Organized about 1751, Rocky River Presbyterian Church is first mentioned in official records in October of 1755. The church was started in the home of William White in 1751, making it the oldest church in the Presbytery of Charlotte. Rocky River’s first pastor, the Rev. Alexander Craighead, was installed in 1758. Take a look at our time line to get a feel for our long history.
Follow this link for a complete listing of Rocky River’s pastors with historic photographs.
The present and fourth sanctuary, a brick edifice of Greco-Italianate architecture, was completed in 1861 at a cost of $6,000. The sanctuary has a seating capacity of 750. The gallery or balcony, which runs along both sides and over the vestibule, was designed for occupancy by the slaves who attended Rocky River prior to the end of the War Between the States. The church’s membership peaked in 1856 with 448 white and 202 black members. Don’t be intimidated by our large building. Our membership is about 300 and on a typical Sunday there are 165 people in attendance.
The 1912 Rocky River Home-Coming
The following article appeared in “The Concord Daily Tribune” on August 16, 1912, and in “The Concord Times” on August 19, 1912, and can be found on microfilm at Cannon Memorial Library in Concord, NC. (Story Continued Here)
The Session House
It is likely that the Old Session House was built in early 1839. The minutes of the Session of previous years bear the entry “Rocky River Church” as the place of meeting. The record for April 21, 1839, begins with the words “Rocky River Session House,” and concludes with the statement “Adjourned into the house for public worship.”
The fully restored Old Session House now sits beside the sanctuary in the grove. The house is a constant reminder of our heritage.
The old weather beaten sign still points the way to the cool shady spring. Many childen have walked down the long mossy path to spend time down at the spring. The spring is the perfect diversion on a hot summer day or during dinner on the grounds. Children love to splash around in the water or get a cool fresh drink.
Adults often go there to remember those simpler times or to enjoy a moment of quiet meditation.
The spring has run as long as anyone can remember. It was a source of drinking water for the area and still supplies a nearby home with all of their fresh water needs.
There are a number of graveyards with legible markers still standing in which early members of Rocky River were buried. The larger of these are the old burying ground across the Concord Road from the present church building, Spears Graveyard, about one and one-half miles to the Southeast, and the cemetery to the rear of the church. In addition, some of the men and women associated with Rocky River in the years gone by were laid to rest in the Pharr and Stafford burying grounds, at Rocky Ridge, at Zion Church, and in the Memorial Garden in Concord, as well as other spots not listed above.
In the case of the two oldest graveyards with markers bearing inscriptions , the old Rocky River and Spears, names appearing upon the stones are indicated, together with the substance of the vital data relating to the persons concerned. Abbreviations employed in this connection are obvious: d. for died, a. for age (at time of death), and dau. for daughter.
May Meeting is held on the first Sunday in May and is celebrated by worship at 11:00 AM, Communion, and dinner in the grove of oak trees beside the sanctuary. The week preceding May Meeting offers two evening services, which are intended to prepare you spiritually for Communion on Sunday. For this reason, the services are called Preparatory Services.
September Meeting is held on the second Sunday in September and is a smaller version of May Meeting. Communion is celebrated and the service is followed by dinner in the grove.
Dinner on the ground, a Southern tradition
Dinner on the ground, or in some areas, dinner on the grounds was the outgrowth of a time when, after church services, white cloths were spread under trees and families ate together on the church grounds. Lack of adequate transportation prevented members of the congregation from traveling back home after Sunday morning church. Each family packed food for the day and stayed for the evening service before returning home.
This practice was born of necessity, endured as tradition and evolved into a feast to celebrate various church rituals including baptisms, revivals, all-day singings and graveyard workings. Boards were nailed to trees for make-shift tables to support pots of chicken and dumplings, cornbread dressing, platters of fried chicken, fresh vegetables, pickles, preserves, homemade breads, puddings, pies and cakes. Everyone feasted and fellow-shipped.
As society became more mobile and the church declined as the absolute core of the social structure, dinner on the ground lost some of its significance. However, this endearing tradition is still practiced on special occasions such as annual homecomings or old-fashioned Sunday celebrations throughout the South, Particularly in rural communities.
From “Dinner On The Ground, A Southern Tradition” by Charlene Johnson and Wayne Tanner.
We will attempt to answer your questions about history, statistical reports, former pastors, elders, confirm or deny old stories, and supply cemetery information by emailing Marie or Janet Morrison. Please be as specific as possible and give dates if possible. Allow time for research.
Rocky River Presbyterian Church (USA). 7940 Rocky River Road. Concord, North Carolina 28025. Phone 704-455-2479