Constructed for textile mill workers at McBee’s nearby Reedy River Factory (ca. 1825), it seated 155 people—large enough to hold most of his employees and their families, who were, according to tradition, required to attend services.
(Conestee). Located seven miles south of Greenville, McBee Chapel is one of three extant brick octagonal churches in the United States. Probably designed by Vardry McBee, who believed that octagonal form was the most efficient design, and built in 1841 by his millwright John Adams, it was originally served by Methodist circuit riders, and it remains an active Methodist congregation. Constructed for textile mill workers at McBee’s nearby Reedy River Factory (ca. 1825), it seated 155 people–large enough to hold most of his employees and their families, who were, according to tradition, required to attend services.
Above a three-foot band of whitewashed stone, the brick walls rise to the eaves of a tapered octagonal roof topped by a louvered turret or cupola, which holds the church bell. Windows ten feet high and with small panes of stained glass are set in five walls; double wooden doors are set in one of the octagonal sides. An original slave balcony has been removed. The church sexton can open the doors with an unusual key that resembles a folding knife.
In 1977 McBee Chapel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. There have been few modifications except the addition of electricity since it was built, and it still lacks plumbing (outhouses serve as privies). In 1991 its congregation celebrated McBee Chapel’s 150th anniversary by repairing, refurbishing, and repainting the building.
Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
Smith, Roy McBee. Vardry McBee, 1775–1864: Man of Reason in an Age of Extremes. 2d ed. Spartanburg, S.C.: Laurel Heritage, 1997.