The Brick Church
St. James Santee Church was chartered as a parish of the Church of England in 1706, which surprised me because there is such a strong French Huguenot presence in the Santee area of South Carolina.
At least five churches were built on that spot, but the last one—The Wambaw Church—was built in 1768. The church, usually referred to as the Brick Church, is on the fabled King’s Highway, the first north-south road that travelers, including representatives of the British Crown, used to traverse the Lowcountry. King’s Highway wasn’t a creation of the British and French, however. It follows old trails and pathways that indigenous peoples had used for centuries.
The Brick Church no longer holds weekly services. As a matter of fact, it only holds one yearly service on the Sunday following Easter. After the service, a covered dish picnic is held in the cemetery. I attended one of the services many years ago. I felt like I was in a movie, only better.
If you go, I would suggest that out of respect for the people of nearby McClellanville, who support the church, you might want to take part in the service while standing out in the yard. Seats are limited.
According to the brochure that is available in the church, the body of the church was built out of bricks made in England, but the columns were fashioned by curved bricks that were made locally by enslaved workers. The floors are hand-pegged cypress and the plastered ceilings are original. The flagstone floors are my favorite. Legend has it that during the Revolutionary War, and possibly during the War Between the States, enemy troops stabled their horses inside the church. Wounded might have been treated there, too.
In 1972, St. James Santee Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The church is always open and is for the most part, unattended. You simply unlatch the door and walk in.
It is seldom that anyone else is there. It is one of the most peaceful places you will ever go. It is impossible to describe in words. The only time I’ve ever found others there was when two couples were renewing their vows. Twice I’ve seen that!
The only words of advice: go during a dry spell. The church is located on a dirt road that is about three-miles long, and it is filled with potholes big enough to stand up in. I may be exaggerating a little bit, but very little. When I was there a month ago, I actually ended up with mud on the roof of my car. I went to a local car wash, and had to go through it twice. I still have mud under the hood, though. I’m going to have to have my car detailed to get that off.
Was it worth the mess? Absolutely.