Strawberry Chapel – Cordesville, South Carolina
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Please note that Strawberry Chapel is located on private property. It is not open to the public except during its four annual services, held each October, November, March, and April.
Strawberry Chapel is the only remaining structure from the 1707 Childsbury settlement. The church was built in 1725 as part of the St. John’s Berkeley parish and is located in Berkeley County at Cordesville.
Childsbury was one of the first towns to be laid out by Englishmen arriving in the Carolina colony. It was named after founder James Child, who established a Cooper River ferry and helped design the settlement. Child also donated 600 acres of land for inhabitants to use for farming.
Due to the rapid prosperity of other lowcountry plantations, farmers from Childsbury had a hard time competing, and the town did not last. Eventually the settlement’s buildings were absorbed into nearby Strawberry Plantation (from whence the chapel gets its unusual name).
Part of the original Childsbury plan, Strawberry Chapel was built to make it easier for the villagers to attend worship without traveling to the parish church – Biggin Church – which was 10 miles away in Moncks Corner. This chapel of ease was unusual in that the sacrament of baptism and funeral services, usually reserved for full parish churches, were regularly performed here.
Four times a year services are held in this historical setting. The silver used in today’s services was unearthed from beneath a barn at Comingtee Plantation in 1946. Owner Keating Simons Ball buried the church silver used in parish services in 1865 when Union troops ravaged the towns of South Carolina at the end of the Civil War. It is said he could not remember where he buried it once the war was over. The mahogany trunk bearing the silver was rediscovered with the help of a mine detector 81 years later.
The Legend of Catherine Chicken
Catherine Chicken, great-granddaughter of James Child, is said to have suffered grave abuse in the chapel’s churchyard as a young child in 1748. Her father, George, sent his seven-year-old daughter to board with her French schoolmaster, Monsieur Dutarque. At one point Catherine was caught trying to run away from Dutarque, so the cruel teacher punished his student by tying her to a tombstone and leaving her there for the night.
According to the story, she later was rescued by a slave from a neighboring plantation, who found the girl unconscious while attempting his own escape. Catherine survived the abusive ordeal, and Dutarque was run out of Childsbury for his action. Though Dutarque’s legacy of barbarism continued at the Walnut School for Boys in Camden, Catherine Chicken managed to carry on with her life in this small corner of Berkeley County. However, she is believed by some to haunt the grounds of Strawberry Chapel, where she spent the terrifying night that would forever traumatize her soul.
Strawberry Chapel is listed in the National Register as the last remnant of the Childsbury community:
Childsbury, one of the early towns to be laid out in South Carolina (1707), is significant as an important archaeological site. Englishman James Child started a ferry here as it was the only practical ferry site across the Cooper River within a reasonable distance. Property was designated for a college, a free school, a house for the schoolmaster, a place of worship, and a market square. To the inhabitants of Childsbury, Child gave 600 acres to farm and pasture. He also gave them the 100-acre hill by the river to build upon as a citadel to protect the town in times of war.
Due mainly to the rise of the new and growing plantations, Childsbury began a rapid decline and the town site eventually became part of a plantation. Strawberry Chapel is the only visible remains of the town of Childsbury. Architecturally the chapel displays the simple, yet dignified and impressive lifestyle of an Episcopalian Chapel of Ease. This one story rectangular brick building has an unadorned hipped gable roof. The double three paneled door of the façade, surmounted by flush fanlight is symmetrically situated between two shuttered windows of the same three panel design. These chapels were built to serve the people for whom the regular parish church was inaccessible. Strawberry Chapel became unique as a Chapel of Ease in that it is operated as a full parish church. Usually these chapels were denied some of the privileges of a parish church. A small cemetery is adjacent to the chapel.
Strawberry Chapel Info
Address: 1042 Strawberry Chapel Road, Cordesville, SC 29434
GPS Coordinates: 33.093504,-79.935082
Strawberry Chapel Map
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