Chapter 22: The Bible Belt Tightens

A Landscape with an Allegory on Religious Discord  Roman Catholicism and Protestantism heading in Opposite Directions 1600's by Esaias Van de Velde  courtesy of
A Landscape with an Allegory on Religious Discord
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism heading in Opposite Directions 1600’s by Esaias Van de Velde
courtesy of


This is an appropriate time to remind all that Henry VIII (1509-1547) had encouraged a divide between the traditional religion of Catholicism and a passionate Protestantism that had yet to evolve. I knew the Puritans settled Jamestown as a result of this. However, I did not know that the Baptist Church also had its roots in this upheaval. (See Chapter 16: Bay Watch Beginning)

One of the families that settled in this area before the Nanneys’ arrival in 1798 was the Rev. Perminter Morgan family, according to Bridges from the Past by Mrs. Bill Koon. Perminter was born in Virginia on August 29, 1755, probably a son of Stephen Morgan and a grandson of Perminter Morgan of Wales. In 1773, he lived in the Deep River community of Guilford County, NC, and we know this because he signed a petition to the Colonial Council concerning keeping the river open for fishing. Then he moved.

Mountain Creek Baptist Church

Mountain Creek Baptist Church

Two years later he married Gracie Jones in Rutherford/Tryon County, and sometime later moved his family to the Sugar Hill area of what is now McDowell County where he lived out his years. But that doesn’t mean he stayed at home with Gracie and their ten children. Morgan became the first pastor of Mountain Creek Baptist Church, organized around 1789, and continued to serve until 1806. My friend Wade Nanney thinks that somewhere around this time, Perminter changed from Primitive Baptist to Missionary Baptist. He was also the pastor at nearby Bill’s Creek Baptist Church, Bethel and other churches. Like a circuit preacher. (I’m not sure of the details, but I know that in Dysartsville, tiny congregations in the distant past, would share pastors, even if they were of different denominations.)

Prior to 1800, the Rev. Perminter Morgan would journey to Charleston for meetings with associates in his faith. He helped to organize the Broad River Baptist Association, and presumably this was closer to home. According to Mary Glenn’s contributor, Pastor Morgan was the moderator of that body in 1803, 1804, and 1806, and preached the introductory sermons for meetings in 1802 and 1806.

In 1812, he extended his influence to Asheville in Buncombe County where he was pastor of the Bethel Church and member of the French Broad Baptist Association. He might have considered moving to that area because he purchased some 375 acres on the South Hominy Creek between 1807 to 1812. On the other hand, this might have involved his son Steven’s being licensed as pastor to the Bethel Baptist Church, Buncombe County, in 1805. Steven came back to pastor at Montford Cove in 1807 before returning to Buncombe County to help organize the Flat Creek Church in 1811. From there Steven moved to the Grassy Creek Baptist Church in Mitchell County where he stayed for forty years.

Montford Cove Baptist Church Next to the Ancient Cemetery

Montford Cove Baptist Church
Next to the Ancient Cemetery

The first census in the US was in 1790. According to one of Mary Glenn’s contributors, at that time there were thirty two heads of Wilkerson families in North Carolina. Moses Wilkerson immigrated from England. He first settled in Pennsylvania, according to the report contributed by Charles Hill. Around 1785, he moved to an area near Dysartsville, NC, ten miles east of Brackett Town and got a job with Jesse Sellars. It wasn’t long before he married Mr. Sellar’s eldest daughter Rebecca. Moses made a fortuitous decision to trade a horse for a hundred acres of land on which gold was discovered. He retained the mineral rights, worked the creeks himself and amassed a fortune which he needed because he had ten daughters and four sons. (The daughters did get $400 when they married, better than the boot. But the sons got $800:)

The children married with the Elliotts of he Whitehouse community, and the Halls, and the Morgans, and the Ledbetters in northern Rutherford County. When Moses died in 1830 at the age of thirty-eight, his widow and eight of the kids moved to Montford Cove, approximately ten miles northwest of Union Mills and the Nanneytown area I am writing about. The present day Montford Cove Baptist Church site and surrounding grounds are parts of the original lands owned by the Wilkerson children.

Col. Amous and Tempie Wilkerson Nanney married in 1847 and had thirteen children, the last one in 1871

Col. Amous and Tempie Wilkerson Nanney
married in 1847 and had thirteen children, the last one in 1871

Fortunately for the Montford Cove area, Perminter’s ninth child, Mary (Polly) married Jethro Wilkerson in 1814, and their daughter Tempie married Col. Amous Nanney in 1847. (See Chapter 10: Nanneytown) This strong religious vine continued over the centuries to weave its way through several family trees.

And in this neighborhood, it’s “Merry Christmas.”


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