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Geneva Presbyterian Church
Granville County, N. C.

(Part 1 of 2)

In the summer of 1838 the first church building on the present grounds of Geneva Church was completed. The lot of five acres was donated by William Clement. The deed is on record in the court house in Oxford.

In September of that year, just one hundred years ago, a camp meeting was held here,-beginning on Thursday before the fifth, Sabbath and closing the following Monday. At this time and for many years prior It was a custom to hold these large camp meetings, which were union meetings, attended by people from a wide circle of territory,-the purpose being to revive and strengthen interest In church activities. They first started as communion service meetings, when preachers from other churches were Invited. Foot, In his Sketches of North Carolina, says the first one was at Hawfields Church in Alamance County. The large attendance could not be entertained in the homes of the community, so many of them spent the nights on the grounds in their wagons. Afterwards they went prepared to camp, and often there were hundreds of wagons and many tents. Preaching continued day and night in several places on the yard.

At this Geneva camp meeting in 1833 there were eight ministers, besides the regular pastor, Rev. Alexander Wilson. They were A. D. Montgomery, D. L. Russell, Samuel Paisley, S. L. Graham, D. A. Pinick, A. L. Watts, N. H. Harding, and Edward Hollister, coming probably from all the Presbyterian churches in this part of the state. I know little of their history. Samuel Paisley's father was wounded at the battle of Guilford Court House. His mother was captured by the Indians when she was a child. They killed both her parents and adopted her In their tribe. Later when her fester parents were without food in the white man's country they sold her for some bread and rum.

One hundred years is not so long, but just think of the changes since this church was built. People were here from Guilford, Alamance, and Orange Churches,-from Clarksville and other Virginia communities. Of course everybody from the Nutbush, Grassy Creek, Oxford, and Oak Hill Churches were here. On horseback, in wagons and carriages, and on the stage coaches. Besides the great crowd of campers, every home in reach was entertaining the visitors to the utmost capacity. The negro cooks and other house slaves were exerting every effort to show that their white folks were the real "quality" of the whole countryside. Plantation life was then at its best In the South. Young men, young ladies, and perhaps a few politicians came a long ways,- not just to hear preaching.

There were no large towns then, probably not a mile of rail road in the state. Andrew Jackson was president; Webster, Clay, and Calhoun were beginning to attract attention in Congress. The slavery question was not yet an issue. Texas and California were still a part of Mexico. Victoria was a child of fourteen and had not been crowned Queen of England. The great generals and soldiers of the Civil War were mere children then, or born later. So one hundred years is really a long time.

Geneva, as we now know it, had its beginning in 1833, but its history really begins about forty years further black. The first Presbyterian Church in the county was Grassy Creek, now located at Stovall. Nutbush was also an early church. It is at Townsville in that part of Granville which was cut off when Vance County was formed. Oxford and Oak Hill Churches were organized about 1823. About the year 1793 ' a church was built on Tar River, on the south bank, a few hundred yards up the river from the Southern Railway bridge, and given the name Providence. The land was given by Mr. Joseph Gooch, and the meeting house was built by the community for any and all denominations. Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian preachers held services there with more or less regularity. In 1820 a camp meeting was held there,-the ministers attending being Revs. Graham, Currie, Graves, Hatch, Montgomery, and Stafford. No regular Presbyterian church organization was formed at Providence until 1823. The charter members then were B. H. Wortham, James L. Wortham, Mrs. Jackson, John Webb, and his wife, Margaret Howard Webb.

We have scant record of the progress of Providence Church for the next few years, and I think the organization was abandoned. But in 1830 we find two congregations, or two meeting places of the same c: congregation, Providence and Sharon, both on Tar River, but several miles apart. Sharon was on a plantation belonging to Jas. L. Wortham, known as Indian Fields. Rev. George W. Ferrell, then a young man, served both places.

In 1833 these congregations joined hands and built Geneva Church at its present location. Rev. Alexander Wilson was then pastor. That building, first only 32x24 feet, but later enlarged, stood until 1928 when the present church was built. The original membership seems to have been about thirty, and with only short intervals a regular pastor has been on duty every year since 1833.

The original session record book has been preserved and has minutes of the sessions from 1820, as well as other facts of historical interest from 1793 to the present time. The first clerk of the session was Dr. James L. Wortham, -- later John H. Webb, William T. Allen, Amos G. Clement, Otha A. Daniel. In this old session book we find recorded tributes of respect to some of the outstanding members the church loved so much. One in 1884 to Samuel William Smith, who died in the 67th year of his age. One in 1902 to Amos Gooch Clement: "The session had lost a most valuable counselor, and the congregation a faithful, devoted and consecrated member * * * a pure, sincere and earnest Christian, whose influence would long leave an impress on the community." One in 1905 to John Henry Webb, who was for 82 years an elder, 20 years of the time clerk of the session: "A beautiful and pure life." One in 1907 to William Thomas Allen. "He was a ruling elder for 41 years, half the time clerk of the session. Missed as a friend and neighbor, and a wise counselor of the session." One in 1911 to Thomas Brown Daniel: "Honest to the core, quiet, unassuming, manly and true, he commanded the respect and confidence of all."

There are many others whose names appear in this old record book, too many to include in this short sketch, - men and women who helped to hold this little church together for the century of its existence. What they did for the church and what the church did for them has not been confined to this neighborhood or this county. Practically every state in the Union has received and been benefited by the influence of Geneva Church. Its light may seem to be burning low at times, but it has never been under a bushel. There are really one hundred candles on her birthday cake today. As the older members and officers, one by one, have gone to their reward, their names have been replaced by those of their children and by new members moving into the community.

No history of Geneva Church is complete without mention of the names of a few of this church's old neighbors,-not members of this church's family, but just good neighbors. They loved to attend services here when the appointments dig± not conflict with those of their own church. I remember back in the 80's and later seeing them here and taking part in the prayers and songs, and talks just like Geneva belonged to them : Broadle Meadows, John Meadows, Dyar Howard, Spence O'Briant, Milt Blalock, Dr. E. B. Meadows, S. L. Howard, Hawkins Jones, and others. They liked to hear good preaching and Geneva always had that kind.

Source: Webb, W. J. Historical sketch of Geneva Presbyterian Church, Granville County, North Carolina, 1833-1933, 1933


The list of preachers I get from the records shows the names and years each began:

GEORGE W. FERRELL (first) 1880   W. T. WALKER 1807
(Pastor continuously from to -1883   A. M. EARLE 1920
J. W. PRIMROSE 1883   F. F. COMERFORD 1924
R. B. WILLIS 1885   T. H. DIMMOCK 1926
      J. W. LACY 1929

Of those older preachers I know little. Matthews, Currie, Graham and Douglas also served Grassy Creek Church. Alexander Wilson, the pastor when Geneva was built, was selected as the first President of Caldwell Institute. Samuel H. Smith was a son of James and Amy Pomfret Smith of Northern Granville. Daniel G. Doak was from Guilford County; married a granddaughter of the famous Presbyterian preacher, Henry Pattillo. He later preached at Clarksville,-- then moved to Tennessee and Mississippi.

If any one name should be mentioned above all others perhaps it should be that of Rev. George W. Ferrell. He served the church as pastor so long, lived in the midst of his flock, was with his people at the church and in their homes, shared their joys, rejoiced at their success, and comforted them in times of their deepest sorrows. His home was a few miles south of the church, and there he was buried, and his grave is marked with a suitable tombstone. He was thrifty and saving, and owned his farm home. It is told of him that he w; is rather too saving. He had one of those old tall stove pipe beaver hats that preachers used to wear. He wore this same old beaver year after year. It lost its gloss, and as the upper edge get ragged his wife would trim it down and sew the top back on. This had happened several times and the thing looked pretty bad, but he still used it on all occasions. When Geneva had invited and was expecting some big preachers and visitors at a session of the Presbytery, the brethren, prompted a little by love of the old man and mostly by pride, gave Mr. Ferrell a brand new beaver telling him they knew he wanted to look well at the great meeting. He was very grateful, and very proud of it. The first day and the second he wore the new one, but on the third and big day the old fellow came out with that ancient head piece on. Said it looked too much like rain to risk his new one. Mr. Ferrell received my grandfather and my grandmother into Geneva Church, he baptized my mother as an infant, he received her into the church where she was a member for nearly seventy years, he performed her marriage ceremony, and baptized several of her children, and the last time I remember seeing him was when he came to bury our little sister.

Of the other preachers I know very little of their history after leaving Geneva. Rev. R. B. Willis is still living, but is an invalid. Rev, John E. Wool is dead,-he was buried in the city cemetery at Oxford, N. C. Rev. F. F. Comerford is dead. It was during the pastorate of Rev. F. F. Comerford that plans were made to build the present new church, and his encouragement and efforts made is completion possible. Rev. T. H. Dimmock is still pastor in Newport News, Va., Revs. Kennison and Earle are still within reach, and Rev. Lacy,--well this church has a deed to him.

Some of the elders and other officials mentioned in the session book were Robt. Maben, Wm. D. Wortham, James A. Russell, William Clement, T. B. Daniel, John Webb, W. T. Allen, R. T. Smith. In later days, Jas. W. Davis, C. G. Daniel, Otha A. Daniel, J. H. Terry, L. E. Clement, A. M. Daniel, E. N. Clement, Elijah King, Herman Meadows, Luther Bowling, Ollie Bowling.

Mrs. Rosa Holeman is probably the oldest living member of Geneva.

A Woman's Auxiliary was organized in 1929, and has been an active agent in the church's work. Some of the names given in the records are; Mrs. O. A. Daniel, Mrs. E, B. Meadows, Mrs. E. N. Clement, Miss Sophia Ellis, Mrs. Jesse Clement, Mrs. J. H. Terry, Mrs. L. E. Clement, Mrs. Roy Ellis, Miss Isabel Daniel, Miss Roella Meadows, Mrs. J. F. Hobgood, Mrs. W. J. Ellis, Mrs. S. W. Daniel, Dorothy Hobgood, Margaret Daniel.

Last year the Woman's Auxiliary of Geneva received the highest record of the group of which it was a member in the Granville Presbyterial.

Going back to the beginning of Presbyterian preaching, this neighborhood was visited in 1755 by Hugh McAden, who was among the first, if not the first, Presbyterian minister to visit Granville County. In his journal under date August, 1755, he says "Being sent for, and very earnestly entreated to go to Tar River, I took my journey the same evening, with my guide, and rode to Bogan's on Flat River, twenty miles. Next morning, set off again, and rode to old Sherman's, on Tar River, and preached that afternoon to a small company." Next day he went to Grassy Creek, sixteen miles, where was a Baptist meeting house, and preached. On Monday, the 18th, he rode to Granville Courthouse (which was then near the present town of Henderson). On Tuesday he rode to Mr. Sherman's on Tar River, twenty miles, and preached in the afternoon.

Now this old Sherman's meeting house is supposed to have been a Baptist church near Tar River, in the Berea section. So this Geneva community probably heard the first Presbyterian sermon preached in Granville County. This was 178 years ago.

This is a poor sketch of a great church. I promise to take more pains and do better next time,-in the year 2033. Then I will tell about old man Lee Clement and old man Herman Meadows, and about that Reverend J. W.. Lacy, who preached at Geneva until he was 93 years old.



Historical Sketch of Geneva Presbyterian Church, Granville Co., North Carolina (con't)


Child's Name Parents Born Baptized
Samuel Webb John and Margaret Webb 1821
Lucy Webb John and Margaret Webb 1821
James Webb John and Margaret Webb 1821
Fanny Webb John and Margaret Webb 1821
Polly Ann Jackson T. and Frances Jackson 1821
Margaret Webb John and Margaret Webb 1822


John H. Webb John and Margaret Webb 1825
Elizabeth Graham John and Margaret Webb 1823 1823
Geo. W. Wortham Jas. and Rowena Wortham    
Sally L. Wortham Jas. and Rowena Wortham 1826


Jas. J. Wortham Jas. and Rowena Wortham 1828


Ann R. Wortham Jas. and Rowena Wortham 1830
Samuel D. Ferrell Geo. and Eliz. Ferrell 1831 1831
William Wortham Wm. and Frances Wortham 1631
Mary Wortham Wm. and Frances Wortham 1881
Elizabeth Wortham Wm, and. Frances Wortham 1881
Randolph Wood John and Ann Wood 1881
Harriett A. Wood John and Ann Wood 1831
Henrietta Wood John and Ann Wood 1831
Elizabeth E. Wood John and Ann Wood  


Sally Frances Wood. John and Ann Wood  


Robt. H. Wortham... Wm. and Frances Wortham  


Lucy Lyne Wood John and Ann Wood 1883
Robert M. Wortham J. L. and R. Wortham 1838


Martha A. Wortham Wm. and Frances Wortham 1834


Ann L. Clement Wm. and Jane Clement ` 1827


Wm. J. Clement Wm. and Jane Clement 1828


Harriett Clement Wm. and Jane Clement 1880


Mary J. Clement Wm. and Jane Clement 1832


Samual W. Clement Wm. and Jane Clement 1838


Susan A. Wortham J. L. and R. Wortham 1834


Hannah A. Clement--. Wm. and Jane Clement 1886
Alex W. Wortham Wm. and Frances Wortham 1836
Mary J. D. Wortham J. L. and R. Wortham 1887


Susanna Mebane Robert and Susan Mebane 1839
Eliz. Pleasant ----------- 1889
David Meeker ---------- 1839
Jno. W. Wortham J. L. and R, Wortham 1840


Harriett Wortham W. D. and F. Wortham 1840
Susan F. Clement. William and Jane Clement 1840
Thomas D. Clement William and Jane Clement 1837


Lucius J. Jones John Jones --- 1840
Jonathan Mebane Robert and S. Mebane 1841
Jno. D. Wortham Wm. D. and F. Wortham  


Sarah E. Mebane Robert and Susan Mebane   1844
Richd. I. Wortham Wm. D. and F. Wortham    
Robt. B. Longmire Samuel and M. Longmire   1846
Geo. F. Wortham Wm. D. and F. Wortham   1848
Frances. Wortham Wm. D. and F. Wortham   1849
S. E. Wortham Wm. D. and F. Wortham   1847
Wm. C. Russell Dr. J. A. Russell   1852
Robt. G. Russell Dr. J. A. Russell   1851
John C. Russell Dr. J. A. Russell   1851
Catherine Russell Dr. J. A. Russell   1861
Jos. K. Clement William and Jane Clement   1861
Jno. B. Wortham Robert and Lucy Wortham   1854
Mary E..Wortham Robert and Lucy Wortham   1854
Joseph Webb John and J. Frances Webb   1856
Jno. Webb, Jr John and J. Frances Webb   1859
Charles L. Russell Jas. and Lucy Russell   1860
Frances Webb Jno. and J. Frances Webb   1861
Cintha Ferrell S. D. and M. Ferrell   1853
Mary Ferrell S. D.  and M.Ferrell    
Samuel Ferrell S. D.  and M.Ferrell    
Harriet Ferrell S. D.  and M.Ferrell    
George Ferrell George and Cynthia Ferrell    
Anna B. Webb John and Lucy Webb 1865 1869
Samuel Webb John and Lucy Webb 1869 1869
Lucy Taylor Webb John and Lucy Webb 1871 1871
George Ferrell S. D. and M. Ferrell 1871 1871
William Ferrell S. D. and M. Ferrell    
Dennis Ferrell S. D. and M. Ferrell 1871 1871
Robert Ferrell S. D. and M. Ferrell 1878 1878
Annie R. Smith Louis and Lucy Smith 1881 1881
Margaret I. Smith Richard Smith 1879 1879
Fannie Webb Joseph and Susan Webb 1881 1881
Susan E. Webb Casher Webb   1882
Hassell P. Webb Casher Webb   1882
Cora Lee Daniel T. B. and Martha Daniel   1884
C. Graham Daniel T. B, and Martha Daniel   1884
Ollie V. Daniel T. B. and Martha Daniel    
Otho A. Daniel T. B. and Martha Daniel   1884
A. Marsh Daniel T. B. and Martha Daniel   1884
Kate Brown J. W. and Fannie Brown   1884
Flora McD. Brown J. W. and Fannie Brown   1884
W. Y. Brown J. W. and Fannie Brown   1884
Richard Brown J. W. and Fannie Brown   1884
John W. Brown J. W. and Fannie Brown   1884
Charlie Brown J. W. and Fannie Brown   1884
E. N. Clement A. G. and M. Ella Clement   1884
W. J. Clement A. G. and M. Ella Clement   1884
Annie J. Clement A. G. and M. Ella Clement   1884
Julia B. Clement A. G. and M. Ella Clement   1884
Richard T. Smith Louis and Lucy Smith   1883
Hattie Ann Webb Joseph and Susan Webb   1883
Alma Hays Jones Stephen and Evelyn Jones   1883
James Edward Jones Stephen and Evelyn Jones   1883
Annie Daniel Morton Sam and Fannie Morton   1885


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