Paper prepared and Delivered by Samuel
at the Homecoming at Black Swamp Church
April 29, 1942
It is with a feeling of deep insufficiency that I attempt to make a talk on the history of the Black Swamp Church because of my inability to locate historical material and records pertaining to this sacred old church, so dear to the hearts of us all.
Probably many of the records were destroyed by Sherman's Army when it passes through this section on 1864. Much of what I have to say is tradition and while it cannot be verified by records, there is sufficient evidence to establish the facts.
In a pamphlet on Hampton County compiled by workers of the writers program of the WPA, we find this account and I quote: "The Black Swamp Methodist Church two miles south of Garnett, S.C. is a simple white frame edifice built in 1790 along early American lines, without steeple, columns or stained windows. The dense growth of evergreen trees and shrubs of the neighboring swamp surround the building. Gardenias, locally called Cape Jasmine, and cedars shade the well-kept adjoining cemetery, where a monument to JOHN SETH MANER - a Major in the war of 1812, is among the gravestones. The sturdy structure has been in constant use since its erection and is the oldest church building in this section."
There is not much written about the early development of this section. Our ancestors were too busy making history to stop and write it. Picture in your mind, if you can, this section of the state 150 years ago, with very few settlers, only rough roads and trails and most of the country covered with dense undergrowth.
We are told that Capt. Samuel Maner, an officer under Gen. Francis Marion in the Revolutionary War, was detailed by Gen. Marion to bring a lot of slaves and materials over here from Santee for safe keeping and that after the war, he settled here in 1785, and acquired much property and great wealth. It is said that his holdings extended (real estate) for 30 miles along the Savannah River. He was joined by his brother, William Maner, also a Capt. In the Revolutionary War, & these two pioneers were the progenitors of a large family connection.
While I am supposed to make a historical talk on the Black Swamp Church, I will digress to say something about the people who built this church and who inhabited the regions here about, for we of the succeeding generations feel that we have an honorable ancestry and we are proud to be descended from such noble stock. Our love of our ancestry and our efforts to preserve our family records are not so peculiar to us or our generation, for it is a notable fact that the Bible devotes more space to this one subject than any other.
Approximately one chapter in every seven is devoted to genealogy in the first 430 chapters of the Bible. "of all the noble things on earth, the queerest one is pride of birth."
I want to quote from an editorial written in the Southern Christian Advocate in Sept. 1917, by the then editor, Dr. Willie C. Kirkland. "People who have never visited the Black Swamp Country usually think of a muddy swamp, mosquitoes and malaria. But others know the country of large bodies of evergreen pines, live oaks, straight level roads, partridge and deer innumerable, beautiful homes and each at the end of a long avenue, and a people who have been bred to hospitality for generations".
Dr. Kirkland goes on to say that the first Methodist sermon that was ever preached on the Savannah River or S.C. was preached at old Purysberg. That old place is in Jasper County.
Dr. Kirkland states further that his mother's grandfather and grandmother, William Henry Lawton and Catherine Mogandollar drove down from Purysberg, about 15 miles and heard the first Methodist sermon and invited the preacher to visit the Black Swamp Country. He did so and the outcome of it was the future establishment of the Black Swamp Methodist Church. The members of the church have always taken great pride in keeping up the church and the grounds and the cemetery.
Francis Asbury preached at Black Swamp Church Sunday, Feb. 3, 1793 from 2 Cor. III, 9, and we find this comment, "The subject was pointed and the people were attentive".
The day before he crossed the Savannah River at Sister's Ferry coming from Savannah, and he states "that he came on to Black Swamp and in the dark got pretty well scratched by the trees", from Asbury's Journal, Vol. II, Page 154.
Black Swamp Methodist Church of Hampton Co. is pictured and described in old South Carolina churches by Hazel Crowson Sellers. She stated that this sturdy little church has been in constant use since its erection about 1790.
From a historical sketch of Black Swamp Church by Miss Anna Maner, daughter of William Francis Maner and Anna Salley, she states "At the time of the War Between the States, this church was used as a shelter by the soldiers of Sherman's army who, no doubt, thought best not to apply the torch as it was serving as a roof over their heads".
She gives a list of the family and connections who own lots there - John S. Baxter, John King Garnett, Lawtons, Joseph Maner Lawton, M.S. Lawton, Jimmie Lawton, William Henry Lawton, Brewton S. Lawton, E.M. Lawton, John Harnett Lawton, John Seth Maner, William Francis Maner, Henry King Maner, James King Maner, J.W. Maner, John M. Maner, Benj. Martin, Walter W. Smith, G.M Riley, Richard Henry Sams, Daughter of Sam Perry Maner, John Tison, J.A. Tison, Henry Warren Richardson, John M. Richardson, James C. Richardson, J.E. Wiggins and Vincent Martin Maner.
From a copy of a Maner family history sent to Lawton Maner by his cousin Mary Maner Tallant. Samuel Maner Martin was a long-time Professor of Mathematics and Chairman of the Mathematics Department at Clemson A&M College (now Clemson University), where the math building, Martin Hall, is named after him.