The First Presbyterian Church graveyard, adjacent to the First Presbyterian Church at 1324 Marion Street, was established in 1798 by act of the legislature. Originally, the Episcopal Church owned half of the burial ground but their interest was purchased by the Presbyterians.
The earliest marker in the churchyard dates from 1804. Since then, the First Presbyterian Churchyard has been the final resting place for many who have figured in the history of Columbia, South Carolina and the United States.
Some of the most prominent are:
- Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson (1822-1903): Father of President Woodrow Wilson, Dr. Wilson was a professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary, which was headquartered in the Robert Mills House, in the 1870s. He was also the interim (or “Stated Supply”) minister of this church. Wilson’s wife, Jessie is buried alongside him. When President Wilson died in 1924, this churchyard was a candidate for his burial, however, the family plot was full and Wilson was buried at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
- Ainsley Hall (1783-1823): British by birth, Hall was a merchant in Columbia who also built two of Columbia’s Historic Homes; the Hampton-Preston Mansion and the Robert Mills House.Unfortunately, Hall died while the latter house was under construction and the property was sold never to be used as a private home.
- Anne Pamela Cunningham (1816-1875): The savior of George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, Cunningham was the first regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. She was buried here because she wanted, according to a church brochure, “to be buried in the shadow of the church where she had heard the gospel.” Her grave is decorated with ivy brought from Washington’s grave at Mount Vernon.
- Jonathan Maxcy(1768-1820): The first President of South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina). He was also the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Columbia. Before moving south, Maxcy was President of Brown College (now Brown University)
An excellent brochure is available in a display case outside the church with a map locating the above graves and plenty more. If you’re downtown, the First Presbyterian Churchyard is an excellent place for an afternoon stroll.
Source: First Presbyterian Church
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