St Philip’s Episcopal Church sits footsteps from a bustling King Street today but is steeped in hundreds of years of history.
A little history
Founded in 1680, St. Philip’s was built only ten years after the colony was settled. In 1708, Gideon Johnston was sent from England as a first commissary to the church but later drowned in the Charleston harbor. To replace him, Alexander Garden was sent by the Bishop of London to be the commissary. Garden died in 1756 and is buried still in the churchyard. After Gardens death, Richard Clarke served as rector and Robert Smith as assistant rector. During the Revolutionary Period, the city fell to the British (in 1780), and Robert Smith was exiled. Smith later returned and was active in the formation of a new church, and in 1795 consecrated as the first bishop of South Carolina.
In 1710, the church was badly damaged by a hurricane and was in the process of being rebuilt in 1713 when it was nearly destroyed by yet another hurricane. Though it had been through enough disasters, in 1835, it burned to the ground.
Other little-known facts about St Philip’s
John C. Calhoun was buried in the west church yard, but during the Civil War his body was moved to the east church yard in fear that the federal troops would desecrate it. Calhoun’s massive tomb was erected by the state legislature in 1880.
During the war, a chime of eleven bells was contributed to the confederate army to be melted down and re-cast for ammunition and weapons. Four bells were replaced in 1976, which can still be heard today.
William Bell White served as rector and then Bishop of South Carolina, and in 1897 the white marble baptismal font in the nave was given in his memory in by the Chanel Guild.
In 1870, St. Philip’s home was dedicated and used as a home for widows and elderly ladies.
A beacon located in the steeple was used to guide ships into the harbor.
Like St Michael’s, St Philip’s was one of the city’s many churches that participated in #ChimeWithCharleston on Sun., June 21, 2015. In response to the tragic shootings at Mother Emanuel AME four days before, every church bell in the Holy City rang simultaneously at 10 a.m. in honor of the nine lives our community lost.