Theft of historic wood disheartens St. James the Greater Mission community

When thieves stole a trailer loaded with wood from a Catholic church recently, they took more than scraps from an old building — they took a piece of history.

The old heart pine floorboards date back more than 140 years and were installed by freed slaves who built St. James the Greater Mission’s schoolhouse in 1870.

That schoolhouse building has been closed for more than a decade, but the floors were recently salvaged as part of a renovation project, Father Jeffrey A. Kendall said. Pastor of St. James the Greater Mission, he said the wood was going to be used to build an altar, lectern and baptismal font for a planned social hall.

Father Kendall said the project to upgrade the old building into a new parish life center has been ongoing for 12 years, and the latest setback has the entire community upset.

“Nobody can believe someone would steal from a poor black church,” he said. “It’s just disheartening.”

The wood was inside a trailer belonging to Jack Galloway, a parishioner of St. Anthony in Walterboro who was helping with the mission renovations.

The incident occurred on June 29 and Colleton County deputies are still searching for the wood or the person who stole the trailer.

Father Kendall said the descendants of the men who built the schoolhouse still live in the community and the blood and sweat of their ancestors is in the stolen wood.

“They really stole part of the history — the parish deserves to get that back,” Father Kendall said.

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