Walhalla Presbyterian Church
In 1849, the German Colonization Society of Charleston bought two tracts of land in what is now Oconee County; these tracts were known as the High Falls and the West Union tracts. In 1850, a site near the western border of the West Union tract was chosen for a town. The land was surveyed, and plats were drawn. On March 8, 1850, the town was named Walhalla, which in Scandinavian mythology means Paradise (or Garden) of the Gods. (information from J. T. Jaynes' History of Walhalla published in 1950)
For about seventeen years Walhalla remained a distinctly German town. Church services were held in German at the Lutheran Church. About the same time that the Pickens District was divided into Oconee and Pickens counties (1868), the town began to open to settlers of other nationalities. In September, 1868, citizens from Walhalla petitioned the Presbytery of South Carolina to organize a Presbyterian Church in Walhalla. Presbytery formed a committee (consisting of Reverend D. McNeil Turner, pastor of the Abbeville Court House Church, Reverend A. A. Morse, Evangelist of Presbytery, and Ruling Elders A. O. Norris of Anderson Court House and Robert H. Wardlaw of Abbeville Court House) to visit Walhalla and organize a church if it seemed advisable. On their recommendation, Presbytery agreed that a church was needed in Walhalla, and the organization was completed on December 6, 1868. Three elders (James George, William Ervin, and Joseph Norton) were elected by the sixteen adults (and nine children) or the new congregation. For the first four years, the congregation used the Methodist church for worship services, but in 1873, a wooden building facing Main Street was constructed at a cost of $2,500. The sanctuary was heated by two wood-burning stoves; ten kerosene lamps provided light. In November of 1873, the congregation called the Reverend John G. Law to be the first non-supply minister of Walhalla Presbyterian Church; he served from 1873-1876. A Sunday School was started in 1873, and women's groups were soon active.
In 1914, the congregation voted to build a new sanctuary. J. E. Greene of Birmingham, Alabama, furnished the plans, and Herman Busch of Walhalla was the builder. Since the new building was constructed on the site of the old wooden church, the congregation once again met in the Methodist Church during construction. The new (and present) building was dedicated, debt-free, on May 23, 1915; there were 132 members. As the church grew, a manse was built in 1945, and an education building was added in 1956. When the highway department changed the layout of Main Street in the late 1960's, the side and back of the church became visible; changes were made to improve this part of the church. Additional land was also purchased for parking and future expansion. In 1972, the parking lot was paved. Five new stained glass windows were installed and dedicated in 1985. The Session (aided by the Board of Deacons in earlier years) has always worked hard to maintain the use and beauty of Walhalla Presbyterian Church. New tools such as computers, copying machines, and other electronic equipment have been purchased as needed.
Women have always played an active role in Walhalla Presbyterian Church. Ten of the original sixteen members were women, and our earliest records indicate their dedicated support of the church. Although there are no formal records of women's organizations prior to 1910, mention is made of work done by women's groups in the 1880's. In 1910, the Women's Missionary Society was formed. Through various name changes, Presbyterian Women, as the organization's most recent name, was a vital part of the work of the church. Today, three circles meet monthly for Bible study and prayer. These groups also support local and foreign missions and provide food for special services and bereaved families.
Sunday School, Bible School, and youth programs have inspired new generations. Men's and women's groups have prayed, studied, and worked to further God's kingdom in the world. Teams from our church have worked in mission fields around the world--sharing the love of Jesus while providing dental and medical care, teaching, providing clean water, and building churches and schools. Talented musicians have shared their gifts and enhanced worship services. In 1975, the Memorial Fund was established with major gifts from the estates of Mrs. Eloise Strother Wyly and Mr. and Mrs. L. M. Brown. Since that time, many gifts have been added to the fund and have allowed the church to expand its mission. A Vietnamese refugee family (the Trinh-Vu family) was brought to Walhalla in 1979. Initiated by memorials to Claude Alexander, hand bells were purchased in 1985. Challenged by a matching grant from the Harlan Burbank family, the church purchased a new electronic Rogers organ in 1991. In 1993, the congregation funded a Habitat for Humanity house as part of a yearlong celebration of the 125th anniversary of Walhalla Presbyterian Church. The fellowship hall was renovated, and in 2000, new walnut exterior doors were installed in the sanctuary. In 2003, the church celebrated 135 years of service to God and the community.
Walhalla Presbyterian Church has been blessed with many wonderful ministers and lay workers. Seven members have gone into full-time Christian service. Under the leadership of the Reverend Clarence Letson, the West Union Chapel was started in 1957. In 1980, the present chapel building was completed. For over fifty years, the West Union Chapel has served the Lord with dedication and enthusiasm. Today, it continues to be a vital part of the Walhalla Presbyterian Church.
When Dr. John G. Law (the first full-time pastor) died in 1916, his extensive library was given to the church. Sadly, many of his wonderful collection of books were destroyed during the church fire in September 2013.
On September 14, 2013, Walhalla Presbyterian Church suffered a fire on the second floor of the main sanctuary. The fire devastated the church building as well as church members and the surrounding Walhalla community. Session members and a special Rebuild Committee worked to restore the church to its former condition making necessary needed improvements in order to make the church more useful for many years to come.
A rededication service was held on June 21, 2015 in the newly renovated Walhalla Presbyterian Church. The rebuilding and renovation construction took approximately 18 months to complete. Our congregation is very thankful to all who worked to restore and renovate our church. We especially thank the Walhalla community for prayers, support and interest as the church went through the renovation process. We also give praise and glory to God for guidance and many answered prayers during this process in the life of Walhalla Presbyterian Church.