Our History

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This year, 2023, we celebrate thirty (30) years of history of the Priory of Saint Vincent – four (4) years as a Commandery from 1994 to 1997, and twenty-six (26) years as a Priory from 1997 to 2023.

Establishment of a Commandery

In 1993, several South Carolina-based members of the Priory of St. Andrew, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, began considering the possibility of establishing an official presence in their home state. In January, 1994, they shared their idea with recently retired Grand Prior VIII, Chev. Donald Robert Weber, GCTJ, GMTJ and his successor Grand Prior IX, COL Chev Donald Roderick Perkins, GCTJ, GMTJ, both of whom heartily supported the concept of a South Carolina priory.

Chev. Gene Boyer Fee, Sr., GOTJ, of the Priory of St. Andrew, contacted about twenty knights and dames to gauge interest in establishing an organization in the Carolinas, and the idea was discussed at the next two St. Andrews’ convents, where it was agreed to support a Commandery serving the geographic area of South Carolina and southwestern Georgia.

On April 19, 1997, the Commandery became the Priory of St. Vincent

Organizational meetings at the Fort Jackson Officers’ Club in Columbia, SC, were held starting in late 1994, during which, among other things, the name of the new Commandery was considered. The name St. Columba, an abbot and missionary credited with the conversion of Scotland to Christianity, was considered, before COL Chev. Chester Fairbanks Cotter, GCTJ, GMTJ, of New York and Beaufort, South Carolina proposed the name St. Vincent, based on the subject of a prized statue of his that displayed the Saint cutting a large bunch of grapes with an oversized pruning knife, reminiscent of a Roman short sword, with an especially beatific look upon his face

The name St. Vincent was finally agreed upon, and, with the Grand Prior having granted an exception for the Commandery to be established with only six officers, and COL Chev. Chester Fairbanks Cotter, GCTJ, GMTJ, assuming the role of Commander, the Commandery was established.

After this official establishment, Commander Cotter and his wife, Dame Patricia, who was the Secretary and Treasurer of the Commandery, hosted the first officers meetings, and the first Commandery Convent was held in Beaufort on February 23,
1996.

Elevation to a Priory

After holding Commandery meetings and convents in South Carolina and also attending Priory meetings and convents held by the Priory of St. Andrews in Nashville, St. Vincent became a priory at its 1997 Vernal Convent on April 19, 1997 at St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Beaufort, with its Commander, COL Chev. Chester Fairbanks Cotter, becoming its first Prior.

COL Chev. Chester Fairbanks Cotter, joined the Order on January 1, 1988 and was promoted to the dignity of Grand Croix on April 19, 1997. Chev. Cotter was inducted into the Order of Merit with the rank of Grand Commander on January 1, 1997.

Chvse. Patricia J. Cotter, joined the Order on May 11, 1994 and was promoted to the dignity of Grand Croix on February 17, 2001.

After its establishment as a Priory in 1997, St. Vincent grew slowly at first, but regardless of size, its members and strong leaders continued to demonstrate a deep commitment to service, and the ensuing years saw growth in membership and programs.

The Priory’s two founding members

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