S.C. county to rebuild historic Methodist site

By Jessica Connor, Special Contributor…

PICKENS, S.C.—A lodge thought to be the place where Francis Asbury preached, found shelter and helped establish Methodism in northwestern South Carolina is going to be rebuilt and restored at the Hagood Mill historic site.

The 18th-century two-story log cabin known as the Burdine Lodge was donated last year to the Pickens County cultural commission. The lodge is thought to be the oldest structure in the area; it was already on the property when Samuel Burdine bought the land in 1796.

Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury—who traveled thousands of miles as a circuit rider in his 45-year ministry to spread the gospel throughout America—reportedly stayed at the lodge when he passed through the area, and helped launch Antioch Church in Dacusville, one of the first Methodist churches in Upstate South Carolina.

From left, Wayne Kelley and C. Allen Coleman of the Pickens County cultural commission stand at the site where the Burdine Lodge will be rebuilt. It’s the place where Francis Asbury preached and helped establish Methodism in the region, according to historians. PHOTO BY JESSICA CONNOR

“From this cabin, all of Methodism in upper South Carolina started,” said Ed Bolt, Hagood Mill site manager, noting the lodge is being stored in a county warehouse and will be reconstructed on the 63-acre site.

‘A win-win situation’

The centerpiece of Hagood Mill is the mill itself: a water-powered gristmill built in 1845 that still operates. Also on the site is an original Hagood family cabin, an old farm, a blacksmith shop, a cotton gin building, a moonshine still, a primitive potter’s shed, a nature trail and the first Baptist parsonage in the county—a restored late-18th-century structure called the Murphree Cabin.

C. Allen Coleman, cultural commission executive director, said the county plans to rebuild the Burdine Lodge there, much like they did the Murphree Cabin.

“I think any time we are able to re-use and save any of our historic properties it’s a win-win situation,” said Mr. Coleman, noting they were fortunate to get the logs from the original Burdine structure before it was completely destroyed. “To get the Burdine Lodge, with the role it played in Methodism not only here but the entire circuit going up the Eastern Seaboard, is connecting a very important piece of our heritage.”

After all, Mr. Coleman said, the “upcountry” of South Carolina was home not only to early traders, but also to men and women who felt divinely called to share the gospel.

Mr. Bolt said the cultural commission will reconstruct the lodge with some original wood and some modern logs, then fill it with Asbury memorabilia they have been collecting since they learned about the lodge.

Asbury came down the Saluda Pass repeatedly in his travels, and he was a frequent guest at the Burdine Lodge, Mr. Bolt said. He said Asbury’s journal called the private home of Samuel Burdine a place “where they walked in wickedness but were willing to be taught.” Asbury relied on people like the Burdines to board him while he rode the circuit spreading the Good News.

“The thing about ‘Frank’ was he never had a home, but like the Son of Man, he always had a place to lay his head thanks to the generosity of neighbors,” Mr. Bolt said.

The Rev. Roger Gramling, secretary-treasurer of the S.C. Conference Historical Society and secretary of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Commission on Archives and History, said the lodge is indeed thought to be the starting point for Asbury’s work in the region. The historical society is doing its own research about the site before presenting it to the conference as a possible project.

“Personally, I think it’s very exciting and has a great deal of potential,” Mr. Gramling said. “The understanding is Asbury used that as sort of his ‘headquarters’ when he was in the area. . . . It presents an interesting topic, and we want to look at it from its historical significance.”

For future generations

A.V. Huff, president of the SEJ Commission on Archives and History, said Asbury didn’t actually begin Methodism in that region; a circuit rider named John Andrew was appointed to the area. But because Asbury was so effective in spreading the gospel, and because there are not many Methodist structures left from that era, the Burdine Lodge is of definite interest.

“We have an interest in it because Asbury did stay there and because the Methodist work has continued in that area from its beginnings in 1789,” Dr. Huff said.

Phillip Stone, archivist for the South Carolina Conference, said he found in Asbury’s journal that he visited the Burdines in 1800 and 1802.

“[Asbury] says on Nov. 18, 1800, ‘We came fifteen miles to Samuel Burdine’s, Pendleton County. Here were many wandering people. Brother Whatcoat preached. We administered the Lord’s supper. . . . Our sister Burdine professeth to have known the Lord twenty years; in her you see meekness, gentleness, patience, and pure love—and cleanliness,’” Dr. Stone noted.

Dr. Stone said according to Asbury’s journal, he was back in November 1802 and stayed two or three days with the Burdines.

“On Nov. 17, he arrived, and his journal notes that he learned the origin of the name of the town of Ninety Six,” Dr. Stone said. “He rested with the Burdines on Nov. 18, . . . and on Nov. 19, he preached from Hebrews, saying that he ‘fully explained the doctrine of Christian baptism and Christian perfection.’”

Dr. Stone said he thinks moving any structure from its original site and rebuilding it elsewhere is definitely worthwhile if it helps preserve it for future generations and makes it more visible.

For more information about the lodge, contact the cultural commission at (864) 898-5963 or picmus@co.pickens.sc.us.

Ms. Connor is editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, where this story first appeared.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

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