This property at 705 South Main Street in Summerville goes way back in history.  In 1935 Attorney-at-Law Legare Walker traced the title back to the land owned by Richard Wainwright in 1791.  It was then sold to Dewar and his heirs.  In May 1831 this parcel of land was sold to the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company.  It was a part of the 1500 acres they bought in Summerville. 

From that time, the land went to the Middleton’s, then to Henry J. Chisolm, and then to Sarah J. Stanland.  It’s interesting to note, the county line between Colleton and Berkeley counties ran diagonally across the property until Dorchester County was founded in the late 1800s.  It is also interesting to note the lack of buildings on the property at this time. 

 Matthias Hutchinson, in his book, “Reminiscences,” stated this land was used as a camping place and drill field for the northern troops who occupied Summerville at the end of the Civil War. 

In January 1901, Milton P. Skinner came to Summerville as the manager of an ice house and coal company, the Crystal Ice Company and Clinchfield Coal Corporation.  The Crystal Ice House was also built in 1901.  They would use wagons to deliver ice to the houses for the ice boxes.                                                                                         

Milton P. Skinner, along with his wife, Mary K. Skinner and their son Elmer Skinner all moved to Summerville.  They bought the property at 705 S. Main St. and built a house.  Milton Skinner bought several properties in January of 1901, Dorchester County book 3, page 250, and book 4, page 537.  The original house had seven rooms downstairs, not counting the butler’s pantry, the kitchen and service room.  The paneling and stairs were made of oak.  The ceilings on the first floor were 14 feet high.  On the second floor were three rooms and a large ballroom.  The ballroom, measured about 3000 square feet.  It was a big home.  The porch, now only across the front of the house, used to go completely around the house. 

Mr. and Mrs. Skinner liked the house and loved living and working in Summerville.  Milton Skinner passed away but his wife still lived in the house.  After a few years, she left Summerville, moving in with some relatives.  In December of 1910 Mrs. Skinner gave the house and property to her son Elmer Skinner.  The house and property were then sold to Mrs. Catherine Brokaw of Paris, France in March of 1935.  William G. Brokaw and his wife Catherine bought the house and property for $3500.  They used the house as a winter residence.  

 In 1952 Mrs. Henrietta Muckenfuss Allan bought the house and started “Pinewood School.”  The house was ideal for a private school.  The school did well and started growing.  Before long they realized they needed more room.  That’s when they moved to their present location.      

In 1980, Bishop William H. S. Jerdan of the Reformed Episcopal Church was looking for property in Summerville to be the home of their Theological Seminary. Cummings Theological Seminary (CTS) was named in honor of Bishop George David Cummins, the first Bishop and founder of the Reformed Episcopal Church. It was formed by Bishop Peter F. Stevens in 1876, shortly after he assumed leadership of the infant Reformed Episcopal Church in the South.  At that time the school was named “Bishop Cummins Training School,” located on Nassau Street in Charleston, for the education of ministers of the Church. 

 For a time, sessions of the school were held in Orangeburg, during Bishop Stephens’ tenure as a professor in the State College.  Later, the school moved back to Charleston and Rev. William DeVeaux and Rev. R. A Madison were added to the faculty.  Under Bishop Arthur L. Pengelley, successor to Bishop Stephens, the school was moved to Summerville. 

 In 1924 a permanent site was purchased in Summerville and the program of the school was reorganized under the leadership of the Rev. Joseph E. Kearney, later consecrated Bishop.  At the same time, the name of the institution was changed to “Bishop Cummins Memorial Theological Training School.” On July 5, 1939, the school was chartered as a seminary under the laws of the State of South Carolina and was renamed “Cummins Memorial Theological Seminary.” 

 In 1942 the seminary was moved to the corner of Main and 4th North Streets in Summerville.  A former hospital building was remodeled to accommodate the growing needs to the school.  In addition to the classrooms, dormitory building, other buildings on the 1.9 acre site included a professor’s residence, caretaker’s residence, and the Bishop Pengelley Memorial Chapel.  After the commencement in May 1966, classes at the Seminary were suspended until 1979, due to declining enrollment.  In 1979 the Seminary was reorganized by Bishop Senko K. Rembert and classes were resumed in Charleston at the facilities of Stephens Christian Institute. 

 In 1980 Bishop William H. S. Jerdan purchased the present 3.1 acre campus from the Pinewood School at 705 S. Main St., Summerville.  In 1981, when the North Main Street campus was sold, the Pengelley Chapel was moved to the South Main Street campus, which brought a total of six buildings on the new site.  CTS also has two other sister seminaries, Reformed Episcopal Seminary, Philadelphia Pennsylvania and Cranmer Theological House, Spring, Texas.                                 

The Bishop Pengelley Memorial Chapel, sitting behind the school has a rich history.  It was built after the Civil War in 1883 by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  It was originally known as the St. Barnabas Mission.  It was designed for the under privileged white persons in the eastern part of Summerville.  They also conducted school for Indian children from Four Holes Swamp.  The Rev. L. F. Guerry Rector of St. Paul’s was the founder of the mission church.  It functioned under the direction and care of St. Paul’s. Dr. Charles U. Shepherd, who owned the “Tea Farm” in Summerville, gave substantial funding for the mission and its work.  Members of St. Paul’s would come over to the St. Barnabas Mission and would donate their time.  They would have Sunday School in the afternoon, and an evening service every Sunday night. 

 In 1942 Bishop Joseph Kearney, of the Reformed Episcopal Church, acquired the Lee colored hospital on Main Street for a Theological Seminary.  In 1946, the now abandoned St. Barnabas Mission was purchased and moved from Main Street to the seminary campus and renamed the Bishop Pengelley Memorial Chapel.  When the seminary moved to Charleston in 1967, the chapel was only used for special occasions.  Then in 1981 the chapel was moved to its present location on S. Main St.  The building’s architecture is interesting, “American Gothic.”  The bell tower and vestry room on one side, add interest to the clapboard church with Gothic windows.  The warm golden wood inside is made from “Georgian Pine” with carvings and decorations which adds to the Gothic design.

Summerville is proud of ‘Cummings Theological Seminary” and “The Bishop Pengelley Memorial Chapel.”

Written by: Mark D. Woodard

Research sources:

  • Hill, Barbara Lynch.  Summerville, SC 1847-1997 Our History. Wentworth Printing, West Columbia, SC (1998)
  • McIntosh, Beth. Beth’s Pineland Village. The R.L. Bryan Company, Columbia, SC (1988)