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Rowan ARP celebrates centennial
Rowan - River Crossing
An old photo, circa 1916, showing people taking the ferry across the Wateree River after a flood washed out the original wooden bridge.

Rowan Presbyterian Church celebrates its 100 years of service to God and community this weekend.

The commemoration starts Saturday at noon with an opening ceremony and an old fashioned church gathering/picnic starting at 1 p.m. Old fashioned games, wagon rides, and other such activities will be held throughout the afternoon.  Group singing and a worship service at 5 p.m. will round out the day. 

“We’re going to have a big early 1900s style church picnic, complete with barbecue, ice cream, and lots of old time games for the children,” Rowan member and event organizer Beverly Sheorn said. “We hope everyone can come to this fun, family-oriented event.”

The afternoon will also include plenty of opportunities to stroll the grounds and browse through historical information and artifacts, including photos, written materials, and videos, Sheorn said.

 The celebration will conclude with an 11 a.m. church service Sunday.

Rowan Presbyterian is one of the oldest churches in the area and is thought to have the oldest sanctuary still in existence in Lugoff. The original sanctuary was built in 1918; the present sanctuary was built in 1959. In the early 1900s, there was no Presbyterian church in the Lugoff area. Those who wished to attend Presbyterian services had to make the journey every Sunday to Bethesda Presbyterian in Camden; this included crossing the river by ferry as a flood at destroyed the bridge in 1916. 

In 1916, Rev. Jesse Colin Rowan of Bethesda Presbyterian established a mission church at the Hollowell School in Lugoff; Rowan, the namesake of the church, would become the first minister of the new church. 

The church had fourteen original founders, including John L. Gettys, James T. Gettys, Mrs. Nicholas P. Gettys, Mrs. Martha A. Isbell, Mrs. Melita C. Team, Mrs. May Bell White, Mrs. Loulie Whitaker, Mrs. Mattie Gettys, Nicholas P. Gettys, Ben Wiley Gettys, Mrs. W. W. Mason, T.J. White, Miss Jennie Whitaker and Mrs. Edith Ward.

In 1918, James Team donated property for a new sanctuary and construction began. In order to help raise funds,members of the Gettys family would sell ice cream cones on Saturdays; Mrs. Edith Ward would sell hot suppers to railroad workers passing through the area. Other families would sell eggs, flowers, and other items at local farmers markets to help raise funds as well.

“Throughout its history, the members of this church have always stepped up to do what was needed to be done,” Sheorn said. “For example, virtually all the construction projects over the years have been done by the men of this church.”

Dr. Bernard Baruch Sr., who was a friend of John L. Gettys, donated $500 to the building fund as well. The story goes that he said he could not donate to the church because he was Jewish but he could give his friends $500 and they could do with it what they pleased.

The church has always maintained a modest but highly committed congregation; currently there are about 130 members.  The church is very family oriented and very committed to its members.

“Rowan has been blessed for 100 years,” Sheorn said. “We are a church that loves God and teaches His word. We are more than a congregation, we are a family that truly loves and cares for each other.”