Tag Archives: Early Baptist churches


Staring across the grassy fields, I can imagine the goings on of early generations of settler. I’ve studied for years and feel in tune with their changing community and of the people who once lived near what is now the Edmond Davis cemetery. And realizing this was my ancestors’ final resting place, I know the story is not complete; there‘s more to be found and more story to be told.

Take a look at Edmond Davis cemetery … zoom in, zoom out and see the fields I see. The southeast corner of the cemetery is the place where my Thomas family is at rest. Edmond Davis and others are at rest under great cedars in the northern portion of the graveyard. And see the white spot midpoint of the west-most fence line?   That’s the resting place of Lorenzo Merriman Little, a member of Jesse James’ Gang who was on hand 13 Feb 1866 in Liberty Missouri for the first daylight bank robbery in the United States.  More on Edmond Davis cemetery can be found on Julie A. Hampton’ site.

W__Websites_Anson_Tif_Deed_000V0415.tif_doc.tifWhile putting together the title history for lands around the cemetery, I happened across the following deed (left) dated 1821 in which James Baucom conveys 100 acres along Gourdvine Creek to William Holly. The tract originated as part of a land grant entered 1797 and issued 1811 to Frederick Taylor. Though my next post will delve deeper into the title history of the surrounding area, this one deed opens the possibility that Edmond Davis cemetery was more than a family graveyard. As highlighted in yellow, there must have been a “Meeting House Ford” on the waters of Gourdvine and I can only imagine there was also a meeting house nearby.

This is new and big as it does not relate to any known church histories. Well over 10 years before the founding of Jerusalem Baptist and more than 30 years before the founding of Olive Branch Baptist, we now know another church existed in 1821. It’s not Rocky River Baptist as it’s too far away. Let’s look back at the grant, neighboring lands and later conveyances to see where this all fits in today’s landscape.

gourdvineIn the illustration to the left, the Edmond Davis estate lands and cemetery are identified as a red shaded area. Frederick Taylor’s 1811 grant for 300 acres is lined in blue and adjoins the lands of Richard Lee as is written in the warrant for survey. You’ll also note another tract granted to Jacob Gurley. It’s in that tract where I believe the “Meeting House Ford” once crossed Gourdvine creek. Here’s a short title history of the land originating in the Frederick Taylor grant:

Grant # 5982 to Frederick Taylor, Anson NC, ent. 20 Dec 1797, iss. 18 Dec 1811. Being 300 acres on both sides of Gourdvine Creek.

  • Deed O-187 Anson NC, 6 Aug 1808, John Jennings Sheriff to Richard Williams for debt owed to Solomon Steagall being the entire 300 acres.
  • Deed S-274 Anson NC, 26 Jan 1818, Richard Williams to Willis Williams being all of the tract lying west of Gourdvine Creek containing 200 acres. Wit: Isaac Williams, Jacob Little.
  • T-304 Anson NC, 26 Nov 1819, Isaac Williams to Obediah Curlee being all of the tract on lying on the east side of Gourdvine containing 100 acres. Wit: Isaac Williams, Jacob Little.
  • T-313 Anson NC, 2 Jan 1821, Obediah Curlee to James Baucom being all of the northern half of the tract above the dashed line containing 216 acres. Wit: Lewis Baucom, Ransom Baucom.
  • V-415 Anson NC, 24 Sep 1821, James Baucom to William Holly being all of the northern half of the 300 acre tract lying west of Gourdvine containing 116 acres. In this deed the northern most east-west line is identified as being above the “Meeting House Ford.” Wit: C. B. Curlee, William Mullis.

DSC_4423_4_5_tonemapped… above the Meeting House Ford. Hmmmm, … as water runs downhill, the ford should cross the creek within the adjoining tract downstream from the land originating in Frederick Taylor’s grant. Entered 1797 and issued 5 Dec 1805, Jacob Gurley received 100 acres adjoining Michael Austin’s lands on both sides of Gourdvine at the mouth of “Buck Branch.” Nobody today knows anything about Buck Branch though a branch does rise just below the cemetery before making its way to Gourdvine below Olive Branch road. Here’s a look at the conveyances of this piece of Jacob Gurley’s land:

  • L-195 Anson NC, 4 Mar 1805, Jacob Gurley to Isaac Williams Senr, being the 100 acres granted to Jacob Gurley. Wit: Willis Gurley, Isaac Williams.
  • V-92 Anson NC, 3 Apr 1822, James Baucom to Solomon Mullis, being 25 acres of Jacob Gurley’s 100 acres lying on the west side of Gourdvine. The deed states the land was conveyed from said Gurley to Isaac Williams Senr, then to Obediah Curlee and then to James Baucom. Wit: Obed. Curlee.
Olive Branch road passing over Gourdvine creek

Olive Branch road passing over Gourdvine creek

Where was the Meeting House ford located?  There’s very little option other than it crossing at the same location  as today’s bridge or at least very close nearby. And knowing the location of Meeting House ford in 1821, exactly where was the Meeting House?

It’s my belief that at some point from 1800-1820, a Baptist church was organized and built on the hills above Gourdvine creek. In 1821, at the time James Baucom purchased land from Obediah Curlee, the church and graveyard (now Edmond Davis cemetery) must have already begun to serve numerous families in the community.

As Baptists are social in order, survival of the church was dependent upon the clout and leadership of a few families. Something happened to this dynamic causing change. What could have happened?

Edmond Davis grave

Rev. Edmond Davis grave

We’ll never know for sure though the 1830’s and 40’s were hard. Migrations west carried away many and there was also disease and death. It’s important that my own David Thomas’ lands at least adjoined the cemetery and that he and his wife both died in the early 1850’s. Baptist minister and uncle Edmond Davis oversaw both the estate and orphaned children. In 1857, he bought David Thomas’s land that adjoined the cemetery. And then in 1858, Edmond Davis and others provided notification that Olive Branch Baptist church was to be built on Henry Baucom’s nearby lands. See Julie A Hampton’s site.

The church grew strong and Olive Branch as a community was formally incorporated in 1875. Though Olive Branch Baptist church had its own cemetery, the old graveyard by Gourdvine creek continues its service through today. Why has it survived and why did they name the new church Olive Branch? A sign, a branch of peace, there must have been a very real reason. It’s my belief the name was a way of bringing together a community that had been divided by death, migration or social conflict. It’s only a guess; it’s not meant for us to know for sure.

foreground - grave of Ananias Thomas, background -gave of Merriman Little, distant landscape - location of bridge and likely site of Meeting House ford.

foreground – grave of Ananias Thomas, background by fence -grave of Merriman Little,  distant low land – location of bridge and likely site of Meeting House ford.



The Edmond L. Davis cemetery is located on a hilltop just east of the bridge where Olive Branch road crosses Gourdvine Creek in Union county NC.

The Edmond L. Davis cemetery is located on a hilltop just east of the bridge where Olive Branch road crosses Gourdvine Creek in Union county NC.

I remember Thanksgiving weekend 1996 and a visit to the Edmond L. Davis cemetery in Union county to photograph family lands I had only recently learned about. It was dreary, cold to the bone, and yet the frequent sounds of gunshot rang out as hunting season was in full swing. My father had passed less than a year prior and here I was alone in a cemetery seeking to lay witness to my GGG grandfather Ananias Thomas’ grave. I found his hand-carved stone which appeared to be grouped in a plot amongst other members of Thomas family. And just behind his grave were two unmarked stones that some have identified as mere foot markers. However, it’s always been my belief the stones mark the resting places of my GG grandparents David Thomas and his wife Alice Newsome Thomas. David is the son of Ananias.

Both David Thomas and his father-in-law Joseph Newsome owned land along Gourdvine creek in the vicinity of present day Edmond L. Davis cemetery. Prior to his death ca. 1843, Joseph Newsome sold some of his land to David Thomas. Per bible record, Joseph’s daughter Alice Thomas died 3 Dec 1852 and Union county probate records indicate David Thomas died prior to 1855.

Lot 1 of the estate of Edmond L. Davis

Lot 1 of the estate of Edmond L. Davis

Following the death of David and Alice Thomas, Edmond Davis was appointed estate administrator . He was also named guardian of the younger children including my namesake ancestor George Thomas. In the Fall Term 1856 of the Court of Equity for Union County, C. M. McCauley ordered the sale of 268 acres. Known as lot 1 of the “land upon which David Thomas lived at the time of his death”, this tract was situated on the south side of Gourdvine Creek. It adjoined David Thomas’s second tract and the lands of Elbert W. Caraway and Edmond Davis. On 30 Dec 1856, Edmond L. Davis purchased the land for $1,325.

Important! Following Edmond Davis’ eventual death on 6 Jan 1896,  lot 1 of his own estate takes in the cemetery that now bears his name (see plat above) . The tract matches and therefore can be accurately located using county GIS land records.

historyofrockyri00broo_0073Edmond Lilly Davis was a prominent Baptist minister in a region historically dominated by Baptists. His life and services are well documented in E. M. Brook’s 1928 History of Rocky River Baptist Church. Edmond Davis was also a friend and brother in-law to David Thomas as he married Mary Elizabeth Newsome, a sister of David Thomas’ wife Alice.

Note that David Thomas owned 660 acres per the 1852 Union county tax list at a time when Edmond Davis was listed with less. Following the death of David Thomas, the numbers reverse with David’s ownership of course going to zero.   From this I’ve always wondered if the cemetery was built on lands that once belonged to David Thomas and/or his father-in-law Joseph Newsome? The following plat locates the entire estate of Edmond Davis. Note the portion highlighted in purple identifies the one lot Edmond Davis purchased from the estate of David Thomas.


Estate of Edmond L Davis

At this point, after nearly 20 years of looking, I still cannot say with absolute certainty that the graveyard in question was first located on David Thomas’ home land. But we know his lands were oh so close as were his father-in-law’s. And knowing there are no graves marking the resting place of David and Alice Thomas, my mind goes back to something Ms. Annie Lee Traywyck once told me: “The cemetery once had many more stones that eventually went the way of cows”.  And then there are the two stones behind those of Ananias and his wife Sarah.  Stake-like in form and made of a much harder granite, was there ever even clear writing on the stones? Is it just my wishful thinking? And note that Olive Branch Baptist Church just up the road was formed by Edmond Davis and others in 1858 just as the estate of David Thomas was being settled?

Before Olive Branch Baptist, where did the folks along Gourdvine creek go to congregate and seek spiritual comfort? Where there’s more than two gathered, there would have been church. Where was it?