A little history
In the year 2007, we celebrated our 200th birthday! “Hillsboro Methodist Episcopal Church” was organized in 1807. It belonged to the Haw River Circuit at its beginning. The first preaching services were held in the old courthouse, since no church building had been erected at that time. In 1821, a letter written by Rev. Henry Hardy states “a camp meeting was held in Hillsboro, and about thirty-eight joined the Methodist faith. They opened a subscription for the purpose of raising funds to build a house of worship.” Land was bought from James Webb upon the condition that “a Meeting House upon the said lot for the use and benefit of the Methodist Episcopal church.” The church used a wooden house on this property as the first church building.
When the wooden church began to show signs of wear, the members bought the present land from Henry N. Brown in 1859 for $200. Money was raised to build a new church and Captain John Berry was given the contract. He took the old church building as part payment for the job. HUMC is the only church in Hillsborough known certainly to have been designed by Captain Berry.
The new building was completed in 1860. Its high elevation, tall windows, tower, and steeple make it a graceful church building. Captain Berry's use of white trim against red brick gives it a Georgian quality and definitely relates it to the old courthouse. The louvered shutters, galley, original pews, and antique pulpit with fluted columns give interest to the interior of the church. The original building (sanctuary/narthex/balcony/basement) designed by Captain Berry remains intact. When the church was built, the floor slanted down toward the pulpit. A large stove was located at the back of the church. There was another stove where the organ is now located. The pews and pulpit date back to this time.
A local legend tells that during the Civil War, when the Confederates found that they needed more cannons to hold their lines, they asked the church to donate the bell to be melted and added to their cannon supply. The church declined the proposition.
The new Methodist Church was dedicated by Rev. William Barringer, Presiding Elder of the Raleigh District, on October 6, 1861. The text was taken from Colossians 1:27, "Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; Him we preach." The first sermon preached in the present church sanctuary was by Rev. Jesse A. Curringgins from Psalms 51:12, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation."
An educational building was added to the original building in the 1940s. There once was a swimming pool in the back yard of the church that was used by community children. Duke Divinity students often found themselves supervising this pool when serving the church during the summer Duke Endowment programs. The pool was filled during the 1960s.
A separate structure located at the far end of the church property was called the “Scout Hut” and was built primarily for the Boy Scouts' use. It served this purpose for many years until the Scouts were given a house on Wake Street. In the 1970s, this building was completely renovated for church use. A kitchen and upgraded bathroom was added, thus making it into a multipurpose unit, named the “Ruth Room” by the church leaders. A small room in this building was converted into the Mark Prayer Chapel.
Building for Christ Together
As the membership grew, the church recognized the need to expand. Under the leadership of Rev. Herman Ward, a building program, “Building for Christ Together,” was organized and in 1991, a fellowship hall, additional classrooms, bathrooms, large kitchen, and storage rooms were added adjoining the present building. The new facilities included a courtyard surrounded by covered walkways and cornered by two gazebos and this has become the primary entryway for many events. The fellowship hall ceiling was made tall enough to facilitate the enjoyment of youth activities such as basketball. This new fellowship hall connected the educational building and the Ruth Room building. The original basement underneath the sanctuary was converted into a library, secretary's office, pastor's office, and new bathroom facility.
Growing for Christ Together-Expanding to Touch Lives
HUMC is currently involved in another extensive renovation/addition capital campaign called “Growing for Christ Together-Expanding to Touch Lives,” under the leadership of Rev. Al Horne. Our attendance and activities have led us to be creative in the use of our existing space! In 2005, the church purchased a home and land on Queen Street (across the street behind the church) to be used as a parsonage and for youth and other activities. This has enabled the church to renovate the old parsonage for use by many ministries. This building was renovated and dedicated as the “Ministry Center” on April 22, 2007. It is used by three adult Sunday School classes, houses the pastor's and secretary's offices, and provides a space for informal gatherings. Renovations are ongoing to the basement area and the educational wing of the church, as well as to the Ruth Room and the Youth Barn (on the Queen Street property).
A Memorial Garden was completed in 2006. This area joins the Mark Prayer Chapel and provides a beautiful space for meditation, small memorial services, and scattering of ashes. The Memorial Garden features a fountain, two benches, a stone patio and walls, a lovely stained glass window, and a separate entry to the Mark Chapel. The addition of a beautiful cross made and donated by Trev Euliss completes the entryway to the Chapel. Many members and friends have donated their time and resources to making the Garden and Prayer Chapel places of serenity and beauty. Additional space was added to the garden in 2012 by Aaron Hackett. This additional space provides for a more private meditation area. Aaron provided a bench, additional plantings, and three croses for this area.
Other special features of the church
The Bible in the church was printed at the University Press, Oxford, London, England. The following is inscribed on the Bible, "Methodist Episcopal Church, Hillsborough, N.C. - 1860."
The cross in back of the pulpit was designed and cut out by J. Taylor Bivins. Shepherd Strudwick, well-known for his beautiful woodworking, did the carvings on the cross.
Rev. Herman Ward and his family and friends presented HUMC with a beautiful brass advent wreath/stand and memorial candle in memory of his mother, Margaret Ward. The communion service in the vestibule of the church was presented by the Phillips family in memory of their father and mother, Rev. and Mrs. Hiram Pearson Cole. Rev. Cole was pastor of the church in 1875.
A beautiful stained glass window was placed in the memorial section of the Fellowship Hall in memory of Anne Salomon by her family and friends. The stained glass window in the Mark Prayer Chapel was given in memory of Al Salomon.
The exquisite needlepoint tapestry that hangs in the narthex was designed and made by Minerva Kenyon, Margaret Clark, and Ruth Ferguson with the support of other women of the church.
The baptismal font was given in memory of Ms. Lizzie Cole Liner. A baptism banner hangs in the sanctuary when an infant is baptized. This tradition was started with dogwood blossoms made by Karen DeSombre.
The altar table was made by Rev. Chester Andrews (retired United Methodist minister) and was given in memory of Essie Latta.
The quilted banners that hang in the Fellowship Hall were made for the church by Margaret Clark and the church's sewing group, Rags, Bags, and Flags.
A beautiful stained glass window was placed in the south end of the fellowship hall in 2011 in memory of Pastor Emeritus - Herman N. Ward, Jr., who served the church from 1969-2004. The window depicts Jesus teaching on a beautiful hillside.
Three beautiful stained glass print banners hang at the north end of the fellowship hall. These banners were given in memory of Ruth Hallman.
[Some material and information taken from History of Hillsborough Methodist Church, 1807-1961, by Allen and Pauline Lloyd.]