Founding and Growth of Christian Church in North Carolina

Founding and Growth of Christian Church in North Carolina

Timeline of the Founding and Growth of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Carolina


David Purviance is born in Iredell County, North Carolina.  The Purviance family would become leaders of Stone’s “Christian” movement in Kentucky.


Irish Presbyterian Samuel Creath arrives in Granville County North Carolina after being released from a British prisoner of war camp.  He will establish a family of great importance of the development of Disciples in North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky.


Barton W. Stone, whose leadership would result on the formation of the Christian Church in Kentucky, begins studies at the academy operated by Dr. David Caldwell in Guilford County.


Joseph Thomas, “the White Pilgrim”, is born near Mebane, North Carolina.  Calling himself a “disciple of Christ” he preached in Salem and Surry County, and later became an ardent follower of Barton W. Stone in Kentucky.


Stone is licensed as a Presbyterian minister.  Later that year Stone would go to Tennessee, then on to Kentucky where he would be ordained and serve as pastor at Concord and Cane Ridge churches.  On June 28, 1804 he would lead a group in taking the name “Christian” only.


“The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery” is published, and Stone and his followers adopt the name “Christian.”


Thomas Campbell arrives in the United States


Thomas Campbell publishes his Declaration and Address; Alexander Campbell arrives in the United States.


Alexander Campbell publishes The Christian Baptist


First meeting of Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell.


Barton W. Stone begins publication of The Christian Messenger


Alexander Campbell begins publication of the Millennial Harbinger


According to Dr. John T. Walsh, later a leading figure among North Carolina Disciples, the earliest general meeting of Disciples in the state was held February 2 and 3 at Little Sister Church, Lenoir County.  The church was related to the Neuse Association of Regular Baptists.  Churches represented at this inaugural “Union Meeting of Disciples of Christ” were:  Tranters Creek and Old Ford (Beaufort County); Rountrees and Grindle Creek (Pitt County); and Little Sister.  Delegates were:  General William Clark; John P. Dunn; Abraham Congleton; Walter Dunn; A. Tull; James S. Desmond. B.F. Eborn; John Leggett; Edwin Gorham; O. Canfield; Charles J. Rountree; Willie Nobles; and Isaac Baldree.


Union of Christian and Disciples in Lexington, Kentucky


Thomas Campbell preaches at Edenton. Three influential men will become Campbell’s friends and supporters of the Reformation movement:  Thomas Waff; Joseph Manning and Henry A. Skinner.  Campbell’s preaching and writing, however, incurs the opposition of Baptist leaders.

At the Kehukee (Baptist) Association meeting General William Clark and Jeremiah Leggett lead a revolt against the Calvinistic dogma contained in the Philadelphia Confession.  General Clark was minister of the Grindle Creek congregation (near today’s Pactolus in Pitt County).

During the Neuse Association meeting held October 19-21, Abraham Congleton, John P. Dunn and General William Clark were excluded from pulpits within the Association for their “fundamental views of a certain M. Campbell.”  Dr. Charles Crossfield Ware would, nearly a century later, speak of the exclusion of the three as the “natal day of North Carolina Disciples of Christ.”


Thomas Campbell visits Tarboro, then Greenville where he visits in the home of General William Clark, the first North Carolinian to subscribe to the Millennial Harbinger.  At Clark’s home he meets John P. Dunn and Abraham Congleton, ministers of Little Sister congregation in Lenoir County.  The General, Dunn and Congleton had been advocates of the Campbells’ teaching,  again bringing the ire of Baptist leaders who termed the three “Campbellites.”  That year Campbell would also include visits to Hookerton and Pantego.

Thomas Campbell notes an initial Union Meeting of the Disciples held March 28-30 “for the purpose of concert concerning our future proceedings.  The meeting was the first recorded Union Meeting among North Carolina Disciples.

From 1834 until the summer of 1836 Thomas Campbell and Baptist leader Thomas Meredith engage in a series of written arguments published first in Meredith’s Interpreter, later in a new Baptist periodical, the Biblical Recorder.  The controversy would introduce the tenets of “Campbellite” beliefs to many in North Carolina.


Churches within the Bethel Free Will Baptist Conference meeting November 11-14 at Piney Grove Church in Sampson County issue a plea against creeds in favor of Christian union and liberty. Thomas J. Latham of Pantego authored the circular letter for the gathering and recorded the minutes.


Meeting at Welche’s Creek (Martin County) the Bethel Conference issues an urgent appeal for a united front of the Disciples.


At Wheat Swamp Church (Lenoir County) the Free Will Baptists reorganize themselves, but twenty-five of their ministers identify themselves with the Disciples.


Meeting at Hookerton (Greene County) the Disciples of the Bethel Conference resolve that a convention be held to affect a union with the Union of the Disciples of Christ to be held in May, 1845.  The following delegates would include:  Elders Thomas J. Latham; John L. Clifton; Henry Smith; Benjamin Parrott; Robert Bond; William Magounds; and Brethren Seth H. Tyson; Winsor Dixon; Reuben Barrow; David Lewis; Jacob McCotter; Abraham Baker; Joel Joyner, Jr.; Laban Wilkinson; and Henry D. Lewis.


Delegates assembled on May 2 at Hookerton Church from the Bethel Conference and the Union Meeting of the Disciples of Christ and agreed that the two should unite and form one body known as the Bethel Conference and Union Meeting.  Following the meeting each church was asked to ratify the actions of the Hookerton Convention. The preamble and resolutions would be adopted by the Conference at Piney Grove in November.

At the 1845 Convention at Piney Grove, thirty churches with 1,859 members and twenty-six preachers were enrolled.  Of those, eight were in Beaufort County;  one in Carteret; one in Craven; two in Greene; one in Hyde County; one in Johnston; two in Jones; three in Lenoir; one in Martin; Pamlico five (then a part of Craven County); Pitt three; and Sampson two.  The original ministerial roll included:  Thomas C. Baker; Robert Bond; John L. Clifton; Jordan Cox; John P. Dunn; William R. Fulshire; William C. Gardner; John B. Gaylord; John M. Gurganus; James F. Latham; Thomas J. Latham; William Latham; James R. Lewis; William MaGounds; Willie T. Mobley; Willie T. Nobles; Benjamin Parrott; John Powell; William H. Schenk; F.B. Silverthorn; Henry Smith; Nathan Stancill; Jacob Tench; Seth H. Tyson; Benjamin Weeks; and Nathaniel Weeks.


Meeting in the Post Oak Meeting House in Craven County, delegates approved requesting churches to support one or more evangelists to travel and preach the gospel, with the first installment to be due when an evangelist is appointed.


The Convention recommends that churches use the “Christian Hymn Book,” published by Alexander Campbell and Barton Warren Stone.


During the Conference held in early November at Mill Creek Church (Johnston County) delegates named Elders John Dupree, John L. Clifton and Stephen D. Collins to attend the Annual Meeting of the Christian Baptist Conference of North Carolina, carrying with them twenty copies of the minutes.


At the Disciples Annual Meeting held in Kinston, John P. Dunn and Joseph Latham were named as “irenic messengers” from the Conference to the Chowan Baptist Association. Latham and Benjamin Parrott were to attend the next assembly of the Union Baptist Advisory Council.  Dr. S.J. Wheeler told delegates of a new girls’ school of the Baptists at Murfreesboro.  Delegates voted to encourage Disciples’ patronage of the school and named John P. Dunn and Thomas J. Latham to serve on the school’s board of trustees.  Churches were also recommended to support the newly organized American and Foreign Bible Society.


At a December meeting held at Hookerton it was agreed to sustain Jesse P. Nevill and Josephus Latham as evangelists.  It was also agreed that churches support the establishment of a religious periodical within the Conference.


In March Dr. John T. Walsh of Richmond, Virginia, arrived in North Carolina as Evangelist.  For the next thirty-three years he would serve as a pastor-evangelist in the state.

During the October 14-17 Conference held at Elm Grove Meeting House in Pitt County, churches located in South Carolina and in Cumberland and Robeson counties in North Carolina were “allowed to form a separate organization.”