Henry Evans, cobbler and minister prominent in the history of Fayetteville, was born in Virginia about 1760 to free black parents. Around 1780 Evans stopped in Fayetteville on his way to Charleston. He began preaching there and decided to make it his home. He found a genuine need for moral and spiritual guidance in the black community. When the white community saw the positive effects of his preaching, they, in time, turned to Evans for that guidance as well. It is not clear precisely when a church building was constructed for the congregation, but one was in place by 1803, as it is noted in a contemporary journal kept by Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury. The reference established that Evans’s meeting house was the first church in the town limits of Fayetteville as it was laid out at the time. Evans, furthermore, is credited as being “the father of the Methodist Church, white and black, in Fayetteville, and the best preacher of his time in that quarter.”
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The bishop assigned to the circuit in which Evans’ church was placed reported that Evans “was so remarkable, as to have become the greatest curiosity of the town; insomuch that distinguished visitors hardly felt that they might pass a Sunday in Fayetteville without hearing him preach.” Evans lived in a room behind the pulpit and continued to do so even after poor health required him to relinquish his preaching duties. Upon his death in September 1810, Bishop Williams Capers recorded that the entire community mourned. Henry Evans was buried under the chancel of the church. His grave since has been moved to the Evans Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church which now stands nearby. He left a widow who was allowed to live in his quarters at the church during her lifetime, as arranged in Evans’ will.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 169-170—sketch by Ralph Hardee Rives
M. H. Moore, Pioneers of Methodism in North Carolina and Virginia (1884)
Fayetteville Times, November 11, 1975
John A. Oates, The Story of Fayetteville and the Upper Cape Fear (1950)
Evans Metropolitan AME Zion Church