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Home North Carolina Durham County City of Bahama Historical Markers Mount Bethel Methodist Church

Mount Bethel Methodist Church

Bahama Road, Bahama, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Non-denominational meeting house built ca. 1784 by Archer Harris. By 1808 Methodist. Home church to Washington Duke."
     Nathaniel Harris in the mid-eighteenth century acquired a tract of 6000 acres in what is now the community of Bahama in northern Durham County. Thereon his son Archer built a meeting house around 1784 which operated for the benefit of all denominations until 1808 when it affiliated with the Methodist Church. The first building was a log structure and was used by all who desired to worship, white and black. The meeting house, originally known as Crossroads, is mentioned in a deposition filed against Archer Harris in 1784 as part of a boundary dispute.

     In 1812 a two-acre tract was conveyed to church trustees. The church was placed within the Granville Circuit of the Virginia Conference. On December 20, 1820, Washington Duke, patriarch of the “Dukes of Durham,” was converted to Methodism at the church. His parents, Taylor and Dicey Jones Durham, were members at Mount Bethel. The gifts of the Duke family to Methodist causes, not the least of them the establishment of Duke University, are many. Duke is said to have claimed that “whatever I am, I accredit to the Methodist circuit riders.”

     The present church building was completed in 1949 and is the congregation’s sixth. The raising was the culmination of a prolonged fundraising effort. Harley Chester, minister, recalled that “gallons of Brunswick stew were made and sold, suppers were given, bazaars were held, Negro minstrels, plays, a womanless wedding and almost anything to make an honest dollar.”

Jean Bradley Anderson, Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina (1990)
Harley A. Chester, “A History of Mount Bethel Methodist Church” (eight-page pamphlet published by the church, n.d., 1950?, copy in the marker files, North Carolina Office of Archives and History)
Orange County Deed Books, North Carolina State Archives