Our Methodist history in this area extends back to the travels of Francis Asbury, who has been called the architect of the American Methodist Church. On Wednesday, March 27, 1793. Bishop Asbury writes in his journal: “We hasten on to Cove’s Creek; invited ourselves to stay at C---‘s, where we made our own tea, obtained some butter and milk and some most excellent Irish potatoes. We were presented with a little flax for our beds, on which we spread our coats and blankets, and three of us slept before the fire.” From “History of Watauga County, NC”, written by John Preston Arthur in 1915,
Why the church was named Henson Chapel.
The church was named Henson Chapel in honor of Elizabeth Henson. She was born in August of 1786. To put her life in perspective this was the same month famous American folk hero and frontiersman, Davy Crocket was born. She was an early pioneer who moved to Watauga County with her family in 1830. The next year she lost her husband, Charles. She and her five young children were able to make a life for themselves. John was 12, Sarah Sallie was 9, James was 6, Jordan was 4 and Adeline was only 1 year old when Elizabeth became a widow. She must have been a woman of incredible faith and determination to raise her family alone in the wilderness. Then the Civil War broke out and she lost one of her sons, Jordan. After the war in 1868 she donated the land which became the present church grounds. A small one-room log house was constructed and it became the first church building. On July 4, 1874 the deed from Mrs. Elizabeth Henson to a Board of Trustees representing the Methodist Episcopal Church South was recorded. Elizabeth Henson was called home on August 20, 1886 at 100 years of age.
Another Elizabeth, Elizabeth Whitlow is thought to be the first Methodist to come to live in what is now known as Watauga County. In 1810 she became acquainted with her future husband, Golston Davis when she and her family became snow bound on Brushy Fork while traveling through the area. Golston followed Elizabeth to Tennessee where they were married and soon returned and started a Methodist Community.
Methodism continued in Watauga County when an itinerant minister, thought to be named Greer traveled through the community. There was no Methodist Church, so the first Methodist preachers passing through Cove Creek used a log Baptist Church. Later Golston Davis offered his home. The first meeting at Golston’s house near Amantha included only 2 or 3 people, but from this nucleus the Methodist Community grew. Then in 1850 this small group of Methodists began meeting in the home of George Bingham, the son-in-law of Golston and Elizabeth Whitlow Davis.
As the church grew, in 1858 the following founding members began holding services in a one-room school house on the hill across the road east of the present church building:
T. P. Adams (father of the late, well-known local banker Alfred Adams) and his sister Leah Adams
George and Polly Davis Bingham (daughter of Golston & Elizabeth Whitlow Davis) and their son Thomas Bingham (who married founding member Sarah Farmer)
Lorenzo Dow "L. D." Cole (an early school teacher & preacher)
John Pinkney Combs and wife Amanda McBride Combs (sister of another founding member, Sheriff A. J. McBride) and their son Newton "Newt" Combs (an early school teacher & preacher)
Benjamin Councill and his siblings James "Jim Councill and Mary "Polly" Councill (who married Horton siblings, Sarah "Sallie" and James "Jim")
Golston Davis and wife Elizabeth Whitlow Davis
Eli Farmer and wife Elizabeth Austin Farmer and their daughters Martha Farmer (wife of Jordan Charles Henson) and Sarah Farmer (first wife of founding member Thomas Bingham)
Berryman Fletcher (for whose family Fletcher Branch, which runs behind Henson's Chapel, is named)
Thomas Bailey "T. B." Harbin and wife Julia Johnson Harbin and their children James Harbin and Julia Harbin (who married Berryman Fletcher's son, Thomas Berton Fletcher)
Elizabeth Henson, her daughters Adeline Henson (one of the wives of Tillett Combs, son of John Pinkney Combs & Amanda McBride) and Sarah "Sallie" Henson
Sarah Horton (daughter of Sheriff Jack Horton and wife of James "Jim" Councill, another founding member)
Noah Isaacs and wife Martha Jane Fletcher Isaacs (daughter of founding member Berryman Fletcher)
Sheriff Andrew Jackson "A. J" McBride (brother of founding member Amanda McBride Combs; he was sheriff of Watauga County, was wounded in Stoneman's Raid on Boone, owned and operated the mill at the location originally called "McBride's Mill" and later renamed "Amantha." He later became a minister.)
Carrie Shull (who married William "Bill" Horton)
Many Watauga County natives trace their roots back to these individuals.
In 1868 the small one-room log church was built on the land donated by Elizabeth Henson.
Under the suggestion of Rev. J.W. Duvall, the congregation of Henson Chapel replaced the little log church with a more modern, one-room frame building in 1888.
Following construction of the present church building this structure was sold to Mrs. Rose Fuller, moved behind the church to the old Enoch Swift property. The church was moved using teams of horses and oxen as the church building was moved along tracks made of logs until it reached the present location.
The old church building is still used as a private home. When it was remodeled recently beautiful art was uncovered on what would have been the ceiling of the church.
In the 1920’s many young members of the church became restless and dissatisfied and the older members wondered what could be done to keep the church together. Rev. R.A. Taylor was in his second year as pastor. He told congregation that if they wanted their children and all future generations to have a high regard for spiritual matters they must construct a permanent and beautiful church.
In August 28, 1958, the Watauga Democrat published an article that described the decision to build a new church like this:
“Then across the horizon dawned a modern day, a day of restlessness, a day when young people were dissatisfied and older ones were wondering what could be done. To answer this question there came another man of God who looked far into the future to generations yet unborn. He instilled into the minds of the members of this church if they want their children to grow up with high regards to spiritual matter, if they wish themselves and others to grow in grace and spiritual power, they must have a permanent, beautiful church, as attractive as means will permit.”
Construction on the present Henson Chapel church building began in 1927 and was completed in 1931 at a cost of $45,000. This included the large auditorium with a pulpit, high ceiling, three sections of wooden pews, stained glass windows, seven class rooms and a full basement. Adjusted for inflation $45,000 in 1931 would be equal to $728,033 in 2021.
The new church was beautiful, but the congregation struggled to pay the debt because of the Great Depression. Finally, through many contributions and with the leadership of pastors like, Rev. A.G. Graham, Rev. J.W. Parker and Rev. M.A. Osborne, along with the generosity of Wolfe Brothers Furniture the debt was paid. In honor of their hard work, a “Day of Dedication” was held on July 13, 1941 with Bishop Clare Purcell officiating. That same year, Old Cove Creek School was completed by the WPA, Works Progress Administration. Until the school gym was completed, the graduations for Old Cove Creek School were held in the Henson Chapel Auditorium.
The new church was beautiful, but the congregation struggled to pay the debt because of the Great Depression. Finally, through many contributions and with the leadership of pastors like, Rev. A.G. Graham, Rev. J.W. Parker and Rev. M.A. Osborne, along with the generosity of Wolfe Brothers Furniture the debt was paid. In honor of their hard work, a “Day of Dedication” was held on July 13, 1941 with Bishop Clare Purcell officiating.
That same year, Historic Cove Creek School was completed by the WPA, Works Progress Administration. Until the school gym was completed, the graduations for Old Cove Creek School were held in the Henson Chapel Auditorium.
In we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the construction of the first one-room log church built to serve the Henson Chapel Methodist congregation on the present church property in 1868.
The church history was written using “The Genealogy of Charles and Elizabeth Henson and their Descendants” by Terry Harmon, written in 1986.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has brought our congregation into the digital world. We now offer online Sunday school via Zoom and Facebook Live broadcast of the Worship service.
Sunday School meets Sundays at 9:30 AM in-person and online via Zoom
Meeting ID 898 7367 4336 and Password 622153
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