The Right Revered Robert Smith
By: Ill. Brother McDonald "Don" Burbidge, 33į
The Right Rev. Robert Smith established, "The Society for the Relief of the Widows and Children of the Clergy of the Church of England in the Province of South Carolina," on April 21, 1762.
This Society still survives today and is, next to the one in Virginia, the oldest society of its kind in America. On the first meeting it was decided that on the Anniversity of each year a "Charity Sermon" would be given at each church. The sermon that is provided in this section is the first one given by Rev. Smith at St. Philipís to people of Charles Town.
In this section on the Right Revered Robert Smith the minutes to these first meetings from 1762 through 1787 are completely written as they were recorded, by those attending these meetings. These records are transcribed from the original meeting minutes of the society and provide a valuable insight to those that were there that laid the solid foundation that this society was founded on. Where possible some of the members are identified as known Masons of Charles Town and the Lodge that they are members of.
On December 27, 1762 and again in December 1784 Right Rev. Robert Smith presented to the Masons of Charles-Town a Masonic sermon at St. Philipís church, which he called, "Charity Sermon for the Masons No. 100." This sermon had gone unnoticed since it was last given to the Brethren of Charles-Town until it was re-discovered in 2001 and given to me by a church offical due to the Masonic content of itís subject. This sermon is perhaps one of the earliest if not one of the first Masonic sermons of its kind presented to the Masons of Charles Town as it was then called.
From the time of his election as rector of St. Philipís Church, until his death in 1801, Robert Smith was the leading figure in the life of St. Philips church located in Charleston, South Carolina. He was born on August 25, 1732, in the parish of Worsted, County of Norfolk, England. After much preparation he was entered as a commoner at Caius and Gonville College, Cambridge. His education proceeded under the liberal patronage of William Mason, Esq., M.P. were he earned his bachelorís and masterís degrees. He was elected to a fellowship and continued at Cambridge until he was ordained a deacon by the late Bishop of Ely on March 7, 1756, then on Decemebr 21 he was made a priest. While still in England, on nomination of Mr. Mason, he was engaged as assistant minister of St. Philipís Church. Reverend Robert Smith arrived in Charles Town on November 3, 1757.
For many years, it was not in his power to relinquish an occupation, from which many, and especially the members of the Episcopal Churches of the country, derived so favorable opportunities of education for their sons. He spared neither trouble nor expense, in obtaining the best teachers, to conduct an Academy under his guidance which was held at his home located at 6 Glebe Street. On January 1, 1790 Doctor Smith transferred 60 of his Academy students to the College which made up the first students to attend the new college. Doctor Smith was then voted in as the first principle of the College of Charleston, which he served faithfully until 1798.
The Revered Frederick Dalcho testifies that, "He was the active and efficient friend of his professional brethren, in less favored circumstances of life, and there is abundant testimony on the records of the annual meetings of the clergy, that during many years, he was foremost in the arduous duty of supplying vacant parishes and thus comforting and animating them under afflictive dispensations of Providence, which often bereaved them of useful and beloved ministers."
It should also be noted at this time that the Rev. Frederick Dalcho and Col. John Mitchell who were also members of, "The Society for the Relief of the Widows and Children of the Clergy of the Church of England in the Province of South Carolina." These two gentlemen were also responsible for establishing the Supreme Council for the Masons in Charleston, S.C., on May 31, 1801.
The Right Reverend Robert Smith passed away on October 3, 1801, his obituary was printed in the Charleston City Gazette and Advertiser:
"Died on Wednesday afternoon, after a short illness, the Right Reverend Robert Smith, D.D., Bishop of the Episcopal Churches in South Carolina in the 73 year of his age, 45 of which he has performed the duties of minister of St. Philipís Church.
His remains attended by his weeping relatives, the Society of the Cincinnatu, and a most numerous train of friends and fellow citizens, were conducted last evening, to St. Philipís Church, where they were interred.It may be said with great truth, that his upright conduct through life drew upon him the regard of all good men, and no other proof need be given of the love and esteem he was held in by all ranks of society, than the many tears which were shed when his dust was deposited in the silent grave."
As an added tribute to the Right Revered Robert Smith his tombstone has the following words chiseled in it for all generations to read;
Scared to the Memory
Right Reverend Robert Smith S.T.D.
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of
Born at Norfolk in England on the
25th of August 1732
Died on the 28th of October 1801
Elizabeth Smith Daughter of
John Constania Paget of St. Thomas
Parish S. Carolina was buried on June 1771 E29
Sarah Smith Daughter of
Thomas and Sarah III Brick of England
Was buried July 1779 E26
Anna Smith Daughter of
Edward and Elizabeth Tilgilman
Of Queen Annís County, Maryland
Was buried December 1792 E59 years
Elizabeth Daughter of
Robert and Anna Smith
Was buried June 1785 E1 year 9 months
Anna Tilghman Daughter of
Robert and Anna Smith
Was buried December 1792 E1 year
The Right Revered Robert Smith once wrote, "impute my error to your own decree, my pen is guilty, but my heart is free." But what he did not know at the time when he wrote these words is that the future generations would still learn from them.
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