On November 18, 1848, a group of men met in the Masonic Hall in Barnwell, South Carolina with the Rev. Thomas John Young of Charleston, to form the first resolution to establish the church. "Resolved: That we do hereby organize as a congregation of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the Diocese of South Carolina, and declare our willingness to be designated as the Church of the Holy Apostles."
The first officers of the church were:
- Senior Warden- Daniel D. Hallonquist
- Junior Warden- A.P. Aldrich
- Vestrymen- Benjamin Brown, James T. Aldrich, J.C. Buckingham
The original list of parishioners names eight white family groups and their slaves and was written as follows:
- A.P. Aldrich: 8 Members
- James T. Aldrich 4 Members
- Benjamin Brown: 5 Members
- M.C. Marshall: 5 Members
- William H Thompson: 4 Members
- J.C. Buckingham: 4 Members
- Daniel D. Hallonquist: 8 Members
- Mrs. Caroline Hay: 2 Members
- Colored: 10 Members
St. Michael's of Charleston, SC contributed $210.00 to establish the church and also provided the first altar and pulpit. They supplied an acting Rector who served until the first Rector, the Rev. Edwin A Wagner, an Englishman, took over.
On April 10, 1856, a building committee was formed. At that time the congregation had $1,526 for construction of a church. A site was chosen which was adjacent to the home of Rev. Wagner. On September 20, 1856, Rev. Wagner sold for the sum of five dollars to be paid by the vestry..."to the Church of the Holy Apostles at Barnwell, and their successors forever, and ...the Bishop and his successors in office forever, in trust for the congregation...that lot and parcel of land ...on the road leading from the southern end of Burr St. to Charleston, containing one and an eight acres...as a site for a church edifice and for a cemetery."
Barbot and Seyle of Charleston, SC were architects, but Rev. Wagner suggested the English-Gothic design which agreed with that of his home (although this building has always been called "The Rectory," it was never owned by Church until recently). The Church was built for a total cost of $3,500.
The Church was dedicated on March 11, 1857 and the certificate can still be seen in the church along with the original parish register and other historic documents connected to the church.
The beautiful east window over the altar was a gift of the Honorable James Hammond, Governor of South Carolina, with symbolism depicting the entire doctrine of the Christian Church. The Baptismal Font (reputed to be of Medieval origin), was given by Rev. Wagner. The first bell tower had a tall conical spire which rested on the present square tower. It could be seen from any spot in the township and was destroyed by a hurricane in 1886.
The Communion Silver was given by Capt. and Mrs. William Martin. It was made from family coin silver, designed and executed by Tiffany. In the 1900's altar linens were ordered from a convent in Paris. They were hand woven and are still in use.
The bell was given by Mr. James Bolen of Grahamville, a refugee from Sherman's army in Barnwell, who noticed the church had no bell and ordered one. The size was determined by the distance from the outmost member's home to the church, with the intention that it would be rung for the length of time it took to come to church. (It is now tolled once for each of the apostles, and by tradition, Judas is omitted.) The first time it tolled was for Mr. Bolen's funeral. His grave was unmarked until the 1970's.
The Civil War left the church in disrepair and so services were not held for many years. Through foresight of the members, the east window was removed and buried far from the church. Panes of glass in the other windows were shot out and broken by bayonets. The silver is believed to have been hung down the old well which is now covered by the Gazebo in the cemetery. Thus, it also was saved. Union General Judson Kilpatrick's horses were stabled here and watered from the Font.
On March 19, 1883, a group of men met in offices of Col. Robert Aldrich for the purpose of reorganization. The bishop, Rev. W.B. Howe, came to their aid and sent them a young man, who became much loved in the community, Rev. R.W. Barnwell.
The church was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites in South Carolina in 1972. There are many famous men and women buried in the churchyard, including Governor Johnson Hagood (1829-1898), Congressman James O'Hanlon Patterson (1857-1911), Dr. A. Bethune Patterson, Judge Robert A. Aldrich, General A.P. Butler, William Gilmore Simms along with many members of the Simms/Oliphant family, South Carolina Representative Solomon Blatt, and South Carolina State Senate Edgar Brown.
The church is still an active congregation.