A SHORT HISTORY OF SPRINGWOOD PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
By Dr. Rollin M. "Chip" Steele (Springwood pastor from February 1983 - May 1995)
In 1868, the community was just over one hundred years old. Waterpower and land fueled an economy based on farm and mill. The War Between the States had ended with the bitterness that only an occupying army and military government can bring to a vanquished people. Slavery was officially over and the sprouts of a new culture were emerging. In 1860, there had been a split in the Brick German Reformed Church. Many of the most committed of the southern secessionists had left the church. The minister who had come in 1840, George William Welker was an abolitionist, anti war, and equally important a seminal influence in the founding of a new Republican Party based on those values. Not to speak of the hundreds who did not come home, those who did had either known the ravages of the surgeons knife, the pain and anxiety of battle and a great number had participated in the horror of the "Bloody Angle" at Spottsylvania Courthouse and its consequent imprisonment at the North's most infamous camp at Elmira, New York.
The Kirk-Holden War was coming to the community. It was searched for arms. At Easter in 1868, a compromise was offered by several men from Brick Church to the minister and Consistory. The Reverend William B. Tidball of Alamance Presbyterian Church had been preaching at unauthorized services and providing pastoral services to many of the Confederate veterans and their families. Two days before, the Presbyterian Church had strongly advised him to cease preaching at Brick. If the arrangement was to continue, there needed to be a split of the time and property. Mr. Welker refused, they refused to let him preach and Mr. Welker took them to the Superior Court. The conspirators were eventually acquitted, and in November of 1868 had organized themselves into a Presbyterian Church with the help of Archibald Currie, Fontis Johnson and Dr. J.A. McLean of Orange Presbytery. Twenty-four were examined; three elders installed and two deacons elected. In the early years Springwood was combined with several other churches like, Alamance and Graham, who could not afford a full time minister. Mr. Tidball who was himself a C.S.A. veteran, Mr. Currie and another Mississippi and C.S.A. veteran, Cornelius Miller, supplied the pulpit. Mr. Currie's son, James Lauchlin Currie served Springwood, Stoney Creek and the new Presbyterian group in the "Union Church" soon to be the First Presbyterian Church of Burlington. Following one Sunday service, Mr. Currie died suddenly. The community was struck by the tragedy.
Springwood, by oral tradition, came from a cross made of dogwood beside a spring on the farm of Zwingli Ingle. Its first white, clapboard building was built in its present location in 1873 and lasted for almost eighty years. In the 1880s and early 1890s Springwood helped support one of the first interdenominational Sunday Schools called the Fairview Union Sunday School. In 1902, Alamance Presbyterian, Bethel Presbyterian and Springwood Presbyterian were yoked under the pastoral leadership of the Reverend Samuel M. Rankin. When Mr. Rankin became Superintendent of Home Missions for Orange Presbytery, he continued to supply Springwood and helped make sure following his departure that Springwood called pastors with a specialty in home missions. Home missions involved building church membership to the point that it could support a full time pastoral ministry. That was a long-term goal. In 1903, Springwood was the backdrop of a special national tragedy with the loss of fireman Albion Clapp in the wreck of the Old "97." In 1911, financier D.P. Foust left the church and Home Mission enterprise a large legacy allowing the church to make its significant improvements to the cemetery including a spectacular iron fence and gateway.
A manse for Springwood was built with Bethel Presbyterian in 1914. The relationship with Bethel lasted until 1950. The destruction of the Whitsett Institute was a local tragedy. Following the guidance and help of Mr. S.M. Rankin, Springwood and Bethel called home a number of strong, young mission ministers hoping to build the churches. The Depression and World War II made the prospect a much more difficult task. In 1950, Mr. Foster, following a solid ministry in the two-point ministry helped Bethel build a new manse and Springwood build a new church building. A sanctuary was built in 1952, the educational building in 1956 and the new manse finished in 1959. Mr. Charles Desanto was the first minister in its history to serve Springwood as a solo pastor when called as a part time student in 1952. The Reverend Fred McDaniel called in 1958 was the first full time pastor. The church became self-supporting in the 1960s. Springwood helped to form the plans to maintain and form the new town of Whitsett in 1991. This was done surviving the many challenges to the health and integrity of the community whose rudiments have existed since America's Revolution. Honoring its Pastor Emeritus and longtime friend, Springwood named its educational building Edgerton Hall and dedicated a plaque to C. Brower Ingle, who headed its building committee. Recently, the church renovated its sanctuary, put a new picnic shelter and children's playground to good use and purchased an Allen Organ in preparation for a bright future.
Among the strongest characteristics of Springwood has been its desire to be a caring community. Springwood has hired strong pastors like Mr.Edgerton, Mr. Foster, Dr. Desanto, Mr. McDaniel, Mr. Callis and Dr. Grandstaff. Many of the pastors have published books, articles and eventually made careers and strong reputations in counseling. The Church has been an initiator or deeply involved in each community project and organization and a backbone of support for many of the families in times of need. That, which was started to help a community of veterans greatly changed prospects for the area following the Civil War, has maintained excellence in its ability to face the challenges in every era.
For a more comprehensive look at the history of Springwood Presbyterian Church, please read From Trial to Promised Triumph: A Short History of Springwood Presbyterian Church by Dr. Rollin M. Steele, Jr.