Saturday, January 17, 2009

Griers Presbyterian Church


(click on photograph for larger image)

For more photographs go to Griers Presbyterian Church.

Griers Presbyterian Church in Caswell County, North Carolina, is on the National Register of Historic Places (1985).

The following is from The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 27 ("Griers Presbyterian Church" by M. Q. Plumblee):

Upper Hyco (now Griers) Church, the first organized church still in Caswell County, was organized in 1753 and was located near the headwaters of North Hyco Creek. Samuel Bell, his brothers, son-in-law, Donnell, removed from Pennsylvania and settled on the forks of Hyco Creek. They were staunch Presbyterians. It appears that a Mr. Black from the southern part of the state helped organize Upper Hyco Presbyterian Church. The first services were probably held under bush arbors and in the homes of members. During the ministry of Reverend William Moore, the congregation decided to build a new church on lands owned by James Richmond and Jim Grier. Before the signing of a deed to the property, Jim Grier probably died. Presumably his widow was Ann Grier. Therein may lie the clue as to the change of the name of the church from Upper Hyco to Griers.

On 2 September 1797, Samuel McMurray of the county of Person and Thomas Wiley of the county of Caswell, ruling elders of Upper Hyco congregation, purchased 1.75 acres, including the spring, for forth shillings from James Richmond and Ann (Her Mark) Grier. The lot was located on present county road number 1723, and one tenth mile east of Panther Creek, a tributary of North Hyco, and about two miles northeast of present State Highway Number 86, southeastern Caswell County. It is assumed that on this site the first church was erected. (Caswell County, N.C. Deed Book K, page 134)

Again on 18 July 1835, a second site was purchased by John Wiley, John C. Richmond, and John Currie, elders of Griers Church, from Robert Love and Abner Stanfield, jointly for the sum of $12.71. This site adjoined the first site. It is assumed that the second church was erected on the land purchased by these ruling elders. The first church must have been nearby. In 1983 a rusted out and fallen down ornamental iron fence completely surrounds a cemetery of about seventy-five graves. The earliest date on a stone is 1820, the latest 1903. Twenty-two graves have marble memorials with inscriptions while the remainder have unmarked native stones. Trees, honeysuckles, bramble briars and periwinkle shade the graves.

Twelve feet above the cemetery rough lichen covered cornerstones indicate that the church building was thirty feed wide and forty feet long, and stood twenty feet from the old grown up wagon road, and about forty feet from the center of the present road number 1723.

Why the third and present church was relocated 1.2 airline miles from the former site is unknown. Probably the majority of the members lived near the new site. This site is still on the waters of North Hyco Creek and some six or seven "horse and buggy miles" from the former location.

Caswell County, North Carolina Deed Book II (eye, eye), page 270 shows that Thomas Covington, Elbridge G. Mitchell, and Robert Walton, trustees of Griers congregation, and their successors as trustees, purchased two acres for said church, together with the "use and benefit of spring, 200 yards west, as long as it is used by said congregation, with convenient right of way to and from spring for both persons and horses." The deed was signed by D. Burch on 2 July 1856.

The former cemetery continued in use and the latest tombstone is marked 1903. The present Griers Church Cemetery's oldest marker carries the date of 1890. The present sanctuary is described by Ruth Little-Stokes in An Inventory of Historic Architecture: Caswell County, North Carolina (1979) as:

"Temple-form Greek Revival style frame church double transomed door in front gable end, large 12 over 12 side windows and crosetted surrounds."

It may be added that the podium and other pulpit furnishings are ornate and constructed by a local master craftsman. A large antique chandelier swings over the middle aisle. Slave balconies are still intact. The building is scheduled to be entered on the National Register of Historic Buildings by December 1983.

Reverend Henry Pattillo is reported to be one of the first itinerant ministers. At a meeting of the Hanover Presbytery (of which Upper Hyco was a part) at Buffalo, March 2, 1768, Upper Hyco, Dan River, and County Line Creek, requested the services of Reverend Hugh McAden. He was their first "settled," as opposed to itinerant, minister. All the ministers while preaching for Griers served other churches.

It would be of interest to know more about the ministers who served the church. Reverend John Sharshall Grasty's diary tells much about himself as a young single man, a preacher, pastor, and frequently mentions many of the people of Griers Church.

An undocumented list of ministers who served the church follow. Dates of service by John Sharshall Grast are not correct according to his personal diary.

Henry Pattillo 1760
Hugh McAden 1768
William Moore 1789
James H. Bowman 1810
Ezekiel B. Curry 1811
William B. Maroney 1814
Stated Supply (S.S.) 1823
S.S. 1828
Samuel Paisley 1829
S.S. 1832
Thomas Lynch 1836
S.S. (No Names) 1866-1876
James L. Currie 1877-1879
James L. Currie 1883
W. R. Coppedge 1889
William Campbell 1891
Joseph Evans 1896
S. C. Smith 1905
R. W. Culbertson 1907
W. L. Cathey 1908
H. H. Cassady 1911
George W. Oldham 1914
E. H. Thompson 1921
W. W. McMorries 1923
Roy F. Whitley 1932-1945
Dan D. Rhodes 1946-1948
Edd Sapp 1948-1951
Hilton Seals 1951-1952
Carl May 1952
Frank Smith Johnson 1957-1961
William J. Wrenn 1961-1966
Dr. P. B. Burleigh 1967-1970
E. T. Boyer 1971-1973
Robert Love 1973-1976
Fred Baker 1976-1978
Sam Wiley 1978-1979
William Chappell 1979 to present

Based upon the information available, and over a period of 230 years, 1753 to 1983, membership may have been considered "small." The known range is from twelve in 1877 to seventy-three in 1901. The 1983 membership is about fifty. The faithful and dedicated few have kept the church in operation and continued service. From this church many great people have come.


The church moved from this site in the mid 1850's, leaving the cemetery abandoned with little care through the years. In 1997 James Clair Wilkinson, age 79, cleared and repaired the cemetery. There are numerous graves there marked with plain brown rock, some with rock walls around them.

Allen, Janette L. (b. 29 Sep 1837 - d. 29 Jun 1888)
Wife of J. W. Allen (Dove - broken)
Allen, Mary Ann (b. 26 Oct 1876 - d. 16 Feb 1877)
Daughter of J W and J L Allen
Burton, Catherine A. McMullen (b. 8 Jan 1810 - d. 28 Jun 1853)
Wife of Drury Burton, Jr. Aged 43 Yrs. 5 Mos. & 20 Dys.
Burton, Drury A. (b. 15 Aug 1841 - d. 26 Jul 1844)
Son of Drury and Catherine A. Burton
Burton, Drury, Jr. (b. 1 Feb 1815 - d. 17 Dec 1892)
Spouse - Catherine A. Burton.
Burton, Elizabeth G. (b. 5 May 1848 - d. 28 May 1853)
Daughter of Drury and Catherine A. Burton
Collins, Frances (b. 25 Jan 1818 - d. )
Currie, Sally (b. 6 Sep 1771 - d. 9 Feb 1832)
Married 29 Aug 1795
Currie, William (b. - d. 16 Oct 1819)
Harris, Berta (b. 4 Jun 1876 - d. 13 Jun 1946)
Wife of C. C. Harris
Johnston, Annie G. (b. 22 Jul 1874 - d. 19 Oct 1875)
Daughter of JA and SF Johnston
Johnston, Willie G. (b. 7 Sep 1876 - d. 26 Aug 1877)
Son of JA and SF Johnston
Love, Miss Maggie (b. - d. about 1913)
(no stone, probably last burial here)
Mitchell, Alexander (b. 14 Oct 1832 - d. 10 Jul 1847)
Son of John Mitchell
Mitchell, Ann (b. - d. )
"Sacred to the memory of Ann" Wife of David Mitchell. Aged about 66 Yrs.
Mitchell, David (b. 1755 - d. 1831)
Husband of Ann Mitchell. Aged 76 Yrs. (Crown over cross - To the memory of)
Mitchell, Elizabeth (b. 1 Jun 1793 - d. 18 Jul 1857)
Wife of John Mitchell. (willow tree at top)
Mitchelle, E. Garion (b. 13 Feb 1827 - d. 6 Oct 1879)
Spouse - J. Fannie Mitchelle
Mitchelle, J. Fannie (b. 20 Aug 1830 - d. 5 Jun 1900)
Spouse - E. Garion Mitchelle
Mitchelle, Johnnie (b. - d. c.1860)
Age 7 years, 5 mos, 21 days. Son of E. Garion and J. Fannie Mitchelle
Moore, Cornelia A. (b. - d. 3 Jul 1855)
Age 2 months
Moore, Cornelia F. Oakley (b. 1826 - d. 28 May 1855)
1st wife of Lawrence H. Moore. Aged 29 Yrs. 3 Mos. 23 Days (willow tree)
Morgan, Mary Ann (b. 23 Aug 1845 - d. 16 Aug 1862)
Daughter of Goodloe W. and Mary L. Morgan
Morgan, Mary L. (b. 7 Dec 1812 - d. 6 Sep 1882)
Wife of Goodloe W. Morgan. Aged 69 Yrs. 8 Mos. 29 Dys. (anchor at top)
Oakley, John A. (b. 13 Sep 1855 - d. 26 Nov 1855)
Richmond, C. J. (b. 28 Apr 1817 - d. 14 Aug 1895)
Richmond, Martha A. (b. 12 Jul 1803 - d. 12 Jan 1886)
Smith, Charlie C. (b. 28 Jul 1875 - d. 1 Jan 1952)
Smith, Frank W. (b. 1886 - d. 1905)
Son of T. B. and H. A. Smith
Smith, Hulda A. (b. 1843 - d. 1898)
Wife of T. B. Smith
Smith, Keran (b. 3 Nov 1866 - d. 17 Feb 1902)
Wife of L. A. Walker
Smith, Thomas B. (b. 1832 - d. 1904)
Wade, Lucile (b. 29 Jun 1902 - d. 6 Nov 1903)
Daughter of J T and J C Wade
Wells, Martha J. Mitchell (b. 1829 - d. 2 May 1857)
Wife of Stephen M. Wells (rose over bible)
Woods, Martha A. Laftis (b. 3 Feb 1818 - d. 21 Jan 1883)
Wife of A. S. G. Woods

Caswell County Highway Historical Markers

Caswell County has fifteen roadside historical markers, all of which will be discussed here in the order of dedication. The twelfth is: "Griers Presbyterian Church"

1. Bright Leaf Tobacco
2. Caswell Courthouse
3. Bedford Brown
4. Romulus M. Saunders
5. Bartlett Yancey
6. Red House Church
7. Calvin Graves
8. Solomon Lea
9. Bethesda Church
10. Jacob Thompson
11. William L. Poteat
12. Griers Presbyterian Church

Griers Presbyterian Church
ID: G-77
Location: NC 119 Northeast of Hightowers
County: Caswell
Original Date Cast: 1960-P
Text: GRIERS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH Organized in 1753. Rev. Hugh McAden served as its first minister. Present building dates from 1856. Stands 1 mi. E.


In 1753, Presbyterians from Pennsylvania led by Samuel Bell settled on the banks of North Hyco Creek in Caswell County. Under Bell's leadership, they organized a church and called upon Hugh McAden, a member of the Hanover Presbytery, to conduct services. As a result of the Great Awakening, the Presbyterian Church had divided into "Old Sides" who maintained older, conservative beliefs, and "New Sides" who focused on emotion and revivalism. McAden, known for his fervor, was a "New Side" Presbyterian. He accepted the post in 1758 and administered to the "Upper Hyco" congregation (as it was known) as well as several others including Red House Church and Hawfield's Church.

No church building was in place until 1797, when a structure was erected during the pastorate of William Moore. As a consequence, in the first years of the church’s history, the congregation met in homes or in outdoor settings. Known originally as the Upper Hyco Presbyterian Church, the congregation changed the name to "Griers" in 1809, as a memorial to member James Griers, donor of land upon which the building stood.

The church location and structure changed twice more, first in 1835 at a site now known as "Old Griers," and then again in 1856, when the congregation constructed the building currently standing about a mile from the previous site. Designed by Alfred A. Mitchell in a Greek revival style, the 1856 church has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The "Old Griers" cornerstones and cemetery remain nearby.


Jethro Rumple, The History of Presbyterianism in North Carolina (1966)

Tommy Lee, "Presbyterians and Revivalism: The New Side/Old Side Split Which Lasted from 1741-1758" (1997), online at:

National Register of Historic Places nomination for Griers Presbyterian Church and Cemetery (1985)