Category Archives: Love

About the Love Family

Tried and Comforted

Sunrise Service at God's Acre, Winston Salem NC

Sunrise Service at God’s Acre, Winston Salem NC

“At five o’clock the congregation gathered in the Saal, and after the usual greeting went into procession to God’s Acre. The weather was fine.”

I can hear the proclamation by horns, the singing of “Christ the Lord has Risen Today” and the quietness of believers solemnly making way to the burial ground. And though the resurrection of Christ is celebrated similarly across our country, this was not your normal Easter. On 12 April 1788, the above quote was entered into diary by a Moravian minister in North Carolina’s settlement known as Wachovia. The minister continues his entry with the following:

Twenty-three Methodist preachers passed through on Good Friday on their way to Mr. McKnight’s to hold a Church Meeting as they call their conference, and stopped today on their return trip. The meeting had been called by Mr. Coke, who recently came from England to make a visitation among the Methodists in North Carolina. During the meeting seven deacons were ordained. They say that in addition to this church order, which is the lowest, they have elders (presbyters) and bishops. Mr. Coke claims to be a bishop, and this is confirmed by Mr. Astley [Asbury], the leading preacher and superintendent among the Methodists here. From here Mr. Coke goes to Virginia, where he has called a meeting and will make a visitation; and he will continue his work through all the states as far as New England. The Methodists make such visitations here and there each year.

wachoviaBelieving they were about to be expelled from Germany, in 1754, the Moravian Sect under leadership of Von Zinnzenburg purchased 99,000 acres in western NC. Known as Wachau [Wachovia] in honor of the Wachua Valley of Austria, the land was subdivided amongst their own by way of church agent. Situated along the Indian Path that later became known as the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, others, including Methodists, soon sought settlement on their tract. The Moravians were great keepers of diaries and other forms of social accounting. Much more about the growth of Methodism in our state can be gleaned by reading the volumes of Adelaide Fries’ Records of Moravians in North Carolina.

francis-asburyAnother wonderful source for understanding our past can be found in the Journal of Francis Asbury. We Methodists know well of the founding leadership of John Wesley, but it really was Francis Asbury whose journeys across the back country solidified our ways of worship. In October of 1799, while passing through the western wilds of North Carolina, Asbury writes:


Friday 4. We rode twelve miles to Mrs. Campbell’s, upon the south fork of Haw River. We had to work our way through the woods. Saturday and Sunday, I attended quarterly meeting at Bethel, upon Belew’s Creek, where I ordained five deacons, and preached from 1 Tim. vi. 11, 12.: we had a gracious time. We have rode only twenty miles in two days. I lodged at M’Daniel’s.

Monday 7. 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 Hebr. ii. 1. We then came up to William Jean’s, near the Moravian Old-town. We have rode nearly twenty miles this day. Sitting in meeting so many hours among such a multitude of people, and frequently with a blister on my breast, with the difficulties of driving along broken paths, cause me to be variously tried and comforted.

The study of history and genealogy is much akin the journeys of Francis Asbury. We push forward on a broken path of records alternatively encountering  times of delight and torment. The Moravian records, along with this entry by Asbury, provide a wonderful wellspring of information from which new posts will flow.

Though the church of James Love has been identified, his life on earth will soon after end. His closing chapter will lead us in new directions. Future writings  will explore family, friends, church, and even an incredible walk by a man named Moses.

The Trail to Oregon

Thomas Dove Keizur Monument

Thomas Dove Keizur Monument

courtesy of  Ginger Powers

courtesy of
Ginger Powers

His life was a great adventure! The son of George A. and Mary Dove Keiser, Thomas Dove Keiser was born Nov 20, 1793 in a portion of Mecklenburg County NC that would soon become Cabarrus. He married in 1812 Mary Gurley, the daughter of James and Lydia Gurley. James was the son of William Gurley who settled ca. 1778 alongside my THOMAS ancestor on Richardson Creek in Anson County NC. In 1828 Thomas Dove (T. D.) Keiser and family removed first to Tennessee before journeying on to Arkansas.

With T. D. Keisur helping to lead the way, on May 20, 1843, the family loaded the wagons once more and joined the great Applegate wagon train to Oregon. Settling along the Willamette River in the Pacific Northwest, the region was not yet governed under the jurisdiction of the United States. A community based security force known then as the Oregon Rangers was quickly raised. Thomas Dove Keizur was chosen and served as first captain in this precursor to the United States National Guard. He continued a life of civil service benefiting the new state of Oregon along with the town that now bears his name.

As is the way with most of history, I never knew of T. D. Keizur until his story came to me by way of the works of others. During the Christmas holiday in 2009, a Keiser family member contacted me in advance of a major celebration about to take place in Oregon. On January 30, 2010, the little town of Keizer Oregon unveiled a bronze monument of Thomas Dove Keisur seated atop his faithful Morgan horse. Historian and author Jerry McGee provides a historic presentation on T. D. Keizur and the town.


In 1780, Henry Kent sold land on Utley Creek (F-1, Wake NC) to Davie Strait after relocating briefly to Mecklenburg (now Cabarrus County NC). Deed 11-31 in Mecklenburg NC identifies Henry’s land as lying on “the waters of Rockie River Nigh the Baptist Meeting House.” This was an intriguing find as it tied to my LOVE family while illuminating the migration from an area of northeast North Carolina where my THOMAS family may have once lived. More on these ties in a later post.

Believing land records had pointed me to the old Baptist church, I contacted the land’s present owner and was graciously shown the way to what I sought. Followed by an inquisitive herd of cattle, we walked a grassy ridge that provided panoramic views of surrounding pastures and the distant Rocky River basin. Rising to the north, and flowing around the land, was a spring head identified in early deeds as feeding “Meeting House Branch.” Eventually we reached an ancient hilltop cemetery in a small grove of trees. Though well taken care of, time and life had taken its toll on the graveyard. Just a few stones revealed readable words such as “the” or maybe “here.” The following is a digital image of the only surviving stone with words crying out to be deciphered.


Further research revealed this to be the site of “Haynes Meeting House.” Lutheran minister David Henkel preached at Haynes Meeting House around 1800 and it’s also identified as the burial place for members of the Howell family. Found also in local land records, namesake William Haynes removed to western NC by 1785 and became the first preacher at Bill’s Creek Baptist Church located near present day Lake Lure.

IMAG0240Frequently visiting the site in search of things possibly missed, on one such trip, the door of discovery opened once more. Partially buried under leaves and debris, a small stake of a rock identified the resting place of Levi Keiser. From the works of Marie Evans Davis-McQueen, I learned that Levi was born Feb 16, 1783. The son of George Alexander and Mary Dove Kiser (Kiser – as tradition spells it in NC legal records), we now know the little fellow died Feb 11, 1789. Not long after the death of little Levi Keiser, his brother named Thomas Dove Keiser was born November 20, 1793. And since Levi’s mother and father lived out their lives in the area surrounding the graveyard, it seems they would’ve wanted to be buried there, near their son. I couldn’t help but imagine that they and others in the family were buried nearby.

After learning of the amazing life journey of Thomas Dove Keiser/Keizur, I decided to revisit the old unreadable stone with an open mind to variations in naming. Amazed at what I now see, I’m almost certain the stone marks the resting place of T.D.’s and little Levi’s father.

When I visit that hallowed ground off of Hwy 601 in Midland NC, I think of journeys and of how all things are possible. There was of course the trip to Oregon and the Gurley family’s earlier migration from Johnston County NC. It’s wonderful getting to know the wealth in community and how it was served by this little church named Haynes. Though he never got to meet his younger brother Thomas, I’m sure little Levi would have been proud of his life’s journey.

I Send You a Fue Punken Sead

  November the 15, 1863 camp nere Kenansville, N. C.

Deare and loving companion I seate my Self this morning to Drop you a fue lines to let you noe how I am. I am not well at this time nor havent bin for two or three Days  Bin puten Some Blood thru me for a Day or twoe thoe I feal thankful to God that hit is as well with me at this time as what hit is.  Deare loving companion I hope these fue lines mae goe Safe to yo kind loving hands and find you and all the childrons well and harty and Doing well.  Deare wife I have Bin Locken for a leter frome you all this weak thoe I have received nare letter frome you since the one that I got when Capt.

I begin to want to here frome you. I dreame of seaen you twist last nite and being with you and Bothe times you Seamed to Be mad which makes me feal uneasy a Bout you. I am a friad Sompthing is the mater with you or some of the family. Deare loving wife I want to sea you and the childrons the wrest that I ever did thoe I cant sae when I will be permited to Sea you. Thoe if we are not permited to sea each other in this life let us trie to live soe as to doe the will of our havonal fathers will soe that we mae meat in heaven where wares and trobles never comes and whare husbands and wives and parients and childrons can meat to part noe more Soe turne over and Read

Page Two

Deare loving companion I want you to Send me Some to Bucoe and make me a pare of legens and Send them by Mr. John D. Taylor if you plse and you will oblige me by Soe Doing.  I think that we will Draw our money Be for J. D. Taylor Starte home and if I doe I will Send you Som by Mr. Taylor.  I have noe nuse of eney importance to write to you at this time. Brother Jonah A. Love is well at this time and my mes is as well as thae are for comon the company is in tolerable helth at this time weare faren tolerable well at this time for sompthing to eat thoe I think that _______ Rashens will Sune give out.  Deare wife I wish that this civil ware wod stope soe that we all cold come home to live with our famles a gain as we Did Be for this ware tuck plase and I am in hopes that we all will be at home til Spring – hit is thought that N. C. will go back in the Union and I hope that she will and that Be fore Spring for I cant help but think that we are on the rong side. Deare wife I will send you a fue punken sead in this letter my Mr. Taylor.  Plant them in a gwod spot – thae come out of a fine punken.  I want you to write to me forth with and let me noe how you are and give me all the nuse you can soe I will bring my fue lines to a close By saing I ever Remain your true and loving husban as long as life shall last. Soe kis my Sweat babe for me – tel the childrons all that I send them all loving and that I want them all to trie ad Doe rite.  Soe noe more at the presnt Soe fare you well until I here frome you

frome Mr. M. G. Love to Mrs. P. F. Love and family


Phebe Love

Phebe Love

Born 23 February 1823, Michael Garmon Love is the son of Jonah and Mary Garmon Love. Michael married 10 Aug 1843 Phebe Love. Thomas P. Reed is listed as bondsman with the marriage bond being witnessed by Kiah P. Harris. Being his first cousin, Phebe Love was born 11 Oct 1827, the daughter of Thomas and Susannah Love. In 1849, Michael’s father donated the land for Love’s Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. In the deed (2-255, Stanly NC), Phebe’s father was named as a member of the Board of Trustees who received the donated land.

Michael G. Love enlisted in Stanly County at rank of Corporal in CSA Co. H, 42nd Reg. In the summer of 1862, he wrote a letter to his wife from Lynchburg VA. Michael was promoted to rank of Sergeant on 20 Mar 1863. Dated 15 Nov 1863, he wrote the above letter to his wife and family. Physically sick or wounded and uneasy about his life, he now questioned the war and dreamed only of seeing home and family.

The writing of letters like that of Michael’s was repeated many times during the civil war. Soldiers often questioned the morality of war as the certainty of the truths they fought for wavered. Learning that life was short and precious, they wrote more clearly and clung tighter to those things that mattered. For Michael, stains on his letter indicate his pumpkin seeds likely made the journey home.

Michael Garmon Love was accounted for until wounded in an unspecified action on 15 Jul 1864. On 14 Dec 1864, he was furloughed from the Richmond VA hospital for sixty days. Returning home, he died on 29 Dec 1864. Michael Garmon Love is buried beside his father at Love’s Chapel United Methodist Church.

Dated 24 Nov 1869, Phebe F. Love donated five and a quarter acres (8-270, Stanly NC) for “the use of the Methodist Protestant Church at Love’s Grove.” She applied for a civil war pension in 1901 and died on 29 Oct 1901. She’s buried near her husband at Love’s Chapel United Methodist Church.

Love's Grove United Methodist Church

Love’s Grove United Methodist Church – built on land donated by Phebe Love

Seeking Religion

Christmas doesn’t begin until the candles have been extinguished and the congregation ups their collective voice in singing “Joy to the World.” Every year, a high point for my wife and I is in joining my mother and her church family at the 11:00 pm Christmas Eve service held in Terry Chapel at Dilworth UMC. There’s no better medicine for the heart than holding to the ones you love while rejoicing the birth of Christ.

This Christmas was no different. Coming in from the cold, the small chapel slowly warmed by the gathering crowd. Greetings were extended and the chatter of spirited conversation grew as the worshipers took seat. We sat in front of a mother and her son. She told of him just coming from the Moravian church and shared his excitement in experiencing his first Moravian Christmas service. I so wanted to hear more and to tell stories about my family’s connections to Wachovia and the Moravian Church. But this was Christ’s night and the service was about to begin.

We all come to Christ in our own way and time. Sometimes I wonder how God feels that his people worship in so many traditions. I’ve also wondered about church in the olden days and what the journey to Christ might have looked like in early America.
In the late 1990’s, my mother and I made a trip to Pope County Arkansas to a place where much of her family from Cabarrus County NC relocated in the late 1830’s. Though we had read the stories and knew most of the records, there’s nothing like being there to experience the land and communities of family so far away.

- Silas Monroe Shinn

– Silas Monroe Shinn

While going through the local library, I came across a really interesting memoir written by a homeboy from Cabarrus County who made the trip to Arkansas and then even further to California. Silas Monroe Shinn along with three others joined a wagon train to the gold fields in 1850. Reading like an action movie, Silas’s story tells of an escape from Geronimo, the loss of their wagon and horses, the crossing of the desert, and the trek through the Sierra Nevada’s. The story really was exciting, though a chapter titled “Religious Experiences” offers a rare glimpse into the young man’s search for true religion. The chapter reads:

My children all married. We have only three children but we have twenty-one grandchildren living and twenty-five great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

Wife died October 18 1908, since which time I have been living with my youngest daughter, Fredonia, until January 14, 1910, when I came to Healdsburg where I am now living with my second daughter, Mary.

I have written the foregoing scenes and reminiscences of my life for the satisfaction of the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. I greatly miss her love and companionship. I have hurriedly written these sketches. There are perhaps other items omitted which if written would be interesting. But I might follow this with another side of my life’s history-my religious thoughts and experiences beginning back at my birth and early life.

I was born November 18, 1821, in Montgomery County [now Stanly], North Carolina. I was the seventh son of Silas B. Shinn and Elizabeth B. Shinn. Father died before my earliest recollections. Mother was left with ten children to feed, clothe and school. She was left unprovided for, and, under the circumstances, she had a hard time of it. She could not spare the children to go to school after they were large enough to work. So they were kept at home to run errands and to help earn a living. At that time in that country, there were no public schools, only now and then a subscription school. If mother subscribed she had to pay whether the children were able to go or not. If they started to school and an opportunity of earning something presented itself, she took them out of school. Of course they picked up a little learning here and there. They all learned to work and all got along fairly well. All had a natural ability and stood well in the several communities in which they lived.

Brother Ransom, the oldest, had a good farm and several negroes. When the war came up he lost everything. He was elected “Just of the Peace.” Brother Jackson was killed as he was growing to manhood. Brother Thomas J., the third son, also did well. He too, owned several negroes, but lost all in the war. He was elected to the state senate legislature from Stanly County, N. C. Brother Madison, fourth son, was also elected to the legislature from Pope County, Arkansas, in 1948. He also lost everything in the war. He was a Methodist preacher when he died. Brother Littleton, fifth son, was also in good circumstances. He was elected Justice of the Peace. Brother Nathaniel Duncan, sixth son, was also in good circumstances, and was also elected Justice of the Peace, County Judge and later to the legislature. He died in 182.

And now myself, Silas Monroe, who came from North Carolina to Arkansas in the year 1839, married there November 18, 1841, to Letitia L. Maddux, with who I lived in love, peace and harmony for nearly sixty-seven years.
My brothers were all religious men, as were my three sisters. When I was about eight or nine years old, I went with mother to a camp meeting. There was quite a demonstration of spiritual power. I was convinced of the truth of what many called heart felt religion and thought when I was old enough I would keep that kind of religion. Time passed on. I tried to be honest and truthful. When I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, I attended a school conducted by a Lutheran minister. At its conclusion, I joined the church, thinking I would yet seek the heart-felt religion. Time went on, yet I frequently had the thought of seeking that religion, but putting it off from time to time. I don’t remember that I mentioned my intention to anyone.

Then we left North Carolina and moved to Arkansas, I was in my eighteenth year. There were no Lutherans in Arkansas at the time. One day I was by myself, and the thought of my purpose came over me. I felt that I had already put it off too long, and I then determined to attend to the matter at once. I went out and hid myself in the top of a bushy tree that had fallen and knelt down and tried to pray. The tears gushed from my eyes and I could not pray much. I felt afraid that someone would see me. However, I told the Lord that I had now made a start for the true religion and asked Him to keep me from being deceived. I wanted the genuine religion and no “fox-fire.” I outlined a plan to follow my seeking. I would go off to myself every day and pray. I would read the Bible and other good books. I would try to keep myself to my purpose of seeking until I had obtained that which I was seeking. I would not tell anyone of my purpose, but would keep it strictly to myself-yet if I had the opportunity of talking with devoted en on the subject, I would avail myself of doing so.

Well I believe I followed out my plan without a break for about three or four months, but it seemed that I was no nearer the goal than when I first started. That thought was discouraging, but I determined to persevere. I decided to change my plan in one particular; that was, I would let my purpose be known under certain conditions. There was a two-days Methodist meeting to come off only a mile from where I lived. I decided to go to that meeting and if there was a call made for those who wished to seek God and the forgiveness of sins, that I would go forward and ask the prayers of God’s people. That night service was held in my brother’s house as there was not at that time any church building. I went and found the house was crowded so I took a back seat, almost behind the door. I leaned on my elbow. In that position I went to sleep, but was awakened by the congregation singing. I did not know if the seekers had been invited until I saw the young girl, whom I had been paying attention to (who afterwards became my wife) go forward to the seat indicated for the seekers.

Well I just concluded not to go forward at that time, lest the people would say that I went forward because my girl did. But it soon came to my mind that I had promised the Lord I would go forward if there was a call made; the call had been made, and I had lied to the Lord. I wept sorely over not keeping my promise to God, but it was now too late. There were no more “Calls” during the remainder of the services, but I promised myself and the Lord that if I ever had another opportunity I would not again be caught asleep, nor would I follow another, but would be the first to go forward.

Now I think that it was two or three months later that there was another camp-meeting within about four miles of my home, and I promised the Lord that I would attend that meeting and go forward to each and every “call” for seekers. Well, I did go, and went forward at every call until the meeting was out and I had not yet found any religion. I felt very bad about it. Many declared to have been converted, and some were among my particular friends. There was another camp-meeting two weeks later, twenty miles away. I determined to avail myself of that, as the last opportunity, and would do all that I possibly could to obtain salvation. I attended and followed out my plan to be thorough on seeking, until I should find the blessing. I kept up until Sunday evening. When I was off to myself I concluded I had failed in my purpose, the meeting would soon break up, and I would just have to go back home without religion.

The question came to me: “Then what will you do? Will you give up?” I said “No.” I would go home, but would continue to seek all the days of my allotted life; even if I lost I would be on the line seeking. Then something seemed to ask me if I thought that if I followed out this plan of seeking, would I be blest. I said “No” then I felt safe. I laughed. Some of my friends were near me. I was unaware of their presences and they seeing me laugh, laughed also, and told me to get up and acknowledge it, for they knew that I had religion, that they could see it in my face. But I did not think THAT was religion I had been seeking and told them so, but they only laughed the more. They asked me: “Now where is that heavy burden you have been carrying so long?” I said I did not know. Then they continued laughing, saying: Oh, we can see it in your face. You cannot hide it. Do you feel the burden anymore?” I said “No,” and they praised and thanked God for my deliverance, but seemed amused at my seeming unwillingness to acknowledge it.

We went to the stand for the evening service. They called for seekers as usual but I did not go. I did not feel the least bit like going. I felt like singing and making melody in my heart to God. Yet still I would sometimes doubt that I had religion. The meeting was nearing a close. Some of my friends had already started home, but I stayed until the meeting was all over. Then I started home. I knew that word had preceded me home, and I expected mother to be looking for me, and likely she would be wrought up over the news that she might do a little shouting, and after all it might be a mistake. Yes, I felt that it might be a mistake, and I was sorry now that the news had gone out. They all seemed to be very sure of my being converted, but I was fearful about it.

When I rode up to the little gate, and got down, mother met me. She just put her arms around me and praised God and thanked Him. By and by she loosened her hold, and walked around the house, slapping her hands and uttering aloud many words of thankfulness. Then, it seemed to settle upon me for a certainty that I had no religion. Just then I think that if ever a man felt miserable I was the man. I had fooled my dear old mother. I had fooled my friends, who seemed to have so much confidence in my honesty, and lastly I had fooled myself. It was now in the gloom of evening. I asked a friend to go out with me. I told him all. I said: “You all told me that I had religion, but now I know it was a mistake, and I want you to kneel down here and pray for me.” We bowed down, but I got no relief. We returned to the house and mother had supper waiting. We sat down to the table, and I ate a few mouthfulls, got up from the table and went out. It was then quite dark. I was glad of the darkness. I withdrew a short distance from the house. I fell prostrate on the ground with my face down. I lost consciousness. I did not know how long, but when I come to myself I was as happy as man can ever be in this world. God’s visible presence in the form or a white halo was all around me. I felt it all around me. I felt it all through me, and for the first time in my life I said, “Glory! Glory! Glory!” Oh, it just gushed out of me: “Glory to God.” I then knew that I could never doubt any more, nor have I from that day. That was in October, 1841. I joined the Methodist church then, and have remained in the body ever since. Of course that was before the division between North and South. I remember that I regretted very much the division at the time it occurred and I still regret it. Even now I indulge in the hope of living to see the two bodies together again. I was in the South where slavery existed, but I was always opposed to it. I could never think it right to compel involuntary service from any living man, as I would not like to have any living man to compel it from me.

Well now I have been trying to live the life of a Christian for over sixty-eight years. My life has been faulty. I have not been as consistent as I should have been, but have continued to cling to the faith, although in muen weakness. I have no room for boasting of my Christian effort, but to humble me. I may say that I am ashamed of my lack of the ideal Christian life. Notwithstanding all my defects and shortcomings, and my many faults, and imperfections, I am still clinging to the Christian faith. I often feel the blessings of God –feel the soothings of His Spirit, and at this writing I still feel like holding on to the faith of Jesus.

I could relate some things in my personal experiences, somewhat wonderful, but I forbear lest people might think of me, above that, that they should. There has been enough weakness in my Christian life in the past, to keep me humble. But I think today I have great reason to be thankful to God that it is all well as it is with me. I might further add that my faith still clings to the promise of God. I feel more and more resigned to His will in all things, trusting in the merits of Jesus not my own righteousness. I have full and strong hope of Heaven and immortal life beyond the grave. Amen and amen. There seems to be much more unbelief and disregard of the doctrines of religion today than there was in my early life. When I was a boy it seemed to me that almost everybody had a proper regard for the due forms of divine worship. All would bow down on their knees in time of prayer. Nearly everybody attended church services whether they were members of a church or not. I am sorry that it seems greatly different to the claims of the Christian religion. There is much more infidelity, much more opposition and sneering at Christianity. Wickedness is exalted and is now found in high place. But I feel sure that there is a God.

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork. The truth of God’s word is established in my heart and soul, and remains the same forever. The principles of righteousness and unchangeable and eternal, and sooner or later all will have to bow the head and acknowledge God.

Many years ago, probably forty or more, I commenced to daily write something of my reflections and feelings on matters religious. This I kept up until it became monotonous, because of so much repetition. I dropped the matter, but today I could write about the same as I did then.

In the summer of 1890, the Shinn family held a family reunion in Pope County Arkansas. Silas Monroe Shinn traveled from his home on the west coast and his brother Thomas Jeffferon Shinn Sr did likwise from Cabarrus County NC. While on a train returning to North Carolina, Thomas fell weak and suffered a major stroke. He made it to Charlotte where he remained in hospital a short while before his death. Thomas J. Shinn is buried at Tucker Cemetery located on the south side of Rocky River:

A Journey to Hagler’s Ford

- Mt. Pleasant road bridge over Rocky River. Prior to the bridge, Hagler's Ford crossed the river at the same location.

– Mt. Pleasant road bridge over Rocky River. Prior to the bridge, Hagler’s Ford crossed the river at the same location.

I remember years ago being excited in finding an 1810’s attendance record for Methodist churches in the area of Rocky River.  The piece of paper is lost and its details have gone the way of bad memory.  But I’ll never forget that one of the churches listed was called “Love’s.” Likely being Mt. Moriah on James Love’s land, Moriah church was laid down in the 1860’s following destruction by lightning.  Another church on the list was identified as “Tucker’s.” No map nor other record was to be found locating the church.  The proverbial glove dropped and the hunt was on, I wanted to find this church!

The initial google search netted “Tucker cemetery” located on the southwest side of Rocky and west of Edgefield Road.  I found the cemetery and noted those whose graves survive.  It’s clear why it had become known as Tucker cemetery, but where is the church and what record could be found to support it being there? 

Finding another clue in a query board post, I emailed the contact and arranged to meet him on Smith Road on the east side of Rocky River. Following a scenic hike through the woods, we reached a really old cemetery not far from the river bank. I knew George Tucker, the daddy of all Tuckers, lived on the east side of Rocky River just upstream from James Love.  Owning land on both sides of the river, this cemetery was located in the northern extent of ol’ George Tucker’s home tract. Though this could be the location of Tucker church, there’s no real proof that it’s so.  More on this interesting cemetery in a later post as for now my contact was pointing me to yet another possibility.

Located on the east side of Mt. Pleasant Road, and just north of the river crossing, there exists an old cemetery.  I was warned to be careful going to it as the land backed up to the hunting club accessed on Smith Road. The land owner had discovered the cemetery while posting the property for no trespassing. Several rows of graves had been identified and it was concluded that even more rows may have been destroyed years ago when the road had been cut deeper and widened.

- One of the graves located near Rocky River along Mt. Pleasant Road.

– One of the graves located near Rocky River along Mt. Pleasant Road.

I phoned the land owner and the next morning headed to Mt Pleasant road to walk the land myself.  Starting at the north end of the bridge where the road crosses the river, I hiked through briers up the hill along the top edge of the red clay road bank. Less than a hundred feet away I came upon the grave sites. For sake of location, the photo below was taken with the camera duly resting upon the northwest corner of the bridge. Looking north on Mount Pleasant Road, I have placed a yellow arrow pointing in the woods pointing towards the grave site. Note the mail boxes.

- Likely location of the Hagler Family Cemetery on Mt. Pleasant Road.

– Likely location of the Hagler Family Cemetery on Mt. Pleasant Road.

 Just as you step into the woods, it is easy to recognize the signatures of an old graveyard. There are slightly sunken areas about five feet apart. The first row runs slightly diagonal to the road. The last grave is very close to the road cut indicating road work may have once cut this cemetery in two. Not all the graves are marked with stones, but most are. They are all smaller stones of a tradition common to older back wood graveyards. The graves are marked with stones at both the foot and head. No identification or writing exists on the stones.


On most any weekend for years, you could find the back tables at the old NC State Archives filled in fellowship shared amongst a group of similarly minded researchers.  One of those is a good friend named John Blair Hagler also of Raleigh who plowed similar records in both family and location.  I remember telling John about the cemetery and he was ecstatic. He knew about the cemetery through family stories but had never seen it and had honestly forgotten about it. The following is what John told me about the cemetery:

My grandmother Hagler was a daughter of Mary Laura Shelton who was a widow living in Concord who in 1909 married the widower Adam M. Furr and they lived on his farm that joined St. Martins Lutheran Church on land that originally belonged to John the cripple Hagler on Rocky River.

Mary Laura had a daughter who worked in a cotton mill and boarded in Concord and she had two daughters and a son. The daughters were Ginger and Raynell and the son`s name was Hugh. And these children were more or less raised by Mary Laura and Adam Furr down on Rocky River.

 Thomas J. Shinn, Jr. was a farmer who lived on the south side of the river and he had electricty. He`d invite the neighbors to his house on Saturday evenings to listen to the radio. Hugh and his sisters always went. But Hugh always walked on the far west side of the road because he was afraid to walk on the east side with his sisters because it was nearer a cemetery he knew about and Hugh was always afraid of anything that had to do with death.  

In addition to this account, descendants of Thomas Shinn passed down that the cemetery had been a burial grounds for slaves. Though slaves may have been buried in the cemetery, I strongly believe its origins tell another story.  Let’s dig deeper…


So, here’s the big picture.   There was a fellow named John Hagler II who was also known in records as John the Cripple. Born ca. 1740, he married Catherine Seitz and died prior to the July 1811 probation of his last will and testament. And as witnessed by a surviving estate record and division plat, John’s wife lived until ca. 1826. Much of their estate fell into the hands of son Charles Hagler who lost all due to indebtedness. Charles’s son Nelson paid the debt and regained ownership after returning ca. 1850’s from the gold fields in California.

Looking even further back, in the summer of 1779, Henry Sides entered land for a Secretary of State land grant, being 100 acres “joining John Hagler land.” John Hagler is not recorded as a landowner until being granted 100 acres in 1784 identified as “the place where he lived including all his improvements.” This “home tract” straddles present day Mt. Pleasant Road and adjoins the lands of Henry Sides on the north bank of the Rocky River.  Knowing John Hagler was married to Catherine Seitz, how was she related to her next door neighbor Henry Sides?  [for answer, see comment by Anna Hagler Melvin]

Cripple John Hagler would go on to acquire much more land.  In 1798 he purchased the home tract of Henry Sides, indicating Henry had moved away.  John Hagler’s lands eventually took in tracts 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 as seen on my plat map of the area: . To see the land descriptions and explore deeper into Cripple John’s connection with his neighbors, I strongly encourage you to print and spend a little time relating the plat map to its related legal descriptions:

While looking at the map, also notice entry #9 that was granted December 1820 “for the use of the meeting house joining the heirs of John Hagler, dec’d. Had church meetings met in the area prior to a church being built per this grant? Note that this land is now the home of St. Martin’s Lutheran Church.

As already discussed, a major road for the day ran directly through Cripple John’s land, crossing the river near the present day path of Mt. Pleasant Road. Predating the bridge, early maps from the late 1700’s through the mid1800’s identify the crossing as “Hagler’s Ford.”

Raised Lutheran, the Hagler family is mentioned numerous times in various church records. During the 1790’s, Rev. A. N. Marcard recorded several baptisms and a burial at the “Rake River Cressen.”  Found in the records of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Rev. Marcard frequently provided such service to smaller churches that, for whatever reason, were without ministers. And in the early 1800’s, Rev. David Henkel, a traveling Lutheran minister, made his way through now Stanly and Cabarrus Counties.  Though I’ve lost my copy of the record, Rev. Henkel’s diary provides valuable insight to the family of John the Cripple.  He tells of both preaching and baptisms at the home of “Widow Hagler” along Rocky River. [please read post comments by Anna Hagler Melvin.   She has provided pertinent background and records from her copy of the Henkel diary.] 

So, before land was formally granted for the construction of the nearby meeting house known as St. Martin’s, worship meetings were taking place in the home of John the Cripple.   And also before the construction of the meeting house, John Hagler II was likely buried on his home tract.  Located near the wagon road overlooking the “Rake River,” he was buried on a pleasing spot reachable to his widow who spent the remaining years of her life on the land. The crude grave markers we see today tell the story of age and of a time where proper stones were few and far between. The graves also tell us of the slaves and families who later worked the land. 

Meetings at the home of “widow Hagler” not only continued to serve her personal walk, they also helped to light a fire in the surrounding community.  As she faltered, the timing of records indicate the community took the appropriate actions and built a church from beginnings she may have helped start. There was no further need for proper burials at the Hagler place along the river as St. Martin’s Lutheran church had become the new home of faith …and burials.

In the end, I think what was first the Hagler family cemetery later became a burial ground for slaves before becoming an abandoned cemetery that scared little boys who passed by.

And as for Tucker’s Church, its location is still uncertain.

Transportation on the Rocky River

- a map of Rocky River from its head near the Catawba to its mouth on the Pee Dee.

– a map of Rocky River from its head near the Catawba to its mouth on the Pee Dee.

Can you imagine a British ship in the Pee Dee anchored below Blewett’s falls? How about flat bottomed boats on the river ferrying goods back and forth to the sea? All of this happened routinely and was the norm for 1700’s inland North Carolina. And best of all, could you imagine the construction of locks enabling barges to navigate the Rocky River deep into the hills of western North Carolina?

Until around the 1850’s, farmers carried their produce to the nearest navigable river by wagon where the goods were offloaded onto barges and floated downstream to awaiting ships. Economy flourished where such access to water was available. For daily business along the short run of the Cape Fear, costs of transportation remained low and the activity benefited the state’s seaport in Wilmington. But for points from Winston-Salem south and west, costs were high as routes using the nearby Pee Dee and Catawba rivers were lengthy. These rivers also led to ports in Georgetown and Charleston where business decisions supported South Carolina first. Even during the best of times, you can imagine that goods from South Carolina plantations would fetch better money at South Carolina seaports.

Founded in 1787, the town of Lumberton was situated on the Lumber River, a tributary of the Pee Dee. From its earliest days, Lumberton was at the center of an effort to change the state’s natural economic realities. Could you imagine living so close to Wilmington and yet be faced with the need to ship goods via South Carolina ports by way of the Lumber River? From an article in the August 30, 1798 issue of the Wilmington Gazette:

…it is intended to open a navigable canal from Lumberton to Cape Fear River, which distance is not more than 15 miles; the land is a perfect level, free from rocks …it would not only increase the quantity of produce in the county of Robeson, which is capable of great improvement, but it would command that of most of the back counties in the state, and a large proportion of that of South Carolina; the whole of which would center at Wilmington.

The race to realize geographic advantage was nothing new. The state of Virginia was already engaged in building canals aimed at redirecting resources from this state for their own benefit. One of the surveyors hired for this purpose was a man named John Couty.

In 1816, the North Carolina State Legislature chartered the Lumber River Canal Company. Surveys were first ordered for a canal connecting the Lumber and Cape Fear rivers. But more telling of the state’s vision, the Legislature also ordered studies considering canal runs as far west as to the Catawba. Such areas to be studied included the falls on Yadkin where elevation suddenly crashed from the red clay piedmont to the loamy coastal plain.
In 1818, John Couty was instructed to survey the run of Rocky River from its mouth to Smith’s mill together with a survey from the mouth of Mallard’s Creek to the Big Bend of the Catawba River. The resulting maps survive and can be found at North Carolina State Archives. The survey included two maps; one a plan of the river and the second an elevation of its run. The maps are large, about 18” wide by 5’ long, and drawn on fine canvas. John Couty’s map locates major creeks, road crossings and land owners. Starting near the mouth of Rocky River and working upstream, he mentioned Jones Green’s mill, Whitley’s ford, Bryan Ostain’s [Austin]ford, Jonathan Ostain’s [Austin] mill, Hagley’s [Hagler]mill, Little’s ford, Garman’s, Love’s, Boger’s mill, and Alexander’s mill.

Can you imagine connecting the Cape Fear and Catawba rivers by way of canal? All that traffic through South Carolina would dry and the port of Wilmington would boom with business. But John Couty’s maps of Rocky were never acted on, no canals were ever put into action. This dream of ours died as it was replaced in the late 1820’s by a new vision of transportation by rail. I’m sure some said it’ll never work.