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The Coming of the Methodists

The Great Revival

In 1802, the flame of religion in the Cabarrus County area was fanned by a great revival that spread throughout the entire area between the Yadkin and Catawba.  The Presbyterians began the camp meeting movement in the area, but the Methodists carried it to its greatest fruition.  Men like William Ormond, James Patterson, and John McGee preached at meetings all over the Yadkin Valley. Orators such as Daniel Asbury and James Jenkins attracted entire pioneer families who journeyed as long as one hundred miles to share in the experience.  Families camped out for four or five days in makeshift tents; only later did permanent shelters begin to be erected by church organizations.  James Patterson recorded in his Diary descriptions of camp meetings in Montgomery County in April of 1803, in Randolph County in July of 1803, and at the well-known Snow Creek Campground in Iredell County in August of the same year.  The meeting places were within traveling distance of Cabarrus County's faithful and we can be sure some attended.  Patterson's descriptions give us the flavor of the meetings:

Salisbury Circuit, Montgomery County, April 29th, 1803

My camp meeting began on the Salisbury road about 4 miles above the narrows of the Yadkin river – Two Baptist preachers attended and occupied the greatest part of the day on Friday but there was no work under their preaching.  At night I preached at one of the tents and had not spoke 30 minutes until several were crying for mercy and many of the Christians truly happy. . . . At noon [the following day] bro. Levi Russell preached.  The people appeared to be somewhat softened. . . . In the afternoon it fell my lot to preach. I preached from those words Ma1. 3 – 1 – And the Son whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple.  The power of the Son come down and numbers got powerfully wrought on – after I spoke as long as I could I bade one of our local preachers to exhort and I left the stage and went down and began to exhort those in a low manner that appeared to be affected while he was exhorting them in a powerful manner, and in a few minutes 3 young women got converted.

(James Patterson, Diary, 1803, Archives of the United Methodist Church, SC Conference, Sandor Tezler Library, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC).

Daniel Asbury recorded the events of an early meeting in the neighboring Yadkin Circuit:

YADKIN CIRCUIT, N. C., Aug. 20, 1802.

A great and glorious work has taken place in this circuit since Conference.  The number converted I cannot tell.  I have seen and felt more since I saw you than ever before.  Many stout-hearted sinners have turned to the Lord, and at our common meetings loud cries and shouts of praise are heard.  It is not uncommon for meetings to last from twelve o'clock in the day to twelve at night. . . .

On Saturday afternoon, while Brother Douthet was at prayer, the mighty power of the Lord came down; many hard-hearted sinners fell to the ground and cried to the Lord for mercy as from the belly of hell.  The slain of the Lord were many, and numbers that fell rose again with the new song.  The next morning was an awful time – some shouting praise to the Lord, others screaming for mercy, and the whole congregation seemed thunder-struck. . . .

(The Pioneers of Methodism in North Carolina and Virginia, pp. 174-75)

Presbyterian minister and historian W. H. Foote records that at a camp meeting held in the bounds of Cabarrus County in 1802, the Reverend Samuel McCorkle, a Presbyterian minister with congregations in Thyatira and Salisbury, was present and attended at least one man struck with the "falling exercise," in which a person suddenly would fall prostrate, remain in a coma for a time, and later arise rejoicing. Others were sometimes affected by "involuntary jerking, dancing, wheeling, laughing, and barking." Unfortunately, Foote did not give us the location of the Cabarrus County meeting. (Guion Griffis Johnson, Ante-Bellum North Carolina, A Social History, p. 397).   Camp Meetings were held at Bethel Methodist Church in southern Cabarrus County during the 1820s, and continued there for years.  Outdoor meetings began to be held at the Cold Springs Camp Ground in the l830s, although land was not deeded for a church at that location  until 1 October 1860, when Valentine Mauney and Martin L. Bost deeded 52 acres of land on the "Fayetteville Road. . . for the use of the members of the Methodist Church South . . . " to Thos. J. Shinn, Jacob Smith, Jacob F. Faggert, Daniel Bangle, George A. Pitts, Monroe Dove, Matthias Bost, C. P. Cox, and P. B. C. Smith.  (Cabarrus County Deed Book 25 at p. 263).

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