Historic church burns in Newberry County

Granite exterior walls still standing after morning blaze; cause yet unknown

kdavis@thestate.comJanuary 10, 2013 

— The locally quarried granite sanctuary walls remain standing, but most of the interior of the historic St. Paul Lutheran Church in Pomaria was destroyed by fire Thursday morning. There were no injuries reported.

Most of Newberry County’s volunteer firefighters, as well as Newberry city and Lexington County crews, were called to the scene at S.C. 773 and Interstate 26 in Pomaria, Sheriff Lee Foster said. Foster and many of his deputies are volunteer firefighters.

“The only salvation is the church was made of granite and the majority of the exterior walls are standing,” he said.

The rest of the structure and a rear educational building were destroyed by the fire, which was called in sometime around 6:30 a.m. Fire crews brought the blaze under control before 11 a.m.

There were no injuries reported in the fire.

The church is in full view of the busy commuter route to Columbia and the VC Summer nuclear power plant in Jenkinsville. The road remains closed near the church.

Investigators from the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office, the State Law Enforcement Division and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives were on the scene trying to determine the cause of the fire, which Foster said appears to have started in the rear of the church.

“Anytime we have a church fire, you want to have it investigated,” he said. “We don’t know (that arson is) the case here.”

There have not been any recent church fires in the county, he said.

Lutheran Synod representatives were already on the scene Thursday morning, Foster said.

The church, founded in 1761, is one of the earliest Lutheran congregations in the country. Its original log church predated the Revolutionary War. Two frame churches later served the congregation, one built in 1830 that served the parishioners for 108 years, according to a historic marker at the site.

Construction of the gothic revival sanctuary that burned Thursday began in 1936 with Pomaria granite. It opened in 1938.

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