The Shiloh Church, the cradle of North Carolina Baptists, celebrated its two hundredth anniversary Wednesday, September 7, in a most fitting manner. Many hundred people from Camden County and all the regions round about filled the spacious auditorium of the church, with a seating capacity of 600, and there were possibly as many more on the outside.
This event is peculiarly significant to North Carolina Baptists because the organization of this church in 1727 marked the beginning of organized work among us in this State. But it was not until 1830, 103 years later, that the Baptist State Convention was organized, which event we are now getting ready to celebrate in a worthy way by wiping out the indebtedness of all our schools by raising for them by that time $1,500,000.
What struggles and what triumphs our Baptist people have had since that memorable day in 1727 (the exact day and the month are not known), when some 32 Baptists, led by Rev. Paul Palmer, the two Parker Brothers, Joseph and William, and the scholarly William Burgess and others, met and organized the first Baptist church in North Carolina. That lone church has been multiplied since then by 2,325, not counting the colored churches and the 32 members have increased more than 10,000 fold to 375,767 white Baptists.
And old Shiloh Church, despite the weight of two hundred years, is still living and doing well. Its virility is marked by the fact that it meets twice, every Sunday to worship, led by their pastor, W. L. Barrs, who devotes practically all his time to this church, which has a membership of over 400. Within the last three years it has added nine large Sunday-school rooms to its equipment and the various groups at the church are organized and doing good work. No doubt the secret of this church's longevity is the evangelistic and missionary spirit that it has maintained through the years.
Pastor Barrs presided over the meeting and Prof. C. B. Rollins, of Greer, S. C. led the music, which was an attractive feature of the program. Prof. John T. Alderman, Henderson, chairman of the Historical Commission of the Baptist State Convention, made the principal address of the day, reviewing in a graphic way the early beginnings of our Baptist work In North Carolina and the primary part the old Shiloh Baptist Church had in this. The address, which was replete with interesting historical data, deserves a good place in our historical records. Most of this paper is based upon the facts Brother Alderman gave.
It was a source of deep regret that Dr. Charles E. Muddry, Raleigh, and Dr. Charles B. Williams, Jackson, Tenn., a son of this church, who were to be the principal speakers, could not be present. Dr. I. M. Mercer, Wilson, President of the Baptist State Convention, and a specially appointed representative to this meeting, brought greetings from all the Baptists in the State, and delivered an inspiring address, reminding the church of its glorious heritage and of its responsibilities in the future. The writer brought greetings from Baptist headquarters in Raleigh. Dr. S. H. Templeman, Elizabeth City, a special representative of the General Board, also brought greetings. Other members of the General Board present were: Mrs. J. T. Alderman and Mrs. T. M. Pittman, Henderson, and John D. Berry, Raleigh, another son of old Shiloh.
The two former pastors, S. L. Hudson and I. S. Harrell, of Portsmouth, brought greetings and best wishes. A dozen or more pastors from the surrounding country spoke brief words of felicitation.
A very interesting feature was the presentation of a number of the older brethren and sisters, among them being: Wiley Terskey, the oldest man in the county, 92, who has been a member of Shiloh for 75 years; N. S. Burgess, 86, member for 69 years; B. F. Duncan, member for 61 years; Rev. A. W. Burfoot, 79, a product of this church, baptized with a group of 115 by Rev. R. R. Overby in 1866, of which group six are still living, four or five of them being present at the celebration.
Shiloh is a Camden County village located in a very prosperous community some ten miles from Elizabeth City. In the years gone by it was a town of some commercial importance, it is said, having water transportation, ship yards; etc. But there is no water there now, except a small stream. They have a thriving school, as well as church, of which Brother B. O. Myers has recently become principal.
But back to the historical part. Rev. Paul Palmer, the first pastor, was a native of Maryland, and a man of broad intelligence and large estate in lands and slaves. He was a man, of considerable executive ability and a man of great personal charm. Boldly he declared the whole counsel of God and the people heard him gladly. Governor Everhard wrote of him to the Bishop of London this significant word: "He has drawn hundreds to him and it is impossible to stop him." From all accounts we have of him, he was a flaming evangel of truth and did much to plant the Baptist faith in North Carolina We were exceedingly sorry that we were unable to locate his grave or that of the Parker brothers, who worked by his side. No doubt they were buried at Shiloh, but no one living seems to know the spot.
At first there seems to have been three arms of this original church, one being on Chowan River, the other in Perquimmons County and the other in Camden, where Brother Palmer preached alternately. Finally on account of strong Quaker influences, the Chowan and the Perquimmons groups seem to have dropped out, and the "Camden Church," as it was known for the first seventy-five years, survived. The name Shiloh was given after Sawyers Creek Church was organized, because it too was in Camden County, Following the death of Elder William Burgess, many of whose posterity remain in this community, the brilliant young Englishman, Henry Abbott, son of John Abbott, Canon of St. Pauls Episcopal Church, London, became pastor in 1765. In 1776 Elder Abbott was elected a delegate to the Provincial Congress which met in Halifax to frame a constitution for the State of North Carolina. To his efforts we are doubtless due much for the provision in the constitution which guarantees religious liberty. In 1778 he was again elected to serve in the Convention which was called to consider the adoption of the constitution of the United States. During this period of public service he was the honored pastor of the old Shiloh Church, which position he held till his death in 1791.
In tracing the beginnings of our history in North Carolina Prof. Alderman gives the following dates: Shiloh, organized in 1727; Meherrin, 1729; Kehukee, 1742; Sandy Run, (Bertie) 1750; Fishing Creek (Warren) 1750; Sandy Creek (Randolph) 1755; Wells Chapel, (Duplin) 1756; Coharie (Sampson) 1759. The following is the list of the oldest Associations: Sandy Creek, 1758; Kehukee 1765; Yadkin, 1786; Neuse, 1794, Cape Fear, 1806; Raleigh, 1806; Chowan, 1806.
===========[From The Biblical Recorder, September 21, 1927; On-line edition. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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