DAVIDSON HISTORY

Centre Church

by | Feb 27, 2019 | Bottom Right Red Box, Davidson History

Centre Presbyterian Church in Mount Mourne (photo courtesy of Davidson College Archives)

Centre Church, one of seven colonial-era churches in Mecklenburg County, sits just north of Davidson in Iredell County. Records indicate that John Thompson served as a Presbyterian missionary in the area in the 1740s, and around 1755, missionary Hugh McAden visited, preaching in Iredell (then Rowan) County and Mecklenburg County. One place he visited was known as Osborne’s, which was a meeting house at Alexander Osborne’s residence near Dr. Houston’s residence in Mount Mourne. This was one of the earliest worship places for Presbyterians in Rowan County, and congregants came from a wide area, including northern Mecklenburg County. Osborne also was instrumental in establishing one of the first classical academies in the area, Crowfield Academy, in 1760.

In addition to Osborne’s, by 1765 missionaries were conducting worship services in other private homes around the region. It was decided to consolidate these into a single church, and a central spot was chosen to facilitate this, thus accounting for Centre’s name. The first building on the site was erected around 1775, and by 1777 the church had its first full-time pastor, Thomas H. McCaule. He was replaced by Reverend James McRee, who served until 1828. Centre was prominent in Presbyterianism during this period. According to historian William Henry Foote, the first presbytery “that met between the two rivers” met at Centre, the Synod of the Carolinas was organized there in 1788, and the first meeting of Concord Presbytery was held there in 1796.

The original building was replaced by the current brick church in 1854. Historian Chalmers Davidson notes that the church had a “Quaker-like simplicity” and that the church’s character was one of “plain living and high (orthodox) thinking.” A 2015 history of the church noted that the new building had “large windows to show the glory of God’s creation and a plain white interior so as not to distract from His Word.” A session house was built at the same time “so that business about money would not have to take place within the walls of the sanctuary.” 

There have been a number of additions to the church over the years, including the Faith Building (1955), the Williams Building Fellowship Hall (1956) and the Rev. J. Kenton Parker Building (2004). But the original sanctuary remains much as it was, with the original pulpit furniture and the original lamps (which have now been electrified). Nearby is a rock-walled cemetery, where the earliest markers are those of Alexander Osborne and his wife, who died in 1776. In addition, there are thirty-five veterans of the Revolutionary War buried there. Centre was the home church of Revolutionary War General William Lee Davidson, but he was hastily buried at Hopewell Presbyterian Church after his death at Cowan’s Ford.

Nancy Griffith

Nancy Griffith lived in Davidson from 1979 until 1989. After a career as an archives and special collections librarian, she retired to Davidson in 2015. She has published a number of books and articles on local history, and has just completed a history of the Ada Jenkins Center.

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