The History of Grace Chapel United Methodist Church1877- 1982When we say or hear the word "history" we usually think of a narrative or an account of times, places or people that can be verified, that are exact as to times and places used therein. Usually much of this history is taken from written records or from eyewitness accounts of people who have seen or experienced these events. Unfortunately, this cannot be the case of part of the history, here set down, of Grace Chapel Church. Written records are sparse or nonexistent of the membership of the church and the Sunday School. The earliest membership roll available to this writer is a church register dated back to 1923. This register is not complete as to dates of membership, how received into the church, by what pastor. By what process, that is, by death or transfer or otherwise, their names were removed from the roll, is missing in many cases. We may assume that people were too busy in those early years of our church trying to provide the barest necessities of soul and body to take much thought of writing or keeping records of things that were commonplace activities in their lives. Too, there probably were few places available for storing and preserving records, such as we have today. Much of this can then be considered as recollections or reflections of some of the oldest members of our present day church. They are most likely accurate enough as to dates, places, and people, but the persons asked about their earliest remembrances of the church were the first to say they may not be able to remember events in exact sequences or occurrences. A few parts of this information concerning the earliest years, come from a History of First United Methodist Church of Granite Falls, gathered and compiled by Mary Deal Haynes. Part of it comes from the section noted "One Hundred Years," in the booklet "Grace Chapel United Methodist Church - 1877-1977", that was put together and presented at the Centennial Celebration of our church in 1977. Other parts of the history come from accounts of things remembered by members of our church who are still living or recently have died. Here, I would like to list some of those that I visited or talked to: Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Sherrill, Fanny Sherrill, Mr. G.G. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. Joe McRary, Mrs. I.M. Starnes, Mr. Glenn Looper and many others of whom I asked many questions. An organized church started at Grace Chapel in 1877. The church building was erected on land donated by E.C. Smith. This frame building was across the road from the present church building in what is now part of the cemetery. Leaders in these early years of the church were D.W. Russell, B.W. Hickman, E.C. Smith, Simon Bisanar and others whose names we do not know. Here we may list some of those early residents in the Grace Chapel area who may have been the leaders in the church and in the community, who followed closely after those just listed. These were the forbearers of most of the families comprising the local community until the last 10 or 15 years. Since this time, some of the larger farms here have been divided into smaller tracts and sold to provide homes for others coming into the area. A list of these earlier residents include: I.B. (Baxter) Williams, John A. Starnes, Jacob Graham, Bill Sherrill, Ed Kirby, Joseph Sherrill, Calvin Starnes, Melton Kirby, Van Starnes, Babel Looper, J.W. (Julius) Looper, Simon Kirby, Dave White, Dallas Parlier, Jake Clay, Henry Richards, Lawson Fowler, Gus Teague, and Dallas Parlier. There may be others not mentioned here, but were members of other nearby churches, who later became affiliated with Grace Chapel Church. These will be referred to later. The first pastor to serve Grace Chapel was the Reverend James C. Crisp. The first Sunday School superintendent was Isaac Starnes. The first babies baptized were Lula Russell and Cora Bowman, Later these became, by marriage Mrs. Lula Hickman and Mrs. Eli Yount. The first marriage ceremony in the church united Mr. and Mrs. Dallas Parlier. Records indicate that our church has been on various circuits that included Bethany (now Granite Falls United Methodist) from 1877 until perhaps as late as 1911. The first tenpastors serving Grace Chapel also served Bethany and perhaps most of the other churches in the circuit. >From 1877 until 1884 Grace Chapel was in the Burke County Circuit; 1887 to 1894 in the Lenoir Circuit (made up of eight churches, including Bethany, Cedar Valley, Colliers, Ebenezer, Grace Chapel, Mount Herman, Pisgah, and Rocky Mount.) Information from older church members indicate that the Pisgah mentioned here was across the Catawba River from what is now the Northlakes development. In 1898 the church became part of a newly organized circuit known as the Granite Falls circuit of the Statesville District. This circuit included Bethany, Grace Chapel, Rocky Mount, Pisgah and Smith's Chapel. Around 1900 Grace Chapel was paying annually $70.00 in salary and $2.95 for the traveling expenses of the pastor and the presiding elder. In 1916, the church was on the Hickory Circuit. In 1917, it was changed to the Dudley Shoals Circuit. The first building housed the congregation for 46 years. As the church membership grew, larger quarters were needed. Under the leadership of Rev. J.M. Barber, pastor and John A. Starnes, I.B. Williams, Lawson Fowler, Julius W. Looper, E.C. Smith, Eli Yount, J.D. Sherrill, G.P. Turner and others, the present building was erected at a cost of $8,000. The Building consisted of a 45 foot by 58 foot sanctuary and four large Sunday School rooms. The cornerstone is engraved "Grace M.E. Church, South, 1923." This first part of the present building was built largely by those mentioned above, their families and other members at that time. I.M. Starnes recalled that he moved his sawmill equipment to the site and sawed much of the framing material used. Logs and Other material were donated by members. Sand for the concrete. work and the mortar were obtained from nearby creeks. Grace Chapel Church remained on the Dudley Shoals Circuit until 1936 when it changed to a station. It continued with this status until 1939 when it changed to Grace Chapel-Rhodhiss Charge. In 1949, it was again changed to a station and remained so until 1966 when, due to a shortage of pastors in the conference, Baton was added and it became the Grace Chapel-Baton Charge. Changed again in 1967, it became part of the Grace Chapel-Ebenezer Charge and remains so at this time. As the growth of church continued, more space was needed for Sunday School activities, and in 1948 additional class rooms were added at the rear of the church. L.B. Lays was pastor at this time. In 1951, while Donald K. Funderburk was pastor, a building was erected which could provide additional Sunday School space or be used for social activities. Connecting classrooms were built around 1958 when Lonnie Templeton was pastor. A church library was started in 1962. In 1956 and 1957, while Larry Bumgarner was supply pastor, filling out the remainder of the term of Rev. E.A. Bingham who died while pastor here, a renovation was made of the church sanctuary. When the church was first built, the pulpit area was on a central platform above the floor. On each side was an area at floor level used by the choir. Under the supervision of Mr. I.M. Starnes, the whole area was built up level and a panel rail was built across the front leaving two openings for passage to the altar area and the rooms beyond. At about the same time, starting in late 1956 a major undertaking was begun. This was the complete renovation of the cemetery. Under the constant supervision of Mr. G.G. Williams, Ula Bumgarner, landscaping contractor, of Hickory, undertook to align headstones and other markers, remove trees and brush, work down obstructions and seed the entire cemetery. Shortly thereafter a cemetery committee was formed to be responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery and to be responsible for grave sites and the sale of same. At the present time Clyde Bumgarner heads this committee. In 1968 when the Methodist Church merged with the United Brethren, the name was changed to Grace Chapel United Methodist Church. In November 1971 the Board of Trustees presented to the Administrative Board a list of needed repairs to the building. A decision was made at this time to completely renovate the sanctuary instead of attempting the many repairs needed. A preliminary estimate of the cost was placed at $14,000. In January of 1972 a building committee was formed. Services were conducted in the Educational Building while the remodeling was being done. Wilkie Construction was the prize contractor with Joe Teague Electrical Company doing the electrical work and the air conditioning. The congregation moved back into the completely remodeled sanctuary on September 2, 1973. New choir pews had been installed, new lights and electrical system, new stained glass windows, new pulpit furniture, new carpet and complete air conditioning finished the project inside. The parking areas were paved and new walks poured. The total project cost was $48,365.93. This obligation was "paid in full" August 1, 1977. Grace Chapel United Methodist is presently (1982) a member of the Statesville District. The present membership is 308. Following is a list of pastors that have served Grace Chapel Church, and the dates they served. One of them, Hugh F. Wiley, served two (2) terms. Rev. James C. Crisp 1877-1880Rev. Hugh F. Wiley 1880-1881Rev. Charles P. Snow 1881-1882Rev. Hugh Fez Wiley 1882-1884Rev. James 0. Guthrie 1884-1885Rev. Robert M. Taylor 1885-1887Rev. Joseph F. England 1887-1889Rev. Charles C. Brothers 1889-1891Rev. John J. Brooks 1891-1894Rev. Albert Sherrill 1894-1897Rev. John W. Bowman 1897-1899Rev. John T. Stover 1899-1901Rev. George W. Ivey 1901-1902Rev. P.T. Terrell 1902-1903Rev. J.E. Wiley 1903-1905Rev. J.G. W. Holloway 1905-1907Rev. J.W. Kennedy 1907-1908Rev. J.P. Hornbuckle 1908-1909Rev. B.A. York 1909-1911Rev. J.S. Folger 1911-1916Rev. Elmer Simpson 1916-1917Rev. H.G. Allen 1917-1918Rev. B.C. Reavis 1918-1921Rev. J.M. Barber 1921-1924Rev. P.H. Brittain 1924-1926Rev. O.P. Routh 1926-1928Rev. E.J. Poe 1928-1930Rev. J.L. Ingram 1930-1932Rev. E.P. Stabler 1932-1933Rev. C.S. Plyler 1933-1935Rev. W.P. Morris 1935-1936Rev. Wilson Nesbitt 1936-1938Rev. E. H. Lowman 1938-1939Rev. G.E. White 1939-1940Rev. J. Max Brandon 1940-1944Rev. Van H. Harrison 1944-1945Rev. Rev. H.D. Jessup 1945-1947Rev. L.B. Laye 1947-1949Rev. Donald K. Funderburk 1949-1951Rev. Daniel Sain 1951-1953Rev. R.L. Vickery 1953-1954Rev. E . A . Bingham 1954-1956Rev. Larry Bumgarner 1956-1957Rev. M.W. Dulin 1956-1957Rev. Lonnie Templeton 1957-1960Rev. Doyle Groh 1960-1961Rev. Dale Hilton 1961-1963Rev. Furman Wright 1963-1967Rev. John W. Cole 1967-1973Rev. Dewey Bailey 1973-1977Rev. William Walker 1977-(1982) (After this history was compiled the following pastors have also served Grace Chapel.) Rev. Robert G. Russell 1982-1986Rev. Paul M. Hart 1986-1991Rev. Frank Gordon 1991-1998For some years prior to 1936, the pastors serving the Grace Chapel Church and other churches on the Dudley Shoals Circuit lived in a house in Dudley Shoals that was later used as a community center. Wilson Nesbitt, pastor from 1936 to 1938 and E. H. Lowman, pastor from 1938 to 1939 lived part time with the J.E. Yount family. (This was after the first change to a station church.) In March of 1939, Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Yount gave land for Grace Chapel's first own parsonage. Construction began at once but the parsonage was not completed until sometime in early 1940, because the work was done by the members who built in their spare time. Actualcost is not known, as it was paid for as it was built and labor and some material were donated. Rev. E.H. Lowman was the first pastor to live in this parsonage. Pastors who followed, added to or finished as was needed. As the church membership increased and the community around the church grew, there was a need for a parsonage closer to the church. Mr. and Mrs. Joe McRary gave land and on April 4, 1965, ground was broken for the present parsonage. Work began in May and was completed in November of 1965. The dedication service was held in October, 1970, the debt for the parsonage having been paid out on May 20, 1973. The Women's Society of Christian Service worked with the parsonage committee in selecting and obtaining the parsonage furnishings. The W.S.C.S. bought the material and Mrs. Grace Sherrill made the drapes for the entire home. The total cost of the parsonage was $ 24,662.54 plus many donations of furniture and many hours of donated labor. Rev. and Mrs. Furman Wright were the first occupants of the new parsonage. The Sunday School has always been an important part of the ministry and the spiritual life of Grace Chapel Church. A picture of the Grace Chapel Church Sunday School of 1918 was used in our Centennial booklet. This picture shows 87 people including children that made up the 1918 Sunday School. In trying to find some history of the early years of our Sunday School, we used an old roll book dating back to 1899. This went back beyond what anyone in our church today can remember and contains names of people who are parents or ancestors of some of our oldest members. According to attendance records in this book, on some winter months and months of harvesting, such as August and September, no classes were held. The average number enrolled during the three years recorded in this old book was 46. About half of these were present at any given time. There is no record of Sunday School superintendents, but Isaac Starnes (grandfather of I.M. Starnes and Fanny Sherrill) and I.B. Williams have been named as being among the first. These were followed by Julius Looper, Lawson Fowler, and G.G. Williams in the early part of this century. Some that served after these were J.P. Marshall, Jeff McLain, C.A. Sherrill, Glenn Looper Mr. Sigmon, and Floyd McRary. Mr. G.G. Williams recalled that he was superintendent in 1913, the year in which he was married, He could not remember any attendance figures for that year but thought that probably forty or fifty attended. Some of the teachers were Cora Yount, Gussie Williams, Minnie Belle Bowman, Eli Yount, Grace Sherrill, and Garland Kirby. Many preceded these, whose names we do not know. There may have been as many as seventy-five men who have served as superintendents and an untold number of teachers. Because we have no record of these dedicated men and women we can only acknowledge the contributions they have made to the moral and spiritual lives of those who have followed their leadership and guidance. We would be remiss if we didn't mention, at least briefly some of the organizations of the church that have helped carry on its work, on July 26, 1925 the Women's Society was organized. Twenty women attended this organizational meeting and became its charter members. The names of all of these are listed in the centennial booklet. Room will not permit a listing here of all their accomplishments, all the many contributions they have made to our church both spiritually and materially. This organization, now known as the "Women's Society of Christian Service" has about fifty members making up four circles. In November of 1970, while Rev. John Cole was the pastor, a rest home ministry was begun. The pastor along with several members of the church visited the Woodlane Family Care Center in Granite Falls, This ministry still continues with visiting every Thursday evening. Singing hymns, scripture reading, prayer, and just visiting are enjoyed by the ladies there as well as those going. Birthdays and special days are remembered and gifts given. Some of the ladies have become members of our church and most of the women attend worship service in our church when health and weather permit. In December, 1960 Grace Chapel, along with First United Methodist of Granite Falls, Rhodhiss United Methodist and Ebenezer United Methodist joined together to form a group ministry council or cooperative ministry. The group used the acronym MECCOM as its name or designations These letters stand for Methodist East Caldwell Co-operative Ministry. In 1975 Burgess Chapel was added to the group making a membership of five, combining their efforts of ministry in the area of East Caldwell County. Some of the projects sponsored by MECCOM and still continuing are the kindergarten and day care center (started as week-day kindergarten) a Duke Summer worker, Holy Week services, Family Life Conference, Ministry to Senior Citizens, visiting the churches by contemporary groups and annual School of Missions. The many accomplishments of this joint effort are evident in the area today. The organization now known as the Methodist Youth Fellowship was first started in our church in 1926, it was known then as the Epworth League. Harvey Sherrill has been listed as being the first president of the group. In the early years of the Epworth League, Joint meetings were held with other Epworth Leagues in Caldwell and Catawba counties. In the old group as well as the new or present group, the young people of the church have been trained for leadership and responsibility, as well as enjoying fun and fellowship with other young people. Here, I would like to go back and mention a few churches that have contributed by heritage or transfer of members to our church. Shortly after our present church building began to be used, Rocky Mount, a nearby Methodist church ceased to be an active church, and many of the members became affiliated with our church. Another nearby church Union Grove, a Northern Methodist Church located on the site now occupied by Oak Grove Baptist Church, became inactive a little earlier. Some of these members joined the Grace Chapel Church. Some of the members of Saint Matthews Lutheran Church, such as the Dolph Sherrill family, joined our fellowship as members. Some of the Wesley Bowman family (Mrs. I.M. Starnes and Mr. E.M. Bowman) were members of Shiloh Lutheran Church before moving to the community and becoming members of our Church. Because of the close relation that always existed between Grace Chapel Church and Grace Chapel School, the history of the two seems to be tied together. We think it is fitting to here mention the early schools that were later consolidated to become Grace Chapel School. There were six of these one or two room schools in the area. Those were as follows: Petra Mill School located about where Maynard Starnes now lives; Pleasant Grove School located near where Bob Bowman now lives; Camp Ground School located in the Campground area; Sherrill's School located at the road leading to the Lee Richards home; Mackie School located near where the William Bolick home used to be.(Mr. Eli Yount once taught there) and the Yount School located across the road from where Grace Chapel's first own parsonage was built. The Pleasant Grove School was torn down and the material was used to build the teacherage at Grace Chapel School. The first year of school then was held in the teacherage in 1921. The Yount School was not brought into the consolidation until 1924 or 1925. As was stated earlier, a complete and exact history of Grace Chapel United Methodist Church cannot be set down because of unwritten incomplete or lost records. Many of the faithful and dedicated will remain nameless because of these unfortunate circumstances. Much of the priceless heritage of service to God, Church and community have come down to us through those named herein and those unnamed, and those who lived immediately before us gathered here. To these, we say, "Thank you" and pray that we may faithfully carry on the work of God's Kingdom, continuing the work started so long ago. (The history presented here does not state who the author is.)This history is provided to the Caldwell NCGenWeb page by Rev. Frank Gordon.
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