Historic church site of Wreaths Across America ceremony Dec. 16

December 6, 2023

Nazareth Presbyterian Church will be the site of an official Wreaths Across America (WAA) ceremony at noon Saturday, Dec. 16, to honor the veterans buried in the cemetery, which includes at least two dozen Revolutionary War soldiers.

The Battle of Cowpens Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, in collaboration with Nazareth Presbyterian, will place 240 wreaths on veterans’ graves at the church through the national WAA program.

The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, coincides with the day and time when WAA has ceremonies throughout the United States. The event will include music and the presentation of wreaths representing all branches of U.S. armed forces. Current and retired military members will dedicate the wreaths.

“The outpouring of support for this important initiative has come from private individuals and community groups,” said Elizabeth Laughridge, regent of the Battle of Cowpens Chapter. “The ceremony is the culmination of months of work by our chapter members and the commitment of our community to honor the men and women who have served our nation and sacrificed much for our freedom. It is a great privilege to be involved in Wreaths Across America.”

Nazareth Presbyterian Church was selected to participate because of its historical significance, said Janice Neikirk, a Battle of Cowpens DAR member who has coordinated the WAA event at the church.

“Established in 1765 by Scots-Irish immigrants from Pennsylvania, the church was originally known as the Tyger River Congregation. In 1772, it was organized as Nazareth Presbyterian,” said Neikirk, chair of the Flag of the United States Committee for the S.C. State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. “The first person to be buried in the church cemetery is John Caldwell, a Revolutionary War Patriot who was only 14 years old when he died. In November 1780, a band of Tories fatally stabbed the boy as he rode on horseback to warn neighbors of the enemy’s approach. His tombstone reads ‘Murdered by Tories.’ That’s history that you don’t soon forget.”

The day before the Battle of Cowpens on Jan. 17, 1781, 24 Nazareth members assembled to fight in the war. As the battle raged, the church women gathered to wait at the home of S.C. militia member Andrew Coan, also buried in the Nazareth cemetery.

“The church has so much history and so many ties to our nation’s military men and women from the time of the Revolutionary War through today,” said Neikirk. “It is only fitting that we honor every single one of these heroes.”

Volunteers will place the fresh balsam wreaths adorned with a red velvet bow on graves in the cemetery.

This year, WAA is expected to place wreaths on veterans’ graves at more than 4,000 cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery. The program annually involves more than two million volunteers laying wreaths throughout the United States and in U.S. cemeteries abroad.