Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church
(Photo taken by Mary Fulford Moore October 2001)
On March 2, 1798 Mary Moore, widow of John Moore of Jones County, N.C., and Malicha Jolly, Co-Executor of John Moore's last Will and Testament, sold to Ezekiel Harris, James Hall and Lemuel Cartwright, "of the Religious Profession Call'd Quakers in Hyde County, on Mattamuskeet, for Thirty Schillings, a Parcel of Land on the northside of Mattamuskeet Lake, being part of Tract in Gibb's long Pattent and is a Part of the Land whereon James Hall now liveth . . . Said Acre and small overplus including the Meeting House Built by the aforsd. Quakers and their Graveyeard . . . is to be held for that use and Service of their Society forever." This deed was witnessed by Jonathan Harris and Gideon Moore and Registered Jan. 17, 1799.
We do not know when the Quaker Church was built, who the members were, nor the names of those buried in the "Grave yeard." Careful study of later records indicate the present building may be the original one, or at least parts of the original timbers were used if there was any rebuilding before 1854.
The location of this deed was on an original Land Grant to Ezekiel Cartwright in 1730, and early maps name the point of land on the lake shore as "Camp Landing." In early Colonial days before churches were built it was the custom to select convenient sites for people to gather for religious services. One may infer that such services had been held at this point for a long time before 1798.
Ten years after this deed was executed "The Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church was organized at the home of Mr. Daniel Murray on the First Lords Day in March 1808." This Quaker Church site became a member church and many families in Fairfield, including the Cartwright, Harris and Hall families, were active members in church affairs. We do not know why or in what year the Quaker membership transferred to the Primitive Baptist Church.
On May 12, 1818 Samuel Perkins, tutor to the children of Dr. Hugh Jones (whose home plantation was on the southside lake shore in the vicinity of present Amity Church), noted in his diary "that a young gentleman from Pennsylvania had arrived as a missionary from the Baptist Society. He was to preach on Saturday at the North side of the Lake, and it being the last time he was to officiate in the neighborhood Dr. Jones proposed to sail and hear him. Before Service was concluded the wind blew so violently as to render our return in the boat unsafe." (Perkins described the storm in detail and how all members of the party became separated and lost.)
Regular services at "Bethlehem", in rotation with other churches in the county, continued through the early 1900's. Special "June Meeting" was attended by members from all churches and some from surrounding counties. Since 1940-50 "June Meetings" have been the only services held in this church except for some special occasions.
(Photo taken by Kay Midgett Sheppard on a research trip to Hyde County in 1989. Information taken from Hyde County History published by the Hyde Co. Historical Society in 1976.)
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