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Rock Hill resident’s grandmother found ‘place to call home’ in 100-year-old church

When Paulette Hallman’s grandmother found herself in the 1930s unexpectedly raising two children alone, it was a Rock Hill church that gave her a family and support system.

Hallman, 68, lives in Rock Hill and still attends St. Anne Catholic Church, which in September marked its 100-year anniversary.

The Rev. William T. Russel, bishop of Charleston, started the Rock Hill parish on Sept. 15, 1919, and assigned Father William Tobin as pastor, according to history provided by St. Anne member Kim Blum-Hyclak.

Blum-Hyclak is helping to write a book detailing the history of the church.

Hallman’s grandmother Elizabeth Kuriger Jackson was living in Lancaster in the early 1930s when her daughter and son were preteens, Hallman said. A priest would visit Lancaster once a month to hold Mass.

That was not enough for her grandmother, Hallman said. So the family moved to Rock Hill in 1935 where St. Anne held services in a small building on Saluda Street.

“She really came here because the (Rock Hill) Oratory was here,” Hallman said. “Saying the church made such a difference in my family’s life does not even scratch the surface.”

On Nov. 21, 1920, Russel dedicated St. Anne’s first church on Saluda, according to the provided history. At the time, there were about 20 Catholics in the city’s population of 7,500, according to St. Anne’s website.

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St. Anne Catholic Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina marked its 100-year anniversary in September. The church started in a small building on Saluda Street, pictured, and moved to its current location on Bird Street in 1992. Contributed photo

It was at that tiny church Hallman said her grandmother found support from its members. Among others, Jackson was close with the Branigans, the Fritton family and the Williams family.

“They gave them a family and a home when they became part of St. Anne’s,” Hallman said. “The families were all really close.”

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Elizabeth Jackson, middle, is shown with friends Irma Fritton Dickson and Geraldine Jordan when the three were in their 20s. Jackson became connected with families through the St. Anne Catholic Church in Rock Hill, which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary. Contributed photo

Jackson also worked in the nursery at St. Philip’s Mercy Hospital, Hallman said. The hospital, operated by the Franciscan Sisters of Peoria in the 1930s, was once on Confederate Avenue, according to the Rock Hill Oratory’s website. The hospital closed in the 1950s.

Hallman said her grandmother and her mother would take care of unwed mothers’ babies left for adoption.

“My mother and grandmother got real close to some of the children,” Hallman said. “My grandmother loved working there.”

When Hallman was a child, her grandmother came to live with them. Jackson instilled in her granddaughter a love for the church.

“I can’t imagine not being Catholic. I can’t imagine what my faith would have been had my grandmother not lived with us,” Hallman said. “She was such an example.”

Jackson died in 1981, Hallman said.

Hallman, like her grandmother, has been involved with the church.

A public school teacher for more than 40 years, she taught Sunday school at St. Anne. Hallman started the Girl Scouts Brownie troop at the church while attending Winthrop College. Hallman also led church events such as the Easter egg hunt.

“I’m so grateful to be Catholic. I’m so grateful to be a member of St. Anne’s,” she said. “I’m so grateful that God’s used me over the years to allow me to teach so many children.”

St. Anne moved to its current location on Bird Street in 1992, according to the church’s website. By that time, the Rock Hill parish’s membership had reached more than 2,000.

Several churches across South Carolina have seen a decline in recent years in members, while others have grown, reports The State newspaper in Columbia.

The Rock Hill parish now has more than 5,000 members, according to St. Anne’s website. Rock Hill’s parish includes St. Anne and St. Mary Catholic Church on Crawford Road, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston’s website.

Hallman has held on to tradition and still attends church and Mass, despite seeing family members and friends leave.

“There’s so many people who I grew up with who are no longer Catholic,” Hallman said. “I could never leave the church. The church is so entrenched in my life and the life of my family. They gave my mother, uncle and grandmother a place to call home - Rock Hill.”

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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