South River Historical Foundation
This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord. – Psalms 102:18
The South River Historical Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation established for the historical preservation and maintenance of the South River Presbyterian Church and surrounding area. Records indicate that services began in the Church as early as March 7, 1756 though it was not formally organized until 1795. The Church was dedicated to the service of God in May of 1857 by the Reverands Colin Shaw and H.A. Monroe and this site has hosted the Cromartie Family Reunion since the 1970's. The current structure replaced a log church that was located to the rear of the present Church. Session Records record the decision to proceed with the construction, which began in the fall of 1855.
The Building Committee established to receive subscriptions and attend to the construction of the present Church consisted of James H. Lamb, Patrick Cromartie, William K. Cromartie, Luther Cromartie, and William Beaty. The carpentry work was done by Mr. T. A. Parker for $500. The final cost, including plastering and glass work was $650. Sessions Minutes from 1870 record additional building expenses of $286.45.
The Church architecture is similar to other small Presbyterian churches of this period -simple, wood fram construction with clapboard siding and tall windows to utilize natural light. Heating was provided by a centrally located wood-fired stove...still in place. The religious symbolism that we observe in our present day churches is lacking and thus the building of this era were rather austere, reflecting their beliefs shaped by the Protestant Reformation and their rejection of the of the influences of the Anglican Church of England. The balcony across the rear of the church was the slave balcony and had its own entrance reflecting the life and times of the pre-Civil War era of, as our ancestors described it, "The War of Northern Aggression." Session records of the period indicate that slaves were recognized members of the the congregation, being listed under the name of their master. They were subject to being disciplined for sinful transgressions by the Session in the same manner as their owners.
The land on which the Church and cemetery reside was originally granted to Thomas Devane in 1759 and purchased by William Stewart three years later. William gave the land to his son Charles in a will dated 1778. In 1796, Charles Stewart sold two, two-hundred acre tracts of land to James Cromartie, the first son of William and Ruhamah Cromartie. One of those tracts reserved one acre on which a church had been built (a portion of the present Church site) and a quarter acre for the use as a "burying ground." This quarter acre is the site we now call the Stewart Cemetery, located off the road running behind the church. In 1859 Luther Cromartie gifted the remainder of what is the present church site.
The South River Church is one of several Presbyterian Churches in this vicinity and over the years shared pastors and family ties. Black River, Brown Marsh, and Mt Horeb are three that have Cromartie connections. It appears that the largest family membership in South River was the Cromartie family,however the present banner in the back of the church lists the other families that have attended and served. Many descendants who share those names can be found among the Cromartie Family Association membership today....such as Murphy, Lamb, Sloan, and Beaty. In 1832 the South River Presbyterian Church had a membership of 56 which exceeded the membership of the First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington by 5 members.
South River was an active church until the 1950's and 1960's when changing demographics and economic conditions caused the congregation to dwindle and regular services ceased. In May, 1980, the Presbytery Committee on Historical Matters held a celebration at South River. In June of 1987,the South River Presbyterian Church was recognized as a Registered Historical Site by the Presbytery.
Current South River Historical Foundation Members:
- Scott Cromartie, Chairman
- Sara Honeycutt
- J Bowman
- Catherine Sloan
- J Cromartie
- Fred Butler
- Tom Lennon
- Margaret Calhoun
- Robert Cromartie
- Chris Benedict