The History of St. Luke’s, 1767-2007
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The original St. Luke’s Church, established in the mid 1700s was burned and rebuilt in 1824 and still stands today near Pritchardville.
Perseverance and Miracles
The St. Luke’s Church legacy is one of perseverance and miracles. The church itself traces its roots to the mid-1700’s when St. Luke’s Parish was established near the tiny community of Pritchardville, located south of the Broad River in what was then called Granville District (later to become Beaufort County). The initial St. Luke’s Church (circa 1786) burned, and was promptly rebuilt in 1824, and that structure (eventually sold to the Methodists) still stands today along Highway 170 near the back gate of Sun City. It had a prime location near a roadway called The Charleston-Savannah Trail — an extension of the King’s Highway, an historic wagon trail, covering more than 1,300 miles from Boston to the Savannah River.
Site for The Chapel of Ease, St. Luke’s original location on Hilton Head Island, is now an historic churchyard cemetery that includes the gravestones of Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers. It sits at the corner of Mathews Drive and and Highway 278.
The Beginnings on Hilton Head
Part of that original St. Luke’s congregation were the families of plantation owners living on Hilton Head Island. Each week these intrepid Anglicans would travel by boat and buggy – a 30-mile round trip – to attend worship services. Wearied by the weekly trek, the Islanders decided to build a small wooden chapel of their own (known as Zion Chapel of Ease) on Hilton Head to be served by the St. Luke’s vicar.
The plain wooden chapel built atop a brick slab was erected in 1788 near the current intersection of Highway 278 and Mathews Drive. The first full-time rector, The Reverend Philip Matthews, came to the Island in 1811. Then in 1834, when the young church was to be consecrated, two handsome silver chalices, handcrafted by a noted silversmith in London, England were donated and shipped all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.
However, in 1862, with the arrival of hostile Union Troops during the Civil War, church members were forced to flee and the imprint of St. Luke’s on Hilton Head Island disappeared. The wooden structure was dismantled piece by piece to help build homes for the newly freed local slaves while the chalices were stolen and taken north by the Union soldiers.
A handful of new St. Luke’s parishioners attended the St. Luke’s official groundbreaking, including current member, Margaret Greer, shown standing in the middle behind the row of children photo.
A 20th Century Rebirth
Approximately a century later, in 1964, a small cadre of stalwart Anglicans, with the same intrepid spirit as their predecessors, saw the need once again for St. Luke’s to bring the word of Christ to the many new families who had begun re-settling the island as the result of new entrepreneurial real estate developments. This ardent group of less than 50 resurrected the original St. Luke’s legacy by securing its name as an island “mission church”. A generous land donation along the freshly constructed Pope Avenue by Sea Pines Company founder Charles Fraser enabled the new church to become a reality in what would become one of the island’s prime locations.
The small congregation contributed joyous enthusiasm to the newly dedicated 5-acre site located in the heart of the growing island community. Initial donations contributed to the construction of a Worship Sanctuary and a Sunday School wing. A large bell tower, which hangs in the church yard, was secured from an Episcopal Church in the Florida Keys that had been destroyed by a hurricane. It now serves as a symbol of St. Luke’s resolute spirit.
Additionally and quite miraculously the church’s original silver chalices, which had been assumed forever lost, were discovered and retrieved. They had been accidently found in the back storage area of a Philadelphia flea market by a couple looking for silver goblet gifts for their daughter’s wedding. Realizing the chalices belonged in their rightful place, the couple returned them to Beaufort County to await St. Luke’s restoration where they have been reunited with their body of believers and burnished to their original beauty. The chalices once again serve the St Luke’s family every Sunday, and the church has grown steadily, establishing itself among the most prominent, community-minded congregations in the area.
St. Luke’s today is well known locally for its ministries outreach — helping start Habitat for Humanity in the Lowcountry, hosting Memory Matters for its first dozen years, and more recently becoming a home sanctuary for Alcoholics Anonymous among many outreach initiatives to old and young alike.vv