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"The Presbyterian congregation was organized before 1760 by Scots-Irish settlers. Robert Henry, the first permanent pastor, arrived in 1766. Rev. James McRee served from 1778 to 1797. Sugar Creek was the first Presbyterian church in the region, organized in 1756. The rest of the churches, known collectively as the "Seven Sisters," were Hopewell (1762), Poplar Tent (1764), Centre (1765), Providence (1767), and Philadelphia (1770)." Once a rural church but now surrounded by urban Charlotte, Steele Creek typifies the profound Scotch-Irish influence in the region. With the arrival of Presbyterians in the mid-1700s came “stands” or “tents” where the faithful could assemble to hear preaching. Sugar Creek was the first Presbyterian church in the region, organized in 1756. Alexander Craighead was installed as that church’s pastor in 1758. Steele Creek was organized around 1760, followed by Hopewell (1762), Poplar Tent (1764), Centre (1765), Providence (1767), and Philadelphia (1770), collectively known as the “Seven Sisters.”
The precise date for the organization of Steele Creek cannot be determined. The Synods of New York and Philadelphia in 1758 received appeals from Carolinians for a minister to serve the area between the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers. The earliest marked grave at Steele Creek is 1763. The earliest land record is a transfer in 1771 that refers to the “old and new meeting houses.” Steele Creek’s first pastor, secured in 1766, was Robert Henry; he died the following year. The Rev. James McRee served from 1778 to 1797. During his tenure a dispute arose over the use of hymns in services and members withdrew to begin Central Steele, Lower Steele Creek, and Little Steele Creek Presbyterians churches. The Mecklenburg Presbytery, covering six counties, was organized at Steele Creek in 1780.
The present Gothic Revival style sanctuary, completed in 1889, is the congregation’s sixth; several modern buildings stand alongside. The adjacent cemetery includes the graves of thirteen Revolutionary War soldiers and 101 Confederate veterans, as well as the burial places of evangelist Billy Graham’s parents, William Franklin Graham (1888-1962) and Morrow Coffey Graham (1892-1981). Construction of the Charlotte airport two miles north in 1962 displaced many church members from their homes. The church and cemetery were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
History of Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, 1745-1978, third edition (1976)
Charles R. Brockmann, Mecklenburg Presbytery: A History (1962)
D. I. Craig, History of the Development of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina (1907)
Ernest T. Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Volume I (1963)
LeGette Blythe and Charles R. Brockmann, Hornet’s Nest: The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (1961)
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.