Shortly after I moved to Fayetteville, I was near Hay Street when I heard church bells ringing out a hymn. This surprised me because I’m from New Jersey, where I had never heard bells ringing. I told myself this was more evidence that I had moved to an area considered to be the Bible Belt.
Have you ever stopped and wondered why there are so many churches in Fayetteville? Religion has always been a vital part of community life in Cumberland County, starting with the establishment of Old Bluff Presbyterian Church in the 1750s. It has expanded today to include other denominations and faiths such as Methodism, Judaism and Islam.
Many congregations in Fayetteville have distinguished histories. First Presbyterian is the oldest congregation in Fayetteville at over 200 years old. Evans Metropolitan AME Zion was founded by Henry Evans, an African American minister who preached while hiding from town officials, who had temporarily banned his preaching in the late 1790s.
Fayetteville is also home to the oldest Catholic parish in North Carolina, St. Patrick’s, which dates to the 1820s.
A lot of church buildings also have impressive histories. Hay Street United Methodist stands out for its unique type of stained glass, known as “Robing glass.” The actual folds of the robes on the figures are blown into “robing” stained glass. In fact, these stained-glass windows are priceless, because the technique for making them no longer exists.
Old Haymount Presbyterian, which used to be at the bottom of Haymount Hill by Hay Street, had a steeple that local historian John Oates described as “one of the most beautiful spires in the state.”
Join staff from the Cumberland County Public Library and Fayetteville History Museum at 10 a.m. March 20 to learn about historic downtown churches and other religious buildings in Cumberland County.
The presentation will be in the Local & State Room on the second floor of Headquarters Library at 300 Maiden Lane. After the program, there will be a walking tour of downtown historic churches.
To sign up, visit https://bit.ly/church-tour-2023 or call 910-483-7727, Ext. 1368.
For information about other library programs, visit www.cumberlandcountync.gov/library.
Joseph Westendorf is the manager of the Local & State History department at the Headquarters Library of the Cumberland County Public Library.