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Home North Carolina Sampson County City of Harrells Historical Markers Wells Chapel Baptist Church

Wells Chapel Baptist Church

NC-41 at SR 1113, Harrells, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Est. as Separate Baptist, 1756, called Bull Tail. In 1835 renamed for pastor William Wells. Present building completed 1868."
     Although there were Baptists in North Carolina from an early date, they did not organize into legitimate congregations with regularity. Well’s Chapel, first called Bull Tail for a nearby creek, was the colony’s twenty-second Baptist church when it was founded in 1756. Among Baptists there were divisions based on beliefs. Those responsible for Well’s Chapel were Separatists, a group that believed in personal evangelism and revivalism as opposed to the Particular Baptists, whose teachings held Calvinistic tendencies in which a few “elect” would be saved. Because the Separatists differed from other Baptists on theological issues, much of their early history went unrecorded by contemporary Baptists.

     Separatists in North Carolina can all be traced to 1755 and the arrival of Shubal Stearns to modern day Randolph County. Stearns founded the first Separatist church at Sandy Creek in that year and, by 1756, several churches, including Bull Tail, were established. Bull Tail’s distinction is that it was isolated from other Separatists geographically. Because of Bull Tail’s singular formation as the first Separatist church in southeastern North Carolina, it sponsored the growth of the Baptist faith in that region through missionary activity.

     At the same time as Stearns’s relocation to the Piedmont, another group of colonists relocated to present Sampson County. Samuel Newton served Bull Tail from 1756 until 1783. William Wells, formerly a Methodist, served Bull Tail beginning in 1802 for 33 years, longer than any other pastor. During Wells’ tenure, the church grew in importance, providing a number of men for the ministry and providing assistance in organizing churches in neighboring communities. It is unclear how many churches formed out of Bull Tail but most historians credit it as the foundation for at least sixteen Baptist churches in that section of the state.

     Just before Wells’ death in 1835, the church was renamed Wells Chapel. The church was first a member of the Sandy Creek Association but later joined the Kehukee Association and in time moved to other associations as the Baptist church grew. The church is now a Missionary Baptist Church, following its early foundations in missionary work through church building and producing ministers from its congregation. The current church building has been substantially renovated since its dedication in 1868. Upon completion of the new structure, the old chapel was given to freed African American members of the congregation. It is now known as Keithans Chapel.

George Paschal, History of North Carolina Baptists, Volume I (1930)Samuel S. Hill, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion in the South (1984)
James K. Rooks, “A Historical Summary of Wells Chapel Baptist Church” (1951)
Wells Chapel Church website: http://www.wellschapel.com/