Grace Evangelical and Reformed Church(Lower Stone Church)
National Register of Historic Places Rowan County, NC
Building, Private, Occupied, Accessible to the Public, Religious
Junction of SR 1221 and 2325
Gold Hill Township (Eighth Congressional District - Hon. Earl Ruth)
North Carolina, Rowan County
The Grace (Lower Stone) Evangelical and Reformed Church is a simple rectangular two-story building of uncoursed stone with a high water table and a gable roof. The north, west, and south sides each contain three bays, marked at the first level by a central entrance flanked by large windows and at the second level by three correspondingly placed windows. The east gable has two windows at each level. The openings in the first story are surmounted by segmental arches, and those in the second by flat ones. All windows contain twentieth century two-over-two sash.
The south facade, originally the front, features a stone tablet above the entrance with the following rhymed German inscription:
DIE KIRCH WELCHE IHR HIR AN SAUT
V0N EINEM VOLCK S0 GOTT ER KENDT:
UND SICH NACH IESUH CHRISTUM NENT:
DIE AUCH MIT IHM SIND EIN VERLEIBET:
UND SICH DIE REFORMRTEN SCHEIBET:
This has been translated as, “To the glory of God has been built, the Church which you behold, by a people who God confess, and name themselves after Jesus Christ, who are also incorporated with Him, and they call themselves The Reformed, 1795, Grace Church.” To the right of this inscription is a smaller tablet showing a clock face with hands pointing to 9:30 and German words meaning, “In the year of Christ, 1795; with God’s help.” There are also secondary tablets over the north and west entrances, with inscriptions of prayers and thanksgiving.
In 1901 a bell tower was constructed above the west gable, changing the orientation of the church from south to west. The tower rises in distinct stages. The first element consists of a square plinth constructed of beaded weatherboards with a low pyramidal roof supported by sawn brackets. The second element is the belfry itself, which rests on a square base. It is enclosed by a heavy turned balustrade and has four chamfered corner posts that support the third element, a pyramidal spire.
All the early interiors were removed about 1880, and the floor plan was changed by the addition of several modern partitions. Originally the high pulpit was located at the east end with galleries around the other three sides. Now there is a transverse hall across the west end, and parts of a modern gallery have been enclosed for Sunday school rooms.
The churchyard which surrounds the church contains an interesting collection of gravestones inscribed in German, some of which date from the eighteenth century.
18th century, Religion/Philosophy, Architecture
Grace Reformed and Evangelical Church, called Lower Store is one of two similar German churches located near each other not far from Salisbury. It is called Lower Stone because it is lower down the road or Second Creek than its neighbor, Zion (Organ) Church, also built of stone. Both were built by German settlers who had moved down from Pennsylvania into the Rowan County area in the middle of the eighteenth century. Some of these people were Lutherans, while others belonged to the Reformed Church which embraced elements of Calvinism and Presbyterianism. The adherents of each sect worshipped together until the Lutherans undertook to build their own church the well-known Organ Church. The Reformed Church members were not long in starting to build for themselves.
Land for a church was acquired in February, 1774, by Andrew Holshouser and John Lippard. Paying five pounds proclamation money, they bought sixteen acres from Lourance Lingle “for the use of the Calvin Congregation.” Since Lingle was a member of the Reformed Church, and the deed makes reference to an existing “meeting house,” this was probably the location of the first distinct Reformed Congregation. A later deed, made January 8, 1795, transferred the same property to Jacob Fisher, Sr., and John Casper, “Elders of the German Presbyterian Congregation on Second Creek in the Dutch [Deutsch i.e. German] Settlement. This later deed marks the first step toward the construction of the present stone church. The considerable task of raising a stone structure apparently warranted the execution of this new deed placing both the property and responsibility for the new church in the trusteeship of Fisher and Casper.
There is disagreement as to the date of completion of Lower Stone. A church document confirms; however, that the church was completed by 1798, and it speaks of a future undetermined date for its dedication. More specifically the inscription in German on the south wall of the church bears the date of 1795. After the date is the word “ende” (end), suggesting that Lower Stone was finished in that year. Other documents record that it was not dedicated until 1811 but do not give a reason for this apparent delay.
Grace Evangelical and Reformed Church, usually called Lower Stone, is the oldest Reformed Church in Rowan County and is the parent church of five others in the area. It is notable for the absence of architectural refinement, being a practical expression of the needs of a people known for their sober-sided pioneer virtues. Because of the earth-toned granite of which it is constructed, it rises naturally in its country setting and suggests the simplicity and sturdiness of its builders.
Major Bibliographic References:
Records of Lower Stone Church, State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Rowan County Records, Rowan County Courthouse, Salisbury, North Carolina, Office of the Register of Deeds. (Subgroups: Deeds, Wills).
Rowan County Records, State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh North Carolina. (Subgroups: Deeds, Wills).
Latitude 35 degrees, 31 minutes, 11 seconds
Longitude 80 degrees, 25 minutes, 21 seconds
Approximate Acreage of Nominated Property: One Acre
Form Prepared By:
Survey and Planning Unit
John B. Wells, III, Supervisor
State Department of Archives and History
July 7, 1971
109 East Jones Street
State Liaison Officer Certification:
Director, State Department of Archives and History
July 7, 1971