Brief History of Catholic Communities in Columbus and Brunswick Counties, NC

Brief History of Catholic Communities in Columbus and Brunswick Counties, NC - Submitted with the permission of Lorrie Patterson who retains all rights to this material.

This information comes from a series of church bulletins from March 1954 for Our Lady of the Snows Parish. It was written by Mrs Harvey V Norris, formerly Mary Applewhite, and grandmother to Lorrie Patterson who allowed me to reproduce this information for online viewing.

From the Our Lady of the Snows Parish Bulletin
February and March 1954

"The Our Lady of the Snows Parish embraces all of Bladen County and Ransom Township in Columbus County. Its parishoners reside in Acme, Armour, Bladenboro, Delco, Dublin, Elizabethtown, Freeman, Rieglewood, and Tar Heel. In this parish there are two Church Buildings, Our Lady of the Snows Church in Elizabethtown and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary in Delco. Our Catholic Population is 78 souls. The rectory is in Elizabethtown and the telephone number is Elizabethtown 3449.

Parish History
"In this column during the next few weeks will appear a brief historical sketch of the Delco Mission written by Mrs. Harvey V. Norris, formerly Mary Applewhite, one of the early Catholics of the Delco mission. A granddaughter of Bartley Dean Applewhite. (First convert in Columbus County)....

"History of the Catholic Church in Parts of Brunswick and Columbus Counties.
This history is limited to the territory that is now known as a part of Brunswick and Columbus Counties. Most of the early history took place in what is now Northwest Township of Brunswick County and Ransom Township of Columbus County. Ransom Township was a part of Brunswick County until 1880. In some instances, the names of the communities have undergone changes. What was formerly known as Farmers Turnout in Brunswick County is now called Maco. Livingston was changed to Cronly in 1880 and is now Acme in Columbus County. Brinkley in Columbus County was changed to New Berlin and is now Delco. Armour, named for the Love Family, is a station on the Seaboard Airline Railway.

Early Catholic Pioneers: Benjamin A. Jones Family
"Sarah Rabon was born near Southport (formerly Smithfield) in Brunswick County of non-Catholic parents. While very young, at the death of her mother, she was adopted by a Catholic family of Boston, Massachusetts, Mr. and Mrs. Winder who spent their summers in Southport. Sarah Rabon lived with her adopted parents in Boston until grown and was reared a Catholic. In the year 1850, while on a visit to Southport, she married Benjamin A. Jones who later embraced the faith.

In the year 1862 Benjamin A. Jones and his wife, Sarah, moved to Armour in Columbus County. They were the only known Catholics in that section. They were the parents of six children, Abbie Virginia, Benjamin F., Mark A., Rebecca, John P., and Samuel M. A great granddaughter of Benjamin and Sarah Jones is a Carmelite Nun. Holy Mass sas said in the Jones Home prior to 1880. Father Hand, Father White, and Father Mark Gross came from Wilmington once or twice a year. Some of the ones that attended Mass there were Michael Russell and Louis Manning from the Freeman section and Gilbert O'Day from the Northwest section. Some members of the Applewhite family later attended Mass in the Jones home. Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Jones are buried in the Catholic Cemetery on Market Street in Wilmington. The descendants of this couple are among the prominent Catholics of this and other dioceses.

Irish Settlers
"Mr. Louis Manning and his wife, Lockey Jones, came from Ireland in the early '60s. Mr. Manning was a solider in the Confederate Army. He lived in the Freeman community. His daughter, Sarah, married Robert Henry, one of the Catholic pioneers of Brunswick County. Michael Russell came from County Cork. Many of his descendants live in Ransom township. Gilbert O'Day is buried in Saint Paul's Cemetery, Maco. At the time of his death, he was making his home with Joseph Sellers, a well known confederate veteran. Mr. Sellers, although not a Catholic, walked to Wilmington (a distance of about 20 miles) to get a priest for his dying friend.

The Henry Family and the Beginning of the Farmers Turnout Mission
"In the year 1870, William Raphael Henry, his wife, Jane Jenkins Henry and three daughters, Martha, Minnie, and Anna moved from the Moore's Creek section of Pender County to Farmers Turnout in Brunswick County. They were all converts. It was through their friendship with the Montague family and their acquaintance with Biship Gibbons, who later became Cardinal Gibbons, that they embraced the faith. For a number of years Mass was said in the Henry home. Father White, Father Mark Gross, and Father Moore in succession attended the Mission. Word was sent to the scattered Catholics and although travelling was difficult, the Jones family from Armour, the Applewhites and others came. The Henry family were devout Catholics and no doubt played an important part in bringing others into the fold. Mr. and Mrs. Henry's daughters married and settled nearby. Martha married Major James Reilly; Minnie Married William Alderman, and Anna married Frank Jones.

"Among the converts made there at this time were Robert Henry, brother of William R. Henry, Lloyd C. McCoy wife and three children, Miss Kate McCoy and three nephews. Mrs. Charlotte Robbins Williams and three children, Mrs. Eliza Jacobs, William Alderman, and a few others. It soon became apparent that a church was necessary.

Major James Reilly
"Major James Reilly came to America as a young man from Ireland. He joined the United States Army and served in the Mexican War. He later joined the Confederate Army and was in command of Fort Fisher, the last stronghold of the Confederacy, when it fell. He was a gallant soldier. He lived first in Wilmington but after his second marriage, he moved to Farmers Turnout, where his wife Martha Henry had made her home. Major Reilly was not only a brave soldier, but he was a zealous Catholic. His home was headquarters for the priests while on the Farmers Turnout Mission. Major Reilly realizing a church was needed in this section, used his influence and with untiring efforts a beginning was made.

History of the Beginning of Catholicity in the Applewhite Family
"Catholicity came to the Applewhite Family through two sterling women; one Miss Ida Norcum, a Catholic and the other, Miss Viola Felt, a non-Catholic who later joined the church and who was educated by the Sisters of Mercy, through the interest and influence of Cardinal Gibbons.

This is the story:
In the year 1868 Cardinal Gibbons was visiting the home of one of his parishoners in Wilmington. He was talking with the little childre in the home. Among them was a little red haired girl that lived next door. He found out the little girl's parents had just died, and on questioning her she told him she would like to go to the Catholic School her little playmate attended. Cardinal Gibbons (at the time Bishop Gibbons) at once gave her a card and told the little non-Catholic, Viola Felt, to present it to the Mother Superios of the Sisters of Mercy. There she leraned to love the Catholic religion, although she did not come into the church until some years later. After reaching young womanhood, she married Robert Council Applewhite, and lived at Brinkley, Ransom Township in Columbus County. God blessed this couple with ten children. Eight lived to reach adult live and they cherished their Catholic faith bequeathed to them by their mother, Viola Felt. Robert Council Applewhite, husband of Viola Felt, came into the church later. Both were descended from a long line of English Protestant Ancestry. About that time, 1879, a teacher, Miss Ida Norcum, a fine Catholic lady, daughter of Dr. Norcum of Wilmington, was secured to conduct school in the Applewhite neighbourhood and to live in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Bartley Dean Applewhite. Mr. Applewhite was in very bad health and was confined to bed. Miss Norcum kindly kept him supplied with reading matter. Some of the books he read concerned Catholicity. He became very much interested in the Church and questioned Miss Norcum often. Realizing his days were numbered, he asked for a Catholic Priest to come to see him. Miss Norcum contacted Father Mark Gross who came. In a short while, Bartley D. Applewhite was baptized by Father P. Moore, Feb. 28, 1880. At the same time, his daughter Matilda (who later married Benjamin J. Price, brother of Father Thomas F. Price) was baptized. Also, Viola Felt Applewhite and her two young children Mary and Bartley. That was the beginning of Catholicity in the Applewhite family. Years later Elisha L. Applewhite, youngest son of Bartley D. Applewhite, was baptized by Father Price. A grandson, Henry J. Applewhite of Savannah, Georgia, is a recent convert. About 100 descendants of the pioneer convert, Bartley D. Applewhite, up to the present year, 1953, have been blessed with our Holy Faith.

The Cronly Mission
"About the year 1884, a small industrial community sprang up in Ransom Township, Columbus County. Situated on the old Carolina Central Railroad or the Seaboard Airline Railway. It was first known as Livingston, from the nearby creek, but was then named Cronly, and is now Acme. Mr. James W. Noran and family moved there from Baltimore. Mr. Moran was superintendent of one of the plants. He asked the Bisho to send a priest as often as possible to adminster to the spiritual needs of the catholics that lived there, which was done. Saint Paul's at Farmer's Turnout was several miles away, roads were very bad and conveyances few. The priest came only on week days and not too regularily. They made the Moran home headquarters while there and Mass was celebrated in their home. The priests who came to Cronly and said Mass in the Moran home were Father Moore, Father Dennen, Father Burns, Father Price, Father Griffin and perhaps others. Among the Catholics at Cronly at this time besides the Moran family were the Applewhites, Prices, Twiggs, Thigpens, McCoys, Knowles, Jones, manning, Thalley and others. The first Catholic marriage to take place in Cronly was between Mollie Twiggs, daughter of a good Irish lady, Mrs. Nora Twiggs, and William Thigpen. Mr. Moran was truly a Tar Heel Apostle. He and his wife had religious instructions and Mass prayers every Sunday morning for many years in their home. This held the Catholic group together and no doubt preserved the faith for many. After a number of years the Moran family returned to Baltimore. The Cronly Mission furnished the first student to the Sacred Heart Academy, Belmont, NC, Mary (Mamie) Applewhite. As a very small girl while coming up from Wilmington on the train, she spoke to two Sisters of Mercy and as her mother, Viola had confided to Cardian Gibbons years before, told them she would like to go to school to the Sisters when she was older. The sisters were Sister Catherine Price and Sister Cecilia Cobb. When Sacred Heart Academy opened in 1892, Sister Catherine did not forget to notify the little girl from Cronly, and she was the first enrolled and graduated with the class of 1895.

Another family came to Cronly after the Moran family left, Mr. Thomas Kane and family from Atlanta Ga. Religious instructions were held in the Town Hall on Sundays by Mr. Kane. At this time the priest stayed in the home of Mr. R.C. Applewhite and said Mass there. The altar was a beautiful odl square rosewood piano, now in the possession of Mr. F.B. Greer of Whiteville. Father Thomas F. Price, co-founder of Maryknolls said Mass on this piano and also Fathers Michael Irwin and William F. O'Brien and others. Father Price conducted a Mission in Cronly in 1899.

After the R.C. Applewhite family left Cronly, Mass was said in the homes of Mrs Mary Pridgen and Mr. Thomas Applewhite. Fathers Gallagher and Watkins and others attended the Mission at this time. By 1914 the Catholic families had left Cronly. Bartley F. Applewhite and his wife Martha Reilly, were now living at the former Brinkley Station, known then as New Berlin, so a Mission was begun there that was the beginning of the Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Church at Delco.

Saint Paul's Church -- Farmer's Turnout
"About 1880, Major James Reilly gave the ground on which to build a church. Lloyd McCoy, a recent convert, donated the lumber. Mr. McCoy also gave to the coloured people who got out the timber, enough lumber to build a church for themselves. Charley Morrell supervised the construction of the Church. Practically all of the labor was done by William R. Henry and his son-in-law, William Alderman, without monetary compensation. The interior walls, communion rail, frames for the stations of the Cross, etc. were all done by the skilled hands of William Raphael Henry. Father Marck Gross was the priest in charge of the Mission at this time. The chuch was dedicated in 1882 by Bishop H.P. Northrop of Charleston, South Carolina uner the title and heavenly patronage of Saint Paul the Apostle. On the day the church was dedicated, a special train was run from Wilmington and there was a joyful celebration in this little community. An immense throng was present for the dedication. Mass was said in Saint Paul's once a month from its dedication in 1882 until 1902. The priest from Wilmington came to take care of the Mission. The priests who followed Father Gross were Father Patrick Moore, Father Christopher Dennen, Father Burns, Father Schall, Father Griffin, Father Quinn, Father William F. O'Brien, Father Patrick Marion, and perhaps others.

Confirmation was conferred twice in the church at Farmer's Turnout. The first time by Bishop Northrup of Charleston, SC on June 4th 1866 and by Bishop Leo Haid in 1891. When Mass was said, all the congregation would attend including the several families that then had residence at Cronly and the families at Brinkley. In all the congregation numbered about fifty. Some of the members of Saint Paul's were Mr. and Mrs. William R. Henry; Mr. and Mrs. William Alderman; Misses Pauline, May, Valeria, and Allie Alderman; Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Franklin Jones; William F. Jones; Benjamin M. Jones; Lillie Jones (Mrs. Robert Jarman of Wilmington); Major and Mrs. James Reilly; Miss Madgie Reily (Mrs. B.F. Applewhite of Delco); Miss Janie Reilly (now Mrs. Enoch L. Lee of Wilmington); Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd McCoy; Fenmore, Frederick M, and Clarence McCoy; Mrs. Charlotte Robbins Williams; Mrs. Eliza Jacobs; Mr. and Mrs. James W. Moran of Cronly; Richard, William H., and George L. Moran; Mrs. Robert C. Applewhite of Brinkley; Mamie Applewhite (Mrs. H.V. Norris); Bartley F. Applewhite; Thomas E. Applewhite and small children; Mr. and Mrs. B.J. Price and small children of Cronly; Mr. Seth Robbins; Mr. and Mrs. Archie Rushing of Whiteville; and others.

After the death of the heads of the original Catholic families in the community in the '70s and '80s, a majority of the descendants moved to Wilmington and elsewhere. As the families bgan to move away, the congregation began to grow less and soon the church was abandoned. For years the church stood empty and idle. Pigeons took posession of the belfry and their moaning noises soon lead to the spreading of the report among the superstitious that the church was haunted. Also the nearness of the mysterious light said to be seen at Hood Creek Trestle added to the report.

The re-establishment of the Mission which had been abandoned was authorized by Biship William J. Hafey in 1929. Under the direction of Father James McCourt, the church was repaired and restored somewhat. In May 1929 the doors were reopened. There was an illustrated lecture on the Mass in the Evening. A motor car parade came up from Wilmington. Some descendants of the pioneer members were in attendance and the countryside was invited. Holy Mass was said there on a few occasions. Father Frank Howard also tried to encourage an attendance at the services but it was not a success. The community was non-Catholic and Delco by that time had a church. Once again the building gradually decayed. Rather than let it to go to ruin, permission was given by Bishop McGuinness to dismantle the church and salvage the lumber to help build the churches at Tabor City and Southport. The building was torn down in 1940. The floor joists and all the framing of the Saint Francis Xavier Church at Tabor City came from Saint Paul's at Maco. Also much lumber was used in the construction of Sacred Heart Church at Southport.
The church served a useful purpose. It was said to be the only Catholic Church between Wilmington and Florence, SC on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Many a prominent Catholic of southeastern North Carolina traces his origin back to Saint Paul's Church at old Farmer's Turnout in Brunswick County.

Saint Paul's School
"As the community grew at Farmer's Turnout the people were concerned about the education of their children. Major James Reilly with his usual zeal, was instrumental in getting the school started. Prior to the erection of the school in 1889, sessions were held in Saint Paul's Church. The school was opened in 1888, and lasted seven or eight years. The building was sold in 1905 and moved away. The following are the lay teachers who taught in the school; Miss Kate Sweeny of Wilmington, Miss Belle Monagan of Fayetteville, who later married Mr. McMillan of Fayetteville, Miss Alice Teresa Monagan of Fayetteville, Miss Elizabeth Darby who married Mr. James W. Moran of Cronly and Miss Teresa Francis who married Sydney Murphy of Charlotte. There were about twenty-five children enrolled in all grades. Several non-Catholic children also attended this school.
Some of the children in attendance were the Morans of Cronly, Mamie Applewhite of Brinkley, the McCoys of Northwest, Jones', Alderman's, Reilly's children and others of Farmers Turnout. These fine Catholic ladies besides instructing the children in the three Rs, spent a great deal of time teaching our Holy Faith, preparing us for Holy Communion and Confirmation, for wich we are very thankful. One memory stands out among the few living alumnae of Saint Paul's and that is we saw President Grover Cleveland. It happened this way; the railroads at that period were still using wood burning locomotives. Major Reilly furnised them wood and trains would stop at Farmers Turnout for fuel. Major Reilly, hearing that President Cleveland was enroute to Wilmington after a hunting trip in Georgetown, SC made arrangements for the train to stop a little longer than usual that the President of the United States might speak to Saint Paul's school children and to their teacher, Miss Elizabeth Darby.

Saint Paul's Cemetery
"Beside the church, a plot of ground was set aside for a cemetery. A Captain Arnold was the first to be buried there. He had lived in the community about two years. Little was known of him. Some say he was a veteran of both Mexican and Civil Wars. He died in 1884. Mr. Gilberty O'Day was next buried there. He died in 1885. Others buried there whose names are well known are: Agnes Williams, Mr. and Mrs. William R. Henry, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Franklin Jones, Miss Penny Jacobs, Julius Herring, Mrs. Ida Childs, Mrs. Nora Twiggs, Mrs. William Thigen, Mr. Robert Henry, Allie Alderman, Minnie Alderman, May and Pauline Alderman and Tudy Alderman and their father, William Alderman, Seth Robbins, and some children, my uncle Benny's little girl, Mary Francis, and my baby sister Dorothy."