It might not look like much today, but the history of this little Iredell county church goes back over 200 years. It is also unfortunately somewhat murky.
As best I can discover, the earliest use of this land tied to what it would become was in the late 1790’s when Methodist evangelists began a series of protracted camp meetings in the area. These seemed to grow in fervor and attendance and even became host to Francis Asbury, a famous Methodist bishop and prominent figure in the “Second Great Awakening”. One of the remaining proofs of these meetings is a letter that Asbury received from another evangelist in August of 1802 informing him of the “great and glorious work” taking place.
“At a quarterly-meeting held in Iredell County, which began the thirtieth of July, and continued four days, the power of the Lord began on Friday about sunset, under an exhortation, and continued till Monday twelve o’clock without intermission. The groans of the distressed went up on Friday night from all parts of the camp, and increased till ten o’clock the next day, when many found the Lord precious in the pardon of their sins.
“On Saturday afternoon, while Brother Douthet was at prayer, the mighty power of the Lord came down; many hard-hearted sinners fell to the ground and cried to the Lord for mercy as from the belly of hell. The slain of the Lord were many, and numbers that fell rose again with the new song. The next morning was an awful time–some shouting praise to the Lord, others screaming for mercy, and the whole congregation seemed thunder-struck.“
During those years, people stayed in tents and it’s likely a brush arbor was erected on the property, as was the custom of many meetings in the area that later became churches.
When the meeting became a “church” is up for debate. One source I have found claims Asbury organized the church himself in 1800. A flag inside the church lists 1799.
A third option relates to the arrival of a reverend originally from West Virginia named William Moss. Moss had been a circuit rider from 1788 until 1799. Arriving with his family in about 1802, he purchases a large tract of land from a John Huey near the meeting space and eventually the camp meeting tract as well from another man named William McKarahan, setting aside an acre “…for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Society…”. Moss is probably the first established minister of the congregation and it’s for him the building would be named, called first “Moss’ Meeting House” and eventually just “Moss Chapel”.
The church’s roll was never as large as the crowds which attended the camp meetings. The area where the building was erected has never been heavily populated, and many people came from parts further off to see and experience the revivals. But, the church continued on. Today however, it is not a standard church, but is used for special occasions and intermittent revivals and services with preaching every third Sunday of the month. The graveyard is also still in use.
One other interesting fact is that the Iredell County Heritage books mention that in 1852 the predominantly white church lists three free black members. Jane Graham, who was a free widow, Margaret A Lock who was free and single, and another woman named Allis Morris.
Will Bolin is also buried here at Moss Chapel.