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.