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Some North Carolina Baptist History
By George J. Dowell, 1888

      Present Facts - Results Which Might be Accomplished - Something New Under the Sun

      The Baptist Convention will meet in Greensboro in November next. The time is so near I feel inclined to say a few words about the work in this part of the State.

      In the year 1758, the Sandy Creek Association was formed - the oldest Association was formed - the oldest Association in the State. In 1765 the Kehukee was formed. The Sandy Creek was the third, and the Kehukee the fourth Association in America.

      Elder Daniel Marshall and Shubal Stearnes formed a church of sixteen on Sandy Creek in the county of Guilford, N. C., in the year 1755.

      From that church others sprang up, and now Southern Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky are largely Baptist, from that humble beginning.

      But before this, Baptists had preached in the State. Shiloh, Pasquotank county, was organized in 1729; Meherrin, Hertford county, in 1735; Kehukee, Halifax county, in 1742; Sandy Run, Bertie county, in 1750.

      Of course, the writer does not pretend to say there was no Baptist preaching in North Carolina prior to the organization of these churches. It is not hard to find that as early as 1698 Baptist preachers had heralded the glad tidings. It is only intended to show that from these two Associations sprung mainly the great hosts of Baptists of North Carolina.

      Up to 1827 there had been very little difference as to the views of the whole Baptist brotherhood in our State.

      In 1801 at the meeting of the Kehhukee Association at Great Swamp in Pitt county, Elder Burkitt, who had just returned from Tennessee and Kentucky, proclaimed that in that country about 6,000 persons had, in about eight months, professed a change of heart and had been baptized. This declaration produced a wonderful effect upon the congregation, and many cried aloud for mercy, and many praised and glorified God.

      The two succeeding years were years of religious awakenings. During the time of these revivals, 1,500 souls were added to the churches of the Kehukee Association. Elder Martin Ross introduced that year this query - "Is not the Kehukee Association, with all her numerous and respectable friends, called on by Providence in some way to step forward in support of that missionary spirit which the great God is so wonderfully reviving amongst the different denominations of good men in various parts of the world?" In 1804 this subject referred for discussion, came up for consideration, and a motion was made that Elders Lemuel Burkitt, Martin Ross, Aaron Spivey, Jesse Read and John McCabe be apppointed to confer with brethren to be appointed by the Virginia, Portsmouth and Neuse Associations at Cashie meeting-house, Bertie county, on Friday before the third Sabbath in June, 1805, to devise a way by which means might be raised to support the mission cause. How this was done, or what disposition was made of the request is not shown on the minutes of the Association. But arrangements were made, and a plan devised by whlch funds should be collected for missionary purposes. Thus things went on, the Baptists working together in harmony

      This same year the Ohowan Association was formed and organised fully in 1806 from churches dismissed by letter from the Kehukee.

      In 1811 Elder Robert T. Daniel preached on Sunday, and Elder Lawrence was appointed as a delegate to the Raleigh Association. Elder Wall was welcomed as messenger from the Raleigh Association, who brought thirty-one copies of the minutes of the same. At the same meeting in 1813 delegates were appointed to the Raleigh Association at the Union meeting house in Wake county, and five dollars sent by them as a contribution to the funds.

      In 1815 at Daniel's meeting-house on Fishing Creek, Martin Ross presented 31 copies of the report of the "Philadelphia Board of Foreign Missions" received through their Agent.

      In 1818 at Skewarkey in Martin county, one mile south of Wllliamston, 15 copies of the fourth annual report of the "Baptist Board of Foressm Missions" were received by the Kehukee Association.

      This shows tbe Baptists were not split by any factious spirit up to that time.

      In 1822 the Kehukee Association advised the churches to warn their members against attending Masonic Lodges, and to deal with any who would to refrain from walking so disorderly.

      In the year 1827, at Kehukee church in Halifax county, tbe Kehukee Association showed its narrow mind by dlscarding all Missionary Societies, Bible Societies, Theological Seminaries, disallowing its members to be members of the Masonic or any other fraternity. Such prejudice is still their glory.

      This was the limb that split from the great trunk and tree of Baptists in North Carolina. Stigmatizing those who had heretofore been their leaders with the name of "New School" and "Missionary" Baptists, they called themselves "Old School" and ever arrogated to themselves the name of "Primitive." But how unlike Paul in evangelistic and missionary labors! Suffice it to say the tree still lives, and the limb has sickened and dwarfed to an almost insignificant nothingness in size, life and benevolence.

      The name "Missionary" was given us by way of reproach, and we accepted it. Since that time they have hated the Baptists, who outnumber them, with a perfect hatred. "O consistency, thou art a jewel." Read from Hassel's History, pages 739, 740:

"One may as well expect to hear Christ preached as the Way, the Truth and the Life among the Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Quakers, Campbellites, or Catholics, as to hear such preaching among New School or Missionary Baptists. They have evidently departed from the faith of the Gospel and given heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils - as much so as any of the numerous sects with which they so cordinally fraternize."

      In 1829 Elder Patrick W. Dowd came as a delegate to the Kehukee Association, bringing a letter from the Raleigh, which had had no correspondence for a year or so; but through the influence of this cultured gentleman and minister, it was again resumed, as it seems from the minutes.

      Prior to this, Elder Dowd was spending much of his time in tarboro, and was called to the pastorate of the church at that place. But on account of the members differing in their views about Missions and Masonry, there was some little faction, which resulted in a separation of the members. Nineteen moved to not affiliate with any who favored Masonry and Missions, against sixteen who contended for individual rights, and thus they separated, the majority calling Elder Lawrence over the scholarly and eloquent Dowd.

      The antipathy of the anti-Missionaries grew to such an extent that the Regular Baptists of Apostolic faith felt it their duty to convene a meeting to devise a plan for the organization of a Convention through which, as a State association, all the Associations might work for the honor and glory of God. The first Convention of Baptists met in a private parlor in the town of Greenville in the year 1830. Elders Meeredith, Dowd, Crocker, Wait and Daniel met and there organized the N. C. B. S. Convention; the primary objects of which are,

First, the education of young men called to preach the gospel;
Second, to assist in the erection of houses of worship, for Baptist churches where the members are not able to do so without help;
Third, to disseminate the gospel at home and abroad by sending and supporting those called of God to preach in such fields;
Fourth, to encourage Sunday-schools and Bible reading in the same;
Fifth, to care for the orphans left without patrimony and protection;

      Has God blessed the work? Let the reader judge for himself.

      From 15,000 we have grown to 250,000. We have nearly 100 missionaries in our own State, to say nothing of the number in foreign fields. Wake Forest College has about as fine a record as any similar institution in the South. The buildings are nearly all new. The boys are happy who go there. The roll numbered the last year 214. She has a splendid laboratory, elegantly equipped. The endowment fund is $169,549.09. Her sons fill some of the most important, as well as difficult, fields in all parts of the Union, and are the peers of any. Education is offered to any young man who has the desire for it upon terms he can accept; and the sons of any minister, no matter what denomination he may be, are educated without charge for tuition.

      The Orphanage at Thomasville has ninety little boys and girls that are fed, clothed and educated at the expense of the denomination. But time would fail to rehearse all that is being done which has indirectly or directly grown out of that Convention of 1830. Our people are too familiar with it to need a rehearsal.

      But while much has been done, much remains to be done.

      North Carolina embraces much missionary ground, and especially is this true of the Albemarle and Pamlico sections. Take the map of North Carolina and put your finger upon Edenton; now run up the bay to the Roanoke, and continue up that stream till you strike Weldon, 120 miles and there is, except Scotland Neck, not a self-supporting church. Plymouth, Williamston and Hamilton are all mission stations, and the only Baptist churches on the river. Now leave Weldon, where there is a Baptist church, and follow the W. & W. R. R. to Goldsboro, about eighty miles, and you will pass Halifax, Enfield, Toisnot and Wilson, all the churches, except Sharpsburg which I omitted, and all weak, Wilson alone being self-sustaining; the rest missionary ground. Leaving Goldsboro, strike across the Neuse until you pass to the further end of Pamlico county, nearly one hundred miles. Thence go Northward, taking in all the coast counties, and going up Albemarle Sound you reach Edenton, near the mouth of the Roanoke, where you started.

      You have taken in a large portion of fifteen counties, and there is not an average of one self-sustaining church to the county.

      In Hyde, Dare, Beaufort, Pamlico, Martin and Green there is not a self-sustaining Baptist church. In Hyde there is not a Baptist church at all. There is one preacher in Beaufort, one in Pitt, two in Martin, two in Edgecombe, none in Hyde, none in Greene, that I remember. Snow Hill has an organization of forty members, and is the county seat of Greene.

      Washington has a population of about four thousand souls; is the county seat of Beaufort; has a church-house and a membership, but like Snow Hill, it has no pastor.

      Greenville, which is nearly in the centre of this vast territory, a town of nearly 2,500 souls, with a thrifty and energetic class of citizens, where the Convention was first orgainized, has a church building unfinished, and a debt of $5,000 hanging over it, a reproach to the denomination, and "a by-word to the passer-by."

      Bethel, a beautiful little house in the town of Bethel, which has been built within the last twenty months, with an organization of eighteen members, has a debt, which the members cannot raise, of $290. The cause in Pitt is retarded on account of these debts, and the Greenville debt is a burden to all this section.

      The truth is, the denomination has not done any big thing on the Greenville memorial. About $6,000 would take all that has been raised by the church and citizens of Greenville. The work done on the house amounts to little more than ten thousand dollars. Fifteen hundred dollars more will complete it, making the house cost in all about twelve thousand dollars. The $5,000 was borrowed to carry on the work to its present state. That $5,000 now rests upon the shoulders of a brother who has given more, perhaps, than any other man in the State to the objects of the convention within the last fifteen years. He now needs the money. It is wrong to crush him with debt incurred through his love for the Master and pride for his denomination. He cannot afford to lose that money, nor can the Baptists of North Carolina afford to allow it. If the Baptists of the State will pay off the $5,000 the house will be completed at once by the church and citizens of Greenville. The cause will go forward in this whole section. The Baptists will redeem their honor, and all will feel good that this mighty incubus has been lifted. Let the denomination give one fair, honest, earnest trial, accompanying their prayers with their alms.

      Suppose the friends of Meredith, Waitt [sic], Dowd, and others, who organized the Convention, will put in the windows as a testimonial of their regard, thus perpetuating their memory. I know Dowd's friends will put in one for him. Will not the deceased be held in reverence by the friends of the others? Will not they do as much? Why not pay the debt and purchase the house in which the Convention was organized and present it to the church as a pastor's home? Would not every Baptist in North Carolina give fifty cents for a photograph of the house in which the Convention was organized? This would pay the debt. The friends of those who organized the Convention might give some for the windows. The presiding officers of the Convention, who are now living, would make a contribution, and the ministers who live throughout the State can throw in a mite that will be sufficient to lift the debt. Let Bro. Wildman, the pastor, do what he can. Let him stump the State and take collections, and whatever is lacking by November let it be sure to be made up at the Convention.

      Bro. Wildman has been greatly encouraged in his labors. Recently, assisted by the writer, he held a meeting near Greenville, during which some twenty were made to rejoice in the love of a new found Saviour, and some eighteen were baptized into the fellowship of the Baptist church. The people of Pitt are good people, and are willing to hear the gospel. It is a good investment - this State Mission work. I find the best and most liberal church members are among those who have come from the dwarfed and paralyzing influence of the anti-missionaries. Grateful to God for the grace which has freed them from the shackels of Hardshellism. They contribute cheerfully in word and deed to every good work.


      Joseph Peal, of Pitt county, has invented a plan by which he runs a stationary engine on a modern railroad track as he would a locomotive. It is done by placing the engine on trucks and using double gearing. It does first-rate work drawing on cars which follow logs to his steam mill. It runs a mile in a very short while. He broke a rail the other day and put in a new one and then finished his mile in seven minutes. He has a platform around the engine upon which he can walk, and a barrel of water and wood with which to supply the engine. By the use of his bands he can reverse the engine, which is a common Tanner engine, and run forwards or backwards, as he desires.


[From the Biblical Recorder, June 27, 1888, p. 1ff. On-line edition. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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