Special to the Tribune
Barnardsville – First, for those who are in the dark about what a church homecoming is, here the short version. A homecoming is an annual event where former members of the church have a chance to return for a visit and have a good meal better known as “dinner on the ground” in the old days and enjoy renewing old acquaintances while listening to some gospel music.
Such will be the case for members, past and present, of Barnardsville Methodist Church on Sunday, August 25 at its 11 am service, which is to be followed by a covered dish lunch and a concert by the Crowder Family at 2 pm.
Church member Wayne Figart sent the newspaper a bit of history of Methodism and the church, which began in 1795 when James Anderson (1740-1814) crossed west of the Blue Ridge and settled in the Big Ivy portion of north Buncombe County.
Figart says Anderson, a successful farmer and raiser of livestock, was the first Methodist east of the Blue Ridge and at the time of his death he owned 700 acres of land in the Big Ivy valley. When he died in 1814, his land was inherited by his son, William Mallet Anderson (1784-1856).
In 1852, William (Billy) Mallet Anderson built a church building on the corner of Barnardsville Highway and Whittemore Branch Road where the Church of God stands today. The Baptists and the Methodists shared this building. Before this, Methodist services were held in homes and were the roots of Big Ivy Methodist Church.
The church was known for 110 years as Big Ivy Methodist Church. The name Barnardsville Methodist began with the current church building in 1963. The town name Barnardsville was first used in 1875 when a post office was established there in the town, says Figart.
It was during this period, in January 1855, that Hester Anne Gahagan Barnard wrote to her sister Ann Elizabeth Gahagan White in Ireland about a Christmas tea held the previous month at the Methodist Protestant Church in Barnardsville.
Figart told the Tribune the Christmas tea is still held to this day. “We normally hold it on the second Sunday in December at 3 pm. Performers come from all over and it is not necessarily a Methodist event or even a sacred music event” he explains. “After about one hour of performances, there is a ‘tea’ held in the Fellowship Hall of the Church. It is our understanding that this tea was maintained even in the Civil War years.” This means the Christmas tea is at least 165 years old.
Sometime after the Civil War, the Methodist congregation moved out of the building at Whittemore Branch and built its own separate church somewhere on the North Fork Creek. We know that they were in this building in 1879 when their pastor was the Rev. Jacob R. Payne, according to Figart. We know this, explains Figart, because he had sermons published in 1879 that listed him as pastor of Big Ivy Methodist on North Fork Creek in Barnardsville.
On Sunday, March 19, 1899, Barnardsville flooded and this building was partially washed away in a flood. For six years (1899-1905) the church met in various locations including the Barnardsville School and later in the Freewill Baptist Church.
In 1905, Figart went on to tell, a new church was built down in the “downtown” section of Barnardsville facing the town. This building is seen in several photographs that were taken in 1912. It was a white, wooden church building. History says this building was torn down sometime in the 1940s, but there is no reason given. From the late 1940s until 1963 Big Ivy Methodist Church met in various homes and locations including the Barnardsville school and the Barnardsville Fire House.
The name of the church changed from Big Ivy Methodist to Barnardsville Methodist on May 27, 1962 when 25 members that day organized at the Barnardsville School House to build a new building on Church Hill. Pastors at that time were the Rev. Boyce Huffstetler and the Rev. J. E. B. Houser. Groundbreaking for the current building was held on Sunday afternoon, May 19, 1963 at 3:30 pm as Figart concludes the history of the church.