The History of Providence United Methodist Church

Providence United Methodist Church was organized in 1814. No written records from then until 1886 were kept and the only information available was from older members passed down to them by their parents and grandparents.

The first church was an arbor built near where the present church stands. There were four (4) acres of land given by Mr. Henry Lazeby and Mr. Henry Stimpson. The original deed dated 1814 was for two (2) aces of land given by Henry Lazenby to the Trustees of the church. Some of the trustees wee Zachariah Jacobs John Farrel Jonathan Cash, Goodrich Moore and Alexander King. A later deed shows four and one half (4 ½) acres given in 1848 by Pinkney Lazenby to the trustees. There was a church spring mentioned as one of the corners.

While using the arbor for worship, the people would gather once a year for camp meetings, putting up their tents and staying throughout the meeting. The regular church service was held once a week on a weekday rather than a Sunday It is thought by some that since there was not a regular pastor that perhaps the services were conduct by a circuit rider, or some other person whenever it was convenient.

The church has no record of the first Charter members but there are church rolls dated 1836 and 1838 There were sixteen (16) members in 1836 and thirty (30) in 1838, which include three (3) black members. It is also known that Mrs. Emily Fitzgerald, grandmother of Mrs. C.L. Leckie was the first Sunday School Superintendent, Following Mrs. Fitzgerald’s generation, Mr. and Mrs. Somerset Holland Mr. & Mrs. Jim Reid and Mr. & Mrs. Pinkney Lazenby were among the membership.

After using the arbor for a few years, the people decided to build a small log house which stood across the road from the present building. This was also used for a school. It is said that during these years, five stills were in sight of the church doors. In those days moonshining was legal. In a moment of discouragement one pastor was heard to remark that he might as well turn his church over to the owls and bats.

One of the earliest pastors was John H. Ballew, a circuit rider in 1923. Most of the pastors from then until the present time have been identified. It is said that Francis Asbury passed through this section to the Fitzgerald’s in 1795 and came back through again several years later.

Providence, along with a dozen or more small churches were on the Statesville circuit. Several of these churches were Mt. Bethel, Pisgah and Mt. View. There are some minutes recorded during this time, which can be found at Broad Street Methodist Church.

In 1839, a frame structure was built and included a gallery for the slaves to sit. Four cedar trees were planted by Mr. Charles W. Leckie at the church corners when the church was torn down. There is one remaining cedar post in front the current church and is marked with a plaque to note the planting. The building was also used for several subscription schools. There are those in the community who remember attending these schools when they were small children. Miss Jennie Houpe an Miss Fannie Leckie are remembered as teachers.

Until about 1869, when the Rev. Triplett came there was no way of heating the church. One of the first things the new minister did was raise money to buy a stove, which was in use after the present church was built. Another improvement at this time was the replacement of the wooden shutters with glass windows. Some of the pastors serving during this time were Revs. Triplett, Thomas, Sherrill, Babgy, Hartsell and Ivey.

While the Rev. W.M. Bagley was pastor, it was decided to rebuild. In 1886, the contract was let to Mr. Stokes Ward and Mr.  Vance Holmes. The records show the cost of the church was $461.84. The full sum was subscribed and paid by the members of the church and a few friends of the community. The church was dedicated in September of 1886. The preachers who helped with the dedicatory service were Dr. E.F. Rockwell, Rev. W.M. Bagby, Rev. R.A. Willis, Rev. R.E. Hunt and Rev. J.H. Cordon all former pastors.

In March 1931, under the leadership of the Rev. D.A. Oakley the present church was begun.  In the spring of the following year, the first service was conducted. The dedication service was held on May 22, 1937 while the Rev. R.E. Walker was pastor. Rev. D.A. Oakley was the leader for the dedication service. There was a baptismal service for infants held that afternoon. The building was erected through the help of the Duke Foundation and donations of labor, materials and money by members and others in the community. It has been learned from some of our senior members that Charles Leckie dug the first pan of dirt from the basement with a horse and mule. Much of the hauling was done by horse and wagon. The face brick came by rail from the Pinehall Brick Company (Winston). Mr. James Tomlin, Mack Williams and Ray Reid hauled sand and rough brick from the Statesville Brick Company in a 1925 T-Model truck. Roy Lazenby Sr. moved the sawmill in beside the cemetery and sawed logs donated by the members.

In the 1940’s a new heating system was added, replacing the old stove used in the 1860’s. In 1942, new pews were purchased while Rev. Wellman was pastor at the cost of $809.99. New chairs and painting were also done.

During the pastorate of the Rev. E.D. Canton an addition was built which included seven (7) new Sunday School rooms, a new kitchen and social hall. The women of the church purchased new carpet in 1960.

In 1966 a new organ was added while the Rev. Herman Billings was pastor. Paving of the parking lot was done while Rev. W.E. Walker was pastor.

In 1968, Whitfield Leckie gave land for a parsonage to be built and Rev.W.E. Walker was the first pastor to live in the new home. Mr. Leckie also put down a well at the church in memory of his parents, Mr. & Mrs. Fipps Leckie.

In 1975, the church was insulated overhead, and central air conditioning was installed Approximately two and one half (2 ½) acres of land surrounding the church was purchased from W.E. Holland. A new paved road leading to the cemetery was added. seeding of the grass was also done A new tennis court was built as well and an outdoor shelter for activities. The parking lot was paved, and more outside lights were installed there and on the tennis courts. John Kale was the minister during this time.

During the Rev. Melvin Beeker’s pastorate many more improvements were made. For one the choir completely outgrew the choir loft and a larger more beautiful loft was built with a seating capacity of 30. The piano and organ were lifted to the same floor level as the choir greatly enhancing the area. Cushions were placed on the pews (many donated by members.) Pews were refinished, cabinets added to the Sunday School rooms and basement. A covered ramp was built which was greatly needed. All the new Sunday school rooms were not carpeted, the last two donations by Mr.& Mrs. Coiite Fox. One room was used as a library.

Also, during Beeker’s pastorate, the Methodist Men’s Club was formed and during the intervening years has been instrumental in providing funds for many major purchases throughout the church. They have barbecue suppers twice a year to raise those funds. Mr. Beeker was also responsible for the formation of the Friendship Club for the senior and retired members of the church and community. This has been most successful.

Under Ben Gantt’s ministry, the Fellowship hall was refinished, including the brickwork and new lights. The Christian and American flags were presented by the United Methodist Women The last of the four cedar trees which stood at the corners of the frame church, built in 1829 died during the summer of 1983 having been struck by lightning. It was suggested that the trunk of the tree be preserved and a plaque with the inscription of when the trees were planted by Charles Whitfield Leckie, grandfather of Charles and Whitfield Leckie and Sarah Leckie Wooten be made.

On Heritage Day, members were encouraged to come dressed in period dress and the worship service will be much like our forefathers had. On November 20, 1982, Rev. Gant came dressed as an early circuit rider. Many members came in costumes. Janet McCoy, one of our members was in charge of the program for the day. She and her mother sang a duet, one of the old hymns of the early Methodist church. Lucy Mahaffy had a display of old items and pictures from the early years, which had been collected from throughout the congregation.

Th Rev. Johnny Hawkins became our pastor in 1985. He added much to the worship by singing in the choir and performing solos as well as preaching. During this time the outside of the church was being repainted. Also, several of the church school rooms were being redone as well and both the men’s and women’s bathrooms. His involvement in the Friendship club resulted in more new members becoming a part of the group Mr. Hawkins opened his home at Christmas which was beautifully decorated and held open house for the public. The women’s group helped with refreshments.

During the Lenten season of 1986 Holy Week services were held each evening with a special message and music by the choir. On Maunday Thursday, a Seder Meal was held in the evening and served to a full house of members from both Providence and Cool Spring churches, with many visitors as well. Sheila Overcash prepared the meal with help from a committee which included the appropriate lamb, bitter herbs, etc. On Good Friday the choir presented “The Seven Last Words” as Jesus was being crucified and on Easter Sunday morning the Sunrise service as held with the youth participating. At the regular Easter Sunday service, the congregation placed flowers on the cross from the Good Friday service making it a living symbol of Christ’s resurrection. This was sponsored by the Midway class.

Also, during the Christmas season, the Chrismon tree was displayed and this year the United Methodist women made many new Chrismon ornaments as well as refurbishing the old ones. The tree reflected the many hours spent on this.

At the present time an outside barbecue pit is being constructed by the United Methodist men next to the shelter. A new van was purchased for the use of the church or any who might need transportation. Several members have used the van to travel to Junaluska for the closing of Annual Conference to hear the Junaluska Singers.

Plans are underway for the 100th anniversary of the building of the 1886 frame church and the planting of the cedar trees by Mr. C.W. Leckie. A commemorative plaque has been duly inscribed and will be dedicated immediately following the worship service on September 14, 1986. Mr. John S. Oakley, son of the Rev. D.A Oakley, former pastor of Providence will be the guest speaker. Former member and pastors will be invited.

In 1988, new stained-glass windows were installed in classrooms facing the front of the church. A beautiful glass window was also installed at the front of the sanctuary. It depicted Jesus holding out his hands saying. “Come unto me.”

Rev Paul Christy came to us in 1989 straight out of Duke University. Never will there be a more devoted Blue Devil fan. He and his wife Jayme were young and energetic During their time here they became parents to a son, Zack. Needless to say, Zack had many people to help spoil him.

Under Paul’s leadership, church attendance was greatly increased. Jayme was instrumental in getting the choir going again and many new members have joined.  Easter sunrise services were very impressive with the youth group being in charge. Paul also incorporated the youth in the morning worship service on occasion.

About on half (1/2) acre of land was donated by James and Ardelia Barrier so the barbecue pit could be relocated down behind the church and include a shelter. New playground equipment was installed. Each spring a group from the church led by Paul, travel to Camp Carolwood to help with the maintenance and repair work. Paul also led a group each summer to spend a weekend with some mentally challenged campers at Carolwood. The Senior Adult class held a yard sale and was able to purchase rocking chairs for their Sunday School class. Thus, the name of their class was changed to the “Rocking Chair Class.”

In 1991, the piano, which was beyond repair was replaced by a Clavanova. This really added to the sound of the music. New hymnals were also purchased. In 1992, a fund was started by the Rocking Chair class for the purchase of a steeple. This was a successful project and the church now has a beautiful steeple which was dedicated in 1993. The steeple can be seen in several directions when driving thru the country.

During this time, our fellowship hall was shrinking and we knew we needed to do something. A building committee was formed for the purpose of putting ideas down and to form plans for what we needed. After many hours of hard work, many discussions and several church meetings, the plans were delivered to the contractor on April 1, 1995. Unfortunately, in June of that year Paul, Jayme and Zach left us to go to Morganton.

Rev. Danny Leonard followed Paul. He, Angela and Spencer were a welcome addition to our church. We had another little one to spoil. Having to pick up where Paul left off was a challenge but Danny was up to it. He joined the Building committee and the groundbreaking ceremony soon followed. In addition to the new fellowship hall and an all stainless-steel kitchen, there were four new Sunday School rooms, a big conference room, a pastor’s study and an office for the church secretary. One half of the old fellowship hall became a library, the other half used for storage. In April of 1997, we dedicated the new fellowship hall during the morning worship and with a dinner following. Before the fellowship hall was finished special permission was received so that Steve and Brenda Gatton could use the facility for their wedding reception. When the fellowship hall was finished, the cross and flame was place at the end of the building so it could be seen from the road. This was donated by the Roy Lazenby family.

Rev. Loretta Stutts followed Danny. She was only with us for a year. Following her was Greg and Robyn Hershberger. While here we were able to see Greg ordained as an Elder and to enjoy the birth of their first child, Caleb. Unfortunately, Caleb’s health was not good so spoiling him was limited. Caleb left us a year and a half later. Our church experienced a very deep loss along with Greg and Robyn.

While Greg was here, we held a mortgage burning ceremony on September 8, 2002. The fellowship hall was paid for and it was a great day. Rev. Paul Christy was invited back to participate in the burning of the note.

Following Greg was Rev. Bobby Swain and his wife Linda. During this time a new organ was presented to the church to replace the old one. This one came with a lot of bells and whistles. The gentleman who sold the organ to us presented a concert to show us just what it could do. In 2004 the church voted to sponsor a Girl Scout troop and one of their projects was to redo the old fellowship hall. A weekend cleanup by the church paved the way for the girls. With paint brushes in hand the old hall was repainted in bright colors and furniture added. Th Girl Scout troop stayed with us for wo years. Rev. Swain stayed with us for two years.

Following him was Rev. Ron Karriker, who filled in as interim pastor. In June of 2005 he became our fulltime pastor. He and his wife, Wanda have been a great addition for all of us. Since he has joined us, we have added several new members through confirmation or transfer. In 2005 a new baptismal font was presented to the church. We were also privileged to see both of them write and publish books.

In April, 2012, a vote was taken to remodel the sanctuary and construction began in May of the same year. The choir and pulpit area have been completely remodeled with lots of room. The pulpit was rebuilt to be mobile and an ornate altar rail was added. There are ten new pews, with some being shorter for placement of wheelchairs. One large stained-glass window and two small ones were added. The vestibule is larger and houses two bathrooms and coat closet. The front steps have been redone and a new roof built over the front entrance of the sanctuary. On the side next to the cemetery a new double door was installed with a ramp leading to the driveway. After we were back in the sanctuary, Lucy Mahaffey donated new altar paraphernalia (Bible, candle holders, cross) in memory of her husband Elbert. We also added a Columbarium for Cremation with 48 spaces and the ability to add more later if needed.  Rev. Karriker retired in 2013.

Rev. Tom Schnitzlein, his wife Christy and daughter Caroline joined us in June of 2013. Providence UMC was soon to celebrate its 200th anniversary. Tom was instrumental in helping the History Committee get plans together for our big day in September of 2014.  Bishop Larry Goodpastor and District Superintendent Lori Huffman were invited to join us for the day.  We recognized our oldest members in the church and afterwards enjoyed a wonderful dinner and fellowship together.

Following Tom was Rev. Bob Nations, an Intentional Interim Pastor. He was with us until June of 2015.

Following Nations was Rev. David Locke. He and Ruby joined us in July of 2015. He was instrumental in helping the young adults begin the Children’s Church and a new life group, “The Way”, for our new members. Pastor Dave had to retire in December of 2018 due to health issues.

Since David did not finish out his time, we were lucky to have two interim ministers, Rev. Tom Sherrod and Rev. Gervase Hitch. Both were a great help at this time.

In July of 2020, we welcomed Rev. David Bradley and his wife Katy, who came to us from Providence UMC in Forest City, NC.

This history was begun by Mrs. Rosemary (Charles) Leckie. I (Marie Snow Hare) have tried to update anytime there was something significant to the history. I have enjoyed learning about PUMC and thank all of you who had even the smallest part in making Providence what it is today.