Note: The write-up below was excerpted from a research paper written by Merle Terry, a lifelong member of the Mt. Zion congregation.

Hargis Meeting House

The existence of Mount Zion Church dates back to the late 1700’s. There have been four church buildings to this date, and the first was called Hargis Meeting House. Hargis was nondenominational and was built sometime prior to 1786. Although we have no pictures, and the exact location isn’t known today, some of the older people say that it was a log building and was located about 300 yards south of the present church1.

There is a written account about the old Hargis Church by a lady named Cleopatria Cook who was born October 28, 1866. She states in her account that she grew up about a mile south of the church. She says that she can remember going with her sisters Ann and Emily to clean the church. There was an old road that went from her house to the church, which was a few feet below the church spring. She states that on many occasions she would find sheep in the church because at the time there was no fence law and the livestock ran at large. She says that one thing that made cleaning up particularly difficult was due to the fact that many of the people who attended the church chewed tobacco and dipped snuff and then spit upon the floor2. I believe that these facts should serve as proof of the predominance of agriculture in and around the vicinity of the site.

A hand sketch by Gail Wood of what she thought the first church looked like.
This can be found in the 1997 Person County Historical Society Calendar.

The Second Church

According to Cook, the second church building was built some time prior to the civil war. It was a frame structure weather boarded and covered with shingles, and was located on a 4.1 acre tract, which was given to the church. There were two windows on the front, rear, and windows on both sides. There was only one entrance to the building, which consisted of a single door on the west end of the building. The floor was wooden and the walls and ceiling were coiled. Cook estimates that the building was twenty-four by forty feet, and it faced west toward the cemetery .The building was also underpinned with rock pillars. Cook also says that inside the church there was an isle down the middle, with slat-back wooden benches on both sides2. Although there is no available picture of the second church it is said to have looked very similar to the third church, which is shown later.

Cook says that she remembers the preachers rode on horse back to their appointments. The people came to the church by wagons, carriages, buggies, horseback, and on foot. The only musical instrument that was available in the church was a tuning fork, which was played by Cook’s father2. I believe that these facts give us a good representation of the type of technology that was available during this time period.

Some additional things that I found interesting in Cook’s account was for one, it was custom for the women to sit on the left hand side of the church, and the men sat on the right hand side. Most of the time dinner was served on the grounds after the service by individual families who invited friends and neighbors. There were also two or three benches in the church, which were reserved for colored people. These benches were located near the back of the church2. This seemed kind of ironic to me knowing that the civil war was just around the comer, and political struggles were probably taking place at that time.

The Third Church

About the year 1891 the people decided that they needed a new church so the second one was sold to Sq. James T. Cates with which he converted to a gristmill. The people started to make plans and the third church was completed in 1891. It was located a few feet north of the previous church, with two doors facing the south, and one side door near the north end facing the graveyard. Most of the work to build the church was donated. John Wilkerson did all the framing and outside work. Charles Oakley and Ben Smith of Cedar Grove were responsible for the plastering of the inside and the benches1. I am sure that most all of this work was done by hand considering that electricity didn’t come into play until the early 1900’s.

According to a man named Dewey Jones, the first organist in the church was a lady named Miss Maggie Lawson. In 1927, the church organ was replaced with a piano. Summer revivals were held starting about the fourth Sunday in July, there were two sermons held each day. Dinner was served on the grounds each day. Each individual family had their own table. Eventually, there was one long table set up and roped of from the north side to keep the horses and buggies from being too close1. So according to this information, we see that cars are yet to come into play as a major transportation source, it really hasn’t changed much. It seems like both technology and the economy were kind of slow to evolve during this time period.

Picture of the third church, which was taken in November of 1942.

The Fourth Church

In the years of 1947-1948, a building committee met to discuss the possibility of remodeling the old church or building a new church. After a lot of discussion the decision was made to build a new church, about 200 feet north of the third church. Work on the fourth church was started in December of 1949. Logs were cut and hauled out of the woods by the church members and even the pastor. The lumber was sawed, planed, and dressed by Floyd Woody using a planer that was loaned by a Mr. West from Allensville. The Rimmer Brothers built the church under the direction of N. T. Williams1.

“I don’t think there was ever better cooperation among the people of the community, of the church, and of people outside who donated generously. The generosity of the Rice and Crisp families who gave land to the church three or four times can’t be forgotten,” said Jones1.

Duke Endowment made the biggest donation of $2,000 to the church, and individual families donated all memorial windows and pews. The first services in the new beautiful brick church were held Easter Sunday of 1952. The church was dedicated on May 23, 1954, free of all debts1.

Picture of the fourth church, which was taken in
June of 1952 just after it was completed.

Since then the church has experienced many improvements. Central heat, air conditioning, carpeting, and new lighting were put in. In 1968 a church parsonage was built, and in 1977 construction began on an educational building, and a fellowship hall. This building cost $95,000.00 so luckily Duke Endowment gave a gift of $24,000.00 and the Division of Missions of the North Carolina Methodist Church gave a $1,000.00 grant. The addition was completed and dedicated on September 14, 19803. A driveway and parking area were also put in around the church, and the road by the church has been paved. I believe that all this expansion of the church in the last fifty years goes to prove how new technology, political stability, and a booming economic status in and around the community encouraged growth.

This is a sketch of Mount Zion Church United Methodist Church as it stands today.
Note the addition of the educational facility and the fellowship hall
to the left of the main church building.

Works Cited

  1. Jones, Dewey. 1976. Mount Zion church history traced back 190 years. The Courier Times.
  2. Cook, Cleopatria.1963. Written account of church history.
  3. Person County Bicentennial, September 1984. Lea’s Chapel United Methodist Church.