Hopewell Presbyterian Church & Cemetery

Hopewell Presbyterian Church, image by Jerrye & Roy Klotz, M.D., Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Scottish and Irish immigrants in Mars Bluff founded Hopewell Presbyterian Church in 1770. Some of the founders of Hopewell came from Indiantown Presbyterian Church in Williamsburg County and Aimwell Presbyterian Church in Marion County. Members of the Gregg family were among the first elders of Hopewell. The Greggs owned the plantation where the hewn-timber cabins on this tour once stood. In 1790, the church gained its full-time minister Reverend Humphrey Hunter, an Irish immigrant who had served as a lieutenant in the American Revolutionary War. Hopewell calls itself “The Mother Church of Presbyterianism in the Pee Dee,” as it led to the founding of Darlington Presbyterian and Effingham Presbyterian in the nineteenth century and Florence Presbyterian in the twentieth century.  

The original Hopewell Presbyterian Church building once stood where the cemetery is now. It burned down in the 1790s, and its replacement also later burned. The current building was completed in the 1840s. It is an example of Greek revival architecture. An education building was added in 1958, and another addition to the rear of the church was built in the 1980s.

In the late 1700s and the first half of the 1800s, the congregation was made up primarily of area plantation owners. In 1852, church records indicated that there were 120 white members and 100 Black members. Since this was before the American Civil War, the Black members would have been enslaved. The church included an upper gallery for enslaved peoples to take part in segregated services. Washington Dozier, a formerly enslaved man interviewed during the Great Depression, recalled “De colored peoples worship to de white folks church in slavery time. You know dat Hopewell Church…dat a slavery church. Dat whe’ I go to church den wid my white folks.” After the Civil War broke out, most of the Black members left the church to found their own houses of worship. At least 40 of the men buried in the Hopewell Presbyterian Church Cemetery fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, including Robert Legare who later owned Red Doe Plantation, which is also on this tour. Many of their graves are marked with Confederate crosses in the grass.

Although the cemetery has not been accurately mapped, church records from the 1890s suggest that the cemetery has been in use since the church’s founding. Trustees report the tradition of burying enslaved people in Hopewell cemetery, but there are no markers or depressions to support this. The Hopewell Cemetery Association formed in the 1940s to provide perpetual care of the cemetery. According to its bylaws, only those with ancestors buried here can also be interred here.

The oldest memorial marker in the cemetery is that for Mary Elizabeth Gregg who died around 1815. She was the wife of James Gregg, a captain in the American Revolutionary War and a nearby plantation owner.

In 1990, the Florence Heritage Foundation placed a historical marker for General WIlliam Wallace Harlee near the cemetery. Harllee was President of the Wilmington & Manchester Railroad and founder of the City of Florence. He named the city after his daughter. They are both buried in the cemetery The church and cemetery were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

To learn more about Hopewell and the history of its cemetery, you can: