North Carolina Church founded in 1839 along the Great Wagon Road

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St. Matthews Lutheran Church | Davie County, NC | founded c. 1839

Archaeologists have found evidence of Native Americans here as far back as 9,000 years ago along the banks of the Yadkin River (Yadkin= Big Trees or Place of Big Trees).

In the late 1740s, settlers began migrating west of the Yadkin River and by 1786, English, German, and Scotch-Irish settlers began arriving from Pennsylvania along The Great Wagon Road. 

At that time, the area was considered to be centrally located on the main north to south and east to west routes of travel in North Carolina. In the decade preceding The American Revolution, Lutheranism was founded in this section as new settlers from England and Germany filled into what was then Rowan County. Most of them were farmers who settled near lakes and streams, where the land allowed them to produce successful crops as well as to keep livestock and this section offered just that.

It was also known as an area where frequent meetings for colonial forces and planners happened in secret, although there were both Tories and Patriots in the county at that time. 

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By 1839, a group of these farmers and Rev. Benjamin Arey established a church here. The following year, they were accepted to the Lutheran Synod and deeded a parcel of land for a church and graveyard.

Their original building was a rustic log structure 36 by 50 feet that they built in 1840-41.

In the early 1880s, it was replaced by this frame structure that still stands today. It was dedicated by Rev. Brown in 1882.

According to the collection of newspaper articles I found about St. Matthews, it was an important part of the community for many years, hosting homecomings, funerals, weddings, and baptisms.

But things changed over time and as the years passed, the congregation began to dwindle. By 1958, regular services were discontinued and in 1972, the church was disbanded for good.

But you can tell that this place still means something to its community because there are 135 burials here, many of which came after the church was closed. Almost all of the surnames come from a handful of families: Felker, Daywalt, Seamon, West, Gales, Calvin (Calven). The oldest interment dates to 1843.

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  1. I am interested in old Florida ghost towns, homesteads, anything along those lines. Thank You, Andre

  2. I lived in Rowan County for years. This is amazing. I love the River area. Boone cave is a nice place there to visit and walk along the river.

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