Established on May 11, 1754, St. Stephen’s Parish was located on the south side of the Santee River in modern Berkeley County. Huguenots attracted to South Carolina in the 1680s by the promise of religious and political freedom were the earliest Europeans to take up residence along the lower Santee, and in 1706 their settlement centered at Jamestown was erected into the parish of St. James Santee. But the area around Jamestown was given to frequent flooding “that ruined the plantations,” and in succeeding decades many families were forced upriver in search of higher ground. The high ground they discovered was ideally suited to indigo cultivation, and soon the French planters were joined by English planters from the coast, who quickly came to predominate. Consequently, the upper part of St. James became known unofficially as “English Santee” and the lower part as “French Santee.” The division became official in 1754 when English Santee was organized as St. Stephen’s Parish and granted one representative.
A chapel of ease at Echaw in St. James Santee that fell within the new parish became the church of St. Stephen’s. The chapel was old and in disrepair, however, and the prosperous indigo planters set out to erect a brick building more suited to their status. The present St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, located in the town of St. Stephen, was completed in 1769. With the abolition of the parish system in 1865, St. Stephen’s Parish became part of Berkeley County.
Linder, Suzanne Cameron. Anglican Churches in Colonial South Carolina: Their History and Architecture. Charleston, S.C.: Wyrick, 2000.
Misenhelter, Jane Searles. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, St. Stephen, S.C., Including Church of the Epiphany, Upper St. John’s, Berkeley and Chapel of Ease, Pineville, S.C.: History and Registers. Columbia, S.C.: State Printing, 1977.