The wooden walls of historic Horn’s Creek Baptist Church near Edgefield, S.C., this week will be shaking to the sounds of Elvis Presley’s gospel music to help raise money for the church’s restoration.
Elvis’ Christmas Album released by RCA Records almost 60 years ago in October of 1957 contained eight Christmas songs and four gospel numbers including (There Will Be) Peace in the Valley and Take My Hand Precious Lord, both composed by Georgia-born writer Thomas A. Dorsey.
The four gospel songs had been released the previous April by RCA on an extended play single.
You can bet that Jeff Barnes, widely known throughout the South for his Elvis Presley tribute shows, will sing those two classics during his concert at Horn’s Creek Baptist on Saturday, May 20.
Tickets for the show and barbecue dinner at 5:30 p.m. preceding the concert are $20 and available by calling (803) 637-2233 or at the church located at 443 Old Stage Road, 5 miles south of Edgefield.
“The last musical performance which we had at Horn’s Creek Church was in October of 2015 when the Bar-J Wranglers of Jackson Hole, Wyo., performed,” recalled Bettis C. Rainsford, historian with the Edgefield County Historical Society.
“They had been sponsored by a generous donor and the evening was extremely successful. We are hopeful that Jeff Barnes’ performance will be as well-attended and successful.”
Barnes already has proven to be a favorite with Edgefield-area fans in having the largest-yet turn-out in the recent concerts sponsored by the Edgefield County Historical Society.
Rainsford also noted the historical society in the early 1990s sponsored a symphony performance at the rural church with musicians from Augusta, and there have been several church services and revivals having music in the church in the 1980s and 1990s.
“I believe this to be the oldest public building in Edgefield County,” said Rainsford, who also is the author of the book The Early History of Horn’s Creek Baptist Church. “It was constructed, at least, as early as 1784.”
Buried near the church is Rainsford’s namesake John Bettis, a former North Carolinian who died in 1781 and is believed to be the first person buried in the churchyard.
Stacy Williams, former senior pastor of Edgefield First Baptist Church, said the ministers at Horn’s Creek were very active in starting other churches in this area in South Carolina and Georgia.
A historical marker at the church states, “This church was constituted in 1768 by the Reverend Daniel Marshall, one of the founders of the Baptist faith in this part of South Carolina. Other early ministers of Horn’s Creek included Hezekiah Walker, Samuel Marsh and John Landrum. The church was incorporated on January 20, 1790.”
Previous fundraising efforts to save and restore the historic church building led to the dedication of a caretaker’s cottage next to the church on Palm Sunday in March 2015.
Barney Dunbar Lamar, who was hired as caretaker to reside in the cottage, grew up in Beech Island, S.C., as a descendant of families of the Old Edgefield District. The graduate of Emory University lived for seven years in Germany where he studied restoration techniques. He also spent 10 years doing restoration work at Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C.
The area near the church also was the site of a Revolutionary War skirmish in 1781 during which patriots attacked a Tory party, killing the company’s commander and capturing the rest of the company’s soldiers.
There usually is a lot of quiet time most days around the plain, meeting house-style Horn’s Creek Baptist Church where generations of South Carolinians have worshipped. But on the evening of May 20, you can be eating a barbecue supper and hearing Elvis tribute artist Barnes singing, “There will be peace in the valley for me, some day. There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray. There’ll be no sadness, no sorrow. No trouble I see. There will be peace in the valley for me.”