Church History

 

      In 1831, the original Presbyterian Church in Clinton was organized as Shiloh Presbyterian Church. It was located four miles east of Clinton on the old Warsaw Road on land donated by Samuel A. Bunting. The first pastor was the Reverend Alex McIver. In 1849, Shiloh Church was destroyed by fire. For a few years, the congregation worshipped in the Masonic Building on the corner of Chesnutt and Sycamore Streets. In 1855, a new building named Clinton Presbyterian Church was built on the site of the manse lot at 112 N. Chesnutt Street. The first pastor of the newly named church was the Reverend George M. Gibbs.

      In 1826, the Clinton Academy had been established on the site of the College Street School. In 1858, the name of the academy was changed to Clinton Female Institute. In 1859, Luke C. Graves purchased the property and became the principal. It became a thriving school under his scholarly management and young ladies came from great distances to attend. Part of the property was the Graves home, located at the corner of Beamon and College Streets, currently used as law offices. Also on the property was the Thompson home, now torn down. These buildings served as dormitories, school kitchens and dining halls.

      In May, 1873, following the death of L. C. Graves, the institute was sold with the stipulation that it be used perpetually for school purposes. In 1900 the Clinton Female Institute became a public school. It is presently the property of Clinton City Schools.

      L. C. Graves had been clerk of the session of the Clinton Presbyterian Church. He had a son, N. Z., whom he named after his brother, Nelson Z., a Presbyterian minister, who served in the Goldsboro area until his death in 1879. L. C.'s son N. Z. married Ida Johnson, the aunt of Mr. Ferdinand B. (Ferdie) Johnson, clerk of the session and father of a present member, Lovic (Lucky) Johnson.

      After the Clinton Presbyterian Church was destroyed by fire in 1906, Mrs. John D. Kerr wrote to Mr. N. Z. Graves, the son of L. C. and a former member of the church who had moved to Philadelphia. In response to her request for a small contribution to the building fund, he offered to "memorialize my father by establishing a Presbyterian Church at Clinton of proper magnitude and comfort and attached thereto a Sunday School library in memory of my daughter, Lottie K. Graves." The congregation promptly accepted the generous offer. On November 28, 1908, the new building was dedicated as the "L. C. Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church." In 1936, Sunday School rooms were added to the back of the sanctuary.

      In November 1938, the Reverend Mack C. MacQueen began his work as pastor and served until his death on December 18, 1971. In 1948, the sanctuary was enlarged and remodeled and extensive improvements were made on the entire building. In 1960, an education building/fellowship hall was constructed. On October 14, 1971, it was dedicated as the "Mack C. MacQueen Education Building." In 1970, the church purchased a second manse at 317 West Main Street. Mrs. Memory MacQueen, widow of Mack MacQueen, lived there until Hurricane Fran demolished the house in September 1996. She is now living in the original manse.

      The Reverend Edward Johnston, Jr. served as pastor from April 9, 1972, to January 30, 1980. The Reverend Leighton B. McKeithen served as pastor from May 11, 1980, until his retirement on December 31, 1987. In 1982, the church purchased the Rich House at 203 N. Chesnutt Street. Our present pastor, the Reverend William L. Hawkins, began his pastorate on July 1, 1988. In December 1989, the congregation purchased the property beside the education building and the backyard of the manse lot, for use as a parking lot. In April of 1994 several building projects including a new music room were completed.

      Graves Memorial looks confidently towards the next century, even as it looks to its past with gratitude for grace thus far.

 


 

A Brief Historical Sketch

 

      Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church has a long and storied tradition that since its organization in 1831, has seen it through three names, three locations, and three denominations.

      The congregation was originally named, "Shiloh Presbyterian Church" when founded in 1831 with the help of Presbyterian missionaries of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, a denomination that was itself only forty-two years old. The Shiloh Church sanctuary building was located approximately four miles from Clinton on what is now the old Warsaw Road, before it was claimed by fire eighteen years later in 1849.

      In 1855, a new building was completed on the site of the present manse lot at 112 N. Chesnutt Street and the congregation was renamed, "Clinton Presbyterian Church." Only six years in their new location and with their new name, Clinton Presbyterians found themselves part of the newly formed denomination, the "Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America," a denomination that would last for only five years, the length of the Civil War, whereupon it was renamed the "Presbyterian Church in the United States." The sanctuary would last longer than both the "Confederate" denomination and the original sanctuary, fifty-one years in fact, before it also fell victim to a devastating fire.

      On November 28, 1908, our present sanctuary building, only shortly down the street and on the same property as the previous one, was dedicated and renamed, "L.C. Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church." The building was underwritten and built by a former member and Philadelphia contractor, N.Z. Graves, who wished to "memorialize my father (a former clerk of session) by establishing a Presbyterian Church at Clinton of proper magnitude and comfort and attached thereto a Sunday School library in memory of my daughter, Lottie K. Graves."

      In 1983, Graves Memorial became part a newly formed denomination, the "Presbyterian Church in the United States of America," which is commonly referred to by the acronym, PC (U.S.A.). This is not the "fourth" denomination, for in actual fact Graves Memorial had come full circle to the original denomination in which it was chartered. Through its one hundred and seventy plus years, the saints of Graves Memorial in the Church on earth and the Church in heaven, say with the Psalmist:

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. (Psalm 16:6)