Even in ruins, Sheldon Church symbolizes Beaufort County’s prosperity during South Carolina’s early years as a royal colony.
(Beaufort County). Moss-draped live oak trees shade the quiet burial ground that surrounds the ruined Sheldon Church of Prince William’s Parish. Its molded brick columns support a nonexistent portico and continue between arched openings along the side walls to lend a sense of enclosure to the unroofed building. Even in ruins, Sheldon Church symbolizes Beaufort County’s prosperity during South Carolina’s early years as a royal colony. Sophisticated in its architecture and craftsmanship, this isolated brick edifice was among the first examples of the temple design in the English-speaking world.
In the 1730s influential planters began moving to the former Indian lands, bringing their slaves and creating wealth, and in 1745 the Commons House of Assembly established Prince William’s Parish. No longer was it necessary to travel to St. Helena’s Parish for worship or voting. So that a church could be built, Elizabeth Bellinger donated a fifty-acre tract of Tomotley Barony, next to William Bull’s Sheldon Plantation. Construction was funded largely by the Bulls, supplemented by legislative appropriations. The result, completed in 1757, was “esteem’d a more beautiful Building than St. Philip’s. It is far more elegant than St. Michael’s.”
This emblem of English political and religious organization was burned in 1779 by a band of Beaufort Tories. Not until 1825 did commissioners advertise for estimates “to cover the Ruins of the Sheldon Church . . . with a plain strong wooden Roof, putting Doors, Windows, Benches, and a Floor to the same.” The rebuilt church was consecrated in 1826, but in 1865 both the church and its summer chapel at McPhersonville were burned. A replacement chapel was constructed in 1898. Sheldon Church has never been rebuilt. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. See plate 15.
Linder, Suzanne Cameron. Anglican Churches in Colonial South Carolina: Their History and Architecture. Charleston, S.C.: Wyrick, 2000.
Rowland, Lawrence S., Alexander Moore, and George C. Rogers. The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina. Vol. 1, 1514–1861. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.
Stoney, Samuel G. Plantations of the South Carolina Low Country. 5th ed. Charleston, S.C.: Carolina Art Association, 1964.
Todd, John R., and Francis M. Hutson. Prince William’s Parish and Plantations. Richmond, Va.: Garrett and Massie, 1935.