Maj. W. A. Graham, Machpelah, N.C.
Dear Brother: — Your favor has been received and also your copy of history, and I have this day written Capt. Duncan McNeil for his little history. Let me thank you for this suggestion.
I will read your review of Williams' History of North Carolina with great pleasure.
I note your wish regarding myself or family, taking up the question of history in Ashe and Watauga and Wilkes Counties, and in regard to this wish will say that I have used every endeavor to get the real history of Baptists in that mountain country.
My father, now quite aged, gave me all the information he had, and I have visited Col. James Eller, his brother, who still lives in Ashe County and other old people, and I suppose there is nothing more that I can do.
I quite agree with yon in many points regarding the origin of Baptists in that mountain country, and inasmuch as you have asked for the information, I will give you a general statement of what I know. But you will have to pardon me for referring to the lives of my ancestry in connection with what I say to you about it.
I have read William' History and will begin with one named by him who is my great-great-grand-father. I refer to Elder George McNeil. If there was any other pastor in that country prior to his day, it must have been either one or both the Clevelands, the one named John and the other Eli. Williams is in error with reference to Elder McNeil. He must have gone to that country from Virginia, where he married his wife, whose maiden name was Coates. Elder Eli Cleveland and Elder John Cleveland were brothers to Bob and Ben, and must have gone to that country with them.
A family named McGlarmy settled in that country at an early day. I think there was more than one of that name, They had a brother whom we know in colonial Baptist history as Elder Meglamre. Semple's History places Elder Meglamre as coming into North Carolina from Virginia. These brothers lost track of one another shortly after landing m America and accidentally met at the old Sandy Creek and Kekukee [Keehukee] Union,. I would say in 1772. This latter would bring the pioneers of the Lewis Fork and New Hope Church in affiliation with the Sandy Creek Association. It is a fact which I have from Martin McGlamry Esq., about one year ago. However, Williams is in error again in his sketch of Elder Smith Ferguson in not stating the fact that the New Hope Church was formed by members who were dismissed from the old Cranberry and Lewis' Fork churches.
My great grandfather Vannoy and two of my grandmothers are numbered among its constituent members, and my two grandfathers were baptized within twelve months after its organization, the one becoming its deacon and the other its clerk for many years.
Nathaniel Vannoy was the son of John Vannoy and was born in 1745. He, John Vannoy, is named by the Rev. Hugh McAden, who stayed all night with him, September 3, 1755. At that time he lived about forty miles from where I write you to-day and in the direction of Charlotte, and not far northeast of a ford of the Yadkin River. I have not gone into the community, which is about the southwest corner of Randolph County, and on the west side of Uwharre River and near the community there now named New Hope.
It would appear to me that our New Hope mentioned by Williams must have borrowed its name from New Hope church on the Uwharre, if ever there waa one there; but, for the fact, that out of deference to Nathaniel Vannoy, he was called on to name it.
Having served probably with the Regulators, together with his father, and certainly under Ben Cleveland at Kings Mountain, and elsewhere participated in the execution of the Tories and otherwise, deporting himself as a patriot during the Revolution, he is said to have made a talk substantially in these words:"My brethren, you now call upon me to give you a name for our little church. Heretofore, we have had but one hope. Every spring we would take our cattle and horses over the mountains, hoping to find them again in the fall, and in the fall we would go and bring them to our farms, hoping that we had enough provender to feed them over winter, but now brethren, we have a New Hope, which is a better one, and I propose that we call our church the New Hope Baptist church."I am impressed with the certainty that at the former residence of the Vannoy's on Uwharre River there was a Baptist church in 1755, and that Brother Miller, who was sent down from Philadelphia Association, preached there a part of his time at least, and doubtless Elder John Gano. Rev. Hugh McAden passed the night together with Robt. Rankin at John Vannoy's in search of Presbyterians. Upon his diary he found the fact that there was a church there (but no Presbyterians) and pastor by the name of Miller, and that Miller was a Baptist. John Vannoy was of Hugenot parentage, and had evidently joined the Baptists before that time. To get his history would necessitate an examination of the Euhaw church of South Carolina, and then of the churches, if any, along the Edisto, which I have never made.
I have mentioned the Cranberry and Lewis Fork churches having greater age than New Hope. In fact, Cranberry and Old Fields, the latter of which was near the home of Elijah Callaway on New River, and the other much 1ower down, were both older than New Hope. Benedict in his history of the Strawberry Association, does not mention the Cranberry church, but upon the organization of the New River Association in 1793, or later the organization doubtless included the Cranberry. A trip into that country with Col. James Eller, to the Ashe Association in 1899, revealed the fact to me that a large number of brethren went on foot, crossing rivers and mountains, to get to those Associations whose names are never known, and whose homes could hardly be reached at this age and time. Their churches kept no records one hundred years ago, and it is impossible to find out. But a number of members were dismissed from the Cranberry church to organize the New Hope, and among them I reckon Nathaniel Vannoy and others of the same name.
When New Hope church was organized, it made a requisition on this church for a preacher, as was the custom, and a pastor was sent them for part of his time for two or three years.
I will bear in mind your request, and will be very glad to correspond with you further. You can make such use of my letter as you deem of advantage to the denomination. I believe it is correct. You will see, however, that the question presented by your letter to me is debatable, and that Baptists emigrated to that mountain country both from the Virginia and Sandy Creek Association.
With best wishes, I am, Very truly yours, W. H. ELLER Greensboro, N. C. Jan. 4,1902.
[From the Biblical Recorder, March 11, 1903, p. 3. On-line edition. Formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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