St. Stephen's, Ridgeway, is an historic Episcopal church. Founded in 1839 as a chapel of ease for St. John's Parish, Winnsborough (Fairfield County), it was also known as Cedar Creek Mission. The earliest members of each church had migrated from the Low Country parishes of St. Stephen and St. John, and chose those names for their churches. The Palmer, Thomas and Davis families were the founding members of St. Stephen’s. On September 25, 1839, following the reading of the second lesson in the morning service, the Rev. Cranmore Wallace, “missionary to destitute parts of the Diocese”, baptized five children of the founding families in the Aimwell Presbyterian Meeting House in Ridgeway.
St. Stephen’s continued as a chapel of ease until 1889 when it became a separate parish. Among its earliest rectors was the Rev. William Porcher Dubose, who served from 1865-1868, and who later became Dean of the Theological School at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.
Built of pine in 1854 in the Carpenter Gothic style, it was one of the many upstate churches designed by the Rev. John Dewitt McCollough, who later became its rector. All interior wood is original heart of pine cut on the Palmer family plantation. The foundation and chimney brick were baked on the Thomas family plantation. Ten acres of land for the church and cemetery were given by the Davis family. The exterior was painted a maroon color. St. Stephen’s was consecrated on August 4, 1854 by the Rt. Rev. Thomas F. Davis. Around 1920, its exterior wood was covered by brick veneer so that it appears today as a brick Gothic Revival style building on the outside while the interior retains its Carpenter Gothic features. A wing was added in the 1940s to create space for a parish hall and Sunday school.
St. Stephen’s is the oldest continuing church building in Ridgeway and the oldest public building in the area, and is described in the National Register nomination form as a gem of modified Gothic Revival architecture. The church features a steep flared gabled roof with a rose window over the double-doored front entrance on the west side, and a steep gabled pavilion with double doors on the south side. The interior wood was given a rare finish, described as a “lost art.” It was stained or painted in natural brown (pine-like) and, while the paint or stain was still wet, rubbed vertically with heavy burlap bagging giving the wood a “natural finish” of wood grain. All pews, walls, ceilings, and groins have the same finish. The sanctuary furnishings are mahogany. The credence shelf and pulpit-lectern were made by the Rt. Rev. Sidney Thomas, direct descendent of one of the founding families and Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, 1928-1944.
The triptych windows above the altar were originally frosted glass and later covered, several times, with marbleized and stained glass-like papers. The remaining windows in the church were originally of clear glass and also papered at a later date.
Examples of these materials are found in the various windows throughout St. Stephen’s. A frosted glass pane remains in the sacristy; the window below the Altar Triptych appears to be covered with marbleized paper; and the original windows (at present stored under the Parish Hall) appear to be a combination of clear and papered, at least one of which is papered in a stained glass design. In 1949, stained glass windows designed and made by Payne Studios of Paterson, NJ were installed. All windows are memorials to former members. A “guided tour” of the stained glass windows can be founded on the St. Stephen’s website (www.ststephenssc.org).
There are numerous memorial plaques and tablets on the walls, some white marble, some bronze. Noteworthy is the marble tablet listing the parishioners who served in the Confederate army and navy, and veterans of subsequent wars.
St. Stephen’s, Ridgeway, was listed in the National Register on May 6, 1971.
Children's Chapel - Ages 3-10, Youth and 11-12 Juniors. Instruction using the Collect of the
Day appointed for the Sunday worship service.
An adult study group meets periodically on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the parish hall.
- MOSS - Men of St. Stephen's
- ECW - Episcopal Church Women of St. Stephen's