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.

The steeple was leaning badly, the steep roof is sagging and an 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 to collapse the roof.  Fortunately, in December of 2019, we were able to have the steeple removed, the bell stored away and the roof covered against the weather until enough funds can be raised to effect repairs.

The First United Methodist Church is nearing its 100th birthday and the congregation is scrambling to get ready for the centennial celebration. In the last months of 2020, the national non-profit, Partners for Sacred Places, reached out to FUMC to invite us to apply for their Central Appalachia program, which will help sustain the chapel’s presence in the community and assist with preserving folk art, architecture, and cultural traditions through repair and restoration work with local artists, craftspeople, and artisans.  With our acceptance into this program, we will benefit from the expertise, knowledge, and support Partners brings to the table. There is much work to do ahead of us.

You can help —Murphy FUMC 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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