THE HISTORY OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN CABARRUS COUNTY
The history of our parish is the tale of two churches, born out of wars and combined to form a vibrant and active worshiping community in Cabarrus County.
During the Civil War, the Great Bishop Thomas Atkinson, the third Bishop of North Carolina, to whom is attributed the success of holding the Episcopal Church together and not letting it divide into the north and south, like so many communions did during this time, visited Concord, North Carolina in 1864 or 1865. He held services in the old Presbyterian Church, which was beside the present Memorial Gardens on Spring Street.
A young lad of 17 years, B.F. Rogers, walked from his home in Mt. Pleasant to hear the bishop speak. His family members were all staunch Lutherans and he had never heard much about Episcopalians. From that time on he was determined to join this church and did later marry and brought his wife with him. Many years later Mr. Rogers said, “When I came away from that service, I was a churchman.” This was the first touch of the Episcopal Church in Cabarrus County.
Many years later the few members of the group began meeting at the home of Mrs. James C. (Betty) Gibson for services in her parlor, and Sunday School in the dining room. Rev. Francis Murdock, rector at St. Luke’s Church in Salisbury came twice a month to hold services.
Several families were very active in keeping the services twice a month in the Gibson’s home. These families included:
* Mr. And Mrs. Moses L. Brown (Fannie)
* Miss Margaret Vessant
* Miss Mary Dusenberry
* Mr. and Mrs. James C. Gibson (Emily)
* Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Means
* Mr. and Mrs. B.F. Rogers
* Mr. Hal Puryear
The Dusenberry’s were very English and lived with much more form in their home than anyone else in town. It was said that they had a formal dinner each night with candles lit on the table. Some of the descendants of these original families are still active members of the church today.
As this small group of churchmen became more active and more people became involved in the services, they moved into the offices of Dr. W.C. Houston in downtown Concord. Records show that Rt. Rev. Theodore B. Lyman, D.D. baptized the first candidate for baptism, Elizabeth C. Gibson, on November 27, 1877.
The first minister in charge was the Reverend John Thomas Wheat, D.D. Just how long he ministered to the congregation is not stated, but it is assumed three or four years until around 1881. During his years of service, he baptized five members of the Means’ family, two of the Gibson’s family, and one of the Brown’s family.
Records show the following:
May 13, 1879
October 19, 1879
Corallie Bullock Means Emily M. Gibson
Myra Belle Means William H. Gibson
Earl H. Brown
The fond memory of Dr. Wheat was kept through the purchase of the triptych window which is now located in the Children’s Chapel at All Saints’. The children of the Sunday school along with several great churchwomen, Emily Gibson, Betty Gibson, and Fannie Brown helped fund this memorial.
As the Episcopal congregation grew, it is believed they began to hold services in the courthouse. On September 17, 1879, Bishop Lyman visited the congregation. The bishop confirmed Henry Shepherd Puryear, Mary S. McDonald, and Corallie Means. It was at this time that B.F. Roger’s family moved to Concord from Salisbury and began a prominent part in the life of the church.
Rev. Dr. Murdock again visited the congregation from 1881 to 1884 and was followed by Rev. G.H. Edwards until 1886.
The need to purchase a building became quite evident and in 1886 the congregation bought the old Presbyterian church for $500.00. Rev. G.H. Edwards was succeeded by Reverend Percy Eubanks who was only in Concord for a very short time. When there was no minister in charge, Reverend E.A. Osborne, the superintendent of the Thompson Orphanage had services at intervals, baptizing, celebrating Holy Communion, and preaching. Around the beginning of the 1890’s Reverend B.S. McKenzie, a young clergyman, “practiced on the congregation” as he later described it to someone.
In 1890 the Old Presbyterian building was sold in anticipation of building a new facility. The property at the corner of Cabarrus Avenue and Depot Street, now Spring Street, was purchased for $300.00 in 1891. This church was a building of English Gothic architecture designed by Silas McBee, once the editor of The Churchman. This building was built in the form of a cross. The ivy that covered part of its walls was brought from Westminster Abbey, sent by Sister Mary Joseph, a first church deaconess who later went over to the Roman Church and became a nun. She was the sister of Emily Magruder Gibson and Julia Magruder. The cornerstone of the new church has the date of November 1891, however no written statement as to the history of this church is found until 1892.
It is stated, “The Reverend J.C. Davis, D.D. of Athens, Georgia, accepted a call to become the rector of All Saints’ Church, Concord in December, 1892. Reverend Davis arrived in Concord and assumed charge of the parish in January 1893. The first “Rectory” was an apartment in the Hotel Concord. He was rector for a little over 17 years, when he sent his resignation to Bishop Lyman. Records show that on April 27, 1904 Bishop Cheshire consecrated the church on Spring Street.
There is a bit of discrepancy here in dates, as a manuscript letter from Bishop Lyman, pasted in the front of the Parish Register states the following:
Diocese of North Carolina: The mission established in Concord is hereby duly organized, agreeable with the provisions of the Canons of the Diocese, and I hereby appoint the following persons as officers of the mission:
* W.G. Means Warden
* B.F. Rogers Treasurer
* J.C. Gibson Clerk
Theodore B. Lyman
Bishop of North Carolina
Raleigh, March 17, 1893
This letter shows that not yet had All Saints’ become a parish church, nor was it recognized officially as a congregation by the Diocese until 1893, and then as a mission. “As evidence of a small number of members as well as the deeply rooted loyalty and devotion in keeping that number small is shown by the fact that during Dr. Davis’ seventeen years as rector there were only 45 baptisms, 36 confirmations, and 12 marriages”. It must have taken great faith as well as boundless hope for such a small congregation to continue to carry on amidst a community, which looked askance at the church, her ways, and her worship in those days.
The Reverend W.H. Ball came to Concord from Monroe, April 1, 1910 and stayed through May, then being elected on May 22 as a rector with the privilege of three months vacation to proceed to England. He returned and resumed his work in September and remained at All Saints’ until 1914. He was succeeded in September of that year by Reverend Clarence Green Prospere, deacon, who also had charge of a church in Statesville and later in Mooresville, St. James, Iredell County along with other duties, he held services at All Saints’ on the second and fourth Sunday in each month. Reverend Prospere, an Italian by birth, records “on October 15, 1914, a cyclone visited the town and damaged the church necessitating a new roof and new chimneys from roof up.” The cost of the repairs was $63.88.
The Reverend Samuel M. Hanff came from Duke, now Erwin, to be the new Rector in November 1917. Mr. Hanff, the strong personal friend and former Rector of Thomas H. Webb, one of the members of All Saints’, was here for 15 ½ months before an untimely death during surgery on February 12, 1919. During these brief months he endeared himself to the congregation and community by his sweet nature and his thoughtful and friendly spirit. It was during his time at All Saints’ that the Rectory was built in 1918, which later served as All Saints’ House for the Sunday School.
The Pilcher organ in the Old Church on Spring Street was given by the congregation as a memorial to Reverend Hanff. His devoted friend, Thomas Webb, spearheaded this effort for the church.
On April 1, 1919, The Reverend Alfred S. Lawrence from Hillsboro, North Carolina became the new priest for one and a half years. He and his good wife left their names carved in affectionate memory and high regard upon the hearts of this congregation. Their unselfish devotion to the cause of the poor and all in need and to the fact that they impressed upon the flock the splendid example of fine churchmanship, Reverend Lawrence and his wife left Concord on January 21, 1921 so he could serve as a rector in the Episcopal Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Thomas N. Lawrence followed Alfred Lawrence as the new rector and these two ministers were as different as could be. Thomas came from Eastover, South Carolina around August 1, 1921 and served the church and its people until June 1923.
Reverend Charles B. Scovil was the next rector for the small church and remained here until August 1925. He was quite active in the Diocese as he served as the secretary for the young people’s work and religious secretary for the Diocese.
On November 22, 1925 the Reverend Harris B. Thomas accepted a call to All Saints’. He came on January 1, 1926. It was during his ministry that Mrs. Betty Gibson who was “the mother of the parish” and a devoted friend to all and a devoted Episcopalian died on February 23, 1927. Her funeral was held by Reverend Thomas and Bishop Penick.
On December 1, 1927, Reverend I. Harding Hughes came from Greensboro to serve at All Saints’ until September 1, 1942 when he accepted a call to become a chaplain of St. Mary’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Reverend Hughes came from several generations of ministers. He had decided to become a teacher and went to Chapel Hill to pursue that dream. The nickname “Preacher” was given to him by some of the men he helped around the Norfolk-Southern Railway Station where he worked to save money to go back to college. He had dropped out of college to help his father with the Trinity School where he taught mathematics, history, and English. The school closed in 1907 and he re-entered Chapel Hill in 1909 with his mind set on becoming a minister. He took a philosophy course and wound up completely losing his faith. The course he said “plowed and harrowed, but did no planting.”
During this terrible time of lost faith Mr. Hughes spent a summer in the Galilee Mission in Philadelphia and it was his experience here that he straightened out, returning to Chapel Hill in 1910 and receiving his AB degree in June 1911. He entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and received his BD degree in 1914.
Reverend Hughes served All Saints’ for fifteen years. He received the 1937 Lions’ Citizenship Cup for his ministry to the poor and his work with young people. He was also the first Jaycee Man of the Year.
It was in February 1930 that a Building Fund was started anticipating construction of a Parish Hall. The first deposit in this account came from the sale of orange marmalade for a total of $3.00. The Sunday School children made this deposit. They were meeting at Wilkinson’s Funeral Home and in the summer at the Memorial Gardens Cemetery. There was certainly a need for a Parish Hall.
Several miles north of Concord in the early 1940’s during World War II, a group of twenty-four interested Episcopalians gathered in an empty four room house at 303 Sloop Street in Kannapolis to begin forming a mission church. Mr. and Mrs. George G. Allen offered the house and the property for the church in this small town. It was unanimously agreed then to form a mission church which had been inspired by a branch of the All Saints’ Women’s Auxiliary which had been active in Kannapolis. This group of churchmen met the requirements of the Diocesan Constitution and Canons and were admitted into the Diocese as the Congregation of St. James, Kannapolis on July 10, 1941. Mr. George G. Allen was the first warden.
The men of the church did the necessary carpentry to remodel the house they were to use as a church. Two rooms were put together to form a nave and sanctuary. Bruce Lyerly, James C. Walker, and Hubert Lyerly made the beautiful altar out of old air-dried walnut and Hubert Lyerly hand carved “Holy Holy Holy” on the altar. This altar is in the Children’s Chapel at All Saints’ today.
On April 25, 1941, a letter to Rt. Reverend Edwin A. Penick, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, written by Mrs. Eugenia B. Blount, requesting his assistance in securing “a worker for the people of Kannapolis”, and referred to the fine work Mrs. G. G. Allen, Auxiliary President had already accomplished. Bishop Edwin Penick replied, dated April 28 that he hoped to have a man there by 1942. On June 1, 1941, Samuel B. Stroup presided over the first Sunday school meeting of the Episcopalians in the Kannapolis area.
On October 1, 1942 The Reverend Frank H. Board became the first Vicar of St. James’ Mission and the Rector of All Saints’ in Concord. In May 1943 Reverend Board left to become a Chaplain in the United States Army. Records show that the first Baptism at St. James’ was James Monroe Elliott on July 27, 1941. On August 17, 1941, Bishop Edwin Penick confirmed the following people in Kannapolis.
* Mary Ella Huss
* Gladys Irene Elliott
* John Nelson Halstead
* Cornelia Irene Halstead
For the next five years The Reverend Edwin B. Jeffress became the minister at All Saints and served St. James’s Mission Church as well from time to time. He had grown up at All Saints’, beginning his ministry there, married there and entered the status of parenthood there. He was loved by both communities. His ministry spanned from January 1, 1944 to January 1949 when he left to become the Rector at St. Stephens Church in Oxford, North Carolina.
During the next few years, St. James’ had several ministers. From July 18, 1943 until January 7, 1945, The Reverend Gehard Stutzer became Vicar, supplying out of Salisbury with services held in the afternoon. Reverend Stutzer, a former Wall Street fur importer, was converted by a “street-corner” Episcopalian minister, had an intensive program of fellowship at St. James’.
In February 19, 1947, The Reverend John Paul Carter became Vicar. St. James went to the surrounding community with a strong service emphasis. The nucleus of the funds for the building on Cook Street were collected during these years.
The Reverend Martin Caldwell became Vicar from June 1952 until May 7, 1954. Under his leadership “a dream that began a decade before” became a reality—a building was erected on Cook Street in Kannapolis. The old property on Sloop Street was sold to Kannapolis Bakery for $5,000 in April 1953.
On November 7, 1953 Bishop Edwin Penick presided at the cornerstone laying of the St. James Church. Congratulations were offered to Joseph E. Orland, Warden, Samuel B. Stroup, Building Committee Chairman, and Sabert S. Trott, Finance Committee. One hundred-fifteen members were reported at the time.
On April 4, 1954, the first service was held in St. James’ new building. The cost was $38,000 and $4,000 for furnishings. The architect was Mr. Bemis Lester.
The William Auston Plaque was awarded to St. James’ Church on May 13, 1954 for showing the most growth of any mission in the Diocese during the year—66.4%.
From June 1954 until January 1955 The Reverend Jack Bennett became Vicar and the period of growth and expansion continued for this mission. On June 30, 1955 The Rt. Reverend Richard H. Baker, Bishop Coadjutor, confirmed the first class (11 people) in the present building.
For the next two years (June 1956-October 1, 1958) The Reverend Frederick C. Harrison became Vicar. This was a period of growth, consolidation, and stewardship. When Reverend Harrison left, St. James was supplied out to St. Luke’s and St. Paul’s in Salisbury.
Reverend Philip Cato became Vicar from January, 1959-October, 1960. Through his leadership a strong emphasis of the sacramental and intellectual life of the Church grew. The congregation in Mooresville was added to Mr. Cato’s work. During the next four years St. James became a participating congregation in the Associated Episcopal Mission Plan and was served by a number of ministers under the leadership of Reverend John McAllister.
Several other ministers served this congregation including:
* William J. Mall
* D. C. Spitler
(all serving in 1961-1962)
* Daniel W. McCaskill 1962
In the early 1960’s George (Buddy) Hilbish donated a small-framed house, which was moved onto the Cook Street property. It was remodeled and added to the building for more Sunday School classes.
Reverend Harry A. Woggon was Priest-in-Charge from 1966-1969. St. James’ influence was once again felt in the community, as it turned outward in interest. There was an intensive use of Prayer Studies, utilizing men from the Order of the Holy Cross.
It was during Reverend Woggon’s last year that meetings began to consider merging the church in Concord and the one in Kannapolis.
Several sons from St. James Episcopal Church entered the ministry. They were:
* The Reverend Eric Johnson
* The Reverend Sidney Holt
* The Reverend Alex Viola
Back at All Saints’ in Concord on December 9, 1940, the Annual Congregational Meeting was held in the new Parish House. The total cost of the building was $4,512.00 and was paid for in full. This building was used extensively by the Parish and the community, especially for entertaining soldiers during the war. H.F. Springs McCoy was chairman of the building program for the new house.
In February 1949, The Reverend Robert M. Bird became Rector of All Saints’. He brought with him an intellectual, yet down to earth understanding of the “Good News”. The church continued to move out into the community and in April 1957 Reverend Bird left to serve in Savannah, Georgia.
The Reverend Walter F. Rauh became the new Rector from June 1957 until December 1961. He was a former PT Boat Commander, and was known for his influence as a counselor to “all sorts and conditions of men” in the community. During his rectorate, All Saints’ became well known in Concord for its dynamic growth. The EYC (Episcopal Young Churchmen) became recognized as the most active in the Diocese, under the leadership of Cameron MacRae, Jr. and Mrs. Eleanor (Martin) Craven. The parking lot on Cabarrus Avenue was purchased for $22,500.00 in anticipation of future growth.
In June of 1962, Reverend W. Parker Marks became Rector. He served during the theological transitions, which developed the church in new directions in the total Church concept – theological, educational, and missionary. It became evident during his years at All Saints’ that neither church in Kannapolis or Concord was growing in Cabarrus County and talks began to consider merging the two congregations into one Episcopal Church in the county.
On December 8, 1968, both churches held congregational meetings and read the resolution as follows:
“Be it resolved: That the congregations of St. James
Episcopal Church, Kannapolis and All Saints’
Episcopal Church, Concord, merge into the one congregation
of the name, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, at the present
location of All Saints’ on January 1, 1969.”
“That members of St. James Mission Committee and of
All Saints’ Vestry merge into one vestry of the combined
congregation, and that this merged Vestry have all the
authority and responsibility for the merged congregation
in accordance with the constitution and canon of the
Protestant Episcopal Church, USA as of January 1, 1969.”
“That all assets and liabilities of both congregations be
transferred and assumed by the merged vestry, and that
thereafter all properties and funds be administered for
“That the two present Planning Committees become one
Planning Committee responsible to the merged Vestry,
and that this Planning Committee continue to develop
plans for a new location at the earliest possible date.”
This resolution was voted and approved by both churches on January 1, 1969. In April the Vestry got approval for Reverend Marks to serve as Priest-in-Charge of St. James Church .
In a letter written from Bishop Moore to Col. Joseph. E. Orland, Sr., Reverend Marks, and Reverend Harry Woggon concerning the merger read as follows:
“The Diocese of North Carolina believes that the merger
of these two churches is a step in the right direction. We
anticipate that the result will be a much stronger church
which will be able to bear a more effective witness to
Christ in the whole area. We stand ready to assist you in
any way possible. We congratulate you on the progress
You have made, and we pray for God’s blessings on your
On April 18, 1968 both churches approved to acquire approximately 10 acres of land along Lake Concord Road from Cabarrus Country Club. On January 17, 1969 this acreage was purchased for our present day site for $32,001.00. Groundbreaking was held on April 8, 1971 as the senior communicant, Mrs. J.L. Brown (“ Miss Jen”) turned the first shovel of dirt.
J.S. Pegram drew plans for the new church and a building campaign began in full force to raise $122,100.00 over a period of 3 years beginning December1, 1970- December 31, 1973. The dream of the merger and a new facility became a reality.
On Pentecost Day-May 21, 1972 the first “official” congregation visited the new site to celebrate “The Birthday of the Church” with a party and a tour of the new facility.
One June 30, 1972 the last service in the old building on Spring Street was held. Reverend Marks, on behalf of Bishop Thomas A.Fraser read the Declaration of Secularization to the congregation. All Saints’ on Spring Street was closed as the Episcopal Church in Concord and we moved into the present facility at 525 Concord Lake Road NE.
The first service in our present building was held on August 6, 1972 with the placement of the Foundation Stone. On October 22, 1972
Bishop Thomas A. Fraser dedicated the Church and the Parish House and all the furnishing.
On September 16, 1973 Reverend W. Parker Marks held his last service after eleven years at All Saints’.
All Saints’ has contributed three of its members to the Priesthood:
* The Reverend Hugh B. Craig, Jr
* The Reverend Robert L. Williams, Jr.
* The Reverend Mary Ann Mitchener
Reverend John Ivey Jessup, III became the Rector of All Saints with his Institution on May 30, 1974.
On November 6, 1977 The Rt. Reverend John E. Hines was present as the celebrant for the 100th anniversary of the Episcopal Church in Cabarrus County.
During the next 28 years All Saints’ has been actively involved in the community and the Diocese of North Carolina. Several ministers have served this church. They were:
* The Reverend Robert Lee Sessum
* The Reverend Edward Scott
* The Reverend Fred H. Hoffman
Assistant Ministers and Associate ministers serving All Saints’ include:
* The Reverend Diane Corlett, Assistant
* The Reverend Fiona M. Bergstrom, Assistant
* The Reverend W. Parker Marks
* The Reverend Dr. Frederick C. Harrison
* The Reverend Robert E. Blackburn
* The Reverend Brian C. Morgan
On March 14, 1981 The Rt. Reverend Robert W. Estill, Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of North Carolina was present at All Saints’ for the burning of the $270,000 note and consecration of the Church and St. James’ Parish Hall.
In June 1984 our church received the Governor’s Volunteer Award for exemplary community involvement and outstanding accomplishment in our county and to the people of North Carolina.
All Saints’ and Central United Methodist Church as a joint effort helped build The Wesbury, a $1.7 million senior housing apartment complex which was dedicated on March 29, 1985.
Outreach is an important part in the life of All Saints’ today. Proceeds from the Ol’ Countrie Faire go back into this ministry for our community. Other areas we help with include the night shelter, CVAN, building habitat houses, Cabarrus Cooperative Ministry, foreign missionaries, and sending teams to Haiti and Costa Rica. Dr. George Liles and Dr. David Lockhart saw the need for a Free Clinic in our area and this became a reality. Outreach is a strong component of our ministry at All Saints’ today and will continue to be for many years to come.
On December 22, 1985 The Rt. Reverend Robert Estill dedicated the Columbarium that was built on the north lawn of the church. Dr. Dave Lockhart designed the wrought iron gates that mark the entrance to the garden.
All Saints’ reached the status of becoming a congregation of over 400 communicants in 1986. This was followed the next year by the Episcopal Young Churchmen (EYC) receiving the Governor’s Volunteer Award for community service and outstanding outreach ministry.
In 1989 a wing was added to the church, which included 7 classrooms, a chapel, choir room, nursery, additional storage, and a room dedicated to the youth group. This building debt was retired in 1993 two years ahead of schedule.
A bell tower dedicated to St. Dorothy was consecrated on February 6, 2000, complete with 3 rose bushes and 3 apple trees. A multi-purpose outdoor shelter was completed in 2001. This facility is used by the church as well as the community.
All Saints’ continues to be a vibrant ministry in Cabarrus County today. We have 637 Baptized members with approximately 225 active families.