north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

      Like neighboring Grace Church, Organ or Zion Church has a history central to the story of Lutherans in North Carolina and the story of settlement of the Piedmont. The architecture of the two churches, described in 1938 by Thomas Waterman as being of “uncompromising simplicity,” was in keeping with the tenets of their faith.

      German settlers poured into what in 1753 became Rowan County throughout the mid-eighteenth century. Initially their numbers were too few to erect both Lutheran and German Reformed churches, so they built a temporary house of worship to share. That first church was constructed of hickory logs and known as “Hickory Church.” No evidence remains of the first structure. Church members resolved to send to Germany for a minister and the Reverend Adolph Nussbaum took up the call in 1773. J. G. Arends (or Arndt) joined him in preaching to the congregants.

      The present church building, dedicated in 1796, is the oldest Lutheran Church structure in North Carolina. Constructed on a tract donated for that purpose by John Rendleman and his wife in 1786, the church derived its name from an organ, first used in the original log church and moved to the new building. Like its neighbor Grace Church, it is a two-story meetinghouse of local granite. Early twentieth century additions included a tower but the essential form remains unchanged.

G. D. Bernheim, The History of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and Ministerium of North Carolina (1902)
James S. Brawley, The Rowan Story, 1753-1953: A Narrative History of Rowan County, North Carolina (1953)
Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (1941)
Davyd Foard Hood, The Architecture of Rowan County (1983)
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources