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
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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
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
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."