History

The history of St. Thaddeus is closely tied with that of Aiken. Aiken is a planned town, laid out in the 1830’s by the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Co. at the peak of the railroad grade from the Savannah River valley to the plateau of the South Carolina sand hills. The plan reserved land for churches, one of which was St. Thaddeus. (The South Carolina Railroad, the first long line in the U. S., connected Charleston with Hamburg, across the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia.)

Aiken grew slowly over the years from whistlestop to county seat, and in the years between Reconstruction and the First World War became a popular winter resort for equestrian sports. Beginning in 1950 the construction of the Savannah River nuclear project twelve miles to the south substantially changed Aiken’s character, greatly enlarging both the population and commercial activities. Other manufacturing and distributing businesses have followed. Aiken County now has a population of 120,000 people, of whom a third or more live in reasonably close proximity to Aiken; a branch of the University of South Carolina; and a large technical school.

Although Aiken has acquired a substantial base of commerce and industry, we also retain much of our heritage. A wooded equestrian park covering more than two square miles comes nearly to the center of town, and the training of racehorses during the winter months is a substantial activity. Trial horse races (steeplechase, harness, and flat racing) are held each March, and a second steeplechase is conducted in the fall. Polo is also played through the cooler months. Our climate permits golf to be played year-round. There are seven excellent courses in or around Aiken, and several more elsewhere in the county.

St. Thaddeus Church was founded and its cornerstone laid on September 5, 1842. This original building is the basis of our present church. During much of the 19th Century there were few resident communicants, but the church was maintained by Charlestonians who fled to this area in the feverish summers. The Vicar supported himself through missionary work and a variety of business interests. After the fall of the Confederacy there was even less money, and a part of the property had to be sold. Gradually, with the growth of Aiken and the influx of winter visitors, the Parish recovered. The greatest growth has been since 1950. St. Thaddeus today is a large Parish, active in many areas, as shown by the Activities page.

Over time the Parish buildings have been augmented. The Cornish Memorial Chapel was built near the church in 1888, and it has been enlarged three times in this century. A major renovation in 1995 has recreated the original chapel while providing modern offices and Christian Education facilities. Parish activities other than worship are now conducted in the Stevenson-McClelland Building, built in 1993 on the southeast side of our block. It contains large and small meeting rooms, classrooms, and a gymnasium. The church itself was remodeled and extended in 1926. The Mead Hall School facilities were added in 1961, and have been augmented with the purchase of additional property on the west side of the block. We have almost expanded back into the block that was originally given us.

A recent book, St. Thaddeus of Aiken, a Church and its City, provides many details and photographs of the history of both St. Thaddeus and Aiken. It is available through the St. Thaddeus Bookstore.

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