Allison Creek Presbyterian Church in York County, South Carolina, has a history that not many people know about.
Allison Creek Presbyterian Church Pastor, Sam McGregor, explains, “It’s the greatest story of African American liberation that’s never been told…that centered around the life of Elias Hill, who was a man who was born into slavery.”
After the Civil War, Elias Hill became a Baptist Minister. He also became very politically active, forming the Union League, which was an early Civil Rights organization. When there was a rise of the KKK in York County, Elias communicated with representatives about their acts of terrorism. It is reasonable to conclude that these actions by Elias Hill were lead factors that led to his brutal attack.
Alicia Wrenn, Web Designer and Church Member of Allison Creek Presbyterian Church, tells the story: “They drag him out of his house, they beat him, they whipped him. They wanted him to renounce his republicanism, which just meant that he was a part of the Republican Party at the time. He had also been a member of the Freedman’s Bureau and they wanted him to not belong to that anymore. They wanted him to stop preaching; they wanted him to start preaching for the KKK and say that the KKK was a good thing, that they weren’t doing anything to people. Elias said, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’ So they whipped him with their guns, they threatened to shoot him. Many things happened to Elias that night.”
After his attack, Elias testified against the Ku Klux Klan. Five of the Ku Klax Klan members who committed the atrocities were convicted and sent to prison in New York State. Still, after this experience, Elias decided that as an African American, it wasn’t safe for him to live in the community. He therefore organized a migration of 166 former slaves to Liberia.
In an effort to bring this history to light, Allison Creek Presbyterian held their first annual Let The Land Say Amen Festival, which centered around the life of Elias Hill. The festival included tours, a historic reenactment, and the unveiling of a groundbreaking historical marker.
Sam McGregor says, “Well, this will be the first historical marker in York county that will recognize the period of reconciliation and it will be the first marker in the state of South Carolina to recognize the activities, the atrocities, of the Ku Klux Klan.”
Alicia Wrenn adds, “The importance of installing this marker, acknowledging that there was a KKK in this area, brings it out to people who just want to sweep it up under the rug, as if it didn’t happen.”