The History of the
Church of the Good Shepherd
The Scots-Irish who settled this area brought with them the Presbyterian Church. It was not till the mid 19th Century that there were sufficient persons of the Anglican faith to be interested in the formation of an Episcopal Church in York. Bishop Gadsden of Charleston sent missionaries to this area through the Society for the Advancement of Christianity in South Carolina. He, himself, held services here in 1849 in the Presbyterian Church. For the next three years, the missioner, Dr. John DeWitt McCullough, came to Yorkville and held services in the Methodist Church or at the Court House. By this time, two families had arrived from England, the Corkills and the Roses to bolster the Wilson and Lowry families as the nucleus of the Episcopal congregation.
In 1852, the Rev. Henry Elwell came to minister to congregations in Union and York. Under his leadership monies were collected in the low country, as well as locally from friends of all denominations to build a church.
Three other names important to the early history of the church were communicants by this time. They were William Latta, a merchant from Mecklenburg County; and Asbury Coward and Micah Jenkins, who came from the low country to establish the Kings Mountain Military Academy.
The first resident rector, James Gibson, arrived in the fall of 1855. In November of that year it took one Bishop, six clergymen, and eight days of sermons to dedicate the building named The Church of the Good Shepherd. A bell, into which were cast 500 Mexican silver dollars, given by Mr. Latta, called the people to worship. The services were enhanced by musical accompaniment for Mr. Latta had also given a melodeon. This church was the first in Yorkville to have a musical instrument.
The church prospered until the War between the States. The outbreak of hostilities in Charleston brought a refugee migration of Episcopalians to Yorkville including the rector and most of the congregation from Edisto Island. But the aftermath of the war was devastating. The political and social upheaval created by military occupation and the Freedman’s Bureau caused many communicants to depart this area. It is fitting that the loveliest memorial in the church is the altar window dedicated to the Rev. Robert Poinsett Johnson who held the congregation together for eleven difficult years.
Another loss came with the closing of the Kings Mountain Military Academy near the end of the century. In 1909 the Episcopal Church Home for Children was established on the campus of the defunct school. Once again the church was filled with youngsters.
At the same time the Rev. Tracy Walsh became rector for a span of years bringing stability to a congregation which had experienced a series of ministers whose terms had been little more than temporary.
Families such as the Hart and Moore families also provided leadership. Two Sons of the congregation entered the priesthood; Tracy Walsh, Jr., and Oliver Hart who became Bishop of Pennsylvania. Margaret Marshall and Gerald Ervin were trained as church workers.
July 6, 1955, the Church of the Good Shepherd celebrated its Centennial. Former parishioners returned for a festive day still called to worship by the original bell. Special bulletins for the service were hand colored. A history of the church was written by Joseph E. Hart, Jr. and printed by Charles Leland Harper and his protégé, Arthur Darwin.
As in its earliest days, the congregation reaches out to Episcopalians and members of the Anglican faith in the outlying areas of York. We all join together to keep the historic Church of the Good Shepherd the living, vital and relevant church it is today.