Heitzler brings church history to First Baptist
The Goose Creek area is steeped in history, and through the years churches have served as gathering places for leaders and citizens.
Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler, an expert on local history, gave a lecture at First Baptist Church of Goose Creek on Aug. 29 to recount a brief history of the area and the role churches played.
He signed copies of his most recent history book, “The Goose Creek Bridge: Gateway to Sacred Places.” He said he was not selling the books, but giving them to citizens who made a donation to the church, which is looking to buy a newer van.
He joked that he’s a retired school principal who doesn’t need money, so he just gives his books away – in this case for a donation that will go to a local church. About 25 citizens attended.
“I shudder to think what a horrible place this would be without the churches,” Heitzler said. “We are steeped in history.”
Heitzler announced that his history lecture series will return this October and November on Thursdays at 6 p.m. at city hall. These are two-hour lectures divided by era with old photos on a projector that detail Goose Creek history.
Heitzler’s hour-long address at First Baptist Church seemed like a condensed version of the entire lecture series.
“The Otranto, Mt. Holly and Strawberry rail stations is where the white people congregated,” Heitzler said. “The black people worked on farms . . . where the bridge and roads came together the city would form.”
The city of Goose Creek was founded in 1961. It was rural countryside near a military installation, near industry (Bushy Park) and in the path of Charleston’s expansion.
“All the wealthy people owned land here but lived in Charleston,” Heitzler said.
The Goose Creek Bridge was where N.A.D. Road is now, near the Oaks. A 1904 photo of the bridge graces the cover of Heitzler’s latest book.
“That was the only way to go from Charleston to the inland. Any other way was swamp. If you wanted to keep your feet dry you went this way.
“Segregation was profound. Most black folks in Goose Creek owned their farms. One-third of black farms were owned and operated by women. Moonshining was about the only way to make money back then.”
Community stores were the community center. They were usually the only place with an automobile and were the first places to have radios.
“Thomason’s Store was right across from this church,” Heitzler said. “They had a parrot who cursed. You could get a bologna sandwich cut as thick as you wanted.”
Cannon’s General Store was the only place with a telephone at the time.
Goose Creek Elementary School started in 1961 with 12 rooms. The next year 12 more rooms were added. This eventually became Goose Creek High School.
“Howe Hall School was for black boys and girls,” Heitzler said. “Then they closed all the little one-room black schools.”
In 1950s and 1960s a lot of military money was poured into Goose Creek. Haphazard construction, no inspections, subpar sewers and lack of leadership, police, fire and emergency personnel became a problem.
“The military people came here from Arizona and Michigan and they thought there would be amenities – there were not,” Heitzler explained. “The people running this county in Moncks Corner did not care.”
The charter members of Pineview Baptist Church, which was located on the lawn next to where First Baptist is today, were the foundation of the early city.
Hilton Waring Bunch was the first mayor. He and early city councilmember Jack Etling would meet at the edge of their property and talk, Heitzler said.
The first election was March 14, 1961. There were 73 registered voters.