Antebellum Church Remains the Same

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Appleby Methodist Church | Dorchester County, South Carolina | c. 1780s

Almost 200 years later, this simple church structure looks much like it did when it was first built, and while services stopped many generations ago, its legacy continues.

The Early History of Appleby Church

A deed from 1787 shows that James Herberson donated 2 and ½ acres just after the Revolutionary War to the trustees of the “Methodist Meeting House.” The property was later expanded when James Preston Appleby gave land, for a total of 4 acres, to the church and graveyard and it is believed that the church adopted his name at this time.

The 1799 plat from James P. Appleby included a drawing of a church building that was already there. However, architects estimate that the building that stands today was erected in the 1840s or 1850s. The one-story Greek Revival-style church retains most of its original design, including its windows and doors. The wooden structure is built atop brick piers and has two entrances on the front facade that were used for men and women to enter separately.

Inside the church is a spartan interior, virtually unchanged from its original design. The arrangement of the pews reflected the norms of the time. The two separate front doors led into two separate seating sections that are divided by an aisle that would provide seating for men on one side, and women on the other. Enslaved people, who entered through a separate door at the back of the building, were seated in the back of the church. The area closest to the pulpit was the “Amen Corner” reserved for elderly worshippers to sit closer to the pulpit.

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A traveling pastor would deliver a sermon once a month. On the other Sundays, prominent members of the congregation would speak.

Appleby Church and The Civil War

In the Spring of 1862, Capt. Morgan T. Appleby used the churchyard as a muster ground for Company C, of South Carolina’s 24th Infantry. After the war, Captain Appleby served in the South Carolina Senate.

After the war, services resumed until the 1940s when the congregation dwindled. In 1973 during a state-wide bicentennial celebration, descendants hosted a church service and potluck dinner on the grounds. In 1978, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places and for many years, an annual memorial service was held. In the early 2000s, a new roof was added. Today, the property and cemetery are looked after by those who have family interred here.

Appleby’s Methodist Church Cemetery

The cemetery at Appleby’s Methodist Church is thought to hold burials that reach back to the early 1800s, although none of the early graves still have markers today. Burials surround all sides of the church, grouped by families, and the oldest marker that still remains marks the burial of Honorable Morgan T. Appleby who died in 1867. Surveys estimate more than 100 burials have been made here, and according to some stories, many enslaved people were interred here as well. 

Photo courtesy of Ashley Roberson, via Wikimedia.

In the 2000s, the cemetery was damaged when a thief stole one of the iron fences that surrounded a family burial section. The thief was eventually caught and the fence was tracked down at an antique store 50 miles away. The fence was eventually reinstalled in its original location.

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Burials at Appleby Methodist

There are varying estimates of how many people have been buried at Appleby Cemetery over the years, but many of those interred here are in unmarked graves. Some estimates mention close to 200 burials here, but today, only 102 of those are marked and legible. You can find a list of the known burials at Appleby Cemetery on Find A Grave here.

The Koger & Easterlin Families

I spent some time researching stories about the people buried here and came across an interesting set of stories about one family, the Kogers and the Easterlins.

Mary Joanna White Koger (1825-1907)

Members of the Koger & Easterlin Families buried at Appleby Methodist:

  • Rev. Charles Evan Koger (1822-1866)
  • Alfred Lemacks Koger (1858-1881)
  • Robert Boyd Koger, Sr. (1859-1894)
  • Mary Joanna White Koger (1825-1907)
  • Daisy Koger (1888-1889)
  • Rosa Merle Koger (1891-1891)
  • Clarie Easterlin (1896-1908)
  • Mary Rosa Withers Koger Easterlin (1856-1914)
  • Annie Withers Easterlin (1898-1916)

Robert Boyd Koger, Sr. (1859-1894) and his wife, Mary Rosa Withers Koger, lived near the church and owned and operated a small country store across from their home. Their grandson, Robert Boyd, Jr.,  shared a story about their store: “Someone crawled underneath the store and bored a hole through the floor and into the bottom of a wooden barrel containing something (flour, cornmeal?) they wanted to steal. They did not discover what the thief had been doing until the barrel was empty.”

Tragedy Strikes the Koger Family

Robert Boyd Koger, Sr., with his wife, Mary Rosa Withers Koger, and their children. They owned the store that was located along the Old Stage Road, directly across from Appleby Church.

On a cold March day, Robert and Mary Koger’s son, Ira, had fallen ill. The parents had grown so concerned with the young boy’s condition that Robert decided to mount his horse and ride in the rain to St. George, the nearest town, to get help for his son. Ira Koger survived but Robert contracted pneumonia from which he would not recover. He was buried at Appleby Cemetery in 1894.

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Mary Withers Koger Easterlin

Mary Rosa Withers Koger Easterlin was first married to Robert Boyd Koger, Sr. She was a school teacher. Mary lost her 10-month-old daughter Daisy in 1889. Then she lost her daughter, Rosa Merle, 6 months, in 1891. Her husband Robert died in 1894 trying to save their sick son, Ira. Mary married Albert H. Easterlin about 5 years after Robert Boyd Sr’s death. Then her daughter, Claire Easterlin died in 1908 (age 11). Her daughter Annie Withers Easterlin died in 1916 at age 17.

Mary Withers Koger Easterlin must have been a strong woman to endure the losses that she did. In 1889, she lost her 10-month-old daughter, Daisy. Daisy Koger had no printed obituary, but there is no doubt that she was loved and missed by her mother, father, and siblings, as her mother so eloquently described later in her sad but beautiful letter to “Aunt Josie.” In 1891, Mary suffered the loss of another daughter, Rosa Merle, who was only 6 months old. Just 3 years later, her young son Ira fell ill and you can imagine the panic in a family who had already lost so much. This undoubtedly led to his father, Robert Boyd Koger, riding in the rain to find help for Ira. The same ride that brought help to their sick son led to Robert contracting pneumonia from which he died in 1894.

Five years after the death of her husband, Mary Koger remarried to Albert H. Easterlin then in 1908, she lost another child, Claire, age 11. Then in 1914, Mary’s Koger Easterlin passed away. Two years later her daughter, Annie Easterlin, died. She was only 17 and was buried in Appleby Cemetery with her mother and siblings who proceeded her.

Annie Easterlin (1898-1916)
Annie Easterlin Arithmetic Book
Annie Easterlin’s signature in her Arithmetic Book, c. 1914- 2 years before her death.

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One Comment

  1. What a wonderful story! Mary Withers Koger Easterland was indeed a strong woman. When I looked at her picture, I was taken aback for a moment. It could have been me in the picture. I will have to do some research to see if we aren’t related in some distant way. It is quite strange to see yourself in someone else’s portrait. Thank you for sharing this lovely story even though some of it is so sad.

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