A Frontier House of Worship
The Old Stone Church, along with the visitor sites of Pendleton Village, Fort Hill Plantation and Oconee Station, reflect the area;s transition from frontier to antebellum South Carolina society. The Church's early membership constituted a significant percentage of the frontier elite who dominated Pendleton County (now Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties). Present-day Anderson and Pickens Counties are named for individuals buried in the cemetery.
Constructed from 1797-1802 by John Rusk (whose descendants would be instrumental in the early years of Texas), the stone structure served the Hopewell Presbyterian congregation for a quarter of a century. Although the building effort commenced near the end of the frontier period (1784-1798) when the threat of Indian attacks was greatly diminished, it is probable that this substantial structure was designed with a defensive component in mine. In the mid-1820s, the congregation moved to Pendleton, which had developed into a gentrified village and was beginning its role in antebellum social life.
The oldest part of the burial area slightly predates the church. Charles Miller, who died in the fall of 1795, was one of the early burials in the cemetery. Charles was the younger son of John Miller, who was the first newspaper publisher in the Carolina upcountry and a noted London newspaper publisher during the years of the American Revolution. Located on a corner of John Miller's land grant, the property would be deeded after 1800 to the congregation. Presbyterians associated with the Pendleton area, or with early families entombed there, dominate the oldest parts of the cemetery. During much of the twentieth century, the cemetery served the broader needs of a diverse community often connected with Clemson University.Although numbers of African-American slaves were members of the congregation, none are buried within the graveyard. Those individuals dying prior to 1865 (and sometime later) were interred in the slave cemeteries on the various nearby plantations.
The Preservation of The Old Stone Church and Cemetery
By the late 1800s, the cemetery was in need of restoration. Descendants of those buried there, as well as other interested persons, formed an association. In 1902, the Pendleton Presbyterian Church created a Commission to care for the property. Major repairs were made to the building in the second half of the twentieth century.