Overview of St. John's History
In 1865, when refugees from Civil War action along the coast took up residence in Florence, then a small railroad junction in Darlington County, Mrs. Frances Church, an English woman and school teacher, offered her classroom as a meeting place for Episcopal services.
Among those displaced persons from Charleston was the Reverend W. B. W. Howe, rector of St. Philip's Church, who with his family was staying at Mars Bluff. Mr. Howe, later Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, conducted services. Christ Church, Mars Bluff, established 1856, offered the new Episcopal congregation its support and guidance.
During 1867, the Reverend Walter C. Guerry, ordained a deacon on June 24 (St. John the Baptist Day), was assigned to organize a mission. On July 17 he was placed in charge of both a mission in Florence and one in Marion, S.C.
On July 28, Mr. Guerry preached his first and only sermon at the Florence mission, taking his sermon text from the gospel according to St. John. Shortly thereafter, he became ill and died August 15. Tradition holds that the Florence parish was named St. John the Evangelist as a memorial to its first priest.
On November 24, Mr. Guerry's brother, the Reverend L. F. Guerry, took charge of St. John's and the Church of the Advent, Marion.
In 1871, the first church building, at the corner of Darlington and Coit Streets, was consecrated.
In 1886, extensively damaged by earthquake, the building was abandoned and services were held in a hall over a store at the corner of Evans and Dargan Streets.
During 1887, the mission became a self-supporting parish.
Designed by Silas McBee and built of stone from Anson Quarries, Wadesboro, N.C., the present building was occupied in December 1889. Its first service, held December 22, included ordination to the priesthood of the Reverend W. A. Guerry. St. John's was the only parish of which he was the rector before becoming Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina in 1908.
The present church building was completed in 1890.
On February 15, 1891, Bishop W. B. W. Howe consecrated St. John's new building. It was Bishop Howe who had conducted its first service in 1865.
During 1922, the parish house was built as a memorial to Mrs. Frances Church.
After World War II, the parish grew rapidly and by 1958, under the ministry of the Reverend Louis A. Haskell (1946-1954) and the Reverend Joseph Horn (1955-1969), the number of communicants had risen to 600. The congregation established in 1957 a new church, All Saints’, located on Cherokee Road.
The church building was extensively renovated in 1966, which included additions to the parish house. The Reverend Stephen L. Skardon became rector in 1970, and a new youth building was completed in 1972. The Reverend Carl Bright succeeded Mr. Skardon in 1985 and served as rector until 1989.
The Reverend Charles Douglas Cooper came to St. John’s in August of 1989. During the period 1990-present, the parish has enjoyed a full landscaping renovation designed by the renowned Robert Marvin, the total renovation of the Sunday School wing, the reinforcement of the nave walls with buttresses, and the addition of a marvelous three-bell peal dedicated in thanksgiving for the Lucas Family.
Also during this period, the campus grew by half and a number of new facilities, including the Schofield Library, fellowship hall, youth building, garden pavilion, utility building, and breezeway, and much needed parking facilities have been added. During his annual visit for Confirmation in October 2001, Bishop Skilton blessed the new fellowship hall, library, kitchen, and outdoor gathering space; an extensively renovated youth building; and the Poynor Room, which also underwent extensive renovations at the hands of the Episcopal Church Women organization. The former library was converted into a chapel, which was dedicated in November 2004.
The present rector, The Reverend Ariel Kenneth Weldon, began his tenure at St. John’s on August 1, 2008. The parish looks forward to continued growth in the Lord’s service as a downtown parish committed to serving its members and the community in ways reflecting God’s love and grace. The 150th anniversary of the parish was celebrated on October 30, 2016. Our mission statement continues to be:
To Know Christ and to Make Him Known