Harshaw Chapel

photo by Larry Van Horn, Brasstown NC

The beginnings of the Methodist Church activities in Murphy are vague. We know from the records of the Holston Conference, the first pastor was assigned in Murphy in 1858. Even though the time was just prior to the War Between the States, the work of the Methodists progressed.

Around 1835, Joshua Harshaw, son of Abraham Harshaw, came to this area. He was a wealthy first settler and purchased a considerable amount of land in the first land sales. In 1844 a grant of land is recorded from Joshua Harshaw to Morris K. Taylor, Sutton Talley, John R. Black, Trustees, on which to erect a place of worship for those of the Methodist faith.

Eleven years later, May 1, 1869, after construction had been completed, Joshua Harshaw presented to the Methodist Episcopal Church South, the meeting house which was to be known as Harshaw Chapel.

Harshaw Chapel was built of locally made brick. It still stands on the original site on Church Street. And it is one of the oldest church buildings in Cherokee County, the oldest building in Murphy and the oldest brick structure in the county. It is said that the original furnishings were far more elaborate than any earlier place of worship in the area.

The cemetery which surrounds the Chapel contains graves of many recognizable names, including that of Abraham (Abram) Enloe who is believed to be the father of Abraham Lincoln. Joshua Harshaw and his family are buried there as well as many other well known settlers. A walk through the cemetery reveals some beautiful Victorian markers – some dated as early as 1840.

Here in the extreme western tip of North Carolina,south of the Great Smoky Mountains, is the seat of government for Cherokee County.  Murphy is home to the classic blue marble Courthouse, a bright new Indian casino and also the oldest brick building in the county – the 150-year-old Harshaw Chapel.

The steeple is leaning badly, the steep roof is sagging and a recent inspection by builders found that wood timbers in the attic and bell tower are rotten beyond repair.  Don’t ring the bell, they said, the shifting weight may bring it down.  And pray that we don’t get a big heavy wet snow this winter to collapse the roof.

The First United Methodist Church is nearing its 100th birthday and its aging congregation is scrambling to get it ready for the centennial celebration. Only to find out recently that the chapel itself is in bad shape.  A busy local contractor has given an estimate of about $125,000 to replace the roof and steeple, and refurbish the bell. He can start on the job March 1, 2019. But the Methodists have less than a third of the money needed on hand to renovate the iconic chapel.

You can help —First UMC is a tax-deductible charitable organization. We desperately need your donations.  If you’d like to help, please visit this link to our Online Donations page and make a tax deductible charitable contribution.  God Bless!

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