Monday, October 09, 2006

New Hope United Methodist Church

(click on photograph for larger image)

The cemetery is located beside the church on the Long's Mill Road in the northwest quadrant of Caswell County, North Carolina (near Hamer and Semora). See the map below. Click on the map for a larger image.

(click on photograph for larger image)

On 26 July 2009, New Hope United Methodist Church celebrated its 230th anniversary. To see a brochure commemorating this event and including a history of the church see New Hope United Methodist Church Anniversary.

The following is from In the Beginning . . . The Churches of Caswell County, Jean B. Scott, Compiler (2000):

New Hope Methodist church, which is now known as New Hope United Methodist Church, was one of the earliest churches founded in North Carolina. Even before it was founded officially in 1779, people in the Blanch/Hamer communities were meeting in the name of the Lord and conducting worship services. These were held first under a large oak tree about a mile from the site of the present structure before the year 1778. But let us go back further and find a little history to pave the way for this coming together of a group of people to worship their Lord.

By 1771, John Wesley sent Francis Asbury as a missionary to America. In 1777, Asbury and John B. Davis of this community met in Hillsborough, North Carolina, which at the time was the [county seat] of Orange County. At that time Caswell County was a part of Orange County. John B. Davis was a very devout man, and he and Asbury, having this common bond, became very close friends. Both of these men played an important role in the early organization of New Hope Church. These two men were drawn together by circumstances stemming from an incident that occurred in Hillsborough. At this time, John B. Davis was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and Asbury had been arrested by the British soldiers in Hillsborough for his friendliness [with] or sympathy for the Colonies. Asbury was fined by the British and released. He went home with his friend, John B. Davis, and stayed at his home, working as a missionary in what is now Caswell County. Thereby, was the beginning of . . . the foundation of New Hope Church, as services were held in the home of Mr. Davis. Before, as it has been noted, services were conducted outside under a large oak tree. This group, under the guidance of Missionary Asbury, and through the hospitality extended by Mr. Davis, was invited and did meet in the shelter of his home. This was only a temporary arrangement, and in 1778, the building of a log church was begun. it was located about a mile from the home of John B. Davis. This was considered the first church structure, and to place it in our minds today, it was build on the site where S. H. Crumpton, Jr. now has his brick home (approximately 6 miles north of Yanceyville on the East Side of NC Hwy. 62). At that time, the property on which it was erected belonged to Thomas Moore. Mr. Moore was one of the men who helped build the first log church. He was the great grandfather of Julian Moore, a resident of Wilmington at this time, Carolyn Moore Upchurch Thomas, of Milton, the late Warner Moore of Milton, and other children of the John W. Moore family, who you may know.

When the first log church was completed, dedication services were held and in 1779, it was given the name New Hope Church. All close descendants of John B. Davis were worshipers and members of this early church.

In 1803, the log church was torn down and moved to a new church site, which was established north of the present structure, beyond the spring and below the old graveyard. This building was used until 1860 when a new church was built on the site of the present church. Land, consisting of 4 1/2 acres was given by John G. Lea, and the abandoned log church was used by the Leas as slave quarters. The church had the pulpit between the two front doors near the entrance and the congregation sat beyond at the other end of the church, or at the back of the church [building]. One had to pass by the pulpit on entering and this made it uncomfortable for those coming to services late. W. C. Taylor remembered this as a child an recounted this many times to his family. The need for a larger facility led to the construction of New Hope's present structure in 1907.

In 1906, Mr. W. H. Humble contracted to build the present church for $2500. he and Mr. Hall, a carpenter, boarded at W. C. Taylor's parent's home while building the structure. M. W. Claire Taylor was five years old at the time and remembered carrying lunch each noon to the church for the two men. He and the Taylor cook would take it; she with a basket of hot food, and he with a four-pound tin lard bucket of fresh buttermilk.

Materials for the church were hauled by members on horse drawn wagons from a sawmill operated by James Satterfield, who donated the rough lumber for the building. The two large stained glass windows on each side of the pulpit were placed in the church when it was built. In the 1960s the present memorial windows replaced the original clear glass windows in the sanctuary. Money from the "Harrelson Fund" helped build the present church. Mr. Harrelson, a bachelor, contributed to this building and several other churches. He was a native of Caswell County, but is not buried at New Hope Cemetery. New Hope still has the original carved pulpit and hand-made pews in the church sanctuary.

The present church was dedicated on the fourth Sunday, July 22, 1907. Rev. J. A. Dailey officiated at the dedication. According to Mr. Taylor, the church services that day were interrupted when several members came to the dedication in a chauffeured Cadillac. The car frightened the horses so badly that church was dismissed long enough for the people to recover their horses. Taylor said this was the first car that had been seen in this area.

Church services during W. C. Taylor's growing-up years were long with the minister preaching for at least an hour. The ministers of the early years were real "hellfire and damnation" preachers. There was little singing, but he remembered Mr. Lea using a tuning fork to get the pitch to start the singing. He would hit it and hold it up to his ear. Taylor said at revivals or protracted meetings, as they were called, continued for an entire week or longer. There were morning and evening services, and dinner was held on the grounds.

There was a tradition practiced regularly then and as remembered by current members some years ago at New Hope, called "Pounding the Preacher." This was when church members would give the preacher a pound of butter, bacon, flour, or whatever other foods (fresh or canned) were available. This included food for his horse in earlier years.

New Hope was the Mother Church of Methodism in Caswell County. Mr. Taylor recalled a membership of 285 at New Hope in his younger days. Many ministers served New Hope since 1783, 133 before it became a two-point charge with Purley Church and fourteen since then, for a total of 147 pastors. We were a five-point charge consisting of Milton, Semora, Connally, Purley, and New Hope.

In the 1970s, a Fellowship Hall was added to the present church, including a kitchen and bathrooms. This addition was planned to blend with the original structure and paints the scene of a small clapboard church with gingerbread trim standing in a grove of magnificent huge old oaks. The church and the setting are one of simplicity and serenity, which creates a timeless image of pastoral beauty.

In July of 1979, New Hope United Methodist Church celebrated its 200th Anniversary, but "Dinner on the Grounds" tradition was abandoned for the air-conditioned and bee-less comfort of the Fellowship Hall. Bishop Robert Blackburn of Raleigh was the guest speaker, and Rev. Clay Smith was our pastor at this time.

In the years that have come and gone since our 200th celebration, New Hope Church has stood proudly and held its small congregation close. We have come through many changes and still hold steadfast to tradition. We are small in number, but our faithful few who attend, feel strong bonds with the little church.

Many of our older members have passed on, but some of their descendants still attend church and keep the legacy alive. The Lord has blessed the New Hope Church family in that it has gained new families in its congregation.

The church has many small children and young people who give us promise for the future. Recently we replaced the church roof, installed a new heating and air-conditioning system, repainted our fellowship hall and kitchen, and replaced the ceiling above the pulpit where bees had swarmed in the attic, causing honey to drip through the ceiling. We have cut timber and sold it due to trees being blown down by Hurricane Fran. This project was possible by our members working together to cut up the trees and transport them to the lumber mill.

In 1997, New Hope members, who are always active in the community and county, took an active part in the Cancer Walk/Relay for Life and raised $19,000 in the county. Several of our members participate in delivering "Means on Wheels."

We have a Certified Lay Leader, who was led to go on a "Walk to Emmaus." Several of our teenagers have been very active in M.Y.F., 4-H, The Heifer Project, Chrysalis, and Future Farmers of America. Besides being very active in their church, school, and community,the have excelled in the scholastic challenges as well. They also conduct an entire service twice a year at New Hope and Purley. This past Christmas we compiled a Christmas Memory Book for the Advent Season, containing many memories and comments concerning events of Christmas Past and why they were so important in their memory.

Several of the women of our church have attended the Annual Methodist Women's Spiritual Retreat. We assist in alternating a Thanksgiving Service with our sister church Purley and Blanche Baptist Church. This originated many years ago and is enjoyed by all three church families. We also have a Maundy Thursday Service with our sister church and host an Easter Sunrise Service. We continue to be very active in the Caswell Parish and participate regularly.

New Hope hosts a wonderful Bible School each summer with a community-wide participation. Our children do a Christmas program each year. This last year, we took on a real challenge by doing a "Dinner Theatre" with our children of the church and the surrounding community. The parents and children created a full stage of an inn by painting screens for the sets. The children performed and served the dinner that church members had prepared for the audience to eat as they enjoyed the production of "The Bethlehem Inn Christmas Story." The money that the audience contributed to this production was used by the children to buy gifts for less fortunate children in the Angel Tree program in Caswell County. We continue to encourage our children to be involved in the community and county.

We have a strong Sunday School with lots of children and a few faithful teachers to go around. We are positive in our attitude and enjoy the fellowship of our members by having church lunches, soup and salad lunches, and hot dog cook outs. We have come a long way from the meeting of a few under the spreading oak tree in Mr. John B. Davis's yard. However, with the Lord's continued blessing, we will strive to continue the work begun by our forefathers in this community over 200 years ago.

Prepared by Mrs. Anne Taylor Daniel, February 1998


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