Pon Pon Chapel of Ease
Pon Pon Chapel of Ease is located on Parker’s Ferry Road near Jacksonboro, South Carolina. The remains of this important structure are owned and maintained by the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society. Pon Pon is located in the area that was known as St. Bartholomew’s Parish during the Colonial period. There is not much left of the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease except for the front facade, part of the original back wall, churchyard and cemetery.1 While it is still in ruins what remains allows visitors to imagine what it must have been like in its glory days. Some persons of local South Carolina importance are buried in the cemetery including Aedanus Burke a United States Representative and O’Brien Smith, a Congressman from Colleton County.2
The area of St. Bartholomew’s Parish was originally presided over by Nathaniel Osborne, an Anglican clergyman. Osborne traveled around St. Bartholomew’s Parish in order to preach and minister to the religious needs of the families that lived in that area. Osborne arrived to St. Bartholomew’s Parish in 1713 after requests from families of the area for a missionary were fulfilled. He continued to ride the circuit of St. Bartholomew’s Parish, officiating in five locations until the Yamassee War of 1715 when he narrowly escaped to Charleston.3
Pon Pon was a Chapel of Ease. Chapels of Ease were created so that worshipers in more remote areas would have a place to worship because getting to a more central parish church would be difficult due to distance.4 Parish churches had functions outside of worship, such as maintaining population statistics, elections, and other political functions.5 Pon Pon is unique among Chapels of Ease in that they also performed many of the functions of a parish church.6 Originally there had been plans for a centralized parish church for St. Bartholomew’s parish however due to the after effects of the Yemassee War in 1715 the General Assembly decided against a central parish church. The General Assembly approved the construction of a chapel of ease in 1725.7
Shortly after the decision to build a church in the Jacksonborough area a wooden structure was built to serve the needs of the local parishioners and was used for a time. The church was built on a two acre plot of land that had been donated by the planter Thomas Ford.8 There wasn’t a permanent rector at Pon Pon Chapel until late 1732 when The Reverend Mr. Guy was appointed to the parish.9 On his arrival he documented that within eight miles of the church there were forty-four families and seventy-nine plantations.10
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, preached in the church twice on April 24, 1737.11 The fact that an important religious person in the Colonial period preached at the Pon Pon Chapel increases the historic value of the area.
The wooden church was eventually replaced with a brick structure in 1754. This building served the needs of parishioners for several years before being burnt down in 1801.12 Pon Pon became known locally as the Burnt Church because it was in disrepair for such a long period of time. Pon Pon was not rebuilt for another twenty years and the new building was completed sometime between 1819 and 1822.13 These were changing times for Colleton County however Jacksonboro was no longer the county seat as that had been moved to Walterboro in 1820.14 As people began to migrate away from the area Pon Pon became a less central and less important location for congregants and in 1826 there were reports that pew rentals were nonexistent. Just a few short years later in 1832 the church was destroyed again, though whether it was burned again, some other catastrophe, or if neglect befell the church is unclear.15
In 1971 Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society worked with the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina to restore the ruins of Pon Pon Chapel after Hurricane Gracie in 1959 and in 1970 the Chapel and four acres of land were deeded over to the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society. Pon Pon Chapel of Ease was added to the National Register of Historic Places in January of 1972.16 The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society maintained the chapel and grounds since acquiring Pon Pon in 1970 including obtaining a grant to repair the front facade of the Chapel in 1975.17
The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society have organized and supported various events in order to commemorate various anniversaries of importance to our local area.18 Volunteers at the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society maintain the site and recently professionals in historic preservation and archaeology helped with researching the area and planning for the future at Pon-Pon Chapel.
Written by: A. Karel HornNovember 18, 2014