MOORESVILLE – Centre Presbyterian Church was a “hotbed of rebellion” during the Revolutionary War era, according to Mecklenburg County Sons of the American Revolution Vice President Stephen McKee.
And because of that, McKee said a “significant portion” of the church’s membership fought in the war.
“Centre was part of a group of seven Presbyterian churches in the area, the Seven Sisters,” McKee said. “They were more radical as far as their beliefs going into the revolution.”
Because of the church’s role in the war, the Mecklenburg chapter of SAR – as well as a number of other American lineage societies and church members – gathered Nov. 3 to honor the sacrifices of those members with the dedication of a monument in the church’s cemetery.
Finding the Patriots
The push to identify Patriots buried in the Centre Presbyterian cemetery was organized by longtime church member June Robb in 2015 in honor of the church’s 250th anniversary.
Robb asked fellow member Shirley Wagers, the church archivist, to help with research.
“I’m a member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), so I am very much into the history of our country,” Wagers said. “We decided to try and find out how many Patriots were buried in order to put flags on their graves for Memorial Day.”
Robb, Wagers and several DAR members found 33 men buried in the cemetery who had ties to the Revolutionary War, whether through military or material support. But as the years passed and the search continued, they found even more.
“Originally, this effort was called ‘33 Patriots,’” Wagers said. “But then, as we got into getting the memorial together, we discovered more names. We discovered the church history. And I believe the minister has now been believed to have been part of it, but we have not confirmed it.”
Wagers said a significant portion of the church’s congregation enlisted in the war, but she cannot say what percentage it was because the oldest church records she can find are from 1871.
“So we have no record of how many people belonged to the church during the Revolution,” Wagers said.
Robb said when a Patriot was identified, they would put a colonial American flag – the version with a 13-star circle – on the person’s grave.
“And they’re always there,” Robb said.
Church members put the modern U.S. flag on every veteran’s grave for Memorial Day.
Honoring the Patriots
Once a number of Patriots had been identified, Wagers said the Mecklenburg Chapter of the SAR reached out and asked if they could honor the fallen with a monument.
“So we’ve been working on it ever since then to get all the information we need and to collect money for it,” Wagers said.
With the help of church, DAR and SAR members, the church was able to raise $9,000 for the creation of the monument, which sits in the Centre Presbyterian cemetery and lists the names of every known Patriot buried there.
One of the most prominent church members of the time, General William Lee Davidson, is the namesake for Davidson College and the Town of Davidson.
Davidson fought with George Washington at the Battle of Valley Forge and died at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford, but McKee said Davidson was buried at Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Huntersville because his family feared the British would “further desecrate his body” if they found it.
McKee said Centre Presbyterian was the church of many local historical figures.
“The majority of the big names you would recognize today on road signs and places, like the Alexanders, the Torrences,” McKee said. “There’s a lot of local history that’s tied up there.”