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The Coming of the Methodists

Center Circuit

Rogers Church joined the Center Circuit in the Cheraw District for several years, from 1844 through 1846, when the Concord Circuit of the Lincolnton District was formed.  During those years, the Center Circuit was one of the most prosperous and influential in the state.  It was formed in 1833 from part of the Montgomery Circuit, which had absorbed the old Rocky River Circuit in 1820.  At first called the Yadkin Circuit, its bounds were described by the Reverend David Derrick, the first assigned minister, as "bounded on the East by the Peedee and Yadkin Rivers and on the west by the Cold Water Creek and on the North by the South line of Rowan County and on the South by Rocky River.” (David Derrick, Diary, in Archives, South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, Sandor Tezler Library, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC, pp. 43-44)

Reverend Derrick described those he found living in his area of work as mostly German and belonging to the Lutheran and German Reformed Churches, with "some few Baptists" and a "goodly number of Methodists." His work was blessed from the beginning: he added 161 members to the Church the first year of his ministry.  He was born in the Dutch Fork section of South Carolina on 28 July 1800, and thus could preach effectively in the German tongue.  Although not highly educated, he was naturally sympathetic and earnest.  When he died on 12 January 1883, many of the older members recalled him as having "a voice of wonderful power and sweetness."  (Minutes, South Carolina Conference, 1883, p. 127)

For many reasons then, Rev. Derrick was able to spur on the work in Eastern Cabarrus County.  In 1834 he was returned to the Circuit and added 111 members. At the Conference held in Wilmington, North Carolina, in January of 1837, Rev. Derrick was returned to the Center Circuit after an absence of two years, with Abel Hoyle as his colleague.  He described Rev. Hoyle as a “fine little man and a good Preacher for his experience." Derrick describes in his Diary what he found in the Cabarrus-Stanly area:

On coming to this circuit the third time I met with a kind reception-which afforded me great satisfaction indeed.  I entered my field of labour with a firm resolution, by the blessing and assistance of God, to promote the piety and prosperity of the Church – and I have reasons to thank the great head of the Church for the encouragement and prospect we had of advancing the Redeemer's Kingdom this year.  Glory be to God for what my eyes have seen, mine ears heard and for what my poor heart felt of the power and goodness of God – Amen Near two hundred souls were converted on the circuit this year and 230 admitted on trial.  We built and finished six new churches which were all dedicated to God – and one commenced in Concord the county seat of Cabarrus, N. C. – I had hard work to obtain a lot and get the house started but God was on our side and holp us to him be all the Glory. Heretofore the people of Concord have known but little about Methodism and were principally under Presbyterianism and were accustomed to look down upon Methodism and Methodist preachers with contempt.  It seems that heretofore all the denominations of Christians together with the multitude of the wicked have been accustomed to oppose the Methodists -- but the Lord has been on our side and Methodism has prospered in spite of all opposition to God be all the Glory.

(Derrick, Diary, pp. 57-59)

The church he founded by preaching in the Courthouse was Central United Methodist Church which opened its doors in 1838 as Concord Methodist Church. We are given further important information about its early history in a short manuscript written by Rev. Derrick and found years later by a Methodist historian, Dr. Alfred D. Betts, who referred to it in addressing the 1958 Session of the Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church:


Years ago a bit of hand-written MSS came into my hands, which records the recollections of Rev. David Derrick who was a preacher on an important North Carolina circuit, Center circuit.  He states that Methodist preaching began at Concord, N. C., in 1833.  The circuit plan for 1834 included Concord as a preaching place.  Rev. P. G. Bowman organized the Concord Church in 1836 with 7 members.  In 1837 Revs. David Derrick and Abel Hoyle secured a lot in Concord.  The year following [1838] Rev. Peyton G. Bowman was back as pastor, built the church, and held a revival meeting that brought 70 members into the Church.

The Mt. Pleasant story is that in 1834 Rev. David Derrick went to that community against the advice of some who feared trouble there and began preaching.  He was aided by General Barringer and his clerk, Col. Shinpack.  Barringer was converted and closed the distillery which was a part of his extensive business interests. General Barringer was a fine looking man, large steady frame, quick in thought, quick spoken, a perfect gentleman, a man of mark, a Lutheran, but always a friend of Methodists.

William Barringer was converted in a camp-meeting near Concord in 1840. He joined the South Carolina Conference, rose to great leadership, and in 1850 was shifted to the North Carolina Conference as Presiding Elder of the Wilmington District.  On 19 November 1850, he was married to Miss Lavinia Alston, Dr.  Alfred M. Shipp officiating.

(Journal, 1958 Session of the Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church, pp. 68-69)

Reverend Derrick's hard work again bore fruit when Mount Pleasant Methodist Church was organized in 1848. 

Apparently, the revival held by Reverend Bowman in 1838 led to regular camp meetings and revivals in Concord.  Dr. J. E. Smoot, of Concord, in his  unpublished history of the Cabarrus County area, recorded his findings about the camp meeting ground in Concord:

Another landmark of historic importance [in Concord] was a Methodist  Campmeeting Ground, and a substantially built Arbor, surrounded by a beautiful  grove of oaks, situate on the high ground just South of what today is Buffalo  Street, and between Spring Street on the East, and a branch on the West, at a  point still remembered as "Slippery Rock", just below where said Buffalo Street  crosses the said branch.

Besides the memories of those still living as witnesses to the fact of, and place of the aforesaid campmeeting arbor, of that period (1840-plus) today there is a bricked-over spring in a deep depression immediately adjacent to the afore designated grounds, situate about 75 feet West of Spring Street, and is still vividly remembered by the writer's warm friends, General Julius Shakespeare Harris, David A. Murr and James R. Cook, and doubtless is remembered by yet others still living [in September, 1933], as the "Campmeeting Spring" of the long ago.  And, if the aforesaid witnesses should not satisfy the skeptic, at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the "Concord Cotton Factory", of July 10, 1843, it was ordered that the Manager should stop the Factory from Thursday until Monday, during the then approaching Methodist Campmeeting, so that the mill employees could attend the meetings.

Here, for a number of years, great religious revivals were held, as was then the Methodist fashion of reaching the people with the Gospel.  Of course the great congregations attending these meetings were not confined to the mill-employees, but were attended by those of Concord and the country-side around.  On one occasion, among those attending the meeting of the hour, from down town, were two young men, Paul Kestler and William Barringer, who went to see and to be seen, and to have a good time at what they thought would be a good show, for neither of them were known for their piety, when they were struck down with conviction, something like as was Saul, on his way to Damascus, to persecute the Christians there: and one or both of them threw away their brandy bottles as far as they could throw them, became soundly converted, faced about and both of them became prominent ministers in the North Carolina Methodist Conference.

(J. Edward Smoot, M.D., History of Cabarrus County, an unpaginated unpublished manuscript, Lore Room, Cannon Memorial Library, Concord, NC)

The formation of Union Methodist Church to serve the Hileman's Mill Community in 1833 was probably a direct result of Derrick's preaching.  On 8 August 1833, Elizabeth Patterson transferred five acres of land to a number of Trustees prominent in Stanly County Methodism: “Wyatt Randle, Benjamin Hinkle, Henry Davis, Allen Huckaby, Edwin C. Smith, James Barker, Donald McMichan, William Caswell, Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church Trustees in trust all of the County of Montgomery . . . .” (Cabarrus County Deed Book 14 at page 53)  Curiously, Elizabeth Patterson conveyed the same property again in 1858 to Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and referred to the church as Union Meeting House.  The conveyance might be explained by the 1844 division of the Methodist Church over the slavery issue into a northern and southern church.  The church members may have wanted to be certain that they held title to their church in proper form.  That there was a church early on the land is confirmed by a deed from Elizabeth Patterson to John Hileman in 1839, referring to a corner of the "meeting house land."  (Cabarrus County Deed Book 22 at pages 285 and 409)

Another of the Concord area churches which may trace its beginnings to the revivals in the meeting grounds in Concord is Rocky Ridge Methodist, organized in 1842. The formation of St. Paul's Methodist Church in 1855 on what is now Highway 200 in eastern Cabarrus County completed the antebellum development of Methodism in Cabarrus County. The earliest recorded deed for St. Paul’s is dated 11 November 1888, when Martin L. Bost and wife, Rosetta, transferred two acres of land to D. J. Shinn, F. A. Kluttz, M. L. Bost, M. W. Widenhouse, M. H. Lefler, M. Dove, E. Mauney and R. Kindley, as Trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  This raised questions about the earlier claimed date of organization until Mr. Aaron Bost located an early plat dated May 29, 1856, among his family papers.  The plat depicts a tract of four acres and twenty-three rods "surveyed for the purpose of building a Methodist Church near Bosts Mills. The "Mill Road" intersected the Concord Road near Coleman's blacksmith shop.  Thomas S. Shinn was named as surveyor, with Jacob Smith and Wm. A. Coleman as chain bearers.  Part of the property was used as a cemetery, still located today on a hill behind the present church building.  The original piece of land was transferred back to the Bost family in 1910, when the Trustees of St. Paul's Church deeded the tract to Mr. E. T. Bost, Sr., except for one acre and twenty-three rods that they reserved for the "burial grounds."  (Cabarrus County Deed Book 74 at 202)

Severe weather in early 1856 prevented Reverend Jacob L. Shuford from keeping all his appointments on the Concord Circuit of the Charlotte District.  He ran the following notice in the Concord Gazette on 12 February 1856:

Appointments

Rev. J. L. Shuford, Methodist Minister on this circuit, requests us to announce the following appointments for him on the circuit, as owing to the late bad weather he failed to meet many of the appointments on his last round:

          Sunday,              February  17th,                Concord
Thursday,                 "         21st,                Union
Friday,                     "          22nd,               Rogers
Saturday,                  "         23rd,                Mount Pleasant
Sunday,                    "         24th,                Emory, 11 A. M.
Sunday,                    "         24th,                Gold Hill, 3 P. M.
Wednesday,             "          27th,               Mount Moriah
Thursday,                 "          28th,               Love's Chapel
Friday,                      "          29th,               Asberry [Asbury]
Saturday,              March      1st,                 Smith's Sc[hool]. House
Sunday,                     "          2nd,                Union 11 A. M.
Sunday,                     "          2nd,                Concord at night.

Thus, by the beginning of the Civil War Era, there were ten Methodist congregations serving the Cabarrus County area.  Bethel, Bethpage, Mt. Olivet, Concord [Central], Rocky Ridge, Mt. Pleasant, and St. Paul's, are still active; Union Church merged with St. Matthews in 1888 to form Mt. Carmel Methodist, located on the Old Concord-Salisbury Road.  In 1867, Mt. Moriah and Asbury united to form Center Grove Church on Highway 200 near the Stanly County line.  Hearne's and Tucker's Meeting Houses of the pioneer days passed into history with scarcely a trace, but their spiritual legacy is still felt in eastern Cabarrus with its strong Methodist roots.

 

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