned historic rural churches because of the faithfulness of the community, the interest and support for its rehabilitation, and its potential to help tell the story of its people and community in concert with other faith institutions nearby.

Architecture

Taveau is a rare surviving rural, frame antebellum church.  It is a plain building, the exterior marked by modest cornice and a simple Doric portico that the National Register says adds “an air of sophistication seldom seen in rural church architecture.” The simplicity of the interior during its first decades of use fit an aesthetic that is both rural and evangelical.

 

Materials were procured locally. Lumber, most likely sawn on site, provided the elements of the building’s structural components. Local timber was also sawn and planed into the twelve-light double row transoms set over the entrances, the sixteen light windows and their paneled shutters.

 

Building material incorporated in Taveau and the methods used in its construction express the skill of enslaved craftsmen.

 

Changes made to the interior of the church in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries reflect the evolving character of worship expressed by the progeny of the church’s builders.

Summary

In late June, 2023, and with the full support of the congregation, its ministers, and the Taveau Legacy Committee, we purchased historic Taveau from the UMC Conference. 

Taveau is a remarkable survivor of a rural black church with rich history. For over 125 years Taveau was an active place of worship and gathering for Blacks.

This multi-year restoration project will return the historic church to usefulness as a local community space that is befitting of Taveau’s history and cultural legacy. We hope that you support this effort.

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