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Summer 2011 Newsletter

Annual Meeting, October 8

Warrenton: An Historical Treasure

Warrenton Presbyterian Church
Warrenton Presbyterian Church, Presevation Warrention website

Our fall meeting this year will be at the Presbyterian Church in the charming town of Warrenton, located 50 miles northeast of Raleigh. Nowadays, it is one of the least known historical treasures in North Carolina. When in 1779 Bute County (named for the Earl of Bute) was divided into Warren and Franklin counties (named for two patriots), Warrenton was laid out as the county seat. Located in the midst of thriving tobacco and later cotton plantations, it soon became a significant commercial and cultural center for the entire Roanoke River valley.

Warren Academy was chartered in 1787, and its trustees included Henry Patillo, Nathaniel Macon, William R. Davie, and Thomas Person. Theater in the town began with the appointment of Marcus George, actor and classical scholar, as principal of the academy. By 1800 the Falkener School for young ladies was chartered, and the Mordecai School by 1809. Among the teachers was Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa Mae. There was also a dancing master in town, John Liddell.

Hebron Methodist Church was organized out in the country in 1771, before Warrenton existed, and it remained an influential congregation. In 1821 an Episcopal congregation was established in Warrenton, and in 1827 the Presbyterian church was organized. The present building was constructed in 1855 in a mixture of Greek Revival and Italianate styles.

Horse breeding and racing was an important part of plantation life. Just south of town the first oval racetrack in the state was built. The legendary racehorse Sir Archie was trained there, and in 1809 he outran every four-miler at races around the country. The South Carolina legislature even banned him from racing in their state!

Several mineral springs in the area became health resorts with fine hotels, bringing many visitors to the region. In 1862 the two daughters of Gen. Robert E. Lee were sent for safety to the resort at Jones Springs, but Annie Carter Lee developed typhoid fever there, died, and was buried in the family cemetery of Willie Jones. In 1870 Lee stayed at John White’s home in Warrenton when he visited her grave.

By the 1840s builders and craftsmen from Prince Edward County in Virginia were coming to build large plantation houses and then town houses for the wealthy families. The Greek Revival style in Warrenton gradually became more ornate as it incorporated Italianate features. Many of these homes survive to the present day, and we will see a number of them on our walking tour.

Watson House, Warrenton (now Magnolia Manor)
Watson House, Warrenton (now Magnolia Manor) from

By 1860 Warren County was the richest in North Carolina. Within a few years, however, the Civil War and emancipation brought an end to much of the plantation economy and social life. Nevertheless, tobacco and cotton continued to be important crops, and Warren County families continued to supply the state with political and cultural leaders. To date, Warren County has provided the state with three governors, six attorneys general, three senators, including Nathaniel Macon, who was also Speaker of the US House of Representatives, two other members of Congress, three supreme court justices, four superior court judges, and five magnates in the tobacco industry. Katherine P. Arrington of Warrenton was president of the NC Art Society from 1926 to 1955 and was a leader in the establishment of the NC Museum of Art. Poet and novelist Reynolds Price grew up in nearby Macon, as did his brother Dr. William S. Price, former director of Archives and History, who will be our distinguished speaker.

Program of music and folklore
John Goodman is a member of our society who lives in Elizabethtown, NC. He is a retired minister and former executive presbyter of Coastal Carolina Presbytery. During his earlier years as a West Virginian, he reveled in the music of Appalachia and learned to play the mountain dulcimer. Lately he has developed a program of music from North Carolina’s rich storehouse of folklore, especially suited to elementary school classes studying North Carolina history. After lunch on October 8th he will share a few songs from this program.

All in all, this should be a most enjoyable meeting. The schedule, registration, and map are below.


Need a ride?
We may not be able to help, but if you need a ride, please call Ann and John Myhre, (919) 772-5514. It is possible that someone who is planning to go would be able to take you. They could give you the names of some people to ask.


If you can do so, please put the following announcement in your church bulletin or newsletter:

The North Carolina Presbyterian Historical Society will meet on Saturday, October 8, at the Presbyterian Church in Warrenton, built in 1855. The meeting will include a tour of the historic town. Dr. William S. Price, former director of NC Archives and History and native of Warren Co, will be our speaker. We hope you will join us! For more information, please contact Program Chairman Tony Brewer at 919-776-8091, or check the website at


William Peace University!
After more than a century of educating only women, the Peace College Board of Trustees voted in July to admit men as full-time students next year and to change the institution’s name to William Peace University. According to Todd Robinson, chairman of the board, the decision was not made casually or enthusiastically. "There were tears all around the table," he said. "It's a question of what's economically viable going forward."

These decisions cap a tumultuous year since Debra Townsley took over as the school's 10th president. She opened up night and online classes to men early this year, cut staff, and reorganized academic programs. Officials say that these changes are designed to shore up the school's finances and make it more attractive to students. Townsley has said that only 2 percent of female high school seniors consider attending a women's college, so opening Peace to male students will broaden its market.

Peace, like most private colleges, is heavily dependent on tuition from students. When it changed from a junior college to a four-year degree-granting college in 1996, full-time enrollment rose from 448 to 681 in 2003. Since then, the numbers have gradually declined. The college is not in immediate financial danger, but it has not reached its target of 850 students.

The announced changes have been met with considerable resistance by students and alumnae, many of whom have questioned the closed deliberations of the trustees and the quick vote in July. More than 1,000 have organized on Facebook, where they are pushing petitions, planning protests, and taking orders for T-shirts that read "Preserve the Peace College Legacy." They have posted a copy of William Peace's handwritten will from the 1800s, in which he donated $10,000 and eight acres for the education of women.

President Townsley has recently conducted “webinars” to explain the reasons for the changes. College leaders have also been batting down rumors. Much loved traditions at the college will continue if the students so choose, and although the college no longer requires chapel attendance, Peace will continue its historic link to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) It was announced in July that the college would continue to offer some single-sex classes, but legal experts have said that Title IX would prevent a coed school from limiting a class to one gender only.         — From a press release by Peace College, and a News and Observer article by Jane Stancill, Aug. 3, 2011.


Executive Board Members

John Myhre, President and Acting Treasurer
1005 Park Ave., Garner, NC 27529
Phone: (919) 772-5514

Joy Heitmann, Secretary
5021 Elaine Ave., Raleigh, NC 27610
Phone: (919) 862-0529

Ann Myhre, Awards Chair
1005 Park Ave., Garner, NC 27529
Phone: (919) 772-5514

Sally MacLeod Owens, Membership Chair
710 N. Person Street #204, Raleigh, NC 27604
Phone: (919)-835-0920

Tony Brewer, Program Chair
915 Evans Dr., Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: (919) 776-8091

Barbara T. Cain, Newsletter Editor
1041 Shelley Road, Raleigh, NC 27609
Phone: (919)-782-0944

Sam Martin, Publicity Chair
P.O. Box 1037, Biscoe, NC 27209-1037
Phone: (910) 428-4165

Dr. Donald B. Saunders, Past President
P.O. Box 1846, Blowing Rock, NC 28605
Phone: (828) 295-8917

One of our long-time members, Rev. James MacKenzie, passed away on May 18, 2011, at the age of 86. During his ministry, Rev. MacKenzie served Presbyterian churches in North Carolina, including Olivia, Barbecue, Elise, and Horseshoe. He loved Celtic culture and history and played both the Scottish and Irish bagpipes. He authored the book, Colorful Heritage: an Informal History of Barbecue Presbyterian Church and Bluff Presbyterian Church.

Born Nov. 17, 1924, in Detroit, MI, he served in the army during World War II, earning the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. After the war, he studied at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL) and Union Presbyterian Seminary (Richmond, VA). On May 7, 1960, he married Elsie Kerr, who joined him in ministry. They were together 50 years before her death. Mr. MacKenzie is survived by their four children and seven grandchildren. The funeral service was at Cross Road Baptist Church in Asheboro, and burial was at Olivia Presbyterian Church in Olivia, NC, near Barbecue.

If you know of a recently published church history or a completed history project that you feel is worthy of consideration for an award, please send the book or a description of the project to Awards Chairman Mrs. Ann Myhre, phone (919) 772-5514,

Plan Ahead!
Our Spring Tour in 2012 will be held on Friday and Saturday, April 13th and 14th, in Old Mecklenburg County (now Mecklenburg and Cabarrus). Eight Presbyterian churches were organized during the colonial period in this area, the earliest one dating from 1755. Others were founded in the early years of the republic as the region continued to flourish. 

Some of you will remember the great time we had the last time we met in the Charlotte area in 2002. We could only visit some of the historic churches at that time, but others will be on our agenda next spring.  We hope to see you there!


Spring Tour of Old Anson, 2011

The Boggan-Hamm House
The Boggan-Hamm House

The 2011 spring tour began at First Presbyterian Church in Wadesboro, county seat of Anson County, and included a walking tour of historic houses, museums, and businesses nearby. The town was named after Col. Thomas Wade, a Revolutionary War hero. His Irish brother-in-law, Patrick Boggan, donated land for this crossroads town on the road between Wilmington and Charlotte. Another prominent surname is Little. This is a transitional region where the Sandhills region to the south and east gives way to rolling hills and the low, very old Uwharrie Mountains to the north and the Piedmont to the west. Peaches and corn are predominant crops in this region.       

At various times First Presbyterian Church in Wadesboro, founded in 1873, shared buildings with the Baptists, the Courthouse, and the Masons. The church survived despite many lean years and difficulty paying pastors. The building's English Gothic architecture sits among lovely trees. The memorial garden and a gazebo offer a place to meditate and pray.

Friday evening we were in Albemarle. After dinner Sam Martin of Biscoe led us in a lively discussion of the histories of Scots and Scotch-Irish churches in the area.

Inside a Town Creek Indian Mound
Warrenton Presbyterian Church, Presevation Warrention website

On Saturday morning we trekked up the Town Creek Indian Mound in Montgomery County. The mound is surrounded by a stockade of large, closely-set, pointed posts overlooking the Town Creek and Little River in the Pee Dee River Valley. About 1000 AD various groups of Indians began to build large, steep, flat-topped mounds, with worship and community buildings atop them. The buildings were made of sticks and mud with thatched roofs. This was part of the Southern Mississippian Culture, not related to the Cherokee or Catawba Indians. Crafts, hunting, and cooking, were predominate parts of the economy. Children learned at a young age to hurl spears with great accuracy for amazing distances. We watched a demonstration. The mound was topped by a ceremonial building or temple, and the plaza below was probably used for ceremonies too. Over 500 burials have been found on the site by archeologists. The life-expectancy was short. Many children died of disease and hunger in hard times. Drought may have contributed to the decline this civilization around 1400 A.D. The Indians had a purification rite similar to pre-Passover customs about cleaning house and getting rid of the old and impure. The personal efforts to purify themselves before renewal remind one of Lent-Easter and Yom Kippur practices. The site was studied by archeologists and reconstructed during the 1950s and 1960s.

Pee Dee Presbyterian Church
Pee Dee Presbyterian Church

We went to Pee Dee Presbyterian Church near Mt. Gilead close to the Montgomery-Richmond County Line. The white frame church was founded in 1858. Some years ago the church building was almost completely destroyed by a tornado, but it has been lovingly rebuilt just as it was. Pee Dee Church remains small but serves its area. It enjoys joint activities and shares a pastor with Mount Gilead's First Presbyterian Church, where we went next.

Mt. Gilead Presbyterian Church
Mt. Gilead Presbyterian Church

Mount Gilead First Presbyterian Church began as Sharon Presbyterian Church in 1795. The log cabin structure was burned and replaced several times. The name was changed when a new building was built in 1852. The current building is brick. Sometimes Mount Gilead and the Methodists and Baptists have joint worship services and potluck dinners.

We enjoyed lunch at Mount Gilead Church. Charles Harris, a cousin of NCPHS member Bob Cain, entertained our group with songs he has written about the area. Ms. Judy Stevens, a representative of the Chamber of Commerce for Montgomery County, then spoke about nearby places to visit and on efforts to attract industry and jobs. McRae Industries, a textile firm, has been a viable employer for many years.                                                                           by Sally MacLeod Owens


Schedule and Registration Form for the Fall Tour and Meeting

Saturday, October 8, 2011

9:15 – Registration and coffee at Warrenton Presbyterian Church, 304 N. Main Street, Warrenton, NC

9:45 – Warrenton Presbyterian Church History and Tour

10:10 - History of Warrenton, Speaker: Dr. William S. Price

10:50 - Break

11:00 - Historical Walking Tour of Downtown Warrenton

12:00 - Lunch at the church

12:30 - Program of music based on North Carolina folklore, John Goodman

1:00 - Business Meeting

1:30 - Leave for home, or explore other points of interest


Registration:  $15.00 (includes lunch).

Suggested accommodations:
Warrenton does not have a good motel, but some of the large houses in and near Warrenton have become bed-and-breakfast places. Henderson is 20 miles away, Rocky Mount is 43 miles, and Raleigh is 55 miles. Some suggestions are below:

The Ivy Bed and Breakfast (4 rooms), 331 N. Main St, Warrenton, NC 27589.  Next door to the Presbyterian Church. 800-919-9886 or 252-257-9300.

Jameson Inn, 400 N. Cooper Dr, Henderson, NC 27536. 252-430-0247.

Hampton Inn, 385 Ruin Creek Road, Henderson, NC 27536. 252-492-3007

Please send form below and check (payable to NCPHS) by September 30 to:
P.O. Box 20804
Raleigh, NC 27619-0804

If you have questions, please call our Program Chairman Tony Brewer at 919-776-8091.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Registration Form for the Upcoming Tour

Name(s): ______________________________________________________


Address: ______________________________________________________

Telephone: ______________________

Email: ______________________________________

No. of registrations ____ @ $15.00 ea= $ ___________

__ Individual $15
__ Family $20
__ Individual Life Membership $125

**If you have not yet paid your dues for 2011, or if you would like to join, please include them with your registration. If you will not be able to come to the meeting, just put your information on the form and send it with your check to the same address. Back dues are forgiven. Of course, you do not have to be a member to come to our meetings, but we do hope you are willing to pay the small membership fee to sustain our organization.

Total enclosed: $________

Please send this form with your check (made out to NCPHS) by September 30 to:

PO Box 20804
Raleigh, NC 27619-0804


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