In 1864, a group of 17 mostly women, children and older men formed a church that met near a spring off Mason Dickson Road near York.
Most able-bodied men were away fighting the Civil War. But more than a decade later, 1876, the worshipers obtained land and built the first Kings Mountain United Methodist Church on Philbeck Road in the Filbert area, between York and Clover.
The church of about 200 members, which in the 1880s boasted the largest membership of any church in York County, will gather Sunday to celebrate its 150 years with prayer, song and worship.
Jackie Hicks, a lifetime member who is helping organize the anniversary event, said the church has invited past members and previous ministers to its 11 a.m. service.
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The congregation will celebrate by singing old hymns, she said. The Rock Hill United Methodist Church district superintendent will speak, and a covered dish lunch will follow on the church lawn.
Dan Smith, another lifelong member whose parents were active in the church, said Kings Mountain Chapel has been a blessing to the community.
The church in the Filbert community serves people from both York and Clover, he said. Some are ardent Clover Blue Eagle fans, while others cheer for the York Cougars.
Their athletic loyalties may be divided, Smith said, but on Sunday their voices join in praise. And he said the church has made a strong commitment to its community.
“To me, Christianity is a way of life,” said Smith, whose father Walter Smith Sr. led the congregational singing, while his mother Clara Dickson Smith taught Sunday school.
“It’s not just a religion. It’s every day,” said Smith. “And that’s what I have learned at Kings Mountain Chapel.”
Robert Black, church historian, said the church has a rich history. According to a published history, the first services were in 1863 in a brush arbor about a mile west of the present church near a rock spring.
This crude edifice of benches, set beneath a canopy of trees, drew a small congregation when weather permitted and the there was the occasional passing of the circuit riding preacher.
The church was formally organized in 1864 by the Rev. M. A. Connolly and there were 17 members. Times were hard and means for travel were poor, so the congregation could not grow rapidly.
The church took on new life around 1870, and began to grow. It met in the homes of members, and few years later, land was deeded to the trustees to build a house of worship.
However, there was not much money among the members. So they decided to finance construction of the church building and to furnish the labor themselves.
The Rev. L.A. Johnson and two early members took their wagons to the woodlands, cut down trees with axes and hauled the logs to the church site. Mostly through their own labors, the original log building was completed in 1876.
In 1897, Black said, that first log church was torn down and the present church structure was built. Kerosene wall lamps from that early church still remain on the walls, he said.
The church used to host an annual revival when crops were laid in in August, he said. Two former members, now deceased, who attended those revivals told Black about them.
“They said the church would not hold all the people,” Black said. “They would raise the windows and pull the wagons up beside the windows and some would sit out in the wagons and listen to the old-time Methodist preacher.”
Black said the church has been a caring church, active in local and world missions. He said it also has a monthly “helping hand” collection to assist needy people in the community.
“For a small country church, we’re a close-knit kind of a church,” he said. “It’s a good atmosphere. Everybody seemed to care about each other. It was a good church to grow up in.”
Hicks agreed. “The fellowship, the family and the caring that has always been apparent at Kings Mountain Chapel has drawn a lot of people from the community,” she said. “It has meant a great deal in my spiritual life.”