Hephzipah Jenkins Townsend and the Edisto Island Baptist Church

Ruins of Hephzipah Jenkins tabby ovens

Ruins of Hephzipah Jenkins Townsend Tabby Ovens © 2012 C.HutsonWrenn

It is a terrific story. Hephzipah Jenkins wife of Daniel Townsend, of Bleak Hall Plantation, is one of the reasons that the now called African American New Missionary Baptist Church on Edisto Island is flooded by attendees from miles away every single Sunday. Today.

The Old First Baptist Church on Edisto Island was built in 1818 through the efforts of one woman, Hephzibah Jenkins, wife of Daniel Townsend, who owned Bleak Hall Plantation, today the wonderful 5000 acre Botany Bay Plantation, open to the public.

She and her ex-slave, Bella, baked cakes in tabby ovens, to raise enough money to build the Baptist Church. It is especially significant in Black History, because it has operated continuously as a black church since the trustees turned the church over to the faithful black members just after the Civil War.

According to South Carolina Department of Archives and history “The Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend Tabby Oven Ruins are archaeologically significant. No other extant early nineteenth century tabby ovens have been inventoried in the South Carolina lowcountry. The remains represent what was essentially a commercial bakery. Historic documentation indicates the ruins are ovens which were constructed ca. 1815. The site consists of in situ tabby walls and foundations as well as portions of fallen walls and tabby rubble. In situ walls suggest a square structure; however, rubble, humus, and vegetation obscure architectural evidence of fire boxes or ovens.

Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend, of Bleak Hall, used the ovens to prepare quantities of baked goods which were sold in Charleston. The proceeds were used for missions and the building of the Edisto Island Baptist Church, founded by Townsend in 1818. Mrs. Townsend is significant in the Baptist Church history as the founder in 1811 of the Edisto Female Mite Society, reputedly the first such organization in the South. Listed in the National Register May 5, 1987.”


Old First Baptist Church on Edisto Island, SC ©2013 C.HutsonWrenn

I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Arts & Culture, Green, Gullah, religion, South Carolina History, spirituality, travel
2 comments on “Hephzipah Jenkins Townsend and the Edisto Island Baptist Church
  1. Hi Charlotte, I live in Greenville, SC, and contribute photos & stories about South Carolina’s “Sacred Spaces” to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.” I am planning on writing about Edisto Island Baptist, and along those lines, I have a question about the tabby ruins–where are they, or how do I go about getting approval to visit or photograph? Many thanks for any assistance you might be able to provide, Bill

    • Hi Bill! The ruins are at the end of Botany Bay Road, and you may need to ask the folks who own the landing down there: Wilkinson Landing, whose contact I do not have but you should be able to google easily. I think I have a link here on my blog, also. On the right?? I am very interested in early Baptist history on the island which was far earlier than is recorded in the present history of Edisto books. I love that you are doing SC’s Sacred Spaces. ALL of Edisto Island is a sacred place! :) Let me know when you are planning a visit to the Sacred Isle. Cheers, Charlotte

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 745 other followers

What’s this?

Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

%d bloggers like this: