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June 9th, 2022
In 1865, nearly 600 formerly enslaved people established the new community of Liberia in Pickens County. Joseph McJunkin — born into slavery in nearby Marietta — created an arbor where the community would have worship services. He named the area Soapstone, after the rock found in abundance across the land. Eventually, those who called Liberia home pooled their money, bought lumber, and built the original Soapstone Baptist Church.
Today, Joseph McJunkin’s great-great-granddaughter Mable Owens Clarke carries on his legacy as the sixth-generation steward and matriarch of Soapstone Baptist Church. Shortly after Mable was baptized in the original church at age 10, it was burned down by the KKK. Mable’s parents had a large farm and enough crops to rebuild it within one year. When her mother passed away, Mable promised to keep the doors of Soapstone Baptist Church open and ensure its protection for future generations.
In the decades since, she has led an effort to uncover the slave cemetery on the property, pay off Soapstone’s mortgage just months before they risked losing the church, and more. Mable has worked to place a conservation easement on the six acres surrounding Soapstone Baptist Church, ensuring its rich history and importance are never lost to development.
The Marjorie E. Schmidt Stewardship Award recognizes an individual who has supported Upstate Forever or other local conservation efforts consistently and quietly for ten years or longer without expectation of recognition or reward. The award is named after Marjorie E. Schmidt, a Greenville resident with a heart for nature and a humble, giving spirit.
Tickets are now available for ForeverGreen, Upstate Forever's annual awards luncheon celebrating individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to conservation and sustainable growth in Upstate SC.
The 2022 luncheon will include a celebration of this year's awardees, below, in addition to a special recognition of the 2021 award recipients. PAWS Animal Wildlife Sanctuary will also offer a meet and greet with several rescued birds of prey preceding the luncheon. A recording of the event will be available afterward for those unable to attend in-person.