The Truth... What is it?


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The actual first church was built at the mill built by Godfrey Dreher where Twelve Mile Creek is crossed by Corley Mill Road (a stone monument marks it).

Then the second church located about 100 yards from the Saluda River, downstream from where Twelve Mile Creek empties into the Saluda River, where the old road (Darby Ambrose Road is the last surviving segment) from Lexington to Leaphart neared a ferry over the Saluda (Columbia did not yet exist).

In more modern times, the third church located back up and south of Twelve Mile Creek (which crosses under Corley Mill Road just north of the church) in the present area on Corley Mill Road.

The earliest documented building for Zion Lutheran Church was a log/wood cabin, located near the Saluda River [at that 2nd site]. The congregation served members on both sides of the Saluda River. Some would bring their own boats across the river to worship and others would come by ferry. Children who had arrived at church early would go across with the ferry to ride back with their friends from the other side. Members from the Lexington (west) side of the river either walked or rode horses or carriages to church. Sometimes they would hide their muddy shoes under a log so they would be presentable for church. The custom at that time was for the male and female members of the church to sit on separate sides. The children would sit 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 flooded into the church building. Postal route maps of 1900 & 1909 show the church moved at least near the present area and in the #2 site (confusing). S. B. “Tod” Arehart is the last living member at Zion to have been baptized at location #2. In 1922, the congregation moved its house of worship to the present location where the church prospered until a tragic fire destroyed the building on February 4, 1944. Because the Second World War was being fought, money and building supplies were scarce. Members of the congregation donated timber from their own lands to the church and rebuilt it on Saturdays. To satisfy government regulations at the time, the building had to be rebuilt using the foundation from the burned church. Today the different layers of brick can be noticed on the side of the building in the enclosed narthex courtyard.

  • How was the name chosen? Our congregation having 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, which sits atop Mount Zion in present-day Israel. And, generally speaking, the name “Zion” is an honored church name throughout the history of Christendom.
  • Zion being ELCA Lutheran, who can be members? Throughout its history, many who were unchurched or from other denominations, have joined our congregation…especially in the past 20 years. And Zion has had members leave for other churches & denominations. We currently have former Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc., as well as multi-generational life-long Lutherans. Though a very old congregation by American historical standards, our congregation is modern and proud of its outreach to the young in age and heart, as well as to the entire spectrum of our community. Come and join us at Zion!
  • What is the very early colonial history of drawing European immigrants to South Carolina? In the pre-revolutionary South Carolina Township Act of 1730, provision was made by Gov. Robert Johnson to establish eight townships in inland S. C. Most were within 60 miles of the coast, and all were positioned on the state's river systems. Protestants were lured from various European areas with the promise of 100 acres per head of household and 50 acres for wife and each child above maybe 12 years of a town tools & provisions for first year. That is, 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 in and around the colonial capitol of Charleston, S. C., (one of the key American colonial cities of that time).
    German & Swiss immigrants were directed to the area of Saxe Gotha (the area of present-day Lexington). Germany being “Deutschland”, this area (especially the area between the “fork” of the Broad & Saluda Rivers) became known up to the present day as the “Dutch Fork” area of S. C. Family lines have continued at Zion since early times. For example, Jacob Drafts (about 1718-1760)arrived in S. C. 1743/44 and began one of the oldest member family lines in the congregation ( monument several miles away on Glenkirk Lane marks where he was killed).
  • How old is the Zion congregation compared to others? Zion Lutheran Church is the oldest continuing congregation of worshippers of any denomination and of any religion in Lexington County and is likely also the oldest of any congregation in the entire state of South Carolina inward (westward) of the “fall line” junction between coastal & piedmont regions of our state!
  • Has Zion always been at the present site? Settlers met for Lutheran services in the Zion Lutheran Church area possibly as early as 1735. Church-history officials have arbitrarily set the year of 1745 as the beginning of Zion Lutheran Church. Legend is that the first worship site…as plans evolved to build a church…is thought to have been westward up Twelve Mile Creek about where Murray & Martha Seay live on Mill Stream Road.
  • What about the historical marker in front of the church? This type of marker is in the federal historical markers program. In connection with the historical marker on the roadside in front of the church, it is noted that some 15 likeminded congregations in this part of S. C. formed an association in 1787 to establish some guidelines for membership, ordination, etc. This is the first type of synodical gathering in the history of South Carolina. It would be the precursor to the S. C. Synod, and it was called the Corpus Evangelicum. Fort Dreher was nearby, being a protected area during the Cherokee Indian War (1751-62).
  • Which are the daughter churches from Zion? Bethel (in White Rock), St. Peter’s (west of Lexington), Pilgrim (between Lexington and the dam), Emmanuel (West Columbia), Mt. Hermon (West Columbia), Providence (north of Lexington), St. Michael’s (between the dam & Ballentine), St. Andrews (off I-26 @ St. Andrews Rd.), and Bethlehem (in Irmo).
  • What about colonial to Revolutionary times? Life was no easier once the settlers arrived and received their land grant. Indian raids and the Revolutionary War took their toll. Though the settlers were busy with survival needs in the 1740s, it is known that attempts were made to establish a place for worship. One recorded incident illustrates the creativity and courage of these folk. A group of England-loyalist Rev. War Tories tried to enter Dreher’s Fort, then a nearby refuge for a few men who were home from the war and women seeking protection. The people upstairs in one of the buildings made so much noise by rattling chains and banging pots that the Tory soldiers…believing they were outnumbered…retreated. It is understandable how these settlers had no time, interest, or means to record church history. It was all about survival.
  • What about Civil War times? Worship continued during the time of the Civil War with records of communion and baptisms noted in the church record books. There is no direct mention of the war in the written records of the church. 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. They camped several hundred yards away on the Harmon place on the northwest property at Highway #378 and Corley Mill Road. Whatever happened, however, the war did not destroy Zion’s church body of believers.




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(posted 2 October 2008)