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

 
 
 

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     Whitaker’s Chapel, located seven miles southeast of Enfield in Halifax County, holds a prominent place in the history of the movement for democratic Methodism in America. The original log chapel was built by Richard Whittaker, on his own land, around 1740. In the colonial era, the chapel was part of the Church of England. After the American Revolution, it became part of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Francis Asbury preached at Whitaker's Chapel at least three times, in 1786, 1789, and 1804.

     In the 1820s a schism occurred in the Methodist Church when Protestants began to subscribe to Jacksonian democracy. Church laymen (who had no voting rights) became dissatisfied with the power of the bishops and clergy in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Protestant Church was born. One of the strongest centers of the Methodist Protestant movement was in North Carolina. On December 19, 1828, fourteen preachers and twelve laymen met at Whitaker's Chapel and organized what became the North Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church. This was the first annual conference of the new denomination. Two years later the Methodist Protestant Church held its first General Conference. The North Carolina Conference met at Whitaker's Chapel five more times, in 1830, 1833, 1842, 1845, and 1849. Another chapel was built around 1830 and became the third to bear the name Whitaker's.

     Methodist Protestant reformers pushed not only for representation in the government of the church, but also the elimination of the position of bishop. They also wanted an equal number of ministers and laymen in the Church’s annual conferences. Other points of contention included the lengthening of time for church trial defendants to prepare their cases; the governing rights of local preachers; and the election of presiding elders.

     The original log chapel eventually was torn down and replaced with a frame building. In 1850 that structure was moved from the site and a new church was erected in its place. In 1881, the newer building was moved across the road to its current location. In 1939, the Methodist Protestant Church merged with the northern and southern branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and Whitaker's Chapel joined the new Methodist Church. Worship services had ceased by 1948, and the building fell into disrepair until 1964, when a descendant of Richard Whitaker funded a restoration. In 1970, the chapel was designated a “National Historic Shrine of the United Methodist Church.” Today, Whitaker’s Chapel is furnished in min-nineteenth-century style, and holds a limited number of worship services each year.


References:
J. Elwood Carroll, History of the North Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church (1939)
John Paris, History of the Methodist Protestant Church (1849)
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