Mary Jenkins Praise House, South Carolina

St. Helena Island, Beaufort County

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, here is info from the application which gives a good history of this praise house and the overall purpose of praise houses.

The Mary Jenkins Community Praise House, built ca. 1900, is one of four known extant praise houses on St. Helena Island [one has since been removed – today there are only three praise houses on St. Helena Island]. Praise houses were first established on St. Helena plantations in the antebellum period, as slaves used small frame houses or other buildings as places to meet and worship. After they became freedmen, they built praise houses on or near the old plantation, in most instances calling their community by the name of the former plantation or plantation owner. Although the extant praise houses date from ca. 1900, their function has persisted since before emancipation and the basic architectural form has been retained. Since there were, and are, few formal church buildings on St. Helena, most islanders could only walk or ride to the main church on Sunday morning. For other community meetings or services, praise houses were built in each of the communities created by the former plantations, and services were held on Sunday, Tuesday, And Thursday nights, as well as the Watch Night Service each New Year’s. A typical service might consist of singing, prayer, perhaps a member’s testimony of a religious experience, and almost always ending with a “shout.” Kit Chaplin built this praise house ca. 1900; Paris Capers, born in 1863, was one of the early elders. Members of Ebenezer Baptist Church still attend services here today; a cow bell, which is still in the praise house, has been rung for many years to alert the members to a service or meeting.”

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