Outline History of Cherryville Churches
St. John's Lutheran
Rudisill Chapel AME Zion
Church of the Nazarene
Other Churches - No Information
To those who cared enough about preserving the history of Cherryville to record an place on file in the Cherryville Public Library accounts of their churches I am deeply grateful. Without their records I would not have been able to compile this time line. I am indebted especially to Mr. WT Robinson for his histories, as well as those people from St. Mark's Lutheran, St. John's Lutheran, First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and First Wesleyan Churches who filed their histories.
Mrs. Bobbie Rudisill
The following is a program
prepared, and presented by Bobbie Rudisill (Mrs. Edwin) at a meeting of
the DAR on November 1., 1990 in Cherryville on the history of the
churches in that town.
There are a few general things I would like to point out about this history: (1) The churches are listed by date of organization, and not, in order of preference or any idea of importance. (2) You will note there is more information on some than others, only because there was more information available for some. (3) This is only a skeleton history, confined to outstanding dates in the life of the congregation. If I had tried to list pastors, charter members, parsonages., etc. it would have been too long and defeated my purpose. That information is available in individual church histories, (4) Though my original intent, was to include only those churches within the city limits of Cherryville I decided to include St. Mark's Lutheran for several reasons: (a) It is one of the oldest in the area, having just celebrated their 200th anniversary. (b) It is the mother church of St. John's Lutheran and the Lutheran churches in Crouse and Kings Mountain. (c) The pastor., Rev. Mark Erickson, has written a booklet entitled, "Engraved In Rock" in which he looks at the epitaphs of early settlers found on the tombstones in their old cemetery as a way of determining their theology, or what was important to them. Since many of the tombstones are deteriorating badly this is also a way of preserving those epitaphs for future generations.
Rather than spend time in going over the outline, I want to share with you three things that impressed me while I was doing this research. In doing so, I also, want to touch on some information about life in Cherryville as those pioneer people, experienced it.
The first thing that impressed me was the great contribution and influence of Mr. Henry Summitt in the religious life of the community. This man gave of his facilities, his property and his family in helping establish our churches. His granary, which stood, near the corner of present day Oak and Main Streets, (in back of the building now occupied by Hairmasters Beauty Shop) was used by Lutherans., Methodists, and Wesleyans for worship services. In fact, it was in that building that St. John's Lutheran and the Methodist churches were organized. He donated property to the Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists for building sites. It was in a building on property donated by him that the First Baptist Church was organized.
Not only did he give of his facilities and his property but his family played an important role in the churches. He and his wife., Amanda., were charter members of St. John's Lutheran 6hurch. His daughter, Candace, married J.W. Mcginnis, who is known as the founder of the First Methodist Church. (We all know the saying "Behind every great man there is a great woman".)
The second thing that impressed me was the courage and determination of these people. Bear in mind that the first churches were organized only 16 or 17 years after the Civil War. There were great physical hardships to endure. Can you imagine holding worship services in a granary? Or in a building heated by a pot-bellied stove.,where it was warm close up and freezing in back, like the first frame structures were? Can you conceive of worshiping by candle light or oil lamps? (Records show St. John's installed electricity in 1911, the sane year the City Hall, now being renovated for a museum,was built.) Can you imagine driving 10 or 12 miles over dirt roads, dusty in summer, muddy in winter, in a horse and buggy to attend church? (Cherryville did not get its first paved road until 1918, some 35 years or so, after the first churches were organized.) In our day of padded pews, air conditioning, and thermostatically controlled heat it is hard for us to understand their faithfulness in the face of such hardships.
But they were also faced with a great deal, of sickness - even epidemics. The late W.T. Robinson in his Methodist history records that there was an epidemic of smallpox around the turn of the century. He says "Although considered. mild., it was severe enough to, cause the town to designate an isolated building as a pest house and to pay Dr W. H. Houser for services to patients. Those who nursed the patients were men or women who had previously had the disease and had recovered".
In the winter of 1917 & 1918 America was at war and a great flu epidemic was raging. This epidemic was described in a leaflet entitled "We Reminisce". I wrote for the centennial celebration of St. John's Lutheran Church in 1981. "The entire town of Cherryville was placed under quarantine. All gatherings were strictly forbidden. Deaths were so numerous that the under taker ran out of caskets. The merchants in town were not allowed to have customers in their stores. Counters were placed at the front, the doors were opened only enough to take the order, and, after finding the desired items, the clerk handed them out carefully to, the waiting customer.
"Miss Fannie Farris remembers the first service held at St. John's after the quarantine was lifted. 'There were only a few people present and Rev. Wessinger began the service with the words of the Psalmist, "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord". It sent chills up my spine."
In addition to the physical hardships the people were faced with hard times economically. Look at the record:
The early church people also had to endure ridicule and opposition. Not everyone was happy with the churches and their influences W.T. Robinson records that there was so much drunkenness and roughness among some of the men who lived in or near Cherryville that special policemen were hired to remain at the night services of the three churches then organized. Perhaps a part of that is explained by the fact that the U.S. Census of 1880 shows that there in were four whiskey distilleries and a number of whiskey stores in the Cherryville Township.
With all of this is it any wonder that these people did not throw up their hands and quit. Occasionally that did happen. In the December 31, 1899 minutes of St, John's Church Council it is recorded that a special meeting of the congregation had been called to consider the resignation of the Rev. John J. George, Then it is stated that Rev. George did not resign, he just"gave up".
Fortunately, most of these hardy people persevered. Our history shows that three of the congregations' churches burned. They immediately rebuilt and carried on. All started with a small number of members; today they have multiplied greatly. All started with small, crude buildings; today they occupy beautiful structures. Today they are a dominant influence in our community.
My third impression, and perhaps one of the things that may help explain the growth of the churches in Cherryville, was the tremendous amount of cooperation that existed between the various groups in the community. Mr. Summitt, a Lutheran, gave property to the Methodists and the Baptists. The First Baptist church was organized in the Methodist building. The Second Baptist worshipped in the Rhyne Houser Club House. Lutherans met in East School while building their new church. Baptists worshipped in Starnes Auditorium after their sanctuary burned.
When the school building burned in 1919 the community provided their facilities for school functions. My husband had tall tales to tell about his experiences as a fifth grader going to school in the Presbyterian Church. Dr. Bill Houser says his second grade class met over the fire department. Graduation exercises of the class of 1920 were held in St. John's Lutheran Church. Everybody pulled together for the good of the community.
We think of all that hard work, dedication., and giving on the part of those early pioneers. Life was certainly not easy. As a result of their sacrifices we have a wonderful, unique heritage. I hope you will join the Cherryville Historical Society in trying to preserve that heritage. Remember - history is made by those who dare; history is preserved by those who cared.