The History of the Grassy Creek Baptist Church,
Derived from the Church Book, with Remarks by the Complier
[Robert I. Devin, The History of the Grassy Creek Baptist, 1880; rpt. 1977, pp. 71-102. jrd]
I have not been able to find any record of the proceedings from its organization to 1769.
In 1770, Charles Harris, who had been acting as church clerk for several months previous, was elected to that position, which he held for more than twenty years. From which I infer that the first clerk of the church had either died or emigrated, and by whom its earlier records were lost.
At this date, Elder James Reed was the pastor, Richard Harris, William Graves and Thomas Barnett were the deacons, and Samuel Whitehead and Sanders Walker the lay elders. Wm Graves, Richard Harris, Wm. Knight, Wm. Allen, Robert Coleman, Jonathan Johnston, Charles Harris, Alexander Walker, Samuel Whitehead, and Sanders Walker, appear to be among the most prominent and useful members of the church.
The following entry was made on the 6th of June: "The church appointed brethren Richard Harris, Wm. Graves, and Jonathan Johnston, to go with Elder Jeremiah Walker to Alexander Walker's meeting-house to sit as a church on the 9th of June for the purpose of receiving members." They subsequently reported that they had discharged the duty imposed upon them, having "received and baptized six members." The membership was large and much scattered over an extensive region, as there were no regularly constituted Baptist churches nearer than Dan River, in Halifax county, Va., and Sandy Creek, in Guilford county, N.C.
On the 14th of October, 1770, the Sandy Creek Association, which embraced all the Separate Baptists in North and South Carolina and Virginia, convened at Grassy Creek meeting-house, Granville county, N.C. Richard Harris, Samuel Whitehead and Wm. Graves, were, by the appointment of the church, members of the body. This wide-spread Association was accustomed to transact none of its business, except by a unanimous vote. If any measure was proposed for action, and there arose a difference of opinion in regard to it, they tried to effect unity by arguments, and if these failed, they united in prayer for the removal of every cause of dissent, but when both arguments and prayer were unavailing, they would frequently appoint the next day for fasting and prayer to secure, if possible perfect unanimity. The very first business introduced at this session produced dissension, which resulted by mutual agreement, in the division of the Association, and which, for the sake of convenience, if for no other reason, ought to have been done before this time. It appears that the question, in regard to which there was so much disagreement, was the jurisdiction which the Association was assuming over the churches, and thereby infringing upon their individual rights. While all agreed that a church was independent and complete in itself, having full power to transact it own business, without being amenable to any other ecclesiastical body, still some contended that a church, as Christ established it, could not alienate its right to independent self-government -- that its authority is inherent and cannot be transferred to any other ecclesiastical body whatever. Thus, being greatly disturbed by disagreement, on account of the sad mistake into which many had fallen in regard to church independency, they were not able to proceed with their business.
"They appointed the next day for fasting and prayer. They met and labored the whole day, and could do nothing -- not even appoint a Moderator. The third day was appointed for the same purpose, and to be observed in the same way. They met early (the third day) and continued together until three o'clock in the afternoon, without having accomplished anything: a proposal was then made that the Association should be divided into three districts, that is, one in each State. To this there was a unanimous consent at once." See Benedict's History of the Baptists, p. 649.
The churches in South Carolina united to form what was called the Congaree Association, those in North Carolina retained the name of Sandy Creek, and the Virginia churches united under the name Radipann, usually called the General Association of Separate Baptists of Virginia.
At this time the Baptists in their Associations gave but little attention to points of order, or the manner of conducting business. They spent their time principally in preaching and exhortation. They recounted their labors in the Redeemer's cause, the success which had crowned their exertions, and their prospects for future usefulness. These religious exercises and thrilling narrations were well adapted to inflame the hearts of the brethren with holy zeal, and urge them forward with renewed energy in their self-denying labors for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners.
Grassy Creek church, after the division of the Sandy Creek Association, associated with the Virginia brethren, first in the General or Middle District Association till 1788, then in the Roanoke till 1794, when the Flat River Association was organized. Since that time it has been a member of that body. The records of the church show that they have, from the beginning, steadfastly maintained the doctrine of church independency, and held that an Association was only an advisory council, which possessed no authority whatever over the internal affairs of a church.
It is painful to be compelled to state that on the 21st of November, 1770, Elder James Reed, the pastor, was excluded for unchristian conduct from the fellowship of the church. Elders Jeremiah Walker and John Williams, having been called on as helps, or as a council, were present to aid the brethren in the serious difficulty. This was a safe and prudent course, which ought to be pursued in all perplexing cases of church discipline, especially those in which ministers of the gospel are involved. It is a sad reflection, that a man who had been so preeminently useful as a herald of the cross should be guilty of actions so inconsistent with his high calling, and in violation of Godís holy word, that the church over which he presided as its spiritual guide could not, in faithfulness to the Master, do otherwise than excommunicate him from fellowship.
Within two years after this unhappy affair he gave satisfactory evidence of his repentance, and was restored to the communion of the church, and soon afterwards to all the functions of the gospel ministry; and at length he was again chosen pastor and served the church with fidelity for a great man years, beloved by the brethren and blest of God in building up the cause of Zion. During the interval, Elder Samuel Harris of Va., who was so highly distinguished in his day for his eloquence and usefulness, served the church as its spiritual guide.
In 1771, the meetings of the church were regularly held through the year, and the ordinary business pertaining to such a body was transacted. In what light the church viewed the holding of erroneous opinions in doctrine by any of its members, may be distinctly seen in the following extract from its records: "Hezekiah Taylor was called upon to show cause why he should not be excommunicated for holding unsound principles, (false doctrine,) but he neglecting to hear the church, is therefore excommunicated." The church had previously labored with this wandering brother, and tried to convince him of his errors, and induce him to abandon them, but in vain. He obstinately refused to retract, and of course there was nothing left in his case for them to do but to exclude him from fellowship. "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition reject." (Titus iii:10). A heretic is one who maintains unsound religious principles, especially denying some fundamental doctrine of the gospel. The church, as the guardian of God's truth, is bound, after warning him of his error, and exhorting him to retract, if he still refuses to return to the faith of the gospel, to exclude him from her fellowship. The doctrine of the gospel is uncompromising, requiring an individual to believe the whole of it to be a true Christian. The faith of the gospel is one and undivided. The church must maintain the unity of faith: -- "for there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism." (Eph. iv:4, 5.) Some Scriptural truths are less fundamental than others, and some things in regard to which Christian men innocently entertain different views without impairing the unity of faith.
On the 26th of Sept. 1772, "brethren Richard Harris and William Cockril were delegated to go to Bute (now Warren) county, to settle and regulate church matters there." Subsequent to this date, I find the following entry on the Church Book: "At a meeting in Bute (Warren) county, the church, believing that God had called Jonathan Johnston to the work of a deacon, put him to the work and ordained him." In what part of Warren county, N. C., this arm of Grassy Creek Church was located, I do not know, but it is more than probable that it was at or near the place where the church now called Tannerís is situated, and out of which it was formed.
On the 28th of November, "the church received a petition from the brethren worshipping at Blue Stone, requesting the pastor and elders to meet with them on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday in December, to consider the propriety of constituting them into a church." This branch was found to be sufficiently matured as to justify its regular organization, which was accordingly done at the time above mentioned. Blue Stone (now Bethel) church was located in Mecklenburg county, VA., some eighteen or twenty miles north of Grassy Creek Meeting house.
In 1773, at a church meeting March the 5th, the following query was presented and answered:
Query: "Should a private transgression be made public while there is hope of recovering the offender?
There is, perhaps, no rule of church discipline more frequently violated that the one embraced in this query. "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between him and thee alone," &c., (Matt. 18:15.) If this command of Christ were strictly obeyed by his professed followers, how many personal difficulties would be adjusted without reaching the public ear, to dishonor religion in the eyes of the world, and how many church troubles would be prevented, which often distract and destroy the peace of the brotherhood.
The passage in the 18th chapter of Matthew points out the course which should be pursued in regard to personal, private offences, with such distinctness that any reasonable man can, if he will, understand it, and every church should demand of its members strict conformity to its divine requirements; and should any one fail to act according to these directions given by the Saviour, he ought to be subjected to the censure of the church for such failure.
In June, 1774, the following query was offered, discussed, and answered: "Whether a member who absents himself from the Lordís Supper, without giving some reason for it, is not liable to the censure of the church? Answer: He is liable."
The Lord's Supper was instituted by Christ, and committed to the charge of the churches, to be observed by them as a sacred memorial of his sufferings and death until his second coming. Every member in full fellowship is solemnly bound by the relations which he professes to sustain to Christ, and which he does actually sustain to the church, to partake of the Holy Supper, whenever the church to which he belongs thinks proper to celebrate it; consequently, any member who voluntarily and persistently absents himself from this standing, gospel ordinance, should very justly fall under the censure of the church for culpable neglect of duty and disobedience to the commands of Christ, -- "Do this in remembrance of me." There are some humble, sincere christians who, feeling their unworthiness, have been deterred from participating at the table of the Lord from erroneous views of that Scripture (I Cor. 11:29) which says: "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." The word "unworthily" modifies the eating and drinking, and not the person who performs these acts. It refers not to the character of the participants, but the manner of eating and drinking at the Lord's table. The Corinthians had desecrated and profaned this sacred institution by making it a carnal feast of intemperance and excess. The term "damnation" means condemnation or judgment, not in reference to eternal punishment, but those temporal judgments with which God chastised his offending servants who so wickedly perverted his holy ordinance.
In 1775, Elder James Reed being pastor, the church was blessed with the spirit of grace, and many precious souls were converted and added to its number, baptisms occurring at almost every regular meeting throughout the year.
The following is the first instance on record of any member being dealt with for dancing:
On the 21th of September, "brethren Henry Howard and Lemuel Wilson were appointed to admonish sister J_____ C_____ for living an immoral life, such as dancing" &c. On the 24th of November, "the committee reported that they had dealt with sister J_____ C______ , and had also cited her to the church. She being present, was called on by the church to answer to the charge. She owned the allegations, but said she found no repentance, (that is, she was unwilling to give up dancing.) She then not being found to hear the church, was, therefore excommunicated."
Social dancing for amusement is not only unscriptural, but it is positively and specifically forbidden by the word of God.
"Envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like, * * I tell you * * that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal. V:21.) "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked * * in excess of wine, revellings, banqueting," &c. (I Pet. 4:3.) "Revellings" (Gr. komoi, dancings in merry making, a jovial festivity with music and dancing) specifically designate such, feasts as were connected with music and dancing. There can be no doubt about the Apostles Paul and Peter using the term "revellings" to denote the exercise of dances with music, as classed with the "works of the flesh," and wholly inconsistent with the Christian profession. Paris leads the fashionable world in dancing as well as in dress. The most popular dances in fashionable circles come from that corrupt, source of extravagance and skepticism. It is true, that many amiable young ladies and gentlemen, who are the victims of custom and fashion, resort to these places of amusement and revelry, where excess and frivolities reign, and where the conscience is hardened, the affections debased, the passions enflamed, time wasted, and God forgotten and dishonored. Can any Christian, who is acquainted with God's word, and can appreciate the value of the immortal soul, view such scenes of dissipation as harmless? But there are many who denounce the public ball, but favor the private parlor dance. The difference is only in degree, and not in the nature of the exercise. If the ball dance is wrong the parlor dance is wrong also; for the latter naturally leads to the former.
There are some parents claiming to be Christians who wish to have their daughters trained in a dancing school, to be taught how to be graceful -- that is, how to stand and walk, and how to place their hands and feet. This is only a subterfuge of folly. To whom is the important trust committed? To, perhaps, some French infidel dandy, or some foppish pretender, of bad morals and vicious habits. Is this the way to train them for God and Heaven? Alas, how many young church members are drawn away from the path of rectitude and piety by the fascinations of the giddy dance! It drives out of the heart the love of God and his holy religion. Its effects are evil, and only evil. Can a church of Christ tolerate dancing in its members and be faithful to its great Head? If they love dancing better than they love the Saviour and his church, they should undoubtedly be excluded from its fellowship and permitted to go back to the world to which they truly belong.
In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed and proclaimed to the world.
Nov. 16th "brother Aaron P. was called upon to give his reasons for not communing. His reasons not satisfactory to the church, his case is referred to the next meeting."
This instance is given to show the strict discipline which, at this date, the church maintained.
In 1777, Feb. 8th, the church, having transacted its regular business, considered the question, "whether the bar to communion between this church and the Regulars, called Bennett's Church, on Grassy Creek, could not be removed; but the church not being fully agreed, it was referred to the next church meeting for further considerations."
March the 8th, "the last reference was brought forward, whereupon Bro. Samuel Whitehead arose, and reported that he, with several other brethren, met in conference with Bennettís Church, and that their order and discipline were exactly as ours, and thereupon the church unanimously agreed, as there was no difference in our order there should be no bar to communion, and they gave each other the right hand of fellowship."
From this extract it will be seen that Grassy Creek church was far in advance of the great body of Separate Baptists in forming a union with the Regular Baptists. This was not effected until 1787, ten years later by the Virginia Baptists, at Dover Meeting-house, and by the North Carolina brethren at a still later date.
"On the 13th of July, 1777, the church held a conference meeting on the river to receive and baptize members." At what particular point where this meeting was held I am not able to determine, but from the names of the persons received and other circumstances, it was doubtless on Dan river, in Mecklenburg county, Va. There was evidently a branch of this church in that section, which was regularly constituted in 1778 into what is known as the Buffalo Baptist church.
From 1778 to 1785, the records show nothing worthy of remark, except that the church, during the war of Revolution, in spite of its injurious effects upon morals and religion, maintained its standing, kept up its stated meetings, and sustained the regular ministrations of the gospel. While some churches were swept away by the storm, and others scattered and so reduced in number as to have scarcely an existence, yet Grassy Creek church, though suffering much by declension in common with others, survived the war, still retaining comparatively a large membership of earnest Christians.
During the years 1786 and '87, the church enjoyed a gracious and continuous work of grace, surpassing in extent, power and influence, any other revival with which it had perhaps ever been visited. Quite a number were baptized and added to the church, and among the number were several who became ministers of the gospel.
This Church held meetings on Island Creek to receive and baptize members, where she established a branch, from which arose Island Creek church, which was regularly constituted in 1820.
In 1789, Elder Reed, having served the church successfully for more than a quarter of century, and being now full of years, retired from the active labors of the pastorship, bearing with him the affections of the people among whom he had so faithfully toiled. Elder Henry Lester was then chosen pastor, who served the church for several years, acceptably and efficiently. During this year a very precious revival of religion was experienced and many were converted and added to the church.
The Roanoke Association (1) met with this church May 16th, 1789. The ministers present were, Sam. Harris, Moderator, John Williams, Clerk, Reuben Pickett, Thomas Vass, John Atkinson, James Reed, James Watkins, George Roberts, William Dodson, James Hurt, and others. Here they resolved on two things: first, to have a seminary to educate preachers; and secondly, to gather materials for a history of the Baptists of Virginia. The proceedings of this Association prove two things: first, that the early Baptists did believe in education; and secondly, the anti-missionaries are wrong for calling themselves "Primitive Baptists." In 1793, the Roanoke Association again held its session with this church.
In 1790, '91, '92, the church was in a prosperous condition, maintaining strict discipline, as the following query and answer will indicate: "Query: Does the word of God tolerate Christians to be at balls and the assemblies of the wicked?" The church voted unanimously, "No." The followers of Christ are required to "abstain from all appearance of evil." He, therefore, who attends balls, and gatherings of the wicked, not only acts inconsistently with his profession, but voluntarily goes into temptation which is incompatible with that petition in the Lordís prayer which he is taught by the Saviour himself to offer: "Lead us not into temptation." The church at this time censured any of its members "for being at balls, or weddings where fiddling and dancing were carried on."
The 4th Saturday in January, 1793, Bro. Charles Harris, who had served the church as its Clerk for more than twenty-three years, being full of years, resigned that office, and Bro. William Royster was chosen to fill his place. At the same meeting, the following query was offered to the church, for consideration: "Whether it is disorder or not, for a member of the church to stay at home, or go visiting on the Lord's Day, when he might conveniently attend public worship?" The church voted unanimously, "It is disorder."
Church members, if they are what they profess to be, have given themselves first to the Lord, and then to one another, according to His appointment, for mutual edification and growth in grace. They are united together in the most tender and sacred covenant relations, solemnly pledged to God and each other, to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord in brotherly love; and being bound by the laws of this holy compact, they are under imperative obligations to meet regularly and punctually for the purpose of promoting each other's piety and usefulness, the purity and discipline of the church, and in building up the Redeemer's Kingdom in the world. Can any member absent himself from the public worship of God and the assemblies of his saints with impunity, by remaining at home, or in social visiting on the Lord's day? It is the duty of every member to be present at all the stated meetings of the church, either for preaching or business. The primitive Christians were accustomed to meet every Lord's day to worship God in his ordinances, and Christians of the present day should follow their holy example.
The following extracts from the records will show how this church regarded the rights of a church respecting the ordination(2) of ministers:
The 4th Saturday in September, 1793, "the church believing that Bro. William Richards, a licentiate, is called of God to preach his everlasting gospel, and finding his gifts profitable to the church, appoints Elders James Reed, George Roberts and Reuben Pickett to assist in ordaining him to the work of the ministry."
"The 4th Saturday in November, Bro. Richards was regularly set apart to the work of the gospel ministry, by Elders Reed, Roberts and Pickett."
The church has the inherent right to grant license to a brother to preach, and also to call for his ordination, when they think suitable, and invite a Presbytery for that purpose.
Sister S____ C______ "is censured for talking too freely. She makes confessions, and is restored to fellowship." Church members should be very cautious how they speak of each other. They should be careful not to say anything that tends to interrupt the exercise of kind feelings, or hinder the growth of christian affection. The tongue, that unruly member, full of deadly poison, must be governed. Christians should strictly observe the divine precept, "Speak not evil one of another." They must abstain from all unkind remarks about each other, which have a tendency to excite resentment, wound feelings, or alienate affections, if they would act consistently with the principles of our holy religion.
Elder Thomas Vass was chosen pastor, and continued the pastorate until 1805, when he resigned, and removed to stokes county, N. C.
In December, 1805 Elder Reuben Pickett became their pastor and continued till October, 1808, when Elder Thomas Vass was recalled to the pastorate, which office he continued to hold until 1814.
In 1798, the following query was presented and answered: "Query: Is it right at this day for ministers to receive and baptize persons within the bounds of another church? Answer, No."
Many Baptist ministers had, at an early period, been in the habit of baptizing converts who desired it, wherever they found them, upon their individual responsibility , and giving them letters of commendation to any Baptist church to which they might be disposed to apply for membership. This loose way of receiving and baptizing members was then justified upon the ground that there were but few churches and they widely separated from each other. It was claimed to be a matter of necessity, but the practice was continued by a few ministers for a number of years, greatly to the annoyance of some of the churches, when they was no good excuse for such looseness. Baptism is a church ordinance, and should be administered by church authority.
From 1808 to 1813, while I find nothing deserving any special notice, still it is worthy of remark in passing, that the church appears to have been in a healthy condition, and retained an excellent and useful membership.
In 1814, Elder Thomas Vass, who had been the spiritual guide of the church for many years, now retires from the pastorate, full of years and good works; and Elder Elisha Battle was chosen as his successor, which office he retained some five years. The church seems to have prospered under the ministry of this devoted servant of God.
Thomas Vass, Jr., was appointed clerk in the place of William Royster, who resigned the office on account of the infirmities of declining age. He had faithfully served the church as clerk for more than twenty years.
During the years 1819 and 1820, the church was blessed with the evangelistic labors of Elder Robert T. Daniel, that distinguished man of God, whose efforts were so signally blessed in extending the Redeemer's Kingdom among men. In 1821, Elder William B. Worrell was elected pastor, and entered upon the duties of his office, which relation he sustained until 1824.
In 1824, Rev. Thomas D. Mason, a teacher of vocal music and a licentiate of Brier Creek Church, Chatham county, N. C., having located in the vicinity and united with the church, was called to the pastorate and ordained to the ministry. He served the church in that capacity until 1827, when Elder Samuel Duty became their pastor and served the church for one year.
Thomas Vass, Jr., having resigned the Clerkship, James Hester was appointed to that position in his stead.
In 1829, Elder James King, having been chosen to the pastorate, entered upon his duties and continued to serve the church in that relation until November, 1846, when he resigned the care of the church. During the long pastorate of this earnest, pious minister of Jesus, the church was blest with many gracious seasons of revival, and numbers were added to the church by baptism.
In 1832, Thomas Hester, was elected Clerk in the place of James Hester, deceased.
In 1833, the original house (a large frame building) having become dilapidated by age -- having stood the corroding of time more than three-score years and ten -- the brethren erected a new and commodious house of worship, some two hundred yards from the old site, in a beautiful grove on the public road.
As early as 1829 a Missionary Society was formed in this church and collected during the year nearly a hundred dollars for the cause of missions.
In 1838, an effort was made by Elder Stephen Chandler, a leading anti-missionary preacher of the County-Line Association, to lead Grassy Creek church into Anti-ism, but without success. The church not only discountenanced the movement, but they promptly declared by a vote of the church, "that Elder Stephen Chandler should not preach in their meeting-house, believing he was sowing discord among the brethren." After this repulse, he preached for awhile in what was called the "Log-meeting-house," some three miles distant, but meeting with little or no encouragement, and making no converts to his anti-views, he discontinued his labors, and from that time until the present (1880) they have not been disturbed by any other preacher of the anti-mission party.
The Anti-mission Baptists have assumed the name of "Old, or Primitive Baptists," an appellation to which the history of Grassy Creek Church shows very distinctly they have no such claim. Indeed, they are a modern sect. Baptist history proves conclusively that there never was a body of Baptists who were opposed to missions until about 1825.
The first missionary society ever formed by the Baptists of North Carolina, so far as the compiler knows, was organized at Casnie Meeting-house, in Bertie county, in June, 1805, within the bounds of the Kehukee Association. It was called "The General Meeting of Correspondence." It continued in existence until the 26th of March, 1830, when it was merged into the Baptist State Convention. The General Meeting was confined in its operations to supplying the destitute with the gospel in our own State; but the Baptist State Convention enlarged upon its operation -- embracing Foreign Missions, Ministerial Education, &c.
It can be shown from history beyond any question, that the Kehukee and Country-Line Association, two of the oldest and most prominent anti-missionary Associations in North Carolina, were, up to 1827 and 1832, committed to the mission work. They sent delegates to the General Meeting of Correspondence, and contributed to its funds. In 1816 Elder George Roberts, a leading minister of the County-Line Association, was the Moderator of this Missionary Society, and Robt. T. Daniel was the agent. Elder James Osbourne, of Baltimore, sometime about 1830, came into North Carolina, visiting the churches, selling his books, and preaching -- or rather making war on Bible, Tract, Sunday Schools, Temperance and Missionary Societies -- zealously diffusing anti-missionary sentiments among the brethren, wherever he traveled, which resulted in discord and division. Under his influence many were led astray, and induced to take a dead stand against all benevolent enterprises, in which Christians were engaged for the spread of the gospel and welfare of mankind. His influence, like the fatal simoom of Arabia, withered the spirit of benevolence and arrested all efforts for the spread of the gospel. Elder Osbourne is regarded with much propriety, as the Father of Anti-ism in North Carolina. The writer of this saw and heard him preach at Chatham, Va. His sermons were full of abusive vituperations, ridicule and dogmatism. He was a man of good address, genteel in his appearance, and possessed of a good deal of native talents, with a large measure of self-esteem, egotism and conceit.
The great body of the Baptist denomination has ever been in favor of benevolent effort. David Benedict, the Baptist historian, when near the close of a long life, devoted to the investigation of the Baptist history, says, "The further down I go into the regions of antiquity, the more fully is the missionary character of all whom we denominate our sentimental brethren (Baptist) developed. Propagandism was their motto and their watchword. They seldom went alone, but two and two was the order of their going out; and such was the ardor of their zeal in their hazardous vocations, that no ordinary obstacles could alarm their fears or impede their progress. As nothing of this kind appears among the opponents of the missionary enterprise, I cannot with my view of duty as an honest historian, apply to them the term ("Old, or Primitive Baptists") in question, as I fully believe they misapprehend their own character in this matter."
The Baptist State Convention met with Grassy Creek church, Nov. 1st, 1839. Six Associations, viz: Sandy Creek, Raleigh, Cape Fear, Goshen, Beulah, and Flat River, and thirty-two churches and societies, were represented by delegates. Gen. Alfred Dockery was elected President; Thomas Meredith, Charles W. Skinner, and Samuel Wait, Vice Presidents; Wm. H. Jordan, Corresponding Secretary; James Mc Daniel, Recording Secretary; and A. J. Battle, Treasurer. Bro. John Stovall was the delegate from Grassy Creek church, and "Messrs. Venable, Barnett, Speed, Overby, Clack, Downey, Stovall and Hester," were the committee of arrangements. They were thanked by name in a resolution of the Convention, "for the kind and hospitable manner in which the delegates and visitors were entertained." The introductory sermon before the Convention was, in the absence of the appointee, preached by Elder "John Armstrong, lately returned from Europe." Elder Sam'l Wait submitted the report on Home Missions, which recommended the employment of five missionaries by the Convention, "one to labor wholly within the bounds of the Neuse and Tar River Associations; another to supply the churches composing the Goshen and Cape Fear Associations; and the other two to occupy the remaining part of the State." The Convention, however, recommended the Board to appoint ten instead of five missionaries. The reports of two missionaries -- Elder Richard Jacks and Robert McNabb -- are given in the minutes. Bro. Jacks labored in the counties of Sampson, New Hanover, Duplin, Wayne, Lenoir, Pitt, Craven, Carteret, Bladen, and Ashe, and collected $102.69. Bro. McNabb labored in Craven, Chatham, Moore, Randolph, Granville, Orange, and other counties. "During the whole time," he writes, "I was engaged in the service of the Convention, I have traveled 201 days, preached 218 sermons, rode more than 1,400 miles, baptized 59 persons, and collected $51.57." The Treasurer's report shows contributions for Home (State) Missions, $573.54; Foreign Missions, $1,081.74; nearly twice as much; and for Education, $534.39. Total for the year, $2,189.69.
After the adjournment of the Convention, the N. C. Bible Society met in the same house, Nov. 4th, 1839, in its annual session. T. Meredith was appointed President; Wm H. Jordan and S. Wait, Vice Presidents; David S. Williams, Cor. Sec.; A. J. Battle Rec. Sec.; and A. Dockery, Treas. This Society was auxiliary to the American and Foreign Bible Society, and reported collections amounting to $148.59. Among its members for the year were John Stovall, Jas. Overby, T. B. Barnett, and others, who belonged to Grassy Creek church and community.
In November, 1846, Elder King resigned the care of the church, and Elder Robert I. Devin, who was laboring in the bounds of the Flat River Association as a missionary of the Baptist State Convention, was invited by the church to fill the vacancy. Satisfactory arrangements having been made with the State Mission Board to that effect, he supplied the church as pastor until October, when his connection with the Convention was dissolved; and having been unanimously called to the pastorate, he, in November, entered fully upon the duties of his office.
During the year 1847, the church experienced a very precious work of grace, and quite a number of valuable members were added to the church by baptism. Elder D. continued to be their under-shepherd until November, 1858, when he resigned and moved temporarily to Florida. During the years 1850 and '52, revivals of religion of unusual power were enjoyed under his ministry.
On the 4th Sabbath in September, 1850, Elder D., the pastor, baptized fifty happy converts in that old noble stream which flows near the house of God, from which it received its name, which has become hallowed by its sacred use, and in which, perhaps, a thousand believing souls have, by his hands, been plunged beneath its yielding waves. It was a bright autumn day. A crowd of unusual size early assembled on its lovely banks to witness the solemn ordinance. It was indeed an impressive scene -- so deeply imprinted on memoryís page -- that, perhaps, time itself will never efface. The young, the old and middle aged, in glad obedience to their Master's will, went down into the water and were buried with their in holy baptism, many of whom became exemplary Christians and valuable church members; and while some are still lingering on the shores of time, eminent for piety and usefulness, awaiting the Masterís summons, others have crossed the river and are now upon the other shore, enjoying its rest and its reward.
On the 23d of February, 1850, Bro. John E. Montague was, according to a unanimous vote of the church, ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry by Elders Servetus A. Creath and R. I. Devin.
In November, 1858, Elder Moses Baldwin took the care of the church, and continued in that relation until November, 1859, when he surrendered his charge, and Elder R. I. Devin was recalled, and again their pastor, which office he held until November, 1862, when he gave up his charge and removed to Forsyth county, N. C.
In November, 1862, Elder Robert H. Marsh, became pastor of the church, which position he held until October, 1865, when he resigned and removed to Chatham county, N. C. During his term of service, the church prospered, a gracious revival was enjoyed, and a number of valuable accessions were made to its membership by baptism.
In November, 1865, Elder R. I. Devin, having been again entered upon the duties of the pastorate, which he has continued to perform up to the present time (1880.) Elder D. has gone in and out before the flock, as their under-shepherd, from 1847 to 1880, excepting four -- in all more than 29 years.
The church, under the ministry of Elder D., has experienced about twelve gracious revivals of religion, but the most remarkable, as well as the most extensive, were those of 1850 and 1866.
In 1869, Bro. Thos. Hester, who had discharged the duties of Church Clerk for thirty-seven, on account of declining age, resigned his office, and Bro. Bridges T. Winston was chosen in his stead, which station he still holds, (1880.)
In 1879, the church determined to repair their house of worship. The building having become old and somewhat antiquated, it was repaired and remodelled [sic] in accordance with modern taste, which having been handsomely painted, presented not only a beautiful appearance, but it is in reality one of the neatest and most comfortable meeting-houses now to found in the country. Love for God and his cause, and reverence for his house and worship, ought to be sufficient to influence Christians to beautify the sanctuary of the Lord, "the place where his honor dwelleth." A good, comfortable house for divine service speaks well for the morals and refinement of the community in which it is located, and reflects favorably upon the church and pastor that build it.
Grassy Creek church has ever been sympathized with the great mission work, in its various departments, and was one of the first churches in North Carolina to contribute of their means to aid in sending the gospel to heathen lands. May she, as a church, ever live and continue to assist, with increasing liberality, the glorious work of extending the Redeemer's cause until the whole earth shall be filled with His glory.
Since this church began to be founded, nearly four generations have passed away, but still she has, amid changing scenes and rolling years, maintained a happy standing among the daughters of Zion. She has ever maintained a strict and wholesome discipline, especially was this true in her early movements.
The pastors with whom she has been blessed, with few exceptions, were men of God, sound in doctrine, and devoted to the work of the ministry. And it also appears that she has never been much troubled with "itching ears" -- that love the novelty and variety -- which demand frequent changes, but on the contrary favored and sustained long pastorates.(3)
It is difficult at this day to make out a complete list of the churches which have sprung from this old mother church; for from her originated nearly all the churches in the surrounding country. The following churches were formed wholly or partly of members of this church: Meherrin, Bethel, Buffalo, and probably others, in Va., Tabb's Creek, Shearman's, Tanner's, Island Creek, Olive Branch, Amis' Chapel, Hester's and Mountain Creek in North Carolina. _______________
List of the Pastors of Grassy Creek Baptist Church
James Reed, Samuel Harris, Henry Lester, Thomas Vass, Reuben Picket, Elisha Battle, Robt. T. Daniel, William B. Worrel, Thos. D. Mason, Samuel Duty, James King, Moses Baldwin, Robert H. Marsh, Robert I. Devin.
List of Ministers sent out from this church (Licentiates or Ordained)
Sanders Walker, Wm. Creath, Wm. Whitehead, Wm. Richards, Zachariah Allen, Daniel Gould, Wm. B. Worrell, John E. Montague, George N. Pittard, and others.
List of Lay-Elders
Samuel Whitehead, Sanders Walker, Henry Howard, Wm. Cockrill.
List of Deacons
Richard Harris, Wm. Graves, Thos. Barnett, Sr., Jonathan Johnson, Charles Harris, Thomas Owens, Henry Hester, Samuel Allen, Jesse Barnett, George Hunt, Joseph Hart, George Norman, Francis Hester, Wm. Hester, Thomas B. Barnett, John Stovall, John S. Overby, L. B. Stone, George W. Pittard, James Hester, Thomas Hester, Richard Elam, S. Y. Ragsdale, B. T. Winston, Thos. J. Pittard, John w. Gordon.
List of Clerks
Chas. Harris, Wm. Royster, Thos. Vass, Jr., James Hester, Thos. Hester, B. T. Winston.
1. The Roanoke Association was formed in 1788 out of the Middle District. The wide-spread institution included all the churches in Mecklenburg, Halifax, Pittsylvania, and other counties in Virginia, and Granville, Person, Caswell, Rockingham, and other counties in North Carolina.
2. The following is a copy of the credentials recorded in the church book, given to a brother at his ordination on the 14th of February, 1787, nearly 100 years ago:
"This is to certify that our beloved brother, ________, was, by the approbation of the Baptist church of Christ at ________, set apart by prayer and fasting, and the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, to the administration of the word and ordinances of the Lord Jesus Christ. He having been called to the pastoral care of said church by the unanimous voice and the mutual consent of the same, takes the oversight of the church, manifested by giving each other the hand of fellowship in the presence of the Presbytery."[Signed] J______ R________ G_______ R________ R_______ P________
3. Four pastors -- Elders Reed, Vass, King and Devin, have served the church about 100 years.
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