Peachtree Memorial Baptist Church in Murphy blossomed from the originating purpose of the Baptist State Convention in 1830: to start a school in which to train preachers, and to evangelize the Indians of western North Carolina.
On June 27 Peachtree Memorial dedicated its new facility and two participants are direct descendants from those original mission efforts. A month after a symbolic march from their old building, landlocked by cemeteries, and 172 years after its founding, members moved into their $2 million-plus home.
Chester Jones, pastor for the past nine years and former director of missions for the local Truett Association, said the new one-level, steel and stone building will seat 600 for worship and is fully handicapped accessible. A fellowship hall will accommodate 400.
The move is “a giant step for our congregation,” he said, and eases them out from a landlocked situation to higher visibility on a more traveled road next to Peachtree Elementary School.
Jones said he is “honored to be a part of this country church” and “so proud I wouldn’t trade places” for any other.
Two of Peachtree’s 10 founding members were Native American, according to Jones. Current members Michael Mingus and his sister Jennifer Mingus King and her three children are their direct descendents.
Former Baptist State Convention executive director-treasurer Roy Smith, a North Carolina Baptist historian by avocation, told dedication participants how ladies from the Philadelphia Missionary Society employed Humphrey Posey to help them work among the Indians.
Smith said Posey, who had a “passionate concern” for the Cherokee, consulted with Luther Rice on a strategy to start a school. He traveled to Washington, D.C., to talk to President Monroe and Secretary of War John Calhoun, under whom responsibility for Indian Nations fell.
When Posey obtained permission for a school, he carried his case north where members of the Philadelphia Missionary Society helped to fund his efforts. The Society sent three men and their wives, and three other women to help.
The first church that resulted from their efforts is the Valley River Baptist Church. Peachtree Memorial is likely the second, according to Smith.
One of the early converts was John Thimpson who studied at the school and eventually participated as an interpreter in the Trail of Tears that took North Carolina Cherokee to reservations in Oklahoma. The Minguses are direct descendents of Thimpson.