History of First Christian Church of Farmville

Copied and pasted from: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/historyfiction/fullview.aspx?id=whh

Previous to its incorporation in 1872 Farmville had been known as New Town. This was at the crossroads midway from Marlboro on the south to Joyner’s on the north, about a mile from each. The second building at the place was the Christian Church. It was known as Antioch Church from 1854 to 1910. It stood as the only church of the community for its first 34 years. The village grew slowly. In the census of 1880 it had but 111 persons and in 1890 just 140. At the introduction of large-scale growth of tobacco in the highly fertile hinterland it became a prosperous trade center.

Old Antioch really began at Tyson’s Meeting House, located a few miles east of Farmville near the present Arthur. John P. Dunn of Lenoir County, an outstanding evangelist of the Disciples, held a revival at Tyson’s Meeting House, beginning November 2, 1850. The meeting resulted in 123 baptisms. This new Disciple congregation was represented at the State meeting of Disciples in 1851, at Oak Grove Church, Greene County, which stood at the present Willow Green crossroads, by Josiah Barrett, Sherrod Tyson, and S. Hines, Jr. They were received as given in the following minute: “Friday, Oct. 17, 1851. On motion agreed that the Church of Christ at Tyson’s M. H., Pitt County, be received into this Conference, and that her delegates be invited to take seats and participate in its proceedings.” Her delegates in 1852 at Elm Grove were G. W. Barrett, T. King, and A. Bynum; in 1853 at Wheat Swamp, John H. Hines, who in 1872 had named Farmville. By the time of the Wheat Swamp Convention in October, 1853 their membership had been reduced to 96.

In the summer of 1853 there was a bitter strife at Tyson’s due to the organized temperance movement. Intemperance throughout the country had become such a growing evil that an order had arisen called the Sons of Temperance to avert the rising tide of alcoholic drink. Less than a dozen of Tyson’s members took the position that unrestrained use of strong drink was a Christian’s inviolable privilege, to be defended by exclusion from the church of the Sons of Temperance who were of contrary opinion. They would make it a test of fellowship. They wished to form an organization under the title of “Old-side Apostolic Christian Church,” of which one of the tenets should be: “No Son of Temperance is to be admitted as a member of this church.” The Disciples never recognized this apostate church in any of their State Meetings; in fact their divisive idea never became an issue within the Disciples’ cooperative order.

With a reduced membership and dissension over temperance in the air at Tyson’s, it was desirable that a new site be found. James W. May owned much land at the crossroads which became Farmville. On December 12, 1854, he deeded one acre to the Antioch “Christian Baptist Church,” “to have and to hold . . . in fee simple . . . to occupy, use and enjoy said church as a house of Christian worship for the worship of Almighty God.” The trustees named in this original deed of 1854 were: Peter E. Hines, Richard A. Bynum, Sherrod Belcher, and Josiah Barrett. It is apparent from the deed that the frame plant of Antioch had already been erected. This stood for 56 years until 1910, on the original site, fronting eastward at the southwest corner of Main and Church streets. Seasonal heating of the one room wooden structure was by a central stove. Victorian segregation of the sexes, men on the right, women on the left, obtained until 1892. The practice was facilitated by the three feet high median partition from front to rear.

In 1854 at the Disciples’ State Meeting, James W. May, Sherrod Belcher, and W. Stancill, represented this resurgent group and reported an enrolled membership of 95. It was not considered as a new church at the Disciples’ State Meeting in 1854, but it was enrolled under the new name of Antioch. Josephus Latham, a strong advocate of temperance, was the first Antioch pastor, and held her first revival, beginning on Saturday, September 8, 1855. He said the revival continued for several days and resulted in fourteen baptisms “a goodly number of whom were lovely young ladies, two of whom were natives of Maine, who had bidden farewell to the loved ones at home and had come to the far ‘Sunny South’ to teach.” He concluded: “May Heaven guide these dear young converts through this waste-howling wilderness to the haven of sweet repose”.

In 1904 the church known as Corinth, located east of Farmville at Lang’s Crossroads, transferred their fellowship to Antioch. Much of the blood of the 400 persons presently enrolled in the Farmville Church was native at Corinth, originally. Corinth was first known as Oak Grove and their building stood in Greene County above seven miles southeast from Farmville at the present Willow Green. This Oak Grove started in 1830 as a member of the Toisnot Association of Regular Baptists. Toisnot soon merged with Nahunta Association and was known as Contentnea. On October 24, 1835, following the lead of Kehukee, the Contentnea adopted an anti-missionary policy. This was against the feelings of the Oak Grove Church, and after drifting for eleven years, the church became connected with the Disciples in 1846, under the evangelistic leadership of John P. Dunn. It then had but 16 members.

Abram Baker represented Oak Grove in the Disciples’ State Meeting of 1846 and 1847, and Daniel McArthur in 1849. They entertained the State Meetings in 1851, 1860, 1867, and 1875. The Carrs, the Moyes, the Langs, and the Dardens, were leading families in this old church, and they contributed much gain, actual and potential, to this merger at Farmville in 1904.

In 1863 the place of worship for Oak Grove was removed a short distance over the line into Pitt County and a new building erected. It was then named Corinth, as there was already another Oak Grove Church of like faith in Pitt County. Alfred Moye, (1793-1863), prominent layman in the Oak Grove church, was a son of Joel and Sarah Darden Moye, and lived six miles east of the present Farmville. He married Orpah Tyson in 1818. Two of their sons were pioneer Disciple leaders of Wilson and Greenville, respectively, and several other descendants became active Disciples at Farmville and elsewhere. In 1850 he was the first president of the Greenville-to-Raleigh Plank Road, (memorialized for him in the public monument at Lang’s Crossroads); 1828-29, state representative; 1831-44, state senator; and served admirably in various other community activities. Preachers called his home an “hospitable mansion”. George Joyner said of him: “The character which he sustained for wisdom, stability and judgment was appreciated by the whole community.”

Farmville Church has been outstanding in her furtherance of the Disciples’ cooperative life in North Carolina. Six annual State Meetings have been entertained here, namely: 1857, 1871, 1883, 1893, 1912, and 1929, aside from innumerable conferences and inspirational gatherings of smaller groups. Two of these State Meetings, namely 1857 and 1883, are of epochal importance. In 1857, at Farmville, the first State Constitution for the Disciples’ group was adopted, and in 1883 the constitutional system, known as the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, was adopted.

Looking back, after a bit more than 40 years, J. R. Tingle reminisced:

“I remember the first State Convention I ever attended. It was at Farmville, 1883. I remember F. M. Green was there, helping to complete the organization of The North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention. They met from Wednesday to Sunday, Oct. 10-14. A large crowd there was from the beginning, and it increased to the close. There were no automobiles but the people came from far and near. I was entertained at a country home, and there nine men slept up-stairs on cotton beds and mattresses. We had a good time and everybody enjoyed it.”

J. J. Harper held their revival in 1887, with 11 additions. He commended their “zealous and diligent workers.” C. Manly Morton in his pastorate there, 1908-1910, led in building their brick plant, which was dedicated Nov. 13, 1910, President J. C. Caldwell preaching the sermon. Morton said that his two years there represented “the most earnest, prayerful, and pleasant work” he ever did.

Farmville’s first Sunday School was reported in 1873, along with only 6 other Disciple Schools in North Carolina, with enrollment of 68, including 6 teachers. E. P. Edwards was Superintendent. In 1879, however, they reported but one teacher, and 12 “pupils.” 1887 report: W. R. Parker, Superintendent; average attendance 25, with 65 on roll, and to their joy it was an “Evergreen School”;—it ran “12 months” in the year. The next year A. J. Moye was superintendent, and the enrollment had grown to 89, including 9 teachers. The present church school of Farmville Disciples has enlarged equipment for resurgent growth. It has a strong teaching staff, is departmentalized, and functions vitally in the outreaching church.

Farmville was fortunately situated within ten miles of Mrs. Sally Rasberry Dixon’s residence at “Holliday Hill,” where the State’s cooperative Disciples’ Women’s Work began parochially, in 1871, rising to state level in 1876, and organically to their national association in 1891, known officially then as the Christian Women’s Board of Missions. Jesse T. Davis, a Farmville pastor, was their state field promoter in 1877, and another, I. L. Chestnutt, was the first state missionary, supported the same year, by their aggregate funds. In 1892, Mrs. Estelle Hardy Moye, of Corinth Church, served on their State Board of Managers.

Antioch’s C. W. B. M. officers in 1901 were: president, Mrs. S. R. Hines; vice president Mrs. D. W. Arnold; secretary Miss Alice Hines; treasurer Mrs. W. J. Turnage. Mrs. Turnage has the distinction of having held the treasurer’s “office faithfully for 38 years”. In 1902, Antioch had 12 active members in their local auxiliary, with two subscribers to their national paper, The Missionary Tidings. By 1959 the participating members of Farmville in the Christian Women’s Fellowship, modern equivalent of their old C.W.B.M., has grown to 106 and their offerings that year, totaled $1,267.33. Mrs. Howard D. Moye, Sr. of Farmville was elected State president of the C. W. F. in 1959.

Farmville youth in Christian Endeavor and Christian Youth Fellowship have long been a vital force in the Church, under worthy sponsors. The church took a generous part in the building of Camp Caroline, 1953-54, giving $1,886.

The Christian Men’s Fellowship, a recent organization, functions well, and has given to North Carolina Disciples in this field a state leader in Sam D. Bundy. The Church plant has been blessed with extensive remodelling. In 1953 Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Moye gave to the church a lot cut from their farm for a parsonage, a capacious, modern brick home, costing $15,000, and dedicated in December 1953.

At their annual Home Coming, Nov. 21, 1954, the Church celebrated its Centennial, issuing an elegant 29-page booklet, illustrated, to grace the occasion. A part of it is transcribed herewith.

Eleven memorials in the church are as follows: Triple window facing east for Mr. and Mrs. W. G. Lang; triple window facing north for Mr. and Mrs. M. T. Moye; window in pastor’s study for Mrs. Sallie R. Hines.

Communion table and chairs for Annie Laurie Lang; pulpit chairs for Mrs. Jessie Bynum Harris; pulpit Bible for James R. Lang; Hammond organ and church hymnals for Mr. and Mrs. J. Y. Monk, Sr.; offering plates for J. R. Lang and C. B. Mashburn, Sr.; pastor’s office desk for Fred G. Smith; front entrance lights, and pastor’s office stove for Mrs. Nan Wilkinson. Marble plaque for pastor, C. B. Mashburn, Sr.

Their decision was announced in 1955 to build a $90,000 Religious Education accessory to be erected beside their main plant. Plans were drawn in consultation with Rollin V. Mosher of the Church Extension Board of Indianapolis, Ind. Ground was broken on July 14, 1957, and the building was dedicated on July 12, 1959; guest speakers: Ross J. Allen, Bernard Meece, and Pete Warren.

Early in 1959, five new Deacons were elected, namely: R. D. Rouse, Sr., B. Edison Moore, Fred C. Darden, Frank Allen, and C. B. Mashburn, Jr. Likewise officers of the Board: Chairman, L. A. Moye; secretary, Joe Melton; treasurer, B. S. Smith, Sr.

On May 10, 1959, Jack M. Daniell, pastor, held a “Parental Baby Blessing Service”. Twenty babies were presented, each receiving a certificate and a red rose. That summer, their Fellowship Hall was redecorated, and their new parish paper, The Christian Caller was being sent to each church family.

In April, 1960 the church broadcasted their morning worship over the two Farmville stations.

Below is the roll of pastors from 1854 to 1960

1854, 1855, 1858-1861; 1864-1880;   1888

Josephus Latham

1905

I. W. Rogers

1906-1907

J. T. Moore

1856, 1857, 1862, 1863

George Joyner

1908

H. H. Ambrose

1881-1887; 1889, 1890;   1892-1895

I. L. Chestnutt

1908, 1909

C. M. Morton

1910-1915, 1931-1945

C. B. Mashburn

1891

J. J. Harper

1916-1919

W. P. Jordan

1896

Jesse T. Davis

1920-1924

Olin E. Fox

1897, 1898

M. T. Moye

1925, 1926

D. C. Gordon

1899

J. B. Greenwade

1927-1930

R. S. Tandy

1900

J. W. Tyndall

1946-1958

Z. B. T. Cox

1901-1903

D. W. Arnold

1959, 1960

Jack M. Daniell

1904

A. F. Leighton

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