Return to Dare County

Dare County, N.C. Tidbits

Interesting Sidelights on Early Struggles to Found a Church in Remote Coastland Settlements

and the

Rev. C.T. Thrift, Warsaw, N.C.

    The present is rooted in the past.  History helps us to understand and appreciate the present.  Behind the leaf and the blossom are the branch and the trunk and the roots of the tree.  Behind the majestic river are the springs somewhere in the everlasting hills.  Our theme is "Methodism in Dare County and the Community of Stumpy Point," which is of great importance to all the Methodists who live in Dare County and is highly interesting to all who are present here today.  Methodism, of which this is a part, is one of the mightiest movements of the centuries.  Lecky, the great English historian, declared that Methodism was one of the forces which preserved England from the revolutionary spirit which wrought such havoc in France, when the streets of Paris and other cities ran crimson with human blood.


    It is well to go back and take a bird's-eye view of early Methodism.  Behind every great movement there is a great character for "an institution is but the lengthened shadow of a man."  Behind Methodism is John Wesley, one of the most remarkable men since apostolic times.  Mr. Augustine Birrell, an Englishman, declares that "Wesley was the greatest force of the eighteenth century in England.  You cannot cut him out of our natural life.  No single figure influenced so many minds, no single voice touched so many hearts.  No other man did such a life work for England."  The gifted Robert Southey, of the Church of England, though not in sympathy with Methodism, characterized Wesley as "the most influential mind of the eighteenth century; the man who will have produced the greatest effects centuries, or perhaps millenniums, hence."


It is only natural and inevitable that Methodism should come hither just as it was going into all the world.  People, both men and women, who had the Methodist experience in their hearts came to the New World.  Robert Strawbridge, a Methodist local preacher, came to Maryland in 1765 or 1766 and went to preaching immediately.  Robert Williams preached the first Methodist sermon in Virginia at Norfolk in the spring of 1772.  Joseph Pilmoor preached the first Methodist sermon in North Carolina at Currituck Court House on September 28, 1772.  He organized the first Methodist Society in Virginia at Portsmouth on November 14 of the same year.  Robert Williams organized the first Methodist Society in Halifax Co., North Carolina in 1773 or 1774.  Methodism had entered this part of the state in a great revival which spread from the Brunswick Circuit in Virginia of which Robert Williams was the pastor.  This marvelous revival had already begun under the leadership of Rev. Ievereux Jarratt of the Church of England when Williams came.  It spread through fourteen counties in southern Virginia, and crossing the Roanoke River, swept over Halifax and Bute (now Franklin and Warren) in this state.  Carolina Circuit was formed by the Conference which met in Baltimore May 21, 1776.  Three preachers were assigned to this new circuit: Edward Dromgoole, Francis Poythress, and Isham Tatum.  In the latter part of 1782, Rev. Caleb Pedicord, the presiding elder, sent Edward Dromgoole and Jesse Lee to eastern Carolina in order to travel through that section and plan a new circuit if the outlook was sufficiently hopeful.  They reached Edenton on December 1, 1782.  From there they made a preaching tour through Pasquotank and a part of Camden as far as Norfolk Co., Va.  They returned through Currituck, passed Sligo, which Dromgoole named after his native place in Ireland on Sligo Bay.  (When he married and located in Brunswick County, Va. he named his home there also Sligo.)  Dromgoole and Lee went as far as Coinjock and spent a night with Col. Hallowell Williams who had entertained Pilmoor on his visit to that section.  They preached at Indian Town and pursued their way through Camden, Pasquotank and Perquimans.  After making this tour they drew the plan for Camden Circuit.  The new circuit, however, appears on the minutes of 1783 as Pasquotank, but in 1784 Camden appears for the first time and it remained on the list of appointments in the Virginia Conference until 1875.  This circuit embraced Currituck County in its ample boundaries.


    Dare is the youngest of the Albemarle counties.  It was formed in 1870 from Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell.  Methodism was spreading all over that region.  Methodist preachers were continually seeking new places to preach while Methodist families were moving to new locations and they invited the preachers to come and break the bread of life to them after the Methodist fashion.  We will trace briefly the progress of Methodism.
    In 1783 Camden Circuit had only 22 members, but in 1784 it reported 350, and appears on the minutes as Camden and The Banks.  This is the first time The Banks appears in the list of appointments.  The large number of member reported so soon after the formation of the circuit was no doubt due to the fact that many who were already in the Methodist Society had emigrated into this section from other parts of the country.  In 1785 Richard Ivey served the Camden Circuit.  He was one of the foremost men in early Methodism.  That same year The Banks appeared as a separate appointment with David Haggard as its pastor
    In 1789 the Pamlico Circuit was formed.  It had for its preachers, in 1790 Henry Ledbetter and Enoch George, who was afterwards made a bishop.  This was a large circuit, extending from Williamston through a part of Martin, Washington, and Tyrrell counties.


    To bring this out clearly, we are fortunate in being able to turn to the official record.  In those early days Camden Circuit embraced also Currituck County.  The writer has before him the Quarterly Conference Record Book of Currituck Mission.  The date of the first Quarterly Conference cannot be made out for the ancient page has been destroyed at that place by bookworms.  The place of meeting was Roanoke Island.  Spencer Daniel was the secretary and James M. Darden was the president.  Under the question, "What other business is there to come before this Conference?" the answer was given--"The appointment of some stewards is necessary."  William Daniel, Thomas Midgett, Edward Mann, Henry Homes and Griffin Sawyer were elected stewards.  In addition to these, the members of that conference were: Caleb Leach, James M. Darden, Avery Daniel, Spencer Daniel, Noel Carrow, William N. Wroten, Charles G. Williams, Caleb Sawyer, Joshua Guard, and William Guard.  Caleb Leach must have been the presiding elder and James M. Darden the preacher in charge, thought that part of the page carrying this information is entirely gone.  All the others were Class Leaders.  Mention is made of the fact that William N. Wroten was "lost at sea" and that Griffin Sawyer died during the year.  Caleb Leach does not seem to have visited the charge during the year as all the minutes are signed by James M. Darden.  This was the organization of the Currituck Mission and the time of this Conference was in the winter or spring of 1839 because the second Conference was held June 24th of that year.  The place was upper Crowetan [Croatan].  Besides this class there were others at The Banks, Roanoke Island, Stumpy Point, Lower Crowetan and The Lake.  So Methodism had made considerable headway in all that region.  Mill Tail was added in 1839; Nags Head in 1842; Nags Head Banks in 1843; Roanoke Island was divided into the North End and South End in 1844; Kitty Hawk was added in 1845; James Guard's in 1849; Bethel in 1852.  Caleb Sawyer was given license to preach July 7, 1846.  Edward P. Wilson, helper on the mission, was recommended to the Virginia Conference for the traveling ministry on July 30, 1842.


    There was a church building at Lower Croatan for Quarterly Conferences which were held there May 14, 182 and May 21, 1843.  The trustees of the Croatan church made the following report October 27, 1846:  "We the trustees of Croatan Church tho not ceiled it has a good stove and is Comfortable for Worship during the winter."  There was a church building at Lake for it was dedicated October 8, 1848.  Concerning this church we find this record of July 15, 1854:  "A complaint having been made against Trimigan Sanderlin for closing the Church against all Preachers indiscriminately, the Quarterly Conference decided that the said Trimigan Sanderlin restore the key to Thomas Burgess with the understanding that the trustees of said church admit none to preach in the Church except Methodist ministers and those who may be sound in the faith."  At this same conference "Morris Rogers and Wallace Twiford tendered their resignations as Trustees of Lake Church which was accepted."


It may be of interest to learn the names of the pastors which served Currituck Mission up to 1857, as far as the record goes.  James M. Darden (1839); W.H. Starr (1840); C.M. Schrappe? (1841); W.H. Starr (1842); Nathan Poyner (1843-45); Allen Carnes (1846); Bannister H. Jarvis (1847-48); Nathan Poyner (1852); B.H. Jarvis (1853); John S. Briggs (1854); John W. Worrycott (1855); J.P. Brock (1856); and G.W. Finnigan (1857).  The presiding elders during that time were: Caleb Leach, G.W. Nolley; G.W. Langhorne, Thomas Crowder, J.D. Couling, Leonidas Rosser and J.A. Riddick.


    Now we will proceed to give more details of some of the places in Dare County.  For this information concerning Stumpy Point I am indebted to Mr. Wilbur Payne.
    Methodism came to Stumpy Point with the first settlers, approximately a century and a half ago.  It was somewhere about the close of the 18th century.  For the first 75 years, more or less, these people had no church building but the Methodists worshiped regularly in a private home.  The people conducted their own services for there were no Methodist circuit riders in those parts.  Occasionally one would pass through and he would always preach for them.  One of the best remembered of these traveling preachers was Rev. Bannister H. Jarvis who served several years as pastor in that region.  He was the father of Governor Thomas J. Jarvis of this state.
    In 1870 the first Methodist church at Stumpy Point was built.  This church stood on the lot of the present church and served both as church and school building.  The building was small, for the population of the community was only ten or twelve families.  The dimensions of this building were about 16 by 25 feet, made of rough boards and with no ceiling, but it served as a beginning and established Methodism permanently at Stumpy Point.  This was used as a place of worship for 20 years.  They had preaching once a month.
    By 1888 there were about 30 families at Stumpy Point and a second and much larger building was erected to take care of the influx of population and the ever-growing spirit of the Methodist.  This second building served until 1914.  Up until 1890, Stumpy Point and all of North Carolina east of the Chowan River was in the Virginia Conference.  In 1914 there were 90 families at Stumpy Point to be served, and the church building was once more enlarged.  That is the present church.  Following that enlargement, they had preaching twice a month, but after a while they became a station with Rev. A.E. Brown as the first pastor.  Owing to World War conditions and the scarcity of preachers, Stumpy Point is now a part of a circuit.
    The present church building is a credit to the community and of it the membership may well be proud.  There is also a parsonage built in 1925.  The total valuation of the church building and the parsonage is $10,000.  The membership of the Stumpy Point Methodist Church is 229 and they are wide awake and growing in numbers and in influence.  The church stands in the center of the community life and is a barometer of the advancement of the people both materially and spiritually.


    We turn next to Methodism in Wanchese.  For this detailed information I am indebted to Mr. Melvin R. Daniels.  According to official records at Currituck County House there were only 9 families on Roanoke Island in the year 1776.  This being true, it is only reasonable to believe that there was no church building at Wanchese or on Roanoke Island at that time.  Whatever services, if any, were held in private homes.  The first Methodist church building at Wanchese was built in 1799.  This building was of pine and cypress logs and was about 25 feet long and 20 feet wide.  It stood on the east side of the old main road, in what is now known as Midgett Field.  This building was kept in repair and was used for about 30 years.  Then a new and larger building was erected across the road from the first one.  It was built of rough lumber and the shingles were made by hand.  The timbers were sawed from native pine and cypress.  This building lasted for about 40 years when the third one came into being some 5 or 6 years after the War between the States.  The Methodists were growing in numbers all the time and after a while this latest structure did not meet their needs so in 1903 another church was built which has since then served the people at Wanchese as a place of divine worship.
    Until 1928 the same preacher served both Wanchese and Manteo.  The parsonage was located at the latter place.  In that year the people of Wanchese decided that they wanted a full-time preacher who could live among them.  Therefore they sold to Manteo their interest in the parsonage and proceeded to build the present parsonage at Wanchese.
    The people of Wanchese are justly proud of their church.  Precious to them are the memories of the days gone by when men and women and boys and girls professed their faith in Jesus Christ and became his humble followers.  Most of those who participated in the construction of the present building have already gone to their heavenly reward but their children and their grandchildren are carrying on the good work.  The Methodist of Wanchese have a record of which they may well be proud.


The author is indebted to Rev. M.W. Maness for the information about Methodism in Manteo.  Mount Olivet Methodist Church in Manteo was organized in 1883.  The first church was built in 1887 and dedicated in 1888.  Prior to the erection of this structure, worship services were conducted in the old Dare County Court House.  Prior to the building of the Courthouse (after 1880), worship must have been carried on in private homes for many decades.  The church at Manteo has been a station since 1928 giving full time service to the community.  The membership is now 460 and the church school enrollment is approximately 325.  The Board of Trustees is looking forward to the time when work can be begun on a new church school building to care for the growing needs of the church.


    The author is indebted to Rev. G.W. Crutchfield for the information about Methodism at Kitty Hawk.  The first records of the Kitty Hawk Methodist Church have not been preserved, hence the date of its original organization is not now known.  It is known, however, that Methodism in the northern section of Dare County has been very strong from the earliest settlement of the area which embraces Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head.  The Methodist Church of Kitty Hawk remains a vital part of the life of the community.  While its membership is small, its enthusiasm and spiritual fervor makes it a live and forward moving institution.  In 1938, under the pastorate of M.W. Gardner, the old building was torn down and replaced with a modern structure of brick and stone.  This plant is equipped with ample church school rooms, a central heating system, and a handsome church auditorium which helps to create a spirit of worship and reverence.  The present building is one of the most beautiful and imposing rural churches in North Carolina and is free from any debt.


    Today there are six pastoral charges, 18 churches and 2,371 members in Dare County, according to the latest minutes of the North Carolina Conference.  The property value is put down at $82,800.
    The charges with the churches composing them are as follows: Buxton, Hatteras, Hatteras Chapel, and Frisco.  The Rev. Mr. Faulkner is the pastor and is serving his first year.  The membership is 363.
    Kinnakeet charge: the churches are Clarks, Bethel, Fair Haven and St. John's.  The membership is 353.  The pastor is Rev. J.E. Doty.  He is serving his first year.
    Kitty Hawk charge: the churches are Colington, Duck, Kitty Hawk, Nag's Head and Bethany.  The membership is 264,.  The pastor is Rev. G.W. Crutchfield who is in his first year.
    Manteo: this is a station.  The membership is 440 and Rev. M.W. Maness is serving his fifth year as pastor.
Stumpy Point-Dare: the churches are East Lake, Mann's Harbor, Mashoes and Stumpy Point.  The membership is 470 and Rev. W.B. Parkin is in his first year as pastor.
    Wanchese: this is a station.  The membership is 479 and Rev. J.W. Sneeden is closing his second year as pastor.

(Dare County Times [Manteo, NC] - Friday, September 8, 1944; pgs. 6& 7) [This was a very lengthy article and is not shown here in its entirety.]

2009  Kay Midgett Sheppard & Marla Beasley