About this time last year, I had the chance to attend the 300th Anniversary Celebration of Indian Woods which is located in Bertie County, North Carolina. The three day conference at historic Hope Plantation focused on the lives of the Tuscarora Indians and their unfortunate demise over time as a result of war, social divisions, and finally the forced collapse of their Indian Woods homeland by external pressures. Participants in the conference had the opportunity to learn from many of the remaining descendants. We were immersed in Native American history, as well as being introduced to the realities of growing up as tri-racial Indians. The conference was led by Dr. Larry Tise, an East Carolina University distinguished professor of history, who is also well known for his knowledge of the Wright Brothers including a recent research initiative into their first secretive flights: https://player.pbs.org/viralplayer/1839215537/
Following the conclusion of the Tuscarora Wars, a number of these great people remained in the area of Bertie County where their descendants folded into the fabric of today’s down-east North Carolina. The rest, those who fought against and fell to the advances of early English settlement, were forced to remove north to a reservation located near Niagara Falls, New York. The most heartwarming aspect of this conference was in witnessing the coming together of these two distant bands of people and being a part of their sharing of heritage.
Some of what I learned about Tuscaroran history was built upon gleanings from an unusual source, the notes and journal of a Mr. August Gottlieb Spangenburg. In the 1740’s, Spangenburg toured Bertie County in search of a 100,000 acre tract of clear land suitable for establishing a settlement of Moravians. Eventually the Moravians chose an area they called Wachovia in present day Stokes County. Now known by the settlement’s early towns of Bethabara, Bethania, and Winston-Salem, it was in this same area that yet another group of people chose to settle in the late 1700’s. These were Methodists spreading west and then south out of Virginia. They first broke bread in town taverns, in contrast to the local Moravians who attended morning worship in their own properly constructed churches. These Methodists were plotting their own expansion, as had Spangenburg and the Moravians. It was in this mix that my ancestor James Love founded a Methodist church on the waters of Muddy Creek. As occurred for the Moravians in the writings of Spangenburg, Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury introduces us to early Methodism in western North Carolina. In 1799 Love’s Church was visited by Bishop Francis Asbury who wrote in his diary:
We rode through Stokes County, and attended meeting at Love’s Church, which has glass windows and a yard fenced in. After Jesse Lee, I added a few words on Hebrews ii, 1. We then came to William Jeans near the Moravian old town.
Turning our attention back to the conference at Hope plantation, we had a great time in both study and fellowship. For me, it was a wonderful opportunity and marked my “jumping off point” into a more devoted study of history following my recent retirement from the Crafts Center at NC State University. The conference gave us all the opportunity to break bread daily around tables at the Conference/Welcome Center. We even joined in the traditional task of shucking Indian corn! It was in this setting that I had the opportunity to share some of my own stories with Dr. Tise.
We live in a small world, truly, because, as it turns out, Dr. Tise is a native of Winston-Salem with his spiritual life beginning at Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church. He became a local preacher while studying at Duke University and upon completion of an undergraduate degree in history, and prior to his graduate studies, Dr. Tise was asked to research and prepare an authoritative history of Love’s Church. Wow, is this the Love’s Methodist Church that I’ve read about?!! Is this the church founded by my ancestor James Love? Yes, indeed it is!
The history of Love’s Church, A House Not Made With Hands, was published in 1966 in observance of the 175th Anniversary of Love’s Church. It was during his research and stay at Love’s Methodist Church that Dr. Tise realized history was his true passion and calling. Without his Methodist roots, and without this wonderful initial experience, Dr. Tise may not have ended up to be the person he is today. Without any or all of the above, I would likely have not attended the conference on the early North Carolina Indians. It simply may not have happened at all.
From Chapter II: Seed Time and the First Harvest, 1791-1807:
When one seeks for the founding date of a church such as Love’s, one speaks of a parcel of historical data which perhaps can never be pinpointed. …Churches simply are not and were not established at a particular point in time. They grow out of small, unpretentious beginnings and out of informal gatherings. They occur because there is a local personal need for religious experience.
The above acknowledges the “seeding” and germination time wherein the most important challenges facing a church lie. It’s during this time that greatness seemingly sprouts from out of nowhere. As for my family, James Love is in many ways our “seed.” Before him we know very little. And without him, there would be no Love’s Church. I would not be here and neither would many others.
I’m very appreciative of Dr. Tise and of what his writings have taught me. In 1966, he was limited by the availability of records and little was known at that time about the founding families of Love’s Church. Today, we know much more about James Love who first came to the Stokes County settlement now known as Walkertown. We know of his beginning and of his descendants who carried on the family traditions in the Methodist church.
Just as actions in early Bertie County spun off and impacted the future we now live in, Love’s Methodist Church in Stokes County, NC was a seed from which other churches have taken root. The following are offshoot churches bearing our family name of Love:
• Love’s Chapel Methodist – founded by James Love, son of John Love who is the son of the above James Love. This church is no longer standing though the cemetery survives in Loogootee, Martin County, Indiana
• Loves Church – for this one, I’m not even sure exactly where, though I’ve heard there is a Love Methodist Church in Missouri which sprang from the family who moved from Stokes County, NC to Indiana
• Love’s (or Mount Moriah) Methodist – founded by James Love Junior, the son of James Love Senior who founded Love Methodist in Stokes County NC. Struck by lightning and burned in the 1860’s, this church was once located within stone’s throw from Reed gold mine near the intersection of Hartsell and Reed Mine Roads in Cabarrus County. The only thing surviving is the church cemetery with but a few marked graves
• Love’s Chapel United Methodist – founded by Jonah Love, the son of the above James Love Junior. This church is located in Stanfield, Stanly County
• Love’s Grove United Methodist – founded by Phoebe Love, daughter of Thomas love, son of the above James Love Junior. This church is located in Stanly County on Rene Ford Road.