This is the first of a series of stories on the old church cemeteries in Henderson County published in the Hendersonville Times-News. This series continued an earlier series on historic cemeteries.
This story was published April 16, 2006.
To view the photographs that accompanied the story visit http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20060416/NEWS/604160375?p=1&tc=pg or http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=JVJ6OkSwpHsC&dat=20060416&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
By Jennie Jones Giles
Contrary to popular belief and local tradition, the first settlers in Henderson County did not settle in Edneyville and Fruitland or in the French Broad River valley. They built their cabins and cleared the land in an isolated section known as Mountain Page.
The extreme southeast section of the county is east of the Blue Ridge, where a treaty with the Cherokee in 1777 opened the area to pioneer settlers prior to the 1785 treaty that cleared the way for settlement in the rest of today’s Henderson County.
Historical records indicate the first church in Mountain Page was built by 1787, the year William Mills, Matthew Maybin and other early settlers recorded the first deeds in what is today Henderson County.
Old Mountain Page Church
These early pioneers built a log church atop a hill in the community and buried their dead in a cemetery next to the church.
“The church was the focal point of the community,” said resident and church member Bill Russell. “It was where they held church services, meetings and get-togethers.”
A story is told that a man with the last name of Page settled in the area in those early years when the rest of today’s Henderson County was still Cherokee land. No one remembers his first name. He gave the land for the church, so it was called Mountain Page.
This church, east of the Blue Ridge, but within present-day Henderson County, was established sometime around 1785 to 1788, according to records. These dates were taken from early deeds describing land that bordered the “old mountain church.”
It is known that a log church stood on the hill next to the Old Mountain Page Cemetery in 1789.
A cornerstone of the present Mountain Page Baptist Church states the church was established in 1789. Russell has church records dating from 1830. Records prior to the church’s reorganization in 1830 have not been located.
The first log church was destroyed by fire in 1830. Church members then built a frame building on top of the hill. The handcrafted, wooden pews from this church can be found in a block building below the old cemetery.
“The old benches from the church were stored by Cecil Pace,” Russell said. “When the block building was built, he brought the benches back.”
Baptist association records indicate that in August 1812 the church was a member of the French Broad Baptist Association with 22 members. William Kimsey was the pastor.
It was in 1830 that a preacher at the old church gave a sermon espousing the doctrine of predestination, which is not a Baptist belief. Several members left the old church, bought land “up the road” and built another church, the current Mountain Page Baptist Church.
Old Mountain Page Cemetery
The old cemetery, containing the remains of ancestors of many residents of Henderson and Polk counties, could be a park. Visitors can sit on benches beneath tall trees scattered over the site. Blooming shrubs and flowers dot the area. And the view of the surrounding hills and mountains is a sight to behold.
“It’s a pretty, quiet place,” Russell said. “I really love it up here. I come up here and just sit. It’s a peaceful place.
“It had grown up. People had quit cleaning it. The stones were hard to locate,” Russell said. “Down through the years, the only person keeping it up is Phillip Morgan. He located all the stones and made it like a park on top of that hill.”
“His property joins the old cemetery,” said resident Glenn Morgan. “Years ago there were trees in there 6 inches in diameter. I admire him for what he’s done.”
When Phillip Morgan first began restoring the old cemetery, he came upon a grave that had a large sapling growing in it. Written on the head stone was: “Gone, but not forgotten.”
“Whoever wrote that, they forgot you,” Morgan said as he began preserving the county’s history.
Burrell Pope Pace, the ancestor of the county’s Paces, was buried in the old cemetery in 1816. Pace had six sons: Moses, Jonathan, Daniel, Cornelius, Burrell Jr. and Richard. Pace and his wife, Lydia Woodruff Pace, moved their family in 1804 from the area of Woodruff, S.C. The town of Woodruff was named for Lydia Woodruff Pace’s family. They settled in a gap which took their name, Pace’s Gap, located between Saluda and Mountain Page. Pace was a descendant of Richard Pace, who arrived in Jamestown, Va., in 1611.
Others buried in the cemetery, in addition to the many Paces, are J. Thompson, 1796-1839; Amanda, wife of Henry Kelley, 1824-1895; Austin Williams, 1819-1882, and other Williams; Riley B. Hipp, 1833-1916, and others; and several with only initials, such as M.M., 1831-1849.
The old cemetery is recorded in the Register of Deeds office and on the county’s GIS system.
A huge white oak tree once stood on the edge of the road leading to the old cemetery. The Department of Transportation removed it to widen the road. The tree was there when Russell visited years ago.
“That great tree stood as a sentinel here for the past 200 years and was at least 4-foot thick at the base,” he said. “I thought as I sat there, if only that old tree could talk, what stories it could tell about the people who first settled in these hills and hollows.”
Mountain Page Baptist Church
The first building at the new location was wooden. The current church building was constructed in 1936 of granite, quarried and laid by church members.
“It was the Depression and times were hard,” Russell said. “They had no money, but they had plenty of rock and people. The granite was quarried right here, some on the Bell property, some on Trammel Gap and some on Pace Mountain.
“Luther Revis helped lay these rocks,” he said. “He died quarrying rock to build this church.”
The 18- to 24-inch thick granite walls line the outside and inside of the building. The panel-bead ceilings in the Sunday school rooms came from the old, wooden church.
It was not until 1950 that electricity came to the community.
“When they had services at night, people would pump up lanterns at home, bring them to church and hang them on wires that hung down the aisle,” Russell said.
There is no baptismal pool. Up until recently baptisms were held in a creek at the headwaters of the Pacolet River.
The “new” cemetery at the present church has a section containing the remains of blacks.
Church records from 1830 through the 1850s mention blacks as church members. Baptist churches prior to the Civil War accepted slaves and free blacks as members, said George Jones with the Henderson County Genealogical and Historical Society.
Church minutes state, “the church met in conference and brotherly love and took in two new members, our black brothers and sisters.”
One of the people buried in the black section is Phoebe Sullivan, born into slavery in 1855. Sullivan, who died in 1956, was well-known locally as an herb doctor.
“There was a book written about her,” Russell said. (For more information on Sullivan, visit: http://www.tryondailybulletin.com/2012/01/26/remembering-saluda%E2%80%99s-past-phoebe-sullivan-black-faith-healer/
The old Mountain Page School once stood next to the church.
The church has about 90 to 100 members, Russell said, with about 50 active members.
“Most are descendants of those early settlers,” he said. “My son, John Russell, is preaching the Easter service.”
There are 10 Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery at Mountain Page Baptist Church.
Douglas Edward Hart died of disease in 1864 while serving in the war.
John Ripley Heatherly (1915) served with the 56th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. G, Henderson Blues. He was captured at the Battle of Five Forks during the Appomattox Campaign, a prisoner at Hart’s Island, New York harbor, and released in June 1865.
James Columbus Metcalf (1919) served with the 54th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. I. He was wounded in the right side of his chest at the Battle of Proctor’s Creek (Drury’s Bluff) during the Bermuda Hundred Campaign. Pension records indicate that he was shot five times. He returned to duty and was captured at the Battle of Fort Stedman during the Siege of Petersburg, a prisoner at Point Lookout, Md., and released in June 1865.
John G. Metcalf (after 1910, unmarked grave) served with the 54th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. I. He was captured at the Second Battle of Rappahannock Station during the Bristoe Campaign in Virginia, a prisoner at Point Lookout, Md., exchanged, and hospitalized in Richmond on the same day. He was wounded in the leg with a compound fracture and captured at the Battle of Fort Stedman during the Siege of Petersburg, hospitalized at City Point, Va., later transferred to a hospital in Washington, D.C., and released in August 1865.
Alfred C. Robertson (1904) served through the war with the 56th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. G, Henderson Blues.
Barnabas J.B. Staton (born 1819, died 1902) served with the 35th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. G, Henderson Rifles. He was captured by Union soldiers in Henderson County and released in 1864 in Louisville, Ky., after taking the Oath of Allegiance.
Other Confederate graves in the cemetery include John P. Forrest (Forest) (1884), John Gilbert (1890), David L. Pace (1918) and Henry H. Ward (1911).
One man who joined the Union has a grave site in the cemetery, William Jonas Pace who died in 1918. He enlisted in the 2nd N.C. Mounted Infantry, Co. H, on Oct. 1, 1863. He was a Confederate deserter from the 64th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. B. He was born in 1838 in Henderson County. It appears an incorrect headstone was placed on his grave. William Jonas Pace of Henderson County, N.C., did not serve in Co. H, 2nd Va. Arty CSA. His brother, John C. Pace, also served in the 64th Infantry Regiment.
One man from Henderson County who died in World War I has a grave site at the cemetery. Cumbee Pace (1894-1918) was a son of Henry H. Pace and Ann Matildah Hart Pace. He lived in Henderson County and was working in a cotton mill in Inman, S.C., when he registered for the draft in 1917. The military unit in which he served could not be located. He died of disease during the war.
Marion Herbert Pace (1923-1944) was killed in action during World War II. He served with the Army’s 306th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division, as a tech sergeant. He was killed in action Aug. 10, 1944, during the Second Battle of Guam. He was born in Henderson County, the son of William Arthur Pace and Lillie Mae Coggins Pace. He was living in Henderson County and working on a farm when he enlisted in 1940.
A remote community
The Mountain Page region juts like a narrow peninsula of Henderson County, between Polk County and Greenville County, S.C.
Even today, the community is set apart. The easiest routes take one into Polk County, the town of Saluda, and back into Henderson County; or into South Carolina, through the Greenville Watershed, and back into Henderson County. The only route to the community totally within Henderson County is across Pace Mountain, the long, scenic drive.
Mail delivery, telephone service and the closest stores are in the town of Saluda. The Saluda Fire and Rescue provides emergency service. Elementary and middle school children attend Saluda School. To add to the confusion, the voting precinct is known as Raven Rock.
It was in 1767 that North Carolina’s Royal Gov. William Tryon left New Bern to meet with the leaders of the Cherokee nation to set a boundary line. The boundary began at the Reedy River near today’s Travelers Rest, S.C., crossed the brow of the Saluda Range to Tryon Mountain in Polk County, the east side of the Blue Ridge, then north to the lead mines in Virginia.
It was not until July 20, 1777, that the large area open for settlement was officially ceded by the Cherokee in the Treaty of Long Island of Holston.
The remainder of today’s Henderson County did not open for settlement until after 1785. It was not until 1787 that the state began issuing grants for land in present-day Henderson County.
“Southside of that line, it was legal to settle earlier than the 1785 treaty,” Jones said. “There were big land grants in there.”
The pioneer settlers were farmers and the community is still dotted with apple orchards, fields of vegetables, nurseries and pastures.
The names of the first settlers into the community are not known. Where to find the pre-1787 deeds is a problem. The boundary line with South Carolina was not firmly established until 1815, so they might be found in either state. Rutherford County was not established until 1779. Deeds prior to 1779 could be located in records of the Old Tryon County, Rutherford County or in South Carolina. In 1769, most of Spartanburg County was in the Old Ninety-Six District. Spartanburg District was not formed until 1785 and Greenville District in 1784.
And to confuse matters further, “people from Mountain Page went for many years listing deeds in Rutherford, marriages and other records, after it became part of Old Buncombe and later Henderson,” Jones said.
The Mountain Page community also touched the infamous “Dark Corners,” the section of land at the corner of Henderson, Polk, Spartanburg and Greenville counties, where moonshiners plied their trade. If you were a stranger, Dark Corners was a place to be avoided. Census takers and other government officials were strangers.
“Farmers, mountain people, pioneer settlers, were famous for the clear, potent whiskey distilled from grain grown on patches of corn and rye that dotted the area,” Frank FitzSimons wrote in his book From the Banks of the Oklawaha. “Moonshine was distilled at night by the light of the moon. It was a tradition handed down for generations. The stills were hidden in laurel thickets, hollows and coves and it was open season on revenuers.”
Sources used for this story include: North Carolina and South Carolina history texts, books and Web sites on the Cherokee Indians, historical maps, topographical maps, Web sites and books on the history of Greenville and Spartanburg counties, early deeds, Heritage of Henderson County Volumes I and II, Henderson County North Carolina Cemeteries, church records, Baptist Association records, “From the Banks of the Oklawaha” by Frank FitzSimons, and interviews.