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The Coming of the Methodists

Rogers Church

The early minutes of the Sugar Creek Circuit furnish our first documentary evidence of the church that was to become Mount Olivet. Tradition and early histories tell us that first services at that location were held under a brush arbor, then in a log building built near the site of the 1937 church parsonage.  We have no description of that first log church; however, a description of the early manner of Presbyterian worship gives us valuable insight into those early churches:

          The earliest settlers gathered for worship in private homes, or, when the weather permitted, under the shadows of great oaks or perhaps in a booth covered with clapboards or brush.  Meetinghouses were soon erected, however, in every Scotch-Irish settlement.  The earliest of these meetinghouses were built like the homes of the settlers themselves, out of rough unhewn logs, generally in the shape of squares or parallelograms, if the logs were long enough; if not, cruciform, with twelve sides.  Fireplaces were rare.  Seats were puncheons hewn smooth or split    logs with four legs.   Earthen floors remained the custom through the colonial period.

(Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Vol. One: 1607-1861, p. 61).

While we are not certain of the appearance of that early log meeting house, we know that it was located on the lands of one John Rogers.  In 1803, John Rogers bought a tract of 100 acres from John Moffett, who had in turn inherited it from his grandfather Charles Moffett.  (Cabarrus County Deed Book 5 at p. 184).  Several acres of this tract were used for the meeting house which became known as Rogers Meeting House, and then as Mt. Olivet Methodist Church.  Either there was a house of worship on the land in 1803 when John Rogers purchased it or he built one soon thereafter, for when the Sugar Creek Circuit was organized Rogers Meeting House was an “older” church according to Dr. Elmer Clark, noted Methodist historian. (Clark, Methodism, p. 33). Methodist historians in the Western North Carolina Conference have settled on the 1803 date as the likely beginning point for Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church, although there may well have been an even older preaching point on the location.

John Rogers, who became a successful merchant in Concord, is buried in the old cemetery at Mt. Olivet.  His tombstone shows his date of birth as August 1776, and date of death as 23 July 1864.  On the 1850 Census, John Rogers recorded his place of birth as North Carolina.  His sister, Susannah Rogers Glover, who is buried near him, listed her place of birth on that same census as Bedford County, Virginia.  If her information is correct, then this branch of the large Rogers family in Virginia moved to North Carolina before the birth of her younger brother, John. We may never be certain about the early details of the life of John Rogers, although it is a longstanding tradition at Mt. Olivet that he was the son of George and Martha Rogers, who are also buried in the Rogers section of Mt. Olivet cemetery.  The early land records of Cabarrus County do not record any conveyances to George Rogers, but we do find him mentioned in the early minutes of the Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions for Cabarrus County as a witness to land transactions and a juryman. (Minutes of Cabarrus County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, January 1793-18 April 1797, Lore Room, Cannon Memorial Library, Concord, NC). 

The presence and location of the first church buildings in the vicinity of the church cemetery is also confirmed by deeds made in 1830 when John Rogers and his neighbor, John Phifer, swapped thirteen acres of land to straighten their common boundary line.  One of those lines was described as crossing Three Mile Branch and running South to the "Meeting House." (Cabarrus County Deed Book 11 at page 261).

Early Methodist history reveals that the pioneers brought their slaves to church with them; that custom was followed at Rogers Church.  In the early churches, a balcony was often built for the use of the black members.  Otherwise, a portion of the church was partitioned for their use.  We find the following notation made at the 1 May 1824 Quarterly Conference meeting held at Rogers:

Are there any References?  Yes. One by D. Asbury from judgment of
the black class at Rogers in the case of Isaac and Charles for fighting.  They were both found guilty by vote; as Isaac was not penitant he was Expelled.  But Charles was more humble, he was put back on trial.

(Minutes of the Quarterly Meeting Conferences for Charlotte Circuit, by Andrew Moore, R.S., p. 42).

The early Rogers Church building must have been adequate for conference meetings. Quarterly Conferences were held at Rogers on 27 July 1816, 14 August 1818, 16 1819, 12 May 1820, 1821, 30 July 1825, and 16 June 1832. The meeting of 27 July 1816 was significant; John Rogers, leading member of the church, was elected to the responsible position of Conference Steward, to serve along with David R. Dunlap.  Rogers served in that position until 4 July 1829, when Andrew Moore was appointed Steward in his place.

Rogers Church continued to be an important part of Sugar Creek Circuit, whose name was changed to Charlotte Circuit in 1834.  In that year, Rogers Church joined the growing Sunday School movement.  At the Quarterly Conference held at Bethel Church on September 13, 1834, the following action was taken:

It was Resolved that this Quarterly Conference form itself into a Bible, Tract, & Sunday School Society for the promotion of the Bible, Tract, & Sunday School cause in the bounds of this Circuit.

(Minutes, Charlotte Circuit, p. 81)

The Circuit experienced such growth that the ministers were not able to adequately serve the large multi-county area.  On 18 March 1843, we find the following entry in the Charlotte Circuit Minutes:

Resolved that the following preaching places be droped, viz. Mt. Dows, Ormans, Wilefords & Pisga and that the preachers of Center Circuit be solicited to take Rogers and Old Bethpage and that the Charlotte Circuit be reduced to a three weeks circuit.

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