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  Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Huntersville NC
History
Campus History

Hopewell Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest churches in the region. Before the Revolutionary War there were only seven churches in the area. They were all Presbyterian because the first European settlers were all Scottish or Scots-Irish Presbyterians. Hopewell was officially founded in 1762 although it was started in the late 1740’s or early 1750’s by an Evangelist named John Thomson.

The first gatherings were about a mile north of the present sire in the house and yard of a founding member named Richard Barry. A new historic marker has been placed on Beatties Ford Road to call attention to this site which has been preserved from development.

The first building on campus was probably a log house. From the copy of the seating chart drawn by the well know patriot, John McKnitt Alexander, one can see how benches or pews were arranged around the pulpit in 1778. The numbers and initials show which members subscribed to which pew and the accompanying cost for a year which might help to pay the preacher. The next building was weatherboard. Either the log structure had wooden siding added or a whole new building was erected.  

Seating Chart

 

In 1831 a campaign was begun to construct a brick "meeting house", but apparently the actual building wasn’t started until 1833. Hopewell would thus become only the second bricked Presbyterian Church in rural North Carolina. The record is unclear, but either all or part of the old wooden structure was moved onto the farm of the pastor at that time, the Rev. John Williamson. That road is now known as Patterson Road which is off Hambright Road between McCoy Road and Highway 11S. The minister’s wife, Sarah, transformed that building into the first female academy in the region..

In 1859 this meeting house style was remodeled into a Federal Style building with very little change since then. A new front was added which lengthened the building and game more room for the balcony which was then the slave gallery. The roof was literally raised with the windows doubling in height. These changes are clearly visible in the fact that the additions employed a darker shade of brick . The accompanying photograph is from 1911. The exterior of the church looked like this between 1860 and 1928 when the first Sunday Church building was added on to the back of the structure. The original "Scotch-Stack" style wall is clearly visible in this photograph too. It extended in front of the church and surrounded the cemetery which sits in front of the building. The diminutive gentleman on the steps is E.L. Baxter Davidson. In 1928, he spared this wall from being crushed and used for the first hard-surface of Beatties Ford Road. Instead he offered to build the present cemented stone wall on either side of Beatties Ford Road.
 

Hopewell Presbyterian Church Gen Davidson Grave MarkerBefore we go inside the church building, let’s take a brief tour of the cemetery. This is the oldest of four cemeteries on campus having been used at least between 1775 and 1840. This burial ground has the third highest concentration of box markers in North Carolina. Those are the grave sites that look like they have stone coffins on top of them. Don’t worry, the deceased were actually buried underground and not in these boxes! Some of the markers were originally table markers. That is, they had six legs rather than panels. The last picture of one has been found in a 1927 newspaper article. These markers were highly fashionable in the first half of the nineteenth century. An expert has estimated that each one was worth about the equivalent of the average house in that era! That value plus the fact that Hopewell was one of the first bricked churches in the rural South demonstrates the wealth that cotton brought to the region in the first half of the nineteenth century. The population of the first cemetery is a veritable Who’s Who of early North Mecklenburg County history.

John McKnitt Alexander was the secretary of the Safety Committee that penned the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775. His plantation was known as Alexandriana which is now the name of a road. It burned down in 1800 which is the source of all the controversy about the reality of the "Meck Deck" because many of his original minutes burned along with all of the earliest records of Hopewell. Alexander Middle School is named in his honor. His grave is numbered 77 on the small bronze tag on the foot of the grave.

Frances Bradley (#135) was also one of the heroes of the American Revolution. It was at this farm that the battle with the British soldiers took place which lead to Mecklenburg County having the nickname of "Hornet’s Nest". The present grave marker is a copy of the original which disappeared from the county between 1915-1998. Members of the congregation located it at the municipal cemetery in Old Fort, NC. Through legal agreements with Bradley’s descendents, it was brought back to the Hopewell History Room. During most of 2001 and half of 2002 it was on display at the Charlotte History Museum as part of a "Communities of Faith" exhibit. Bradley Middle School was named after him.

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Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Huntersville NC, Near Charlotte, Concord, Mooresville and Lake Norman

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10500 Beatties Ford Road •  Huntersville, NC •  28078-9245 •  Tel:(704) 875-2291 •  Fax:(704) 875-2020 • 
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