St. Peter's Parish


In 1747 the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly established St. Peter’s Parish, bounded on the west by the Savannah River and on the east by the New River. The parish, consisting of most of modern Jasper County, was formerly part of St. Helena’s Parish. In 1733 a group of Swiss Protestants led by Jean Pierre Purry was granted 24,000 acres along the lower Savannah River. The new immigrants established the town of Purrysburg, and the community initially prospered, prompting the establishment of the new parish. The parish church was located in Purrysburg, and the town served as a way station along the Savannah River.

In the 1760s the fortunes of the people of St. Peter’s Parish began to decline, and many of the original Swiss and French inhabitants migrated to Georgia and more settled areas of South Carolina. Before the Revolutionary War, a few wealthy planters established rice plantations along the lower Savannah River, but development in the area expanded greatly in the 1820s, and lower St. Peter’s Parish eventually became an important rice-growing region.

Upper St. Peter’s Parish was much different from the lower part of St. Peter’s. Few large planters resided in the area, and the main crops included short-staple cotton, corn, and sweet potatoes. Nevertheless, the growth of rice plantations in the lower Savannah region swelled the slave population of St. Peter’s to 8,999, making it the largest slaveowning parish in Beaufort District. After a new state constitution was adopted in 1865, the parish system was abolished, and St. Peter’s Parish was incorporated into Beaufort District.

Linder, Suzanne Cameron. Anglican Churches in Colonial South Carolina: Their History and Architecture. Charleston, S.C.: Wyrick, 2000.

McCurry, Stephanie. Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title St. Peter's Parish
  • Coverage 1747–1865
  • Author
  • Keywords Purrysburg, eventually became an important rice-growing region, largest slaveowning parish in Beaufort District
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date September 26, 2023
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 25, 2022
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