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  Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Huntersville NC
History

Dr. Dan Morrill
Professor of History
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
April 6, 1987


Local tradition holds that Hopewell Presbyterian Church, located on Beatties Ford Road in the Hopewell section or Long Creek Community of Mecklenburg County, was established in 1762. Its origins, however, go back to the late 1740’s or early 1750’s. John Thomson (1690-1753) , who came to what is now Iredell County in 1744 and was the first Presbyterian missionary in North Carolina south of the Yadkin River, was invited by some of the more refined residents of Hopewell to preach at the home of Richard Barry, whose house stood on Beatties Ford Road near McDowell Creek.

Thomson was a circuit rider, an itinerant minister who traveled by horseback through the Carolina frontier. He sought out and established contact with the Scotch-Irish settlers who, along with other groups were moving south from the Shenandoah Valley and the Great Valley of Virginia into the Carolina Piedmont.

Our Hopewell Presbyterian Ancestors CemeteryBefore 1729, the land in North Carolina was owned by wealthy English Proprietors, who demonstrated little interest in working to attract settlers into the colony. Thereafter, except for the territorial holdings of Lord Granville, the land in North Carolina was ceded to the Crown; and several Colonial Governors, especially Gabriel Johnson (1734-1751), a Scot, and Arthur Dobbs (1754-1765), an Ulsterman, instituted an aggressive and eventually successful policy to entice large numbers of people to settle in the hitherto sparsely populated Piedmont section of North Carolina.

Between 1730 and 1770, when Royal agents began encouraging settlement in the interior of the colony, the population of North Carolina increased from approximately 36,000 to approximately 180,000. According to one historian, the influx of settlers into the Carolina backcountry in the mid-1700’s was one of the mightiest migrations in colonial times."

The man who was immediately responsible for the creation of Hopewell Presbyterian Church was Alexander Craighead (1707-1766), a native of Donegal, Ireland. Ordained in Pennsylvania in 1735, Craighead moved from Virginia to North Carolina in 1758 to become the minister of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. Craighead belonged to the so-called New Side movement in Presbyterianism.

Alexander Craighead has become known as the "Father of the Seven Colonial Churches".

They are: Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Rocky River Presbyterian Church, Sugar Creek Presbyterian Church, Center Presbyterian Church, Providence Presbyterian Church, Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church, and Steel Creek Presbyterian Church.

Accordingly, he stressed the evangelical components of Christianity and felt a compelling need to reach out to the Scotch Irish settlers in the region, who were struggling to maintain some sense of decorum and moral responsibility on the Carolina frontier, where "hard drinking and coarse manners found little check".

The initial meeting house or church at Hopewell Presbyterian was a log building, erected c. 1765.

The crowds were sometimes so large, however, that services had to be held outdoors. The first full time resident pastor of Hopewell was Samuel Craighead Caldwell. Alexander Craighead’s grandson, who was installed in 1892. In 1806, Caldwell resigned, because the emotionalism of his sermons had offended many in the congregation. Caldwell is buried in one of the graveyards at Sugaw Creek Presbyterian.

Hopewell Presbyterian Church PlaqueIn the 1790’s and early 1800’s, after the invention of the cotton gin, Hopewell began to prosper, as the resourceful Scotch Irish farmers, like the Davidsons, the Alexanders, and the Torrances, began to benefit from cotton as a major cash crop. Indicative of the new wealth or the region was the decision to build a new and more substantial church.

The November 22nd, 1830 issue of the Miners and Farmers Journal contained the following advertisement: Proposals will be received on Thursday, the 6th day of January next at Hopewell Church for building and finishing of a church at said place. The wall to be of brick, on a stone foundation 43 by 65 feet 20 feet high; the roof to be covered with tin; arched ceiling. It is contemplated at present to have four doors, 12 windows 14 by 16 glass and eighteen lights each. This building, completed in 1831, forms the essential core of the meeting house or church which is still in use at Hopewell Presbyterian.

Two major alterations or additions to the 1831 edifice have occurred. In 1860, the church was enlarged by erecting a vestibule on the south end of the church, and a gallery or balcony, part of which was used by slaves, was built. In the 1920’s, an educational building was added to the Northern end of the church. Two additional edifices, a Fellowship Building (1953) and a Recreation Building (1964) have been constructed.

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

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