The oldest surviving church within the historic district of Bluffton, South Carolina is the Campbell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Constructed in 1853 by the Bluffton Methodist Episcopal Church, the property changed hands in 1874.
The trustees of the new church were nine freed slaves: Renty Fields, Jacob Chilsom, William Ferguson, Jeffrey Buncombe, William Smiley, David Heyward, Christoper Bryan, Theodore Wilson and William Lightburn. The building was immediately expanded for its new congregation.
Over the years membership continued to expand, requiring the addition of a new and larger sanctuary as well as numerous alterations to the original building.
In 2015, Celebrate Bluffton and A Call to Action partnered to nominate the historic church to the National Register of Historic Places. The listing will provide recognition from the federal government that the building and its people have a story of national significance to tell. This will be the first step of many on the journey to restore the church to its 1874 incarnation
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The process began with an investigation of the church's history, construction methods and materials. This research will help determine the building's significance and identify what changes have occurred over time.
For the first time in nearly fifteen years, the church bell was rung when the rope was discovered behind some ceiling tiles. Hoping to not only hear the bell but also see it, Scott, Celebrate Bluffton's summer intern, braved both the heights and wasps to climb up inside the attic.
These efforts along with continuing research into both the history of the Campbell Chapel and of the A.M.E church in the south will help form a picture of the site's significance and evolution over time.
Article Written by Sabrinna Cox