Cullowhee Baptist Church, 180 years old, was organized on Nov.17,
1821 by 10 charter members, James, Jane, and Thomas Stiles; Martha, James,
and Nancy Buchanan; Benjamin Hatfield, Jaley Hibbards, Sarah Mason; and
Henry Wood. Meeting first in a log structure near the confluence of Love's
Branch and the Tuckaseigee River at Webster, NC, the church moved in 1830,
to a hewn-log building near the mouth of Cullowhee Creek. The Tuckaseigee's
periodic flooding chased the people to higher ground; and in 1856, a church
building was constructed on property adjacent to the present church cemetery.
Other structures-frame buildings-were constructed on the periphery of the
1885, and then again in 1918. The present brick building was completed in 1929.
In the 1880's, services were held one weekend out of the month~n Saturday for business and on Sunday for worship. Not until the early 1900s did the church hold weekly Sunday worship services. In the 1820's there was no educational program; however, by 1890, the Sunday School Program had become a regular agency for teaching the Bible. The first Vacation Bible School was held in 1928 and has since come to be recognized as an important part of Christian education.
While at Webster, the Church was called Unity Baptist; it was renamed Cullowhee Baptist Church upon moving to Cullowhee Creek. In 1822, Unity Baptist joined the French Broad Association-an organization of Baptist churches designed to aid one another in the Christian faith. In 1829, Cullowhee Baptist was one of the seven founding churches of the Tuckaseigee Association and has remained a member since that time. In the early 1900's, Cullowhee Baptist joined the North Carolina State Baptist Convention. The Church also joined the Southern Baptist Convention.
The membership of Cullowhee Baptist (and the earlier Unity Baptist) migrated and spread over the Tuckaseigee and Oconaluftee River valleys during the 1820's. New churches were spawned, including Oconaluftee Baptist (circa 1828); Old Savannah Baptist (circa 1836); Speedwell Baptist (circa 1902); and Little Savannah Baptist (circa 1914).
The Church never had a full-time minister during the 1800's; he either pastored another church or farmed to supplement his existence. The minister was elected annually by the congregation with the option of being re-elected. In 1920, the Church called its first full4ime minister. The state convention paid a portion of his salary. It was not until 1962 that the church secured a full-time minister who was not supported, in part, by the state convention.
Situated on the campus of Western Carolina University, the Cullowhee Baptist Church of the 2000s seeks to minister to a somewhat transient community, as well as to local residents who have long been established in the Cullowhee area. The congregation is diverse, representing a variety of racial, educational, theological, professional, vocational, and social backgrounds. The basis for unity in the midst of such diversity is found in the common commitment to Jesus Christ and the pilgrimage of faith which binds people together in their quest for Christian truth and their need for one another.
Taken, in part, from
"A Brief History of Cullowhee Baptist Church"
by John Bell
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