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Ebenezer's History Part I

History of Ebenezer UMC (1827-1974)

By Corinne W. de Vries (edited by Cindy D. Sears, 2010)

Table of Contents

Foreword

The following pages contain fragmented bits and pieces gleaned from an old record book of Ebenezer Church, newspaper clippings, some word of mouth, and in more recent years, personal memories. I have found it interesting. May it enlighten the readers just a little. Corinne W. de Vries.

Bits and Pieces

A newspaper clipping (undated) from several years ago has an article indicating that the church on Burns Road was established as early as 1827. In an old record book, with a register for pastors and one for members, I found names dating back to 1840. Following are the names of some members and the dates they were received into the church: Mary A. Hickman, 1840; Mira Fowler, 1845; Ann L. Spencer, 1846; J. Wesley Spencer, 1848.

According to other sources, land was donated by the John Spencer Family in the 1850’s, which was used to build the church on. The first church was made of logs and called the Spencer M. E. Church. (M. E. stood for Methodist Episcopal). The church held 10 log benches on either side of the building, sitting on a dirt floor.

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New Building

In 1876, a new frame building was built to replace the log structure. It was renamed the Ebenezer Methodist Church South. Rev. John L. Brooks served as pastor. This structure had two doors in the front facing south. Men entered the church through the door on the left, and women and children entered using the door on the right. Once inside, the women and children sat on one side of the church and the men sat on the other. A pot-bellied wood-burning stove heated the church. Devout men of the church sat up front on the right side in what was known as the Amen Corner. “Amens” were heard throughout the service. In later years, Miss Minnie Deal played a pump-organ and provided music for the services for many years. People arrived at the church by horseback, in two horse wagons, buggies, or tassel-topped surreys; and some people walked.

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Circuits and Circuit Riders

Circuits were formed with as many as eight churches in one circuit. The preachers, known as Circuit Riders would serve all the churches in their circuit by rotating between each church regularly for services. The Lenoir Circuit was established in 1894. The following churches were on that circuit: Bethany (First Church), Cedar Valley, Colliers, Ebenezer, Grace Chapel, Mt. Herman, Pisgah, and Rocky Mount. The following notation is from the old record book: “Rev. John J. Brooks, Date of appointment, Nov. 1891; Term of service, 3 years.” Rev. Albert Sherrill was listed as pastor of the Lenoir Circuit, Date, Dec. 3, 1894; term of service, 3 years. The preacher on the Lenoir Circuit lived in Lenoir, N. C. He traveled by horse and buggy to the churches, spending the nights in homes in the community in which he happened to be preaching.

Below are the names of the pastors serving Ebenezer Church as Circuit Riders on the Lenoir Circuit:

Circuit Riders

John L. Brooks, 1891-1894 A. E. Wiley, 1908-1909
Albert Sherrill, 1894-1897 J. G. W. Holloway, 1910-1911
J. A. Green, 1897-1898 J. C. Keever, 1911-1914
J. T. Stover, 1899-1900 J. M. Hoyle, 1915
G. W. Ivey, 1901 J. M. Folger, 1916
P. L. Terrell, 1902-1906 H. G. Allen, 1917
J. M. Price, 1907  

Revival services were held for two weeks, with the preachers again arriving in buggies. The preacher gave two services a day, and the good people of the church provided meals and lodging. Miss Bess Williams told me that they had a room reserved in their home for Rev. J. C. Keever when he was pastor. Her father was T. C. Williams, better known as “Uncle Tom.” When Preacher Keever arrived, Miss Bess said, He just came in and went right upstairs to his room.

Below is a list of some people in the Old Register of Names, and the dates they were received into the church:

Old Register of Names Info

Mary A. Hickman, 1840 Salina Williams, 1880
Mira Fowler, 1845 Mary Fowler
Ann L. Spencer, 1846 Tho. C. Williams, 1875
J. Wesley Spencer, 1848 Dora Spencer, 1898
I. T. Avery Spencer, 1850 Julia E. Spencer, 1898
Wm. F. Deal, W. F. Fisher, (Feb. 24) 1901
Francis Deal, 1853 Hartwell Craig, (Oct. 27) 1901
Webber W. Williams, 1882 U. S. (Sommers) Spencer, 1901
Nelson W. Williams, 1882 Maude Spencer, (Sept. 27) 1901
E. J. Bowman, 1891 John T. Spencer, (June 22) 1902
Franklin O. H. Deal, 1893 John B. Deal (Sept.) 1905
G. A. (Albert) Spencer, 1893 Gaither G. Williams, 1906
Minnie Deal, 1893 Orion Williams, 1907
Catherine Hickman, 1860 Orion Williams, 1907
Margaret Williams, 1868 Clara Williams, 1906
Julia McRary, 1871 
Octavia Williams, 1878 
Martha Fowler*, 1868 *Martha Fowler married Finley Whitener
and moved to Cedar Valley.
Wm. F. Teague, 1879  
Rebecca Teague, 1879  
Lawson Fowler, 1879  
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Circuit Changes

Through the years, Ebenezer’s Circuit included many different churches. In May 1906, the following notice appeared in The Topic:

“We are requested to announce that the churches of Cedar and Ebenezer will be dedicated on Sunday, May 20th. Rev. H. M. Blair, Editor of The Christian Advocate, will preach the dedicatory sermon at Cedar Valley at 11:00 A.M., and at Ebenezer at 3:00 P.M.”

On Jan. 11, 1911 (from the Old Record Book), Pastor Rev. J. G. W. Holloway called a church conference. The following names were recorded in my father’s handwriting (W. W. Williams): N. W. Nelson, John B. Deal, M. E. Williams, Miss Minnie Deal, Mrs. I. T. A. Spencer, and W. W. Williams. Because of the condition of the page, these minutes are incomplete, but the church pledged $26 to Missions and $5 to the Children’s Home.

Rev. J. C. Keever followed Rev. Holloway in 1911 and stayed for three years. Rev. J. M. Hoyle became the next pastor in 1915, and Rev. J. M. Folger came in 1916.

In 1917, the Hickory Circuit was changed to the Dudley Shoals Circuit. Grace Chapel, Cedar Valley, and Ebenezer were included in the churches on this circuit. W. E. Poovey, the Superintendent of the cotton mill at Dudley Shoals, was known as “Super” Poovey. The Mill Co. owned the houses on the “Mill Hill,” and “Super” Poovey loaned a house to the Circuit to use as a parsonage. It was “Gratis Free” as long as it was used as a home for the preachers. Rev. H. G. Allen served as the first pastor on the new Dudley Shoals Circuit. Rev. B. C. Reavis came in 1918 and stayed for three years. He lived in the parsonage.

Following is a list of the pastors who served on the Dudley Shoals Circuit through 1936:

Dudley Shoals Circuit

Rev. H. G. Allen, 1917 Rev. E. J. Poe, 1928-1930
Rev. B. C. Reavis, 1918-1921 Rev. J. L. Ingram, 1930-1932
Rev. J. M. Barber, 1921-1924 Rev. E. P. Stabler, 1932-1933
Rev. P. H. Brittain, 1924-1926 Rev. C. S. Plyer, 1933-1935
Rev. O. P. Routh, 1926-1928 Rev. W. P. Morris, 1935-1956
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Sunday School and Youth Groups

If there are records of a Sunday school before the early 1920’s, the fire that consumed the church in the early 1930’s may have destroyed them. It was the early 1920»s when I first recall Sunday school. My father, W. W. Williams served as the Superintendent, song leader, and treasurer. Miss Minnie Deal played the pump organ. I became the organist in 1923 and 1924 when Miss Minnie could not attend services regularly. I also served as the Secretary of the Sunday school.

In 1926, J. Garland Winkler of Granite Falls, who was studying to be a minister, helped us organize our first Epworth League. Mr. Garland actively worked with the youth in the surrounding churches. I was nominated President of the League. Rev. O. P. Routh was pastor at the time. I moved to Hickory in 1928, and Clyde H. Burns became President of the Epworth League.

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More Changes on the Way

Rev. E. J. Poe came in 1928 and was followed by Rev. J. L. Ingram in 1930. In the early 1930’s, W. W. Williams retired as Sunday School Superintendent because of declining health. Mr. U. S. Spencer, or “Uncle Sam” as he was affectionately called by all, became Sunday School Superintendent.

Rev. E. P. Stabler began serving as pastor in 1932, but had to retire after 3 months because of ill health. Rev. J. C. Brown came in February 1933 to finish out the year.

In 1930, under the leadership of Rev. J. L. Ingram, we remodeled the church to provide more space for the growing congregation. The renovation included new Sunday school rooms at the back of the church; and in the front, the two entrance doors were replaced with windows, and a larger door was placed in the center of the church. But in February, tragedy struck: the church burned to the ground. With determination, hard work, and faith in God, the good people of the church built a new brick church about 500 feet east of where the old structure stood. The new building was dedicated that same year.

Rev. C. S. Plyer came to the charge in November of 1933 and stayed for two years. Mr. U. S. Spencer remained as the Sunday School Superintendent. Rev. J. P. Morris arrived in 1935 and served for one year.

Another change occurred at this time when Grace Chapel became a Station church. That left Ebenezer and Cedar Valley churches in the Dudley Shoals Circuit. Rev. O. L. Robinson became pastor in 1936 and stayed for four years. During his stay, a new parsonage was built in Hudson, N. C., and the one at Dudley Shoals was discontinued. Hudson, Mt.Herman (?), Ebenezer, and Cedar Valley were on this Hudson Circuit. Rev. R. E. Hunt served as pastor form November 1940 to 1943. I had moved back home since the death of my father in 1933; so, once more, I played the piano at the church, and Wayne Reid became the Sunday School Superintendent. Under the guidance of Rev. Furman A. Wright, the pastor from November 1943 to November 1946, an interest in music developed. We enjoyed the singing of the choir and a quartet. Young people became more interested in the church, and we enjoyed a good atmosphere. We felt spiritually renewed.

Because of a shortage of pastors in the Western North Carolina Conference in 1946, “Supply Pastors” were called into service. This change affected the Ebenezer-Cedar Valley Charge. Rev. Robert A. Setzer served as our pastor for three years (1946-1949). He lived in his own home in the Gamewell Community near Lenoir, N. C. We enjoyed wonderful prayer meetings in the homes of various members in our community. We felt fortunate to have this wonderful man and his wife in our midst for three years. Rev. L. C. Cornwell was another Supply Pastor. He lived in his home at Rutherford College, and was a wonderful, dedicated man. We continued with the prayer meetings in the homes for the three years that he was our pastor.

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New Parsonage

Ebenezer decided to build a parsonage, so we could have a pastor living in our community. Mr. and Mrs. Clyde H. Burns donated a lot and the parsonage was build and ready for occupancy in 1953. The members who served on the Ebenezer M. E. Church Parsonage Fund Committee were: Seth Stafford, James McRary, Leonard Starnes, C. H. Burns (Secretary and Treasurer), and Wayne Reid (Chairman). The first to move into the Ebenezer Parsonage in 1953 were Rev. Lonnie Templeton, his wife Bea, and daughter Susie. They stayed for two years. Bea took the children under her wing, and a marvelous interest grew steadily among the youth of the church under Bea’s guidance and enthusiasm.

Another change took place in 1955 when Colliers, Whitnel, and Cedar Valley became a Charge. Rev. Templeton and his family moved to that Charge. Ebenezer-Rhodhiss welcomed Rev. Thomas C. McLean to the Ebenezer Parsonage. We were privileged to have him as our pastor for seven years, from 1955-1962. Under the leadership and guidance of “Preacher Tom”, as he was affectionately known, the membership grew and soon expansion became a necessity. An educational building became a reality during the seven years he served as pastor. A tremendous interest in the part that music plays in the spiritual needs of the church became apparent. With “Preacher Tom’s” leadership, we enjoyed marvelous times together singing the wonderful songs of the church. Ebenezer and Rhodhiss choirs joined together for “singings.” We enjoyed singing by the quartet and solos, too.

Rev. Eddie Cantor arrived in 1962 and served for one year. In December of 1966, First United Methodist Church of Granite Falls, Grace Chapel, Rhodhiss, and Ebenezer formed a Group Ministry Council or Co-operative Ministry. The group called itself MECCOM (Methodist East Caldwell Co-operative Ministry). Burgess Chapel joined the group in 1975, making a total of five churches in the are working together.

Some of the ongoing projects of MECCOM included: Week-day Kindergarten (renamed “Kindergarten and Day-Care” in 1976), Duke Summer Worker, Holy Week Services, School of Missions, Family Life Conference, Prison Ministry Programs, and Ministry to Senior Citizens.

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Big Change at the Top

In 1968, The North Carolina Conference merged with the Virginia Conference and became The United Methodist Church. Meanwhile back at Ebenezer, Rev. Wayne Hoyle became pastor in 1963 and stayed for two years.

The Rev. McRay Crawford came in 1965 and stayed for one year.

Rev. Lewis Gibbs stayed for two years, beginning his term in 1966. Rev. Gibbs helped us recapture some of the enthusiasm that had been lost in recent years. The church responded to his leadership with spiritual growth and renewal. He drew in the young adults, prayers meetings were organized again, and a true revival was experienced in Ebenezer Church. Rev. Gibbs left in 1968 to go to Atlanta to enter the seminary for further study.

Rev. Joe Parker served as our pastor form 1968-1969. The Conference made another change at this time, and Grace Chapel was once again paired with Ebenezer. Grace Chapel had a new parsonage, and the preacher shortage continued; so more churches had to be combined: thus the Grace Chapel-Ebenezer Charge was born. Rev. John W. Cole came in as pastor in 1969.

So once more, the preacher was taken from our community, and the Ebenezer parsonage was left empty. Since it seemed hopeless that we would ever be able to have a preacher in the home again, the parsonage was rented out. With Rev. Cole as our leader, music once more became a wonderful part of our worship services. Mrs. Carolyn Davis became our pianist. We had an enjoyable quartet with Gerald Frye singing the lead, Phyllis Collins singing alto, John Cole as the tenor, and Leo McRary singing bass. Rev. Cole remained for three years. Rev. Dewey Bailey followed Rev. Cole and served for four years. For several years, the congregation had become aware that the church building was deteriorating and would soon be in need of expensive repairs, or a new sanctuary would have to be built. Therefore, the church established a building fund for several years.

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Contact Information: 828.396.2214 or info@ebenezerum-church.org