There’s not much left to the town of Winnsboro, South Carolina. When the boll weevil passed through the area in the early 1920s, the cotton industry disappeared and never returned. Perhaps the community’s most impressive claim to fame is that in 1780, Lord Cornwallis of British Revolutionary War fame wintered in the city. He really had other destinations in mind, but after suffering a devastating loss at the nearby Battle of King’s Mountain—the turning point of the American War according to Thomas Jefferson—he needed a place to regroup.
Much of the resistance to the British forces came from the ornery Scots-Irish that lived in the more western areas of the Carolinas and Virginia. When they migrated to the South, they brought with them a certain disdain for kings and queens, and a preference for new brands of religion.
Ebenezer Associated Reformed Presbyterian (A.R.P.) Church, located a few miles from Winnsboro, is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, partly because it is one of the few eighteenth-century meeting house-churches remaining in the state, and partly because it is the birthplace of the denomination’s presence in South Carolina. All of that is just mildly interesting, we can agree. Far more interesting is a now-framed note that was left in the Church during the Civil War.
During Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” much of the South was reduced to rubble. He and his men wished to punish and demoralize the South, particularly South Carolina, the place where the war began. But there were pockets of grace, such as the written note that Union troops left behind at Ebenezer A.R.P.
“Citizens of this community: Please excuse us for defacing your house of worship, so much. It was absolutely necessary to effect a crossing over the creek, the Rebs had destroyed the bridge.”
The church was later repaired and remained in active use until 1920.
In the fall of 2016, hundreds of people gathered for what is now a once every five-year reunion service. The preaching was fine and the day glorious, all made possible by an act of kindness from Union troops, many years ago.