The Commons House of Assembly, under the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, established St. Helena’s in 1712 as a colonial parish of the Church of England. Following the American Revolution, St. Helena’s became part of the newly formed Protestant Episcopal Church. The present church building, dating to 1724, has been enlarged three times during its history. It appears today as it did in 1842 when the church was expanded to its present size and interior galleries were added.
In 1734, Captain John Bull gave a silver Communion service in memory of his wife who disappeared in 1715 during the Yemassee Indian War. This chalice, paten, and tankard, engraved “The gift of Captain John Bull to the Parish of St. Helena,” are still used today on special occasions.
A signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Heyward, Jr., (1746-1809) was St. Helena’s most noted parishioner of this period. He also was a member of the Second Continental Congress and a signer of the Articles of Confederation. Like his father before him, Thomas Heyward, Jr., served on St. Helena’s Vestry and owned pew number 16. He is buried in the Heyward family cemetery near Beaufort.
Following the northern invasion in November 1861, Federal chaplains held services in St. Helena’s, but eventually the building was converted to a hospital. The church was stripped of its furnishings, and slab gravestones from the churchyard were used as operating tables. All that remained of the furnishings prior to the war was the 1784 baptismal font. The present altar was given by the officers, and carved by the sailors, of the U.S.S. New Hampshire stationed in Port Royal Sound during the reconstruction.