Thumbnail History of Zion Lutheran
Lexington County, S.
the church? The original church congregation was formed at least as early as 1745, in Lexington County, S. C. near
the Saluda River in what was known as the Switzer's Neck area near the
pre-Revolutionary (Colonial) Godfrey Dreher Fort. War Between the States Gen. William Tecumseh
Sherman called it (in his journal) "the Dutch Church".
This area in central S. C., largely centered in what
later became Lake Murray, is still known amongst
locals as the Dutch Fork area (a corruption of the
German words, Deutsch Volk ["German Folks"]). These
Germanic ancestors largely emigrated out of the
Rhine River area of the German Palatinate along the
The Dutch Fork arose (to describe a large central S. C. area) after the Royal Colonial Township Act of 1730 created 10 "townships", the 20,000 acre Congaree Township being one (centerred on the west bank of the Congaree (West Columbia and Cayce). Friday's Ferry was at the current west base of the Gervais Street Bridge. That "Congaree Township" name was changed to the colonial township of Saxe Gotha in 1735, and immigrants then began to arrive. Though a town plan was laid out, there was no actual "town" of Saxe Gotha (a name in honor of of the marriage of the British Prince of Wales to Princess Augusta of the German state of Saxe Gotha). Saxe Gotha District was much larger at 35 miles long & 30 miles wide (625,000 acres). Granby Village arose (1760), the Fort Congaree site of 1718 being at about the downstream edge of what would become Granby Village. And the Fort Congaree site of 1748 (50 years later) was located on the upstream edge of Granby Village, just downstream from the western end of the current Blossom Street Bridge. Leading up to the Revolutionary War, Granby Village was one of the most important inland towns east of the Mississippi (it was the center of a coastal spur from the Charlotte, N. C. point of the Philadelphia Wagon Road [map] through Camden, the current Cayce area...Granby Village...and thence to Charleston). This area is documented in the Cayce Museum as having yielded up an amazing collection of artifacts going back 12,000 years (the probable site of an important permanent Congree Indian village).
The Switzer's neck area is just upstream
of the confluence of the Saluda &
Broad rivers. It begins upstream of Granby/Saxe Gotha (present-day Cayce and West Columbia). In about 1757-60, the Saxe Gotha Township area had about 66 families & a population of about 1000. This is
across the river westward of what is now our state capitol city, Columbia (the
town of Columbia was
founded in 1786, the new capital city site having legislatively passed for that Taylor Plantation location rather than Granby Village by a single vote!). "Lexington County" became the new name for Saxe Gotha District in 1785 (in honor of the Rev. War battle in Mass.). Saxe Gotha switched to the small crossroads town of Lexington in 1820 (jail & wooden court house bulit) and was actually incorporated in 1861. Here is a good on-line resource for Lexington County, S. C.
Lake Murray: Plans were concieved as early as 1904 for this 78 square mile (54,000 acres) lake named after the yankee engineer from New York who headed up its planning and construction (finished by 1932). HERE is the write-up by Mr. Boozer; HERE is Wikipedia.
the name chosen? Formed at least as early as 1745, there is no record of
how the name was chosen. “Zion” in the Bible refers to the city of God, ancient
Jerusalem atop Mount Zion in present-day Israel. “Zion” is an honored church name
throughout the history of Christendom.
being ELCA Lutheran, who can be members? Originally a church mostly of rural farmers, Zion currently
has former Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals, etc., as well as multi-generational
life-long Lutherans whose ancestry harks back to
original colonial immigrants. A very old congregation by American historical standards, she is
modern and proud of her outreach to the entire spectrum of our community, especially
the young in age and heart. Come join us at Zion Lutheran Church!
the very early colonial history of drawing European immigrants
here? The pre-revolutionary
South Carolina Township Act of 1730 established eight inland townships. Most were
within 60 miles of the coast & on rivers. Incentives were created to draw
immigrants to form settlements in interior S. C. to act as protective buffers against
Indians and others attacking the British subjects around the colonial seaport capitol
of Charleston, S. C. Protestants were lured from various European areas &
promised 100 acres per head of household and 50 acres for wife and each child above
maybe 12 years of age...plus a town lot...plus tools & provisions for the first
year. The German & Swiss immigrants were directed to the area of Saxe Gotha (the
area of present-day Lexington County), over 100 miles inland and containing the very important village of Granby. Germany being “Deutschland”, the present day area between present day I-20 and the Broad River (Switzer's Neck being west of the Saluda & about Gervais St. bridge to highway #6 going over Lake Murray dam) became known up to the present
day as the “Dutch Fork” (much of the area being in the "fork" between the Saluda
& Broad Rivers ["Saluda Fork"]...but the name is
a corruption of the German words, Deutsch Volk
["German Folks"]). In the late 1700s & early 1800s, this "strict" Dutch Fork between the Saluda & Broad Rivers had a western divide at about what was Ridge Road south of Prosperity, the German folk tending to be eastward (downstream) and the Irish on westward; and it was centered 3 or so miles around old St. John's Lutheran Church near Pomaria. As with Jacob Drafts who arrived in S. C. 1743/44 (my wife's
ancestor), some family lines have continued for many generations at Zion (Kleckley, Corley, Wingard, Cromer, Gable, etc.). And other very early settlers in the greater Dutch Fork included Summer, Wessinger, Shealy and others.
is the Zion congregation compared to others? Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Georgia is the oldest continuous congregation in America (started 1733). St. John's in Charleston is the oldest (started 1742) in S. C. Zion is the oldest continuing congregation of any
religion in Lexington County and is likely the oldest congregation in the entire state
of South Carolina westward of the “fall line” (where river navigation encounters rapids
and water falls) junction between coastal & piedmont regions of S. C.)!
Has Zion always been at the present site? Settlers met for Lutheran services in the Zion
Lutheran Church (ZLC) area possibly as early as 1735. Academic church-history officials have
arbitrarily set the year of 1745 as the beginning of Zion Lutheran Church. The first
worship site is legendarily thought to have been westward up (on "high ground" above the Saluda River) within the vague fork area of the junction of Fourteen Mile Creek with Twelve Mile Creek. That is near
where Murray Seay [@ lat. 34.022222, long. -81.181389, 300 ft. above sea
level] lives on Mill Stream Road (just northwest & upstream of where the creek joins Twelve Mile
The first (#1) actual church was probably built downstream, very close to the mill built by Gottfried Dreher the immigrant
(grandfather of Rev. G. W. Dreher) where Twelve Mile Creek is currently (2014) crossed by Corley Mill
Road (site #1 HERE, about 1745-1792...a
granite marker is there [@ lat. 34.031262 & long.
-81.161284, 320 ft. above sea level]) at about what might be 450 Corley Mill Road (funded in about 1947 by Zion Lutheran Church). The immigrant's sons, Godfrey & John Dreher gave the land. That site was also very close to where "The Corley Brothers' [grist] Mill" was located.
Then (#2) it
relocated about a half mile SE, closer to the Saluda River, about 100 yards downstream from where Twelve Mile
Creek empties into the Saluda River, HERE (lands also given to
Zion by Gottfried's sons, Godfrey & John Dreher), where the old road (Darby
Ambrose Road is the last surviving segment) from
Lexington to Leaphart (community of "Leaphart" being about where
the GE plant used to be on St. Andrews Road just inbound
from Seven Oaks Shopping Center) near a ferry
(Younginer's) over the Saluda River HERE. [Further up the Saluda was a crossing of the Saluda known between about 1778 & 1928 as Dreher Shoals, at the western end of what is known as Lake Murray Dam. An addition was added to that church in 1856. A permanet marker was approved and funded in about 1947 by Zion Lutheran Church.
In more modern times (#3, 1922), the church located (as the first brick Lutheran church in Lexington County) back up
Twelve Mile Creek (which crosses under Corley Mill Road about a half mile north of
the present church) & southward, in the present area [@ lat. 34.02080, long.
-81.15360, 380 ft. above sea level] on 226 Corley Mill Road on the same side as (and
just toward highway 378 from the entrances to) the
new River Bluff High School, HERE. That land was donated by S. M. Corley, W. L. Corley, and G. C. Areheart. The bricks were shipped from Augusta to the train depot in Lexington; then members got them to the building site. By the way, the now-capitol-city of Columbia, a few miles
eastward & on the east bank of the Congaree
River, was founded & became the new state capital in
the year 1786 (Charleston had been the original
colonial town-center , then state capital after 1776).
The earliest sketch or photo-documented
ZLC building was a log cabin followed by a boarded construction (see photo at site #2 link, above),
located on the above site #2 (small monument there 1792-1922) near the Saluda River.
The congregation served members on both sides of the river. Some would bring their own
boats across the river to worship and others came over by ferry. Children who
arrived at church early would go across with the ferry (Younginer's Ferry) to ride back with their friends
from the other side. Members from this side of the river either walked, rode
horses or carriages to church. The custom at that time was for the male and
female members of the church to sit on separate sides, children with their
mothers. Stories have been told of members going into the church by boat to
rescue hymnals and other items when the Saluda River periodically flooded. Current
congregation member, Mr. S. B. "Todd" Areheart (son of the above G. C. Areheart), was the oldest surviving member who was
baptized in that old church #2 by the Saluda River (Todd died 19 Oct. 2014, aged 99...then Burlie W. Corley became the last member baptized in that old church).
That 1922, originally cross-shaped, brick church prospered until a tragic afternoon fire
destroyed the building on February 4, 1944. There was no insurance. Because the Second World War was being
fought, money and building supplies were scarce & food was even rationed. Members cleaned the burned debris up and donated timber from their own
lands to the church. E. L. "Ed" Corley found a burned metal cross in the debris, and his father mounted it on a small wooden pedestal (we saw it at the mid-day Ash Wednesday service 1 March 2017). To satisfy government regulations at the time, the building had to
be rebuilt using the foundation from the burned church (otherwise, any building permit would have been denied). The corner stone was laid on 30 July 1944 at a service conducted by Rev. J. L. Drafts, President of the Western Conference. On Dec. 3, 1944, the first service was held; but, interior furnishings and final finishing were not complete until the middle of 1947. The beautiful stained glass windows were paid for by individual families; the large one over the alter was paid for by the whole congregation. Today the different layers of
brick can be noticed on the side of the building in the interior church courtyard
opening from within the vestibule. Some of the early members were Jacob Drafts & family, and the Kleckley family.
about the S. C. Historical Marker in front of the church? Some 7 to 14 like-minded German Protestant pastors (Lutheran and Reformed Presbyterian) in this part of
S. C., in a meeting for a union of churches (Unio Ecclesiastica), formed an association
(Ministerial Society) in 1787 to establish some guidelines for membership, ordination, etc., the first type
of synodical-like gathering in the history of South Carolina. Karen Corley found a listing of the churches as follows: The Frederician Church on Cattle's Cree, The German Calvinistic Church of St. John on the Fourhole, The German Lutheran Church of St. Matthew in Amelia Township, The German Lutheran Church of Salem on Sandy Run, The German Lutheran Church of Mt. Zion on Twelve Mile Creek, The German Lutheran Church of St. Peter on Eighteen Mile Creek, The German Lutheran Church of Bethel on High Hill Creek, The German Lutheran Church of St. Martin, The German Lutheran Church of Bethlehem on Forest's (Faust's) Ford, The German Protestant Church of Bethany on Green Creek, The German Protestant Church of Appii Forum on Cedar Creek, The German Protestant Church dedicated to Queen Charlotte on Slippery Creek in 96 District, The German Lutheran Church of St. Jacob on Wateree Creek, and The German Protestant Church of St. George on Indianfield Swamp. The Lutheran component would be the precursor to
the S. C. Synod, and it was called the Corpus Evangelicum (became a Synod 2 Nov. 1824
in St, Michael's Church). Due to area suffering in the Cherokee War (1757-1761), the
immigrant Gottfried (Godfrey) Dreher (an early Zion member, coming to this area in
1747) erected Fort Dreher nearby in 1759 (separate from his mill at that first Zion site
#1 on the creek crossing at Corley Mill Road) as a safe haven when warring
parties were near. See Historical Marker database photos/notes HERE.
are the churches birthed from Zion? Bethel Lutheran (in White Rock), St. Peter’s (west
of town of Lexington, St. Peters Church Road), Pilgrim (between town of Lexington and
the Lake Murray dam), Emmanuel (West Columbia), Mt. Hermon (West Columbia), Providence
(north of town of Lexington, Old Chapin Road), St. Michael’s (between the Lake Murray
dam & Ballentine, near Yacht Cove), St. Andrews (off I-26 @ St. Andrews Rd.), and Bethlehem (just north of
Irmo toward Ballentine).
about colonial-to-Revolutionary War times? Life was no easier once the settlers arrived from
trans-Atlantic voyages of 1-3 months and received their land grants. Indian raids, a
hard farming life, and the Revolutionary War took their toll. The Cherokee Indian War
(1757-61) had a founding member civilian casualty when Jacob Drafts was scalped &
killed in 1760 (a small monument is on the side of 262 Glenkirk Lane off of Corley Mill
Road [@ lat. 34.043056, long. 81.184722, 240 ft. above sea level]). (A blight on
the church's history was the Jacob Weaver [Weber] heresy [weberite sect & weberite
heresy, 1756-1760] when Zion was on the Saluda River near the then Younginer's Ferry. Weber considered himself God and his wife, the virgin Mary and Johann, Christ. Then Weber had a change of mind & killed Johann Georg Schmidtpeter , stating that Johann was the actual devil; Johann's son moved to Tenn.).
Focused on daily survival, it is understandable that settlers could not record church
about Civil War times? Older
Southerners (born before, say, 1950) used to prefer other terms for the name of the
war: The War Between the States (because S.C. had
already left the union when the war started...thus,
not a "civil war" as to S. C.) or The War of Northern Aggression. The hard times
continued & worsened during the Civil War, with records of communion and baptisms
but no direct mention of the war in the written records of the church. Very local (neighborhood) oral tradition
reports that Sherman’s armies entered the church building, destroyed the organ and
parts of the building, and then used the wood as firewood. Some stayed in James &
Iris Harman's ancestral home (Leaphart-Harman House, now at the Lexington Museum) that
was moved prior to Taco Bell being built on the home site at #378 & Corley Mill
Road. While that tradition says this home was the headquarters of General
Sherman was downstream in the Old State Road area below Cayce. Left Wing Generals could have stayed at the Leaphart-Harmon House., possibly Gen. Slocum or Gen. Kilpatrick. They camped several hundred yards away from the church on the Harmon (where Taco Bell is) & Buff (where the cemetery is) places at Highway
#378 and Corley Mill Road. Whatever might have happened, however, the war did not
destroy Zion’s church-body of believers.
about the prehistory of this area lead settlers here? From my friend, Nan Faile:
The bottom lands surrounding most rivers, creeks, and even seasonal streams in South
Carolina have a unique archeological story to tell about this state’s inhabitants prior
to the time of written history. Few creeks in the state have a richer history than that
of Twelve-Mile Creek located in the central midlands of S. C. in Lexington County.
Draining into the Saluda River (whose upstream reaches now run
submerged beneath the waters of Lake Murray), Twelve-Mile Creek has rich archeological
evidence of earlier peoples up and down its entire length in Lexington County. Native
American peoples camped seasonally in the region for thousands of years prior to the
white man. A local resident, John Lowery Frierson, Jr., documented dozens of "indian
Mounds" in this area & others for an advanced degree study some years
The physical area surrounding Twelve-Mile Creek brings together an important
convergence of environments, namely that of the mountains giving way to the sea.
This area is widely known by local archeologists as the “fall-line” region and is
characterized by relatively easy-to-travel rolling hills and valleys. The region
is also characterized by an abundance of water and game. Abundant natural
springs along the creek's length and especially closer to the Saluda River were a key
attractor (today and during prehistoric times): the availability of water…key to
natural fruits & nuts, small farming, and abundant wild game. That abundance
of nut-bearing trees provided an important food staple for prehistoric people who both
hunted and gathered their foods. And, trails were probably easily evident due to
this constant use. It would be many years later before native peoples would settle in
villages during the Mississippian era and begin growing crops.
Food, water, game, and easy-to-travel
land & trails made the region of the Twelve-Mile Creek attractive for all
forms of life; and the archeological evidence suggests the region has been
inhabited for four to six thousand years. This age could possibly be
conservative given the evidence now emerging from the Savannah River region at a
very ancient site (estimated 15,000 years before present) called the Topper
(***many thanks to Janet Drafts-Boltjes for her great primary help in assembling the following list.)
Modern customs and notes: ***[the ZLC web site]
- 1745-60: An old book says that there was no regular minister prior to 1750 (p230, The History of the German Settlements of the Lutheran Church in N. C. and S. C. by G. D. Bernheim, 1872, 557 pages). At this time, there was only one German-speaking minister devoting his full time to the Saxe-Gotha & Dutch Fork (and Orangeburg Co.?) area: the Reformed preacher, Christian Theus. Within the fear and tensions related to the Cherokee War and many other dangers in the backcountry, it was not unusual for spirituality to take unconventional turns as manifested in colonial British America as Radical Pietists. Within the vacuum of pastoral care, Jacob Weber arose as sort of a layperson spiritual enthusiast. Before long two others were caught up in his influence, John George Smithpeter and a slave known only as Dauber, laid claim to “the most extraordinary revelations" and helped hatch out a sect that lead to the Weberite Heresy.
- circa 1760: Rev. John Nicholas Martin, first ZLC pastor (1724-1795...immigrant, buried St. Johns, Charleston)
- circa 1767: Rev. Lewis Hockheimer (it apparently is a mystery as to what happened to him)
- circa 1788: Rev. Frederick Augustus Wallberg or Wallburg (? to 1795-1803...German immigrant to N. Y. and thence to S. C. & buried somewhere in "Saluda Fork", S. C.)
- circa 1788: Rev. J. G. Bamberg (1760-1800...immigrant, buried Erhardt, S. C.)
- 1800-1809?: Rev. C. E. Bernhardt (1763-1809...immigrant, buried near St. Michaels)
- uncertain: Rev. John Nicholas Marcord or Marcard (no info)
- uncertain: Rev. Michael Rauch (1781-1861...buried Corinth, Saluda, S. C.)
- uncertain: Rev. J. P. Franklow (1758-1829...he & wife from London, England; buried Lexington)
- 1810-1812: Rev.
Godfrey Walter Dreher (1789-1875...buried St. Michael's)
- 1812-1816: Rev. J. Y. Meetze (1757-1833...immigrant, buried St. Stephens)
- circa 1816: Rev. R. J. Miller (1758-1834...immigrant [Scotland], buried Lenoir, N. C.)
- 1817-1824: Rev. J. Y. Meetze (1757-1833...immigrant, buried St. Stephens)
- 1825-1853: Rev. Godfrey Walter Dreher (1789-1875...buried St. Michael's)
- 1854-1855: Rev. Daniel Efird (1824-1891...buried St. Michaels)
- 1855-1870: Rev. Adam Efird (1821-1870...buried at Zion)
- 1870-1872: Rev. Daniel Efird (1824-1891...buried St. Michaels)
- 1872-1877: Rev. A. L. Crouse (no info)
- 1877-1878: Rev. Daniel Efird (1824-1891...buried St. Michaels)
- 1879-1884: Rev. E. L. Lybrand (1852-1922...buried Mt. Tabor)
James Albert Cromer
(1847-1922...Zion Lutheran Church, Lexington, S. C.).
- 1922-1934: Rev. H. A. Kistler (1879-1938...buried Daniel Church, N. C.)
- 1935-1942: Rev. Glenn S. Eckard (1907-1976...buried St. Stephens, N. C.)
- 1942-1951: Rev. Thomas F. Suber (1890-1969...buried Properity, S. C.)
- 1951-1954: Rev. C. K. Wise (1897-1960...buried Salisbury, N. C.)
- 1954-1960: Rev. Horace J. C. Lindler (1909-1985...Mt. Horeb
Luth. Ch. cem., Chapin, S. C.)
- 1960-1968: Rev. Daniel M. Shull, Sr. (1902-1992...buried St. Davids)
- 1969-1980: Rev. Garth Lee Hill, Sr. (1924-2013)
- 1981-1989: Rev. Hollis A. Miller
- 1989-1998: Rev. William "Bill" Milholland
- 1999-2007: Rev. John David Derrick [now at Emmanuel]; Rev. Ron Brown and Rev. Jim Nichols alternated as interim pastors.
- 2009-August 2013: Rev. Timothy Leroy Bupp [now at Reformation]; Rev. Jane Mitchum was interim pastor Oct. 2013-June 2015.
- July 2015-present: Rev. Nathan T. Gragg
- Thanksgiving Day "meals on
wheels" effort: This
custom began around 1980 when ZLC member J. F. "Frank" Waites ("white"/Caucasian)
reached out to _?__ ("black"/African-American) & helped that local family during
a hard time. In about 1997, the program ramped up when it was learned that Meals on Wheels did not deliver on Thanksgiving day. Tim Driggers, Thomas Lee Kleckley, and Iris Harman's names and efforts have long been identified with this annual project. Non-members from the community often take part in the effort. SaxeGotha Presbyterian joined in maybe about 2008 and contributes around 300 meals a year. While a core group does a great job of annual master planning, it seems miraculous to me how all of the more peripheral efforts come together. Cooked turkeys are cut up the day before. A Thanksgiving morning breakfast for volunteers is cooked & served at 7:30. Then at about 8:30 or so, volunteers arrange themselves at stations along two lines of tables. A whistle or command starts the assembly into action, and about 800 plates are assembled in about an hour. [for 2013...Ron Leaphart in charge of kitchen detail, we just now assembled 875 plates in 40 minutes! In 2015, to include the plates from the men at Saxe Gotha, we had 1605 plates!] Other volunteers then make the deliveries. In 2016, ZLC assembled 1200 plates in about one hour! All is accomplished in time for volunteers to return home to enjoy a family dinner gathering at home. Amazing effort and a joy to be a part of! I just heard (12/2013) that Pastor Mikki Corley Gay, Breath of Life Lutheran Church in Blythewood, S. C. started such a project this year at that church after having been part of Zion's while she interned here.
- Golden Ager celebration luncheon: as of the luncheon of 11 Sept. 2016, the Drwight & Nita Corley family have hosted & cooked this annual meal for the over-age-70 members for over 30 years!
- LICS Food Drive: Members (about 2000), decided to start an every-Sunday collection of canned foods for Lexington Interfaith Community Services (LICS) which accelerates each year with a Carolina-Clemson competition preceding the annual football game rivalry. We collect almost two tons of canned goods per year!
- Meetze and English Project: Pastor & members (about 2010), noting
the "crack alley" condition of a small black neighborhood close to New Mount Zion AME church (NMZAME), started a "clean off" project that ended up getting community business support along with the county sherriff's department and became the Drafts-Skenes Community Park, to include a sort of Sheriff's Department substation. Many older folk at ZLC believe that NMZAME church relates to ZLC by common membership before the War Between the States ending in 1865.
- Overtime: Members, noting the opening of Riverbluff High School next door in the fall of 2013,
started this time of safe gathering event following home football games. The Family Life Center is used for a chaperoned-for-safety gathering spot for a few hours after the games.
John Thomas Drafts' latest contribution is the wooden devices for the bell choir
to make the bells "hum". He crafted the alter rail system, the baptismal font,
and the pastor's pulpit.
- The eternal
over alter): This was
made/bought in ___. Member E. L. "Ed" Corley has maintained the refilling with oil and the
lighting for about 30 years!
- Narthex Garden: This has
features of the various stages of the church building since the early
- Narthex ZLC History Quilt (in narthex): This was made by Janet Drafts-Boltjes, daughter of John T. & Noreen Drafts.
- Alter Stained Glass Window: Ruth & Tod Arehart recalled that this was part of the rebuilt church after the fire of 1944; Thomas Lee Kleckley recalls that this was paid for by the general congregation.
- Main Sanctuary Memorial Stained Glass Windows: Ruth & Tod Arehart and Thomas Lee Kleckley also recall that families individually subscribed to place these windows as part of the rebuilt church after the fire of 1944.
- Our banners on the walls of our sanctuary were made by Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church's (West Columbia) banner lady, Alice Pollack, who has made over 3,000 banners within our Synod since 1980.
BACK to Coming
to America story
***give me your comments about this
(posted 11/30/2008; latest addition 14 May 2017 )