St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church



The history of St. Thaddeus is closely tied with that of Aiken. Aiken is a planned town, laid out in the 1830’s by the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Co. at the peak of the railroad grade from the Savannah River valley to the plateau of the South Carolina sand hills. The plan reserved land for churches, one of which was for an Episcopal church. 

St. Thaddeus Church was founded, and its cornerstone laid on September 5, 1842. This original building is the basis of the present church. During much of the 19th Century, there were few resident communicants, but the church was maintained by Charlestonians who fled to this area in the feverish summers. The Vicar supported himself through missionary work and a variety of business interests. After the fall of the Confederacy there was even less money, and a part of the property had to be sold. Gradually, with the growth of Aiken and the influx of winter visitors, the Parish recovered. The greatest growth has been since 1950. 

Over time the Parish buildings have been augmented. The Cornish Memorial Chapel was built near the church in 1888, and it has been enlarged three times in this century. A major renovation in 1995 has recreated the original chapel while providing modern offices and Christian Education facilities. Parish activities other than worship are now conducted in the Stevenson-McClelland Building, built in 1993 on the southeast side of our block. It contains large and small meeting rooms, classrooms, and a gymnasium. The church itself was remodeled and extended in 1926. The Mead Hall School facilities were added in 1961 and have been augmented with the purchase of additional property on the west side of the block. The church property is nearly what it was at the time of the initial grant. 

This history was drawn from the book, St. Thaddeus of Aiken, a Church and its City, which was published in 1994 by parishioners H.A. (Mac) McClearen and S.O. (Owen) Sheetz. Copies are available at the church. 


Saint Thaddeus is mentioned in Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18 as one of the twelve apostles. The name used in the New Testament seems to refer also to Lebbaeus and Jude. They apparently are synonymous. 

As Lebbaeus, he is associated with the legend of King Abgar of Edessa. The King was ill and wrote to Jesus and asked him to come and heal him. Jesus replied that he could not come, but when he had ascended he would send a disciple to heal him and preach the gospel. Lebbaeus, (Thaddeus) is thought to be the agent St. Thomas sent. He is also thought to be the founder of the church at Edessa, which had the oldest known church edifice (destroyed by flood in 201). This legend was widely accepted in the East but rejected in the West (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p.5). 

Thaddeus generally is accepted to be St. Jude, apostle and author of the book in the New Testament. He is thought to be the brother of James, therefore one of the “Brothers of the Lord.” In the apocryphal “Passion of Simon and Jude” we are told the two apostles went to Persia to preach and were martyred there. 

In modern times the early Abgar legend has received support by both Roman Catholic and Protestant theologians. He (Thaddeus) has become the patron saint for those suffering with special difficulties. The feast day is observed with St. Simon on October 28th.
– The Rev. Mellie Hussey Hickey +
The Rev. Mellie Hickey, the spouse of a former rector and herself a parishioner, was the first woman in the South to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. After being consecrated at age 62, she directed three churches on the Cheyenne Indian River Reservation in South Dakota and later served as the vicar of All Saints, Beech Island.