Jonesville First, Piney Grove and Wesley Chapel United Methodist churches have formed a cooperative parish which will begin services under one roof Sunday.
The two African American churches and one white church are officially worshipping together in the same building beginning Sunday at 10:45 a.m. at Jonesville First United Methodist Church lead by Pastor Jeanette Hayes, their first African American pastor. Hayes pastored Piney and Wesley Chapel for five years. This will be the first year all three will be serving together.
Each of the churches forming this cooperative parish has their own distinctive histories and their common shared ministries, including Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry, Grace Clinic, Feeding America, The ARK, Operation Christmas Child, Jonesville Jubilee, Community VBS, community Bible study, community youth Bible study, Sunday school, Ringing Salvation Army bell, children’s time, homecoming/revival, Michael Stephen Stockton Friends and Family Community Monthly free meal, monthly singing at Chatham Nursing Home, community Thanksgiving service, community Lent service, UMW, UMM, community unity service, school supplies, feed elderly, choirs, and more.
Jonesville First UMC, Jonesville
The nucleus of what is now Jonesville First UMC was in existence as a Methodist Society before the Methodist denomination was formally organized. The community then was called Allen’s settlement, which was located on the south bank of the Yadkin River, where Jonesville is now. The very first Methodist circuit in America, established in 1780, was the Yadkin Circuit. At the culmination of the bicentennial celebration in 1995, Bishop Bevel Jones of the Western North Carolina Conference said, “The Jonesville congregation ‘parallels the organization of Methodism as a denomination.’”
Jonesville Methodist grew quickly and by 1816 was hosting the Jonesville Academy, an institution of much prestige in antebellum North Carolina. The academy was first headed by the Rev. James Parkes, who was the son-in-law of Hardy Jones, who was a long-time friend of Bishop Francis Asbury, first Methodist bishop in America, who also gave the Jonesville academy and the town of Jonesville their names.
The academy was the “daughter” of the short-lived Cokesbury School, the first Methodist educational institution in North Carolina and located on land donated around 1790 by Hardy Jones, whose plantation was in the vicinity of what is now Bermuda Run.
On display in the northex is a giant cross made from a huge forest pine timber used in the foundation the Academy Chapel and also in the foundation of the 1915 church. This timber, saved by Charlie G. and Maude Elliott Mathis, was stored in their garage loft more than a half century — until Dr. Judy Wolfe in 2013 asked if there might be any old wood preserved from the Academy Chapel that could be used to construct a giant cross.
Today that cross, its two beams wrapped together with a rope last used to ring the academy bell in the 1915 church, is continually lighted and always viewable through glass walls, welcoming at any hour all who visit our historic church.
(Charles Mathis, Jonesville Church Historian, 2016)
Piney Grove UMC, Ronda
The first Piney Grove was built in 1845. Local artist Geoffrey Walker portrayed it as a rough-hewn wooden building that survived many storms and other elements. Though little written history has been yet been found prior to 1950, much has been revealed in members’ stories passed down orally.
Over the years there have been countless people who have given their talents to Piney Grove UMC down through the years. One such individual was Joe Martin, who did not wait for people to ask him to do something. He walked one and a half miles every Sunday to church regardless of the weather to build a fire in the big pot-bellied stove to make sure the church was comfortable and warm for everyone who came to Sunday school and church. He did this one his own without missing even one.
In the late 1950s, Sunday school started at 10 a.m. and church did not begin until 3 p.m., because the minister had more than one church. Leroy Hampton worked with the children in the Methodist Youth fellowship program. He made available horse shoes and softball between Sunday school and church. It was important to him that the kids attended Sunday school and church. He provided activities for them to socialize with their peers.
In the mid-1950s, seven men on the Trustee board secured extra land for the church after they discovered that the cemetery was encroaching on their neighbor’s land. They were offered land in a flood zone. Thankfully they held out until they got the land they wanted for one dollar. The seven trustees were John Cook, Claude Ferguson, Lawrence Foote, Ralph Hague, Ralph Hampton, Leroy Hampton and John March.
Piney Grove is the only historically African-American United Methodist Church in Wilkes County. Susie Anthony, Piney Grove historian, welcomes any additional written and oral Piney history.
Wesley Chapel UMC, Elkin
There have been three Wesley Chapel Methodist churches in Elkin. The church was organized sometime after the Civil War.
The first was located on a part of Gwyn Avenue which is now North Bridge Street. The congregation outgrew this building, and in 1903 built a larger church on the same location.
Lois Lytton said that Cindy Bryant remembered the first church, and that some of the original members of the second Wesley Chapel were Angeline Foard, Noah and Lucy Foard, Maggie Martin, Dora and Ember Roberts, Dan Roberts along with Max and Hattie Hickerson, Clarence and Julia Edwards, Alice Doub, Raymond and Claudia Allen, and Anderson Hickerson. This congregation grew from about 25 members in 1903 to 200 members in later years.
In 1957, Wesley Chapel merged with the church at Oak Grove and moved from the Bridge Street location. A new church was built at Oak Grove and became the third church to bear the name Wesley Chapel.
The first Oak Grove Methodist Church was located at what is now the Oak Grove Community Cemetery located at the end of Interstate Way outside of Elkin. The Jones family were leaders in the Oak Grove Methodist churches. John Wesley, Henry and J.W. were all Methodist ministers.
Sam Barber remembers going to church with his father and mother each preaching Sunday. Aunt Bell Allen was the oldest member of the early Oak Grove Church. Anna Jones’ fondest memory was hearing Mr. Ember praying a prayer, Your Golden Moments.
Louise Barker Gwyn said everyone that attended church on Sundays brought their lunch for walking or riding on a wagon was the early means of travel. Louise also helped start the first choir at Oak Grove.
Wesley Chapel once had Bishop Bethea as its pastor. He became resident bishop in Columbia, South Carolina. Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church is the only historically African-Ameriican United Methodist Church in Surry County.
(Submitted by Paulette Kyle-Gregory, Wesley Chapel historian)