Fanning Chapel United Methodist Church

The official organization of this church was in 1873, but members started meeting earlier.
In 1844, the Methodist Church in the United States divided on the issue of slavery. A bishop was expelled because he owned two slaves. This led to a growing schism in the church. Many churches in the South left the national organization and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Most of the Methodist churches in Henderson County after 1844 until the Civil War joined the Methodist Church South. It was not until 1939 that the Methodist Church South re-joined the national organization.
Francis “Frank” M. Fanning was a Methodist circuit minister, and the district elder for the Henderson and Transylvania County district.
He was born in Virginia but moved to this region prior to 1840 as a Methodist minister. He married Ruth Elmira Jones in Henderson County. He owned extensive acreage from Buncombe County into Henderson County. Fanning Bridge Road and Old Fanning Bridge Road are named for him. That is where his property was located.
During the Civil War, the Rev. Frank Richardson, a Methodist minister, moved to Mills River. He wrote a journal or book entitled “From Sunrise to Sunset Reminiscence.” Copies are at the Virginia University and West Virginia University. In this work, he discusses the split during the Civil War in the Mills River community and also writes about Rev. F.M. Fanning.
Rev. Fanning lived one-half mile from the home of Reuben Ballard, a good friend of Richardson. Fanning recommended that Richardson become the minister at Mills River Methodist.
Fanning left the Methodist Episcopal Church South prior to the Civil War and joined the main M.E. Church.
“He was much discussed and sometimes abused for taking that course. He had been for many years a popular and successful preacher in the M.E. Church, South, and had been trusted and honored by his Conference,” Richardson said.
“I was Brother Fanning’s neighbor for five years. We soon learned to love each other, and established confidential relations. We talked freely and frankly about matters pertaining to the war while it was in progress, and after it ended.
“He knew that he was breaking away from all the ties that bound him to the past and severing the sacred relations of a lifetime, and it grieved him sorely; but he felt that he was following the call of duty. He had always been an intense antislavery man. When the Church divided, he wanted to adhere to the North, and his friends and relatives and those of his wife dissuaded him from it. When the war freed the slaves and brought the M.E. Church to his door, it was natural that he should feel inclined to fall in with them.
“He believed that he could do more to abate the contention and strife in the M.E. Church than in the M.E. Church, South. Accordingly, when they offered him a prominent position in that Church, he accepted it. He labored to abate the prejudice engendered by the war and promote the peace of the Church. While he felt bitterly the ostracism resulting from his course, he did not suffer it to embitter his spirit. I never knew a man who more uniformly looked at such questions with the judgment of charity.
“But for Brother Fanning I retained both respect and love, which were intensified by his noble bearing in the hour of his supreme trial.
“In the midst of the perplexity of our people, when no one seemed to know what could be done, F.M. Fanning joined the M.E. Church. He was an elderly minister, deservedly popular and influential with all classes of the people. He wrote an elaborate article, giving his reasons for the change of Church relations, and published it in the Asheville News. It was calculated to make a profound impression on the public mind, especially when public opinion was so unsettled. His evident sincerity made his opinions more impressive.”
Fanning Chapel United Methodist Church is located on land donated by the Johnson family. It is likely that the church foundation and graves off McDowell Road were where the former black slaves met and that the church was started for the blacks by Fanning Chapel. This land was also on property owned by the Johnsons at this time.
During the late 1860s and 1870s Fanning was president of the District’s Freedmen’s Aid Society. He was also one of three Methodist ministers in charge of obtaining books and Bibles for “local colored preachers” for their reading and study, and to “procure the ordination of suitable colored local preachers.”
In addition to the graves of Rev. Fanning and his wife in the cemetery, there are also the graves of six Confederate veterans.
Henry F. Earwood enlisted in the 25th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. H, Cane Creek Rifles in July 1861. He was discharged in September. No reason for the discharge was stated. He died after 1900 and his gravesite may be an unmarked stone next to his wife.
John Jackson Gallion enlisted in the 60th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. D, Henderson Rangers. He was wounded at the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge during the Atlanta Campaign. He was captured at the Battle of Resaca during the Atlanta Campaign, a prisoner at Camp Douglas, Chicago, Ill., and released in June 1865. He died in 1908.
Samuel M. Israel enlisted in the 25th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. H, Cane Creek Rifles. He was wounded in the head and left eye at the Battle of Fort Stedman during the Siege of Petersburg. The wound left him blinded in the left eye and he was hospitalized at Richmond, Va., where he was captured. He was a prisoner at Newport News, Va., and released in June 1865. He died in 1912. His gravesite is not marked, but family records indicate that his gravesite is at this cemetery.
Braxton Robert Ruth enlisted in the 25th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. H, Cane Creek Rifles. He was wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill during the Seven Days Battles. He was hospitalized with a gunshot wound later at Richmond Va. The place and date that he was wounded were not reported, but it was probably at the Battle of Fort Stedman. He was transferred to the hospital at Farmville, Va.  He died in 1917.
William C. Ruth enlisted in the 56th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. G, Henderson Blues. He was captured at the Battle of Fort Stedman during the Siege of Petersburg, a prisoner at Point Lookout, Md., and released in June 1865. He died in 1908.
Marcus “Mark” Lafayette Sumner enlisted in the 25th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. H, Cane Creek Rifles and served through the war. He died in 1899.
A Henderson County soldier who died in World War II has a grave site at the cemetery.
Marvin Pinkney Smith (1925-1944) served with the Army’s 30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division. He was killed in action Oct. 2, 1944, during combat in the Vosges Mountains of France. He was born in Buncombe County, the son of Ephraim E. Smith and Essie Emma Moore. The family lived in the Avery’s Creek community of Buncombe County until moving to the Mills River community in Henderson County prior to 1940. He was working at the Ecusta Paper Co. in Pisgah Forest at the time of his enlistment in 1943.