South Carolina Picture Project

St. James the Greater Catholic Church – Ritter, South Carolina


South Carolina  |  SC Picture Project  |  Colleton County Photos  |  St. James the Greater Catholic Church


Edit This Page  |  Leave A Comment

St. James the Greater Catholic Church is located in the unincorporated community of Catholic Hill, just south of Walterboro in Colleton County. Its African-American congregation can trace its formation back to 1826, though the first sanctuary was not built until 1833. The current sanctuary was constructed in 1935 and is the third structure to serve the church. Catholic Hill was originally known as The Crossroads and is important for its prominent role in African-American Catholicism in our state.

Catholic Hill Church - St. James the Greater Catholic

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Constructed by Irish plantation owners to worship with their slaves, the first church was dedicated in 1833 by the first Bishop of Charleston, Bishop John England. It is interesting to note that the plantation owners of this time had their slaves baptized as well. The first structure was destroyed by fire in 1856 when a blaze spread from a nearby field.

When slavery was abolished near the end of the Civil War, many planters abandoned their land and fled. A former slave, Vincent de Paul Davis, took it upon himself to teach his newly-freed neighbors to be self-sufficient in their faith. His pupils continued to worship for nearly 40 years, even without a priest or sanctuary.

In 1897, word reached a traveling preacher, Father Daniel Berberich, who came to the area to help re-establish the congregation. Father Berberich was amazed at the testament of faith held here. Some accounts note that the Mill Hill Fathers, or Josephites (an English missionary order) from St. Peter’s Church in Charleston were responsible for this region. A new church was built by 1909 with the help of Father Berberich but tragically was destroyed by a tornado in the early 1930s. The current structure was built in 1935 with leftover materials from the previously ravaged church.

Catholic Hill - St James the Greater Catholic Church Painting

Becky Lee of Walterboro © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In 1901, a schoolhouse was constructed next to the church. This schoolhouse is a rare example of an intact I-house built solely for the purpose of the education of African-Americans. Over 100 African-Americans students were educated, regardless of religious affiliation, in this building by African-American teachers from Charleston. This was significant because all of the schools at that time were segregated. After 1960 schools were integrated, marking the last year of classes in the St. James the Greater Catholic schoolhouse.

Catholic Hill Schoolhouse

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The church and schoolhouse are still used today by the same congregation in this spirited community lovingly referred to by locals as “The Hill.” Throughout the years after the confinement of slavery through the trials and tribulations of natural disasters and life, this congregation held strong to their faith and persevered. A graveyard adjoins the churchyard and contains the loved ones of the congregation’s past and Irish settlers alike with the earliest decipherable headstone dating to 1835.

St. James the Greater Catholic Church Interior

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The St. James the Greater Catholic Mission is listed on the National Register:

The three resources of St. James the Greater Mission constitute an extremely rare example of a rural, southern, African American Roman Catholic parish, in continuous existence from its antebellum origins to today. The site is remarkable for possessing a complete, historically intact campus containing a church, a school, and a cemetery. The church, St. James’ third, is situated on the same site that served the previous two churches built in 1833 and 1894, and accordingly embodies the parish’s unbroken continuity with its earliest roots. The school was established in the late nineteenth century and the current building, constructed in 1901, provided private education for over one hundred local black pupils, regardless of religious affiliation, during the first half of the twentieth century when schools in South Carolina were segregated. The teachers were African American women from Charleston and, later, graduates from St. James School itself. The period of significance for St. James the Greater Mission is from 1835 to 1960. 1835 marks the earliest extant and decipherable gravestone in the cemetery and 1960 was the last year that St. James School operated as a Catholic school for African Americans; after this date, the parish lost a degree of historic autonomy and self-sufficiency as the education of its youth merged with other local schools. Though religious properties are not usually eligible for the National Register, St. James the Greater Mission is eligible because its significance derives primarily from its cultural contribution to African American education and heritage, as well as from its architecture. St. James the Greater Mission is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A at the local level in the areas of education, ethnic heritage: African American, and religion and under Criterion C at the local level for architecture. St. James Church qualifies for Criterion C as an intact and essentially unaltered example of a vernacular church containing elements of the late Gothic Revival style. It is clad entirely with wooden shingles, an unusual choice of siding for a church in the southeast region of the United States. The church is one of the earliest rural Catholic churches still extant in the state of South Carolina. The schoolhouse is also an intact and rare example of a turn-of-the-twentieth century I-house built specifically as a school building for African American students in South Carolina.

More Pictures of St. James the Greater Catholic Church


Hutchinson House

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Hutchinson House

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent


St. James the Greater Catholic Church Info


Address: 3087 Ritter Road, Ritter, SC 29488
GPS Coordinates: 32.776853,-80.661916


St. James the Greater Catholic Church Map




St. James the Greater Catholic Church – Add Info and More Photos


The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of St. James the Greater Catholic Church, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!


Please Share Your Thoughts!


The South Carolina Picture Project is a volunteer project which earns no profit. We work hard to ensure its accuracy, but if you see a mistake, please know that it is not intentional and that we are more than happy to update our information if it is incorrect. That said, our goal is to create something positive for our state, so please make your comments constructive if you would like them to be published. Thank you!



6 Comments about St. James the Greater Catholic Church

NICOLENo Gravatar says:
October 4th, 2017 at 10:13 pm

The Facebook page is for it’s Sister Church, found under St. Anthony’s Catholic Church Colleton County, with some information about St. Jame’s The Greater.

NICOLENo Gravatar says:
October 4th, 2017 at 10:10 pm

To answer Marcia Meyer, Sunday Mass at St. Jame’s The Greater in Ritter is currently at 12:30 PM. The best way to contact the parish office is at (843) 549-5230 or via e-mail at saintanthonys@comcast.net.

Mimi DiasNo Gravatar says:
January 30th, 2016 at 10:31 am

The US Post Office calls this church’s address Ritter, but it is in an historic African-American community named Catholic Hill. It’s a shame that between the Postal Service and the out-of-state companies that handled mapping for 911 service that the original place-names across much of South Carolina are being lost.

Mark Ritter says:
March 20th, 2015 at 2:01 am

I'm curious how the crossroads of Ritter got its name. Anybody know?

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
January 5th, 2015 at 9:12 am

Here is a phone number for the church. Hopefully, someone there can answer your question. Good luck! http://www.thecatholicdirectory.com/directory.cfm?fuseaction=display_site_info&siteid=188240

marcia meyerNo Gravatar says:
January 3rd, 2015 at 12:45 pm

What time are your Sunday services?





St. James the Greater Catholic Church - Related Entries


Goodwill Parochial School

Bethel CME in Johnston, SC

Waxhaw Presbyterian Church

Zion Presbyterian Church Lowrys

Lutheran Church in Sandy Run

Downtown Baptist Church

Wedgefield Presbyterian

Wedgefield Baptist Church

Liberty Universalist Church




SC PICTURE PROJECT

Join Us on Facebook
Our 5 Goals
Our Contributors
Add Info
Add Pictures
Search for Pictures
Missing Landmarks

SC TOWNS & LANDMARKS

Abbeville ACE Basin Aiken Allendale Anderson Awendaw Bamberg Banks Barns & Farms Barnwell Batesburg-Leesville Beaches Beaufort Beech Island Belton Bennettsville Bishopville Blackville Bluffton Bridges Bygone Landmarks Camden Carnegie Libraries Cemeteries Charleston Charleston Navy Base Cheraw Chester Churches Clemson Clinton Clio Colleges Columbia Conway Cordesville Courthouses Darlington Denmark Dillon Donalds Easley Edgefield Edisto Elloree Fairfax Florence Folly Beach Forests and Nature Preserves Gaffney Garden City Beach Georgetown Glenn Springs Graniteville Greeleyville Greenville Greenwood Greer Hamburg Hampton Hartsville Hemingway Hilton Head Historical Photos Historic Houses Honea Path Hopkins Hunting Island Isle of Palms Jails James Island Johns Island Johnsonville Johnston Kiawah Island Kingstree Lake City Lake Marion Lakes Lancaster Landrum Latta Laurens Lexington Libraries Lighthouses Little River Manning Marion McClellanville McCormick Military Mills Moncks Corner Mountains Mount Carmel Mount Pleasant Mullins Murrells Inlet Myrtle Beach National Register Newberry Ninety Six North Augusta North Charleston North Myrtle Beach Orangeburg Pacolet Parks Pawleys Island Pendleton Pickens Piers Pinopolis Plantations Port Royal Post Offices Ravenel Restaurants Ridge Spring Ridgeway Rivers Roadside Oddities Robert Mills Rock Hill Rockville Rosenwald Schools Salters Saluda Savannah River Site SC Artists SC Heroes of the Alamo Schools Seneca Shrimp Boats Society Hill Spartanburg Sports Springs St. George St. Helena Island St. Matthews Stores Sullivan's Island Summerton Summerville Sumter Sunset Synagogues Town Clocks Trains & Depots Trees Trenton Turbeville Ulmer Union Wadmalaw Island Walhalla Walterboro Waterfalls Water Towers West Columbia Westminster Winnsboro Yemassee York

© 2017 SCIWAY.net, LLC All rights reserved.