Thyatira Presbyterian Church, Cemetery, and Manse
|Location||Off NC 150, Mill Bridge, North Carolina|
|Area||18 acres (7.3 ha)|
|Architect||Murdoch, William & Raeder, W.|
|Architectural style||Vernacular Gothic Revival|
|NRHP reference No.||84002488|
|Added to NRHP||February 17, 1984|
Thyatira Presbyterian Church, Cemetery, and Manse is a historic church at 220 White Road off NC 150 in Mill Bridge in Rowan County, North Carolina, ten miles west of the town of Salisbury. Presbyterians have been worshiping at this site since at least 1753.
The current Gothic Revival church building was constructed between 1858 and 1860 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The church was originally organized as early as 1753 as Cathey's Meeting Place on its current site on Cathey's Creek. The adjacent cemetery features gravestones dating back to 1755.The church is still in active use, and the congregation is currently affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Thyatira Presbyterian Church had two other names before the final name was appointed. On January 17, 1753 John and Naomi Lynn deeded twelve acres of land to the congregation of Lower Meeting House belonging to the old synod of Philadelphia. On January 18, 1753 twelve more acres on James Cathey's north line was deeded to the same congregation. Lower Meeting House became later known as Cathey's Meeting House.
In 1764 Elihu Spencer and Alexander McWhorter, two visiting Presbyterian ministers, carefully selected the name "Thyatira". Mentioned in the Bible in Acts 16:14 and Revelation 1:11 and 2:18-29, Thyatira was one of the seven churches of Asia. This early church had a record of faith, love, and endurance until an evil temptress, Jezebel, led many of the townspeople into disbelief and immorality, and some of the congregation followed their example. By choosing the name Thyatira, the two ministers demonstrated their knowledge of the Scriptures and left a reminder to the congregation. Church members were called to keep their faith in God and to prevent the prevailing materialism of the frontier society from leading them into immorality or infidelity.
The deed for the land on which the church and cemetery are located was made on January 17, 1753. At this time, the land was in Anson County, North Carolina in an area that became Rowan County on March 27, 1753. A copy of the deed is on display in the current church building and reads as follow:
The deed indicates that there was a congregation prior to the date of the deed. The name was changed by December 1755 to "Cathey's Meeting House". Prior to the American Revolution, the word "church" was reserved for use by the Anglican (Episcopal) Church.
The name of the licensed minister mentioned in the deed is not known. The church evidently was served by itinerant ministers until August 2, 1777 when the Rev. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle was ordained and installed as pastor. Rev. McCorkle was known for his Zion-Parnassus classical school, which was located about a mile from the Church.
During the later part of Rev. McCorkle's pastorate, a split of the congregation between revivalists and non-revivalists occurred in 1805. A revival was sweeping through the area with people shouting, dancing, barking like dogs, swooning and having the "jerks". The congregation was divided on whether this was a true manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Dr. McCorkle believed it was not. Feelings were so strong that 20 or 30 church families, including five elders, left Thyatira to form Back Creek Presbyterian Church on September 6, 1805.
There have been four house of worship buildings at Thyatira. The first building was a log building located above and west of the old part of the church cemetery. Nothing is known about the second building. The third church building was very large and had galleries on three sides. One gallery was reserved for use by slaves. The high pulpit was reached by winding stairs and an ornamental sounding board suspended above the minister's head. The church building that stands in the 21st century is a brick structure and was completed in 1860 and renovated in 1864.
The oldest known graves in the cemetery at Thyatira include:
Graves of notable persons buried at Thyatira include:
The cemetery also contains four pirate tombstones. According to tradition, four pirates from the coast of North Carolina made their way inland and settled in Rowan County and became farmers. They were later identified, convicted and executed. Their burial in the Thyatira cemetery was permitted only if the skull and crossbones, or just the crossbones were used on their gravestones.
Iredell County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 Census, the population was 186,693. Its county seat is Statesville, and its largest town is Mooresville. The county was formed in 1788, subtracted from Rowan County. It is named for James Iredell, one of the first justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Iredell County is included in the Charlotte–Concord–Gastonia, NC–SC Metropolitan Statistical Area, as defined in 2013 by the Office of Management and Budget with data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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Francis Locke Sr. (1722–1796) was a plantation owner, businessman, politician, and a participant in the American War of Independence, where he led the American Patriots to the decisive victory at Ramseur's Mill, which turned the tide of the American War for Independence in the south.
Elizabeth Maxwell Steele was an active supporter of the American Revolution. She helped run a prominent tavern in Salisbury, North Carolina that served as a "resort" for many notable figures of the time. Her involvement with the tavern allowed her to support the Revolution by offering hospitality and charity to other supporters of the American cause.
Samuel Eusebius McCorkle was a pioneer Presbyterian preacher, teacher, advocate for public and private education in North Carolina, and the interceptor and progenitor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who first promoted the idea of establishing a university in the state.
The community of the Fourth Creek Congregation was a group of Scots-Irish Presbyterians who first arrived in the Province of North Carolina in the mid to late 1730s and established a congregation by 1750 under pastor John Thompson in Anson County which became Rowan County in 1753 and finally Iredell County in 1788. The site of the Fourth Creek Congregation was chosen as the location of the county seat of Iredell County in 1789 and was named Statesville in 1789. The Fourth Creek Presbyterian Church officially became the First Presbyterian Church of Statesville in 1875.
James Brandon (1734–1790) was an early pioneer in Rowan County, North Carolina and an officer in the North Carolina militia during the American Revolution. He commanded the 2nd Rowan County Regiment from 1782-1783.
Thomas Gillespie was a large plantation owner in mid-to-late 18th-century North Carolina and served as commissary of the Rowan County Regiment in the North Carolina militia during the American Revolution. He spent his early life in Augusta County, Virginia before migrating to Anson County, North Carolina in about 1750, where he lived most of his life on Sills Creek in the area that became Rowan County, North Carolina in 1753. He and his wife and son were the first white settlers west of the Yadkin River. He owned a plantation of over 1,000 acres on Sills Creek in Rowan County, as well as 6,000 acres in the area of western North Carolina that became part of the state of Tennessee in 1796. He was an early elder in the Thyatira Presbyterian Church in Rowan County, which was formed in 1753. Thomas was the great-grandfather of U.S. President James K. Polk through the lineage of his daughter Lydia, who married Captain James Knox and gave birth to Jane Gracey Knox, mother of the President.
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