Hamlet, Richmond County, North Carolina

The History of Marks Creek Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville Presbytery was written and compiled by Mary Campbell Chappell, Church Historian 1972 - 1976. Mom passed away on September 10, 2003. We hope you enjoy reading the first chapter of the history and viewing the 1911 church group photo. Myrtle Norton Bridges .    Posted May 28th, 2001

Marks Creek Presbyterian Church was first organized in 1820 about one mile southeast of Hamlet, N.C., near what is now the Ed Kelly homeplace. The first petition for organization of this church was handed to Fayetteville Presbytery on Monday, the 28th of September in 1818, and read as follows:

"A petition was handed to Fayetteville Presbytery from certain individuals, styling themselves Elders of Marks Creek Church congregation, praying that Presbytery would take the said congregation under their care, and grant them supplies as often as practicable. Presbytery, finding it impossible to ascertain whether the existing situation of said people can warrant their being duly recognized as a regularly organized congregation, deem it inexpedient at present to grant the prayer of their petition in its full extent, unwilling, however, entirely to neglect them, the Reverend Messers McNair, McIntyre, McFarland, and Peacock are hereby directed to visit the said people, each to preach to them one Sabbath, between this time and our next stated Session; to make all necessary inquiries in relation to the organization of the said congregation; and to report to Presbytery, the result of such inquiries, at our next stated Session."

On Monday, October 4th, 1819, the records of the Presbytery states;

"Inquiry was made in relation to Marks Creek's congregation; and it appeared that said congregation had not been duly organized as a church. Whereupon, resolved, that the Rev'd Messers McNair and McIntyre be, and thereby are, authorized to act, with reference to the organization of the said congregation, as their discretion may point out to them; and if they should find their way clear to proceed to any official act in this matter, it is hereby enjoined on them, to report to Presbytery what they may have done."

Friday, March 3rd, 1820, the committee appointed to inquire into the state of Marks Creek Congregation reported:

"The necessary steps have been taken for duly organizing that congregation as a church. Resolved that said congregation be henceforth considered as regularly placed under the care of this Presbytery, and entitled, while vacant, to its proportion of supplies, in common with other vacancies."

Old Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church is said to be the mother church of Marks Creek. Old Laurel Hill was established in 1797. Rev. Malcom McNair was pastor of the Laurel Hill Church at the time of the organization of the old Marks Creek. He died in 1822. Rev. James P. McPherson was pastor there when the present Marks Creek Church was organized.

The first church was built on land donated by a Mr. John McKinnon. Not much is known of this church. Except for the foregoing data, no known records exist. It is known that at about the time the church should have been growing, some of its members left this area and settled in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

Between October, 1928 when Rev. J. A. McIntyre left us and April 1929 when Rev. A. T. Taylor came, Dr. Lynn R. Walker, Pastor of the Hamlet Presbyterian Church, preached at Marks Creek. Dr. Walker told some of our members that he felt at home in this church because the names of the people were the same as those of the members of a church where he had preached in western Florida. These people had said their forefathers came from North Carolina, and had been members of Marks Creek Presbyterian Church in Richmond County.

Following up this clue I learned some very interesting information concerning some of the people who were members of the first Marks Creek Church.

In 1973 I came across a book written by Elba Wilson Carswell entitled, Holmes Valley - a West Florida Cradle of Christianity. Mr. Carswell's book gave the history of many of the oldest churches in western Florida. Among them was Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church established in 1827. It was established by Scotch Presbyterians who had come from Richmond County in North Carolina about 1820. After reading this book I was sure some of these people were the same people who had started Marks Creek Church.

Following up on this idea I wrote to the author of the book and asked for further information. This kind and generous person allowed me to borrow an old out of print book written by John L. McKinnon in 1912 which was a history of Walton County, Florida. In the book were these names; McKinnon, McLean, McRae, Williams, McPherson, Morrison, McDonald, Campbell, McSween and other names with a familiar ring!

Interestingly, these were the people who pioneered this part of Florida. The first ones there from this area were Neil McLendon, his brother-in-law, Daniel D. Campbell and John Folk. It seems most of the people who left here at this time eventually found their way to this part of Florida, though some settled in southern Alabama.

Glowing letters back to their friends in North Carolina inspired Col. John McKinnon, father of the John L. McKinnon who wrote the book, and others to go down in 1827.

Mr. McKinnon's history revolves around the families just mentioned; all their ancestors closely related. They seemed to have married, mostly within their own ranks.

Grazing lands was the major enticement to Florida. After homesteads had been settled, cows brought in to graze the bountiful lands, and families started, they organized Euchee Valley Presbytenian Church.

Dr. Lynn R. Walker, was at the time of the writing of this Walton County history in 1912, president of Palmer College in the western part of Florida. He preached at DeFuniak Springs, Fla., a church which was formed by the descendants of the pioneer families. Euchee Valley Church was in 1870 Florida's largest Presbyterian Church. A survey made in 1928 showed that the Old Valley Church had contributed members to Freeport, DeFuniak Springs, Magnolia, Milton, Quincy, Glendale, Panama City, Pennsacola, Chipley, Crestview, Port Myers, Tallahassee, Laurel Hill, Ponce DeLeon, Marianna, Bonifay, in Florida; also, Geneva Alabama and Fort Valley, Georgia churches.

Mr. Carswell spoke of the early pioneers as "sturdy and conservative". As I read Mr. McKinnon's book it became evident that many of them were intellectuals; strong in mind, body and spirit. They were also patriotic Whigs. These people came from Liverpool to Wilmington, N.C. on the English ship "Scotia" between 1808 and 1812. They remained in N.C. about 12 to 18 years before migrating to Florida.

It is thought that some of the descendants of the Florida pioneers came back to this area about the middle 1800's. It might have been that things were not what they expected in the old Marks Creek Church. Perhaps this is the reason the church was reorganized at the head of Marks Creek. This is a matter of conjecture.

Presbytery had met at the old Marks Creek Church on April 9, 1855, at which time by vote of the congregation the name of the church was changed to Mizpeh. Knowing Marks Creek people as I do, I'm sure this name change did not go over too well. One cannot help but wonder about this first old church. It must have been a fairly large church. Old Laurel Hill Church records show that: "...Session met and appointed John McNeil to represent this church in the Presbytery of Fayetteville at its next stated session to be held at Marks Creek...". The first church may have been built of hand hewn logs, perhaps round, as many of the first buildings were.

October 10th, 1861, the records of Fayetteville Presbytery state: "A petition praying for the organization of a church in Richmond County to be called Marks Creek Church was read and granted..."

At the meeting of Presbytery on April 11, 1862, the committee appointed to organize Marks Creek Church at the present site reported: that they had attended to that business on Saturday before the first Sabbath in November 1861, with 28 members, and that they ordained and installed R. McDonald, as its Elder. We know this commission was composed of the following persons: Rev. James P. McPherson, Rev. Archie McQueen, Rev. Andrew McMillan and Ruling Elder, J. McNeil.

It is interesting to note that a Rev. Archie McQueen helped organize the Euchee Valley Church in Florida, also.

April 25th, 1878 the record states: "On motion the name of Mizpeh Church was striken from the Roll, and it was ordered that the members of this church be directed to unite with Rockingham or Marks Creek."

On the highest point in Marks Creek Township, on land given by the Daniel W. Campbell family in 1861, at the head of Marks Creek, Marks Creek Presbyterian Church was reorganized.

We have no recorded account of the building of the first church on this site. We do know that all the materials possible were donated by members and friends of the church. It was built almost entirely by volunteer labor, using heart pine boards and wooden pegs for nails in places. Huge blocks of virgin pine was used for foundation pillars.

This first structure was a large one-room building. The pulpit was on a raised platform at one end; two doors were at the front, facing west. There were two aisles. Short seats were on the sides, with long seats across the middle of the church. These seats were made by the members, from heart pine lumber, using some pegs. The men entered the church on the left; the ladies on the right. Young married people, courting couples and visitors sat on the long seats in the center of the church. Black members, and later freed slave members, sat on the back seats. Long seats to the right of the pulpit was usually occupied by the Elders. In later years when there was a choir, the members sat on long seats to the left of the pulpit.

Small kerosene lamps with reflectors were on the walls of the church. In the 1950's aladdin lamps were purchased, or donated. These lamps hung from the ceiling. Very often they would run up and someone would get up out of his seat and adjust them.

There were three glass windows on each side of the church. Most people made an effort to sit next to the windows in order to get whatever breeze there was. This was also a good vantage point for "watching the horses and mules that were hitched to the oak trees outside; and to make sure the boys did not slip out, and sneak off to the spring during the long sermons."

The spring was at the foot of the hill behind the church. A gourd, or a drinking glass, was kept hanging on a bush near the spring, from which everyone drank. A trek to the spring for a drink of water was a memorable event; especially for those in the teenage group. Mrs. Nan McRae Williams, a former historian, says, "No doubt many a church romance was begun in this simple and pleasant pastime."

When Marks Creek Church was reorganized in this place on November 2, 1861, two of Richmond County's main roads passed within a few hundred feet of the church. Old Laurel Hill Road passed behind the church in, a southeasterly direction. This was a well traveled road - by wagons and buggies - between Rockingham, N.C. and Laurel Hill, N.C. There was no Hamlet at this time. Hamlet came into being between 1872 and 1873. At the foot of the hill on the east side of the church, famous Old Cheraw Road crossed the Laurel Hill Road. This Cheraw, S.C. to Fayetteville, N.C. road ran in a northeasterly direction, and was the main road in this part of the Cape Pear Valley region. Eight horse wagons hauling shipments between Cheraw and Fayetteville passed on this road and camped sometimes at Campbell's Mill Pond on Mill Creek.

Living in this area at this time - between 1774 and 1861 - were the families of Terry, Dearman, Yates, Oliver, McLean, McDonald, Butler, Campbell, McKinnon, McDuffie, McSween, Currie, McMillan, McNair, McCaskill, McPherson, McKay, Smith, McLeod Pate, Morrison and Wilkes.

The old Marks Creek School was located a few hundred feet northwest of the church. Many of us remember well the small one-room school which was attended by children living in the community in the early 1900's. Members of Marks Creek Church at this time who attended school at the little Marks Creek School are Letha Wilkes McRae, Helen McDonald McDuffie, Ruby Terry Bundy, Ruth Terry McRae, Beaulah Terry Wilkes, Ernest Wilkes, Alma McDonald McDonald and Mary Campbell Chappell. Among those teaching at this school who were members of this church were; Mr. W. A. Wilkes, Miss Reedy Carneron, Miss Bernice Nye, Miss Nancy McRae and Mrs. Nan Boyle McRae.

One of the mysteries related to the history of this church is the fact that addresses of the first Elders of Marks Creek - Mr. Randolph McDonald, Mr. Daniel W. Campbell and Mr. Daniel Currie - were given as Powhattan! All three lived within five miles of the church. This information came from an old Session Report filled out by Daniel W. Campbell, Clerk of the Session, in 1867. From this report it was found that the church had forty members. Rev. Andrew McMillan was the pastor. He was paid, or promised, $50.00 yearly! He preached once a month, and was not engaged in secular pursuits in order to support himself. Children were regularly taught the Shorter Catechism, and ccatechizedby the minister. There was no Sunday School at this time. Session ordered a Sunday School to be organized in 1888. In 1896 there were four teachers. Ministers serving Marks Creek Church were: Rev. Andrew McMillan, 1861 - 1875? and again from 1885 - 1884, and 1887 - 1888; Rev. A.N. Fergerson, 1875 -1880, and again 1884 -1885; Rev. A.C. Alexander, 1880 -1885; Rev. John H. Coble, 1885-1886; Rev. J.H. Colton, 1886 - 1887$ Rev. A. Currie, 1888 -1889; Rev. M.F. Mclver, 1890-1892 and also from 1894 - 1902; from 1904 -1906; Rev. D.W. Fox, 1892 - 1895; Rev. P. M. Law, 1902 - 1904; Rev. W. R. Coppedge, 1906 - 1928; Rev. J. A. Mclntyre, 1928 - 1929; Rev. A. T. Taylor, 1929 - 1964, Rev. Paul Beasley, 1965 - 1968; Rev. Marshall L. Smith, 1969 - 1974; Rev. Ladson Brearley, 1976 -.

Our church records show that the church had the following members when organized. By letter from Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church, Mrs. Sarah McSween [widow of Daniel], Jenny and Penny McSween (her two servants), Mrs. Catherine McLean, Mrs. Katie Currie, Miss Mary E. Currie, Miss Cynthia Ann Currie, Miss Margaret McLeod, Miss Martha Priest, Mr. Randolph McDonald, Mr. Angus McLean, Miss Catherine J. McDonald, Mr. Daniel W. Campbell. Received by certificate: Mr. George Wilkes, Miss Nancy Wilkes, Miss Mary Jane Wilkes, Mr. John Milkes, Mrs. Christian C. Wilkes, Mrs. Mary Wilkes, Mr. Angus A. Campbell, Mrs. Isabelle Campbell, Miss Jane Smith, Eliza Taylor, Daniiel Currie, Mr. John Allan McDonald, Mrs. Mary McKinnon McDonald, Mary Ann McCormac, Mr. Malcom J. Morrison, Dorothea McLean, John McLean, Ailsey Morrison, Daniel Morrison and Miss Jenet McLean.

April 6, 1862, Daniel W. Campbell and Daniel Currie were elected to the office of ruling elder, with Daniel W. Campbell to serve as clerk of the Session. The first Deacon, Mr. John Wilkes, was elected on September 25, 1879. Mr. Herman Morrison, a descendant of charter members of Marks Creek Church, recalls hearing his ancestors say that the first church erected on the present site was built from some of the materials used in the old Marks Creek Church south of Hamlet, N.C.

Mr. Morrison's family were in the church through the early 1900's. He says most of our ancestors came from the old Scotch settlement around where Flora McDonald College was later built. A large tract of land was set aside in this area for the Indians which at that time comprised two tribes; one being the Pembroke tribe. According to Mr. Morrison, nearly all the residents of a large area around Laurel Hill adhered to the Old Presbyterian Faith. He recalls that members of this church in the early days did their cooking on Saturday for Sunday; and work of any kind was not allowed on the Sabbath day. Homecomings, he says, were different. Old friends met that didn't get to see each other often in those days, even though they didn't live very far apart. The people in the church in the early 1900's, Mr. Morrison remembers, were McDonalds, McLeans, McGilvarys, McRaes, McSweens, McDuffies, Camerons, Terrys, Curries, McLeods, McPhersons, Wilkes, Campbells and Morrisons.

Rev. W. R. Coppedge, D.D., served Marks Creek Church from 1906 - 1928. In that day of bad roads - sand roads mostly - and few cars, it was not possible to have Sunday School, or any other activities, other than those of an urgent nature. However, Mr. Coppedge preached regularly, visited in the homes, ministered to the sick and burdened, conducted funerals and performed weddings.

Many pleasant things are remembered by the writer of this history having to do with getting Mr. Coppedge to Marks Creek to preach. Mr. Colin Williams, Mr. W. A. Wilkes, and my father, Norman A. Campbell, on different Sundays, drove to Rockingham to bring Mr. Coppedge to the church. On Sundays when it was my father's time to go after him I went along. A visit to their home on Fayetteville Road was always a pleasant experience. Very vivid in my mind is the picture of the butter-dish as it sat on their dining room table. I remember well the good biscuit and butter given me by Mrs. Coppedge. Both Mr. and Mrs. Coppedge were very gentle people. They had a way with children.

The faithful service of Dr. Coppedge to the people of Marks Creek Church in the early 1900's had much to do with the growth and progress experienced by the church in the following years. Mr. Coppedge encouraged Bible study and the study of the Catechism.

Love engendered by this warm personality remains with many members of Marks Creek Church. Mr. Coppedge retired because of ill health in 1926. His last two years was served as pastor emeritus. His portrait hangs in the vestibule of this church, his gentle look a constant reminder of his warm, devoted service.

The Rev. J. A. Mclntyre served Marks Creek Church following the retinnent of Dr. Coppedge. It was in this time period that the first Sunday School was organized. As mentioned before Session had ordered a Sunday School to be organized in 1888; and in 1896 there were four teachers. So there had been a Sunday School at one time. Mrs. Letha McRae remembers that there was a Sunday School in 1914. It apparently didn't last very long. Then in 1924 Mrs. McRae remembers going to Sunday School at Marks Creek again; and I, also, remember going at about this time.

Rev. McIntyre was with us in 1927 and 1928. In 1927 the Sunday School was reoganized.

1911 Photo Marks Creek Church Group
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Mrs. Nan McRae's History of Marks Creek Church (1944-1947)
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