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Home North Carolina Durham County City of Durham Historical Markers James O'kelly Ca. 1735-1826

James O'kelly Ca. 1735-1826

NC-54 at Hope Valley Road, Durham, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 55' 7.7772", -78° 57' 41.1336"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Founded the Christian Church, after dissenting from Methodist-Episcopal Church, 1792. His grave is 4 miles south."
     In 1794 James O’Kelly removed himself from the Methodist Church to found a movement which became the Christian Church, another brand of Protestantism. In North Carolina the denomination is perhaps best known for the role its leaders played in the founding of what is now Elon University.

     O’Kelly, a Virginian, differed with the mainline Methodists on several counts. He was opposed to the use of bishops and, at the Baltimore conference in 1792, sought to offset their growing power by increasing democracy in church government. When his resolution failed, he led thirty-one ministers out of the meeting. The dissenters first called themselves “Republican Methodists” and in 1794 assembled in a general meeting in Surry County, Virginia. The Christian Church quickly set roots across the South.

     Around 1794 O’Kelly moved to Chatham County and founded what is now known as O’Kelly Chapel Christian Church. His remaining thirty-three years were spent serving the denomination, traveling to visit its widely-flung churches, attending gatherings, and ordaining ministers. O’Kelly is buried 300 feet west of the chapel in northern Chatham County. Today the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ owns the building.
W. E. MacClenny, The Life of Rev. James O’Kelly (1910)
William T. Scott, A Brief History of the Christian Church (1956)
Catherine Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (1993)
Rachel Osburn and Ruth Selden-Sturgill, The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, North Carolina (1991)
James O'kelly Ca. 1735-1826 Historical Marker Location Map, Durham, North Carolina