© 2024 South Carolina Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Saving a legacy, one fish fry at a time

Courtesy of Upstate Forever
Mable Owens Clarke in front of Soapstone Church in Pickens County.

Mable Owens Clarke is the sixth-generation steward and matriarch of Soapstone Baptist Church in the rural Pickens County community of Liberia. In 1999, a few days before she died at the age of 104, Mable’s mother, Lula Mae, made her daughter promise never to let the historically Black church close.

Mabel Owens Clarke and Carlton Owen, President of the Soapstone Preservation Endowment, join Walter Edgar this week to tell the remarkable story of how Mable set out to keep that promise through her monthly, fundraising fish fries held at the church - and how word of her delicious, traditional foods spread the word about Soapstone Church around the world.

Soapstone Baptist Church was founded in the mid-1860s when freed slaves from surrounding South Carolina counties sought a path from being property to owning property. They felt God led them to a rocky outcrop of greenish-black soapstone and the surrounding rolling hills of northern Pickens County. They worked the land and through sales of vegetables and livestock bought acre-by-acre homesteads to support their families. The first “church” was nothing more than a brush arbor atop a rise looking toward iconic Table Rock Mountain to the north. There the families put down spiritual roots that have sustained what became Soapstone Baptist Church and its more than a century and a half legacy.

News and Music Stations: Fri, Apr 07, at 12 pm; Sat, Apr 08, at 7 am
News & Talk Stations: Fri, Apr 07, at 12 pm; Sun, Apr 09, at 4 pm

Stay Connected
Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.