By TIM BULLARD
GEORGETOWN — Two Pee Dee women are investing a lot of time and effort into researching the history of their parish, a project that is quickly proving to be of national significance, which will end up in the S.C. State Archives.
At St. Mary, Our Lady of Ransom Church, the women are working on a centennial directory for the parish, a hardcover book that will detail the history of Catholics in Georgetown dating back to 1526, when the first non-Native American settlement was established on the banks of Winyah Bay.
It’s like a full-time job for Frances Howard, a Georgetown native, and convert Cherrin Moore, a parish member since 1977 and a former Baptist.
“We were collecting all the history to put together for our 100th anniversary. It started out that we were going to do a directory. Then we got this wise idea that we wanted to put it all together and make a book. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime edition. The more we have gotten into it, the more we have decided to put into it,” said Moore.
From Bishop John England, who served from 1820-1842, to the present, the book will chronicle a history of the region as well as the state. Publication is set for August at $35 for the limited number of editions.
There are pictures and a biography of each priest who served St. Mary’s, although there is a letter from Father Timothy Bermingham (1869), since there is no photo of him. He came to Georgetown that year, and the area was attached as a station to Stella Maris of Moultrieville, now Sullivan’s Island.
Father Albert A. Faase, pastor from 1947-62, had a German shepherd who lived in a decorated doghouse with curtains, according to the book. “Each day his intelligent dog would go to special room in his house and bring a can of dog food to Father Faase who would open the can and give him a treat of the day. He liked smoking cigars and had signs in his garage asking those who smoked to dispose of their butts in the proper place.”
There is also a photograph of an altar in the home of Mayor William D. Morgan with candles and an old vestment, plus a piano. Priests frequently stayed with the Morgan family when travel to Georgetown became difficult because of impassable rivers.
“He was an intellectual leader of Georgetown,” the book states. He served as mayor from 1891-1906. In his last will and testament he asked blessings to the city and its residents, “both white and coloured.”
He gave the church his house on the corner of Prince and Board, and it was used by the parish school for many years before it was sold about a decade ago.
The book will feature photographs from The Morgan Collection and snapshots submitted by parishioners and church benefactors.
Bishop Henry P. Northrop blessed the cornerstone for St. Mary’s on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1899, according to the book.
An original financial statement in the book lists a marble font, a dedication candle, concrete pavement, repairs to the cemetery fence at $19.25 in dispersements, $21.75 for window freights, $250 for the stained-glass windows, a $25 bill to Florence Electrical Co., a $41.25 bill to Charleston Electric Co. for fixtures and other odd submissions Jan. 1, 1901.
“This book, it’s been a blessing, a renewal,” said Howard. “It’s going to be a beautiful book.”
From These Roots, about 200 pages long, will be printed by Olan Mills.
It will include a history of the Drum & Bugle Corps, the Women’s Club, the Holy Name Society, the Knights of Columbus Council 3067, and a history of mission churches including St. Andrew, Our Lady Star of the Sea, St. James, St. Michael, St. Leo’s in Andrews, Precious Blood on Pawleys Island and the McClellanville Mission.
A letter from Bishop Robert J. Baker will be included in the foreword.
“The beautiful church in which you worship is surely a treasure that makes one realize the dedication of the stewards of our faith,” he wrote. “And yet there is a greater treasure that transcends the decades of time. This treasure includes all God’s people who, day by day, have given witness as they shared our faith with those in our homes, our workplaces, our parish and our community. It is this sharing of faith that molds us and joins us together as a family of God.”
Icons on some pages are directly from the church’s stained-glass windows, some of which are from a German company. Those German windows are only in two churches in South Carolina.
For more information on the book, call (843) 546-7416, fax (843) 546-7003, or write to 317 Broad St., Georgetown, SC 29440.