The town that is known today as Mount Carmel, South Carolina was first settled by Scots-Irish immigrants in the 1750s, followed by the French and Germans in the 1760s and 1770s. With the advent of nearby Willington Academy at the turn of the 19th century and the establishment of local cotton plantations, the population began to grow. William Dorn discovered gold mines in present-day McCormick in 1852 and capitalized on them with slave labor. After the Civil War led to emancipation, the mines became significantly less profitable. Cyrus McCormick purchased the mines and surrounding land in 1871. Unable to revive the mines, he focused on developing a community, now known as McCormick. He also purchased railroad stock, galvanizing the establishment of a train line there and in neighboring villages such as Mount Carmel.
In the late 19th century, Mount Carmel served the surrounding farmers as a central trading center in rural McCormick County. In 1885, the town of Mount Carmel was chartered and a post office was established. By 1886, Mount Carmel’s section of the Savannah Valley Railroad was completed, which spurred a period of prosperity. After the tracks were completed, Mount Carmel saw the addition of five general stores, a druggist, a confectionery, a grocery store, and various other businesses. The small community of Mount Carmel had approximately 300 inhabitants. Mount Carmel Presbyterian Church was organized during this period of growth, and this frame building was constructed around 1890 on land given by the Morrah family to house the congregation. The building remained in use until the mid-1950s.
In the summer of 1896, a portion of Mount Carmel was destroyed by fire. It began when a home was burglarized and set on fire. A lamp was overturned in a store in the commotion, triggering a second fire that destroyed four residences and a dozen businesses. A few of the homes were rebuilt and several of the wooden commercial buildings were replaced with brick buildings. The town of Mount Carmel was officially incorporated on August 4, 1906. The years of prosperity the town had seen prior to the turn of the century began to wane not long after. With the development of the automobile, there was a reduced dependence on the railroad, and residents began moving away in search of jobs. The boll weevil infestation of 1921 devastated Mount Carmel and the surrounding cotton-producing areas. The final blow to Mount Carmel was dealt by the Great Depression in the 1930s.
In 1975, the church grounds hosted a reenactment of the seizing of British-occupied Fort Charlotte by American troops in 1775. The Revolutionary War engagement took place around six miles southwest of the church. The fort ruins are now submerged beneath Strom Thurmond Lake, completed in 1954. Mount Carmel Presbyterian Church is not to be confused with another church in the area with a similar name, Mount Carmel ARP Church. Today, not much has changed since the early 1900s. In the 1980s, the Mount Carmel Presbyterian Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing property of the Mount Carmel Historic District. There are a few viable businesses and only several modern houses have been constructed within the town’s historic district in the last century. Most residents live in new homes on the outskirts of the town limits. The Mount Carmel Presbyterian Church is currently undergoing a restoration.
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