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Mathis Chapel Baptist Church
1786 Mathis Church Road
Catawba, North Carolina 28609
Dr. Ernie Wilson, Pastor
Church Phone 828-241-2161

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Sunday School -- 9:15am; Worship -- 10:30am
Sunday Night Service -- 6:30pm
Wednesday Night Bible Study -- 7:00pm

Mathis Chapel Baptist Church

By Elizabeth Sherrill - 1987

Although not an early church, Mathis Chapel Baptist Church has been an important part of eastern Catawba County rural life since it was organized on March 3, 1951. The church is located on Mathis Chapel Church Road and carries a Rt. 2, Catawba address. However, the church is located approximately six miles southeast of the Town of Catawba on Road #1818 near the Old Shuford Gold Mine.

On January 24, 1987, at 3:00pm, I visited with Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Sigmon. The Sigmons have played an active part in the church's foundation and the activities of the church since its formation. I learned during the visit that in May of 1950, a group of concerned people from Lincoln County had a prayer meeting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Eades. They discussed, at this meeting, the need for a church in this area -- a Baptist Church.

Church services were held at the "old Campbell house" which was used until the actual church was built. The first pastor of the congregation was the Reverend Carl Keever of Lincolnton. It wasn?t long after the first prayer meeting that final plans were made for the church structure. Land was donated by Mr. Hob Edwards for the purpose of building the church and for the establishment of the graveyard. It wasn't until 1962 that the land title was signed over to the congregation, due to the church's success and definite formation. Part of the timber was donated by J. Fred Mathis from which the church derived its name, Mathis Chapel. The church building consisted of only the necessity, a Sanctuary. This Sanctuary served not only as a place of worship by way of sermons, but as a Sunday School. The congregation would split up into groups within the Sanctuary to conduct their Sunday School lessons.

One important factor to be mentioned at this point is that the church didn?t originate from any other church. Most of the people compiling the membership did not go to any church at all; and, they were of all denominations. Charter membership totaled 39 members. The first officers were: Church Clerk - Mrs. Velma Poole; Treasurer - Mrs. W. H. Guin; and Deacon - Mr. Baxter Alexander of Lincolnton.

The one-room, frame church was soon outgrown. The need for another larger church was discussed at an August meeting in 1961. Not only did the church need a larger building but a parking-lot. Members had to park their cars around the church on the grass. Therefore, Mr. Bill Kirksey of Catawba donated the land for the new church and its parking lot. Plans were drawn for a 34? x 64? structure to be built on a concrete floor. It was supported by 2" x 6", 10? stud walls which supported a barn-shaped roof inside. Outside the building was of brick and frame with a front porch. The cost of the church was only $10,000. It was constructed by Russell Hildebran and his workers. Materials were ordered by Kenneth Sigmon by request of Russell Hildebran.

By now membership totaled 150 members. The church was growing. The old church, which sat directly in front of the new church, was used for about 5 or 6 years as the Sunday School building. However, on March 5, 1967, the congregation approached the Preacher and the Deacons and requested new Sunday School rooms be added. Plans were brought before the congregation and it was decided on April 2, 1967, that nine new classrooms be built. The total floor space for these nine rooms was to measure 30 feet by 72 feet.

In 1975 a steeple was added which can be seen from the high points of the immediate area. From the top of the hill near Bandys High School, the very stately, picturesque steeple peeps proudly from behind the beautiful treetops.

Further growth of this church is indicated by the purchase of a church parsonage in l983. On February 13, 1983, the congregation voted to purchase a parsonage. Not long after, one was found for sale on Comm-Scope Road which is located just off of Sherrills Ford Road. The house was not a new house; however, suited the needs of a pastor and his family.

Also indicating further growth, a fund was established in 1986 for the purpose of building a fellowship hall. This would probably be used for all types of meetings or gatherings, especially for Homecoming Day, which is held the first Sunday in September. The last Homecoming Day, September of 1986, was called "Old-Fashioned Day." Members arrived, along with their families and friends, dressed in the garb of "olden times." They wore overalls, long dresses, bonnets, and the typical clothing of long ago. The congregation invited all former pastors of which five attended.

This church means a lot to its members. In fact, the first preacher, Carl Keever, has requested to be buried in the Mathis Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery, after his demise. The church agrees, and has set aside a burial plot for him. The church now has about 75 active members. Church attendance, as with all church attendances, varies. About 50 to 60 members attend the Sunday School sessions, with about 75 persons attending church services. No other extra curricular activities have been established due to the lack of interest in the 1966 Training Union which was disbanded.

Current church officers are: Deacons - Jim Clawson, Kenneth Sigmon and Tommy Buff. Junior Deacons are Paul Schronce and Tim Heafner.

The church has had several other pastors over the years who were: Carl Keever who served from March 3, 1951, through August 2, 1953; Marion Cooley who served from August 16, 1953, through June 6, 1954; Tommy Taylor who served from August 1, 1954 through August 28, 1960; The late Bill Blanton who served from October 9, 1960, through July 27, 1962; The late Howard Taylor who served from September 9, 1962, through January 8, 1964; Jerry Teague who served from February 2, 1964, through April 26, 1965; Alvin Hoyle who served from July 18, 1965, through November 9, 1969; A. V. (Varcer) Lockie of Lincolnton, an Indian, who served from March 1, 1970, thorugh September 30, 1973; Jim Harris who served from January 25, 1976, through March 25, 1979; 18-year-old Jeff Levan who served from August 5, 1979, through November 8, 1981; Jessie Baldwin who served from April 18, 1982, through April 15, 1984; and Dale Mellon, current pastor, who began his term on August 24, 1984.

Mathis Chapel Baptist Church, although, as I mentioned before, is not an old church, has been a significant part of eastern Catawba County since 1951. It has involved quite a bit of hard work for the congregation who, literally, built the church with their own hands. But, the task was well worthwhile. The church now holds Saturday Evening Singing each fourth Saturday of each month. Church services are held regularly each Sunday morning and evening. And, the dreams for a better place to worship always exist in each member's heart. The people whom I have met from Mathis Chapel are very friendly people who welcome each stranger with open arms. They make one feel quite at home when one visits. They are dedicated to their faith and project a need to help others. After all, isn't that what religion and faith are all about -- praising God and Sharing His love with others?