Presbyterian Church at Gurley

By Eugene Sasser

In writing about the Presbyterian Church that I attended as a child, and of which I was a member, I rely on childhood memories and some notes taken a few years ago during most of a day's research of early minutes of Pee Dee Presbytery, housed in the vault at the Historical Foundation at Montreat, North Carolina.

In the handwritten minutes of the 47th Session of Pee Dee Presbytery, an adjourned meeting, held on November 11, 1901 at Second Presbyterian Church, Charleston, South Carolina, it is recorded that Reverend E.E. Robertson reported the organization of the church at Bayboro and that the report was approved and the church was enrolled.

I heard as a child that the community of Gurley was at one time Bayboro, or Old Bayboro. Present day Bayboro, since I can remember, has been located two miles west of Gurley. I concede that the name of the church was Bayboro Presbyterian Church, although I knew it and have remembered it as Gurley Presbyterian Church.

My father, John William Sasser, having come from North Carolina and settled at Gurley around the turn of the century, built, in 1902, in what was then Gurley, the house in which I was born in 1913 and in which I have always lived.

Presbytery's minutes divulge that "Reverend Doak was received July 24, 1906 at Bayboro Church." It is further stated that on Monday, August 6, at 11 o'clock a.m., Reverend Meltain (?) Clark was to preside, propound the constitutional questions and preach. Reverend T.E. Simpson was to charge the pastor, and Elder J.P. McNeil was to charge the congregation.

Reverend John Mills Lemmon, undoubtedly one of the finest Christian gentlemen ever to settle in Horry County, married to Frances Gordon Dusenbury of Conway, both buried in Lakeside Cemetery in Conway, was, as revealed in Presbytery's minutes, pastor of the church in Gurley in 1923-1924. At that time there were two elders, two deacons, eleven resident communicants and three non-resident communicants. Reverend Lemmon was pastor in 1925 at which time there were two elders, two deacons, five resident communicants and three non-resident communicants.

The portion of the pastor's salary paid by the Gurley church at that time was $10.00. Whether this was for a month or for a year is not recorded. I wonder what the train fare from Conway to Gurley and return was at that time. I recall that Mr. Lemmon traveled by train from Conway to preach at Gurley and always spent the night at our house which was next door to the church.

Mr. Lemmon was highly regarded, not only by the Presbyterians, but by all who knew him. I recall that three neighboring families who were members of New Light Baptist Church, now Gurley Baptist Church, attended services at the Presbyterian Church following earlier services at the Baptist Church because they liked Mr. Lemmon and liked to hear him preach.

Presbytery's statistical report for 1928 contains no mention of the church at Gurley. By that time only members of the Sasser family were members of this church.

Minutes of Presbytery during 1929 contain the recommendation that Bayboro Church be dissolved and that the Stated Clerk be directed to give letters to any members to any church designated by them also that the Superintendent-Evangelist be given authority to dispose of the building, turning the proceeds from the sale into the Presbytery's Home Mission Treasury, and that the fund be known as the Bayboro Hospital Fund. Reverend P.D. Patrick was the Superintendent-Evangelist.

The Bayboro Presbyterian Church was recorded as not being represented at the Pee Dee Presbytery meeting at Ruby, South Carolina on April 16 and 17, 1929.

In the Report of the Home Mission Committee in 1931, as contained in minutes of Pee Dee Presbytery, it is written that the church buildings at Dumbarton and at Bayboro were sold in 1930. (They still thought the church was at Bayboro!) For Dumbarton, Presbytery held a 300-pound bale of cotton, and for Bayboro received $50.00. This amount was paid by my mother, Mrs. Joanna Sasser, who was widowed at that time, my father having died in 1921. The lot on which the building stood was included in the sale. It is reported that the seats at Dumbarton brought $15.00. All this was to be added to the Loris Building Fund.

I recollect that the pews from the church at Gurley were purchased by or were given to, I do not know which, a black church then located a short distance north of Bayboro. I wonder if they are still in use. They were comfortable pews. I remember them well.

The church building, as I clearly recall, was a wooden structure, painted white, square in shape, with a belfry and a steeple. There was, however, never a bell. I used to wish for one, because it seemed such great fun seeing others pull the rope to ring the bell at the Baptist church.

In this connection my mother then provided room and board for the local school teachers. Two of the lady teachers--I won't reveal their names-- once rang the bell at the Baptist Church on New Year's Eve, welcoming in the New Year and scandalizing the community.

I might add here that I recall the old pump organ, the wood-burning heater and the oil lamp suspended from the ceiling. When services were held at night, an additional oil lamp, which I still have, was taken next door to the church and placed on the pulpit, since the preacher, true to Presbyterian custom, preached from notes.

Insofar as I know, there are no pictures of the Bayboro Church extant except the one in my mind's eye and a snapshot, taken with my old box camera, still usable, showing a partial view of the steeple and roof.

As a teen-ager, together with my mother, two half-brothers and a half-sister, the latter four deceased, I transferred my membership to what was then the recently organized Loris Presbyterian Church, now First Presbyterian Church, Loris.

The Independent Republic Quarterly
Vol.26 Fall 1992, pp 24-26

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