The “little white clapboard” church at the corner of Church and Hibben Streets in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant (settled in 1680) has quite a history. From an all-male congregation of only six when accepted by Charleston Presbytery as a mission church in October 1870, Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church has grown to boast of a membership of almost 3,000 confirmed members.
Planters, some of whom had arrived from New England in 1696, started our mother church, best known today as Old Wappetaw (site can be found on Fifteen Mile Landing Road in Awendaw, just north of our current location). That church called its first minister, a Congregationalist, in 1699, but throughout its long history, many of the ministers were Presbyterian. After the American Revolution, the Old Wappetaw congregation was chartered by the state legislature and its Sanctuary, which had been burned by the British when they evacuated the area in 1782, was soon rebuilt.
Since many of Old Wappetaw’s members were acquiring summer cottages in or near the Village of Mount Pleasant, worship services were conducted in the village from time to time to accommodate them. Beginning about 1828, those services were held in a community church building that had been erected on a lot now known as 226 Bennett Street. A private individual sold that lot in 1846 with no mention in property transfer records of a building on the property. We do not know where summer services may have been held from then until the present Presbyterian Sanctuary was erected in 1854; but, from the time the present church was built, it was known to all as the “Presbyterian Church,” although it was not affiliated with any organized church body. It was, however, served by Wappetaw’s Presbyterian minister.
Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church was organized by a handful of Civil War survivors who struggled to keep it alive during some of the more difficult years in United States history. The Sanctuary had been completed in 1854 as a branch of the Independent Congregational Church of Christ Church Parish. That church, which existed in name only following the war, had been disorganized by the deaths and departure of the majority of its members.
Several years after the Civil War began in 1861, our present Sanctuary building became a Confederate hospital. Before the war ended, possibly during the Confederate evacuation of the area in 1865, a Union artillery shell burst overhead, raining small pieces of scrap iron down through the roof.
In January 1866, a Quaker teacher claimed the church building for use as a school for the children of former slaves, occupying it until fall of that year. It was the beginning of what later became Laing School. Cornelia Hancock wrote to her family in Philadelphia: “There was nothing but the dilapidated building; not a chair, table, slate, pencil, book. The only thing that suggested itself to my mind was to take some coals from the improvised fire and make letters and figures on the white columns in the church.”
Evangelists and part-time ministers served the church until 1948, when the congregation (48 strong!) called its first full-time minister, Rev. Thomas W. Horton, Jr. Rev. Horton, although serving full-time at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church, was also responsible for the Sullivan’s Island Chapel of Second Presbyterian Church of Charleston. Our previous Senior Pastor, Gary Bullard, is only the seventh full-time pastor and head of staff in over 160 years in our current location. Our first Associate Pastor was called in 1980. (See below for Full-Time Pastors)
The Sanctuary has been expanded twice to accommodate a pipe organ, an enlarged choir loft and additional seating for the congregation. Several additions to the campus have taken place over the years, also to serve a growing congregation. (See below for Renovations and Expansions)
From worship services held on an occasional basis in the early years, Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church now has four worship services each Sunday, including a contemporary worship experience entitled The Net.
Thomas W. Horton, Jr. 1948-1961
“(At MPPC) there are people helping people, people trying to meet needs and people caring for others, that I hope I had sense enough to try to inspire in those early days.”
William H. Boyd 1962-1978
“Evangelism is ever a part of the life of the congregation. or its demise if it is lacking.”
Robert J. Lake 1979-80
From A Memorial to Rev. Lake:
“WHEREAS, during this short-lived period Robert J. Lake made a profound and unique impact upon this Church, its Congregation and the Mount Pleasant community, evidencing a love, concern and interest in his fellow man which, though urged in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, is rarely seen amongst us in these days;…”
James S. Lowry 1981-1992
“I still think, as I thought then (upon departure) and have often said since, the Mount Pleasant Church is one of the half-dozen or so most faithful congregations in our denomination.”
D. C. (Rusty) Douglas 1993-1995
“God’s last word is always a word of Grace.”
Steven P. Eason 1997-2002
“As I reflect on the history of this church, it occurs to me that my calling is in keeping with the way in which God has been leading this church from its very inception. It’s almost in spite of us that God accomplishes his will. When we look back, we can more clearly see the hand of God always there, always at work.”
Gary L. R. Bullard, Sr. 2004-2016
Never focused on its own survival, the Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church has always worked to make a difference in the world, locally and globally. It’s in our DNA!
ADDITIONS TO THE CAMPUS AND SANCTUARY RENOVATIONS
In 1949, a small one-story education building was constructed behind the sanctuary, often referred to as “the dungeon.” About five years later, a two-story ell was added.
In 1962 the first phase of the Seabrook Building, consisting of eight classrooms, was erected. The remainder was completed in 1968.
A lot to the east of the sanctuary and one immediately behind it were acquired in 1966. Additional property, including five small houses on the block on which the sanctuary is located, was purchased in 1972. Two of the white frame buildings remain.
A major renovation and enlargement of the sanctuary was completed in 1982, which included reopening the balconies which had been closed off in 1939 by a unique arch beneath ceiling.
Also, the sanctuary was lengthened by 26 feet, a new choir loft behind the pulpit was added and a rebuilt 1886 Roosevelt tracker pipe organ was installed.
In addition, a two-story administration building was erected behind the sanctuary, replacing the original education building. The block structure behind the Seabrook Building, the Darby House, was acquired in 1994 for the next phase of expansion. However, the lot proved to be too small to meet the needs of the rapidly growing congregation. Instead, a major building program, completed in 2000, took place. It included a large fellowship hall, increased administrative facilities, and major renovations of both the sanctuary and the Seabrook Building.
In 2005 additional education space was completed on the lot where the Darby House once stood, and the building was named Grace Hall.
The 100 year old house on 314 Hibben Street was purchased by MPPC with the intention of making a parking lot. Since demolition of the house was not allowed by the town of Mount Pleasant, it was used for storage until 2009 when Hope House, a Hospital Hospitality House, was defined. Hope House, which serves families who have an adult family member in a Charleston area hospital, was renovated and furnished by volunteers. The storage shed in the back yard of the Hope House was completed in 2013 with wheel chair accessibility and is called Hope Cottage. We now have a total of 4 bedrooms and 3.5 baths and the ability to increase our occupancy.