by Bruce Whitaker
Methodist Church South, Holston Conference, Swannanoa Circuit
The Swannanoa Circuit of the Methodist Church included Haw Creek, Swannanoa, Black Mountain, Fairview, all of southeast Buncombe County east of Sweeten Creek Road, and continued south to Hooper’s Creek. The name of the circuit was later changed to the Cane Creek Circuit. The Methodist churches included in the district were: Tabernacle in what is now Black Mountain; Davidson’s Chapel in Swannanoa; Bethesda in Haw Creek; West’s Chapel on Sweeten Creek; Sharon, Tweed’s Chapel and Brush Creek in Fairview; Sales School House (which I assume was at the foot of Mine Hole Gap on Gashes Creek, now called Reynolds); Patty’s Chapel on Hooper’s Creek; and Ball’s Chapel, whose location I do not know.
The material in most of the conference minutes are, as my great Uncle Tom Davis used to say, “as dry as an old cucumber.” Some of the material is witty, however, and other information is valuable, such as the notations of the deaths of church members. In the days before death certificates, if a person did not have a tombstone these notations might be the only record of when someone’s relative died.
The 3rd Quarterly Conference for the Swannanoa Circuit was held on May 10, 1879 at Davidson’s Chapel in Swannanoa. The general state of the Swannanoa Circuit was said to be “not the most prosperous,” and church attendance was not what it should be. The minutes stated that there had been 40 adult baptisms, 50 accessions, one death and 2 transfers by letter. The Conference listed the amounts each church had raised to support the ministry: Davidson’s Chapel $8.00, Bethesda $1.85, West’s Chapel $5.20, Tabernacle $2.00, Pattys Chapel $11.25, Ball’s Chapel $3.50, Sharon $3.00 and public collections $3.94. The total amount collected was $43.54. The proceeds were divided thus: Pastor J.S. Kennedy received $8.70 and Pastor W.B. Pickens received $34.84 — apparently Pickens was a four times better preacher than Kennedy.
A church trial was held at Sharon Methodist Church on July 24, 1879, after the church held its normal religious service. Following the service the church Trial Committee was called by the “P.C.“(person in charge?). The committee took their seats and the charges were read. Samuel Young was appointed to prosecute the charges. The names of the members being charged were; Jesse Williams, Lizie Reed, Mary Harper and Rosa Harper, all of whom were either my cousins or married to my cousin or both.
Jesse Williams and Mary Harper were present to face the charges against them. Jesse Williams was charged with drunkenness. He said he had drunk drams but had not been drunk and could drink when he wanted to, if he could get it. He said he did not think it was doing wrong. J. G. Young was called to testify. Young said he saw Jesse Williams in Asheville on the third day of August 1878 drunk. He said Williams was so drunk he could not get on his mule without being helped.
Mary Harper was charged with dancing. She said that she had danced and was not sorry for it. She gave no sign of repentance. Lizie Reed did not attend but was charged with illegal cohabiting. Rosa Harper did not attend but was also charged with dancing.
The committee consisting of J.M. Plumblee, G.W. Livingston, W.L. Clayton, P. B. Cunningham and William Mitchell found all four guilty and expelled them from the Church.