On a tour of our Heritage Room (located upstairs in the Education Building), I was reminded of those words many of us learned as children, “Here is the Church, here is the steeple, open the door and see the people.”
The Heritage Room is such a place, for inside the door is a history of the people, places, and things that make up the history of Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church.
Written during the 1870’s, the memoirs of the Rev. Walter W. Pharr say of our church, “There were none among them very rich, nor were there any very poor. The families in this congregation occupy this golden medium between the extremes of human society. They fill the place for which Agar prayed, when he said, ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches.’
These people of Mallard Creek have ever been distinguished for harmony in counsel and unanimity in action. Let brotherly love continue and abound.” Today more than 173 years after our church was founded, the same words still describe the congregation of Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church.
The original members were families who lived within an eight-mile radius of a stream known as Mallard Creek. They came from Sugaw Creek to the south, Poplar Tent to the north, Hopewell to the west, and Rocky River to the east. In 1824, a log structure known as the Mallard Creek Meeting House served the congregation as the Rev. Samuel C. Caldwell, pastor of the Sugaw Creek Church, gave the first sermon. During the next year, the Rev. Caldwell continued his work with Sugaw Creek and gave Mallard Creek one sixth of his time.
Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church was officially organized under the pastoral leadership of the Rev. Walter S. Pharr. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was celebrated for the first time on June 30, 1830. The pewter communion service set used at that service is displayed in the Heritage Room and several pieces of it are still used in worship. The first pulpit Bible was a gift from one of the founding elders–Mr. Abner Alexander. Among the papers in the Heritage Room is this quotation concerning their beloved pastor.
The first effort to construct a new sanctuary was made on August 24, 1854. The work began on May 12, 1855, under the supervision of a well-known local carpenter–Mr. Rice. The previous year, Mr. Rice had completed the sanctuary for the congregation at Poplar Tent. Photos of the Mallard Creek Church show it to be of similar design to the Poplar Tent building. The building was completed in one year and dedicated to the worship of God on May 12, 1856. The Rev. Waiter S. Pharr preached the first sermon and led the dedication service.
In 1868, the congregation extended a call to the Rev. Walter W. Pharr (nephew of the Rev. W. S. Pharr) who was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Statesville. The Rev. W. S. Pharr accepted this call and was installed as the Pastor of the Mallard Creek Church on May 28. 1869 There was a great gathering for this first installation service as three pastors participated–delivering the sermon offering the charge to the pastor, and giving the charge to the congregation. There is little information of the church’s life during the next 50 years, a time which included the calling of eleven permanent and supply pastors.
The present day Mallard Creek Elementary School is one of several that have been in the community. The first “Mallard Creek School” was held on the church grounds through the early 1900s. A class photo taken in 1905 lists children with names that are still familiar to Mallard Creek–Garrison, Kirk, Galloway, Johnson, Benfield, and Alexander. Other later schools included “The Oehler School,” located on Johnston-Oehler Road, as well as the building currently known as the “Community House” that held a four-room school until a new school was built in Derita. Among our current members are those who attended these schools. Mrs. Mary Alexander, (Mother of W. T. Alexander) a teacher at these schools, taught Sunday School for more than 50 years. Her picture is in the Heritage Room along with her famous white bonnet that she wore to each Bar-B-Que until her death in the 1960s.
While he was President of Queens College, the Rev. W. H. Frazier was called as pastor in the 1920s. Among his memorable accomplishments was starting the “Volunteer Band,” a Bible study for young people that met before Sunday School. There are charter members of that group who are still active in the congregation.
Dr. Frazier also helped start one of the most enduring and well-known events at Mallard Creek. By 1927, the congregation had increased in size and needed additional space for Sunday School classes. In an effort to retire the debt incurred by the construction, the first Mallard Creek Bar-B-Que was held in 1929. The Bar-B-Que proved to be such a success, it was decided to be held as an annual event with the proceeds used to establish the Building Fund. It was held at the church until 1932 when the Community House was purchased from the state of North Carolina.
The annual Bar-B-Que is far more than a one day event. Held yearly on the fourth Thursday of October, early predawn fires start the process a week before the event. When the coals are ready, the pork is slow cooked as the day passes with small talk and memories from years past. When the meat is ready, it is chopped, cooled, and seasoned. The hot sauce is mixed from a secret recipe. More than two tons of slaw is prepared. Finally, the famous Mallard Creek Brunswick stew is made from simple ingredients that can only be described as heavenly.
But the Bar-B-Que is far more than just food. It is the coming together of many to accomplish a common goal. Amidst the smells of fresh flowers, the sounds of conversation as silverware is wrapped, and tables being readied for the next day, there is always time for football in the front yard and everyone gets a little sawdust in their shoes. Farewells of “See you next year” are exchanged as pans are cleaned and everything is put away. Bar-B-Que scrapbooks in the Heritage Room show that little has changed over the past 68 years.
The women of Mallard Creek have also been active in the growth of the church for many years. The Ladies Circle Groups were established during Dr. Frazier’s pastorate as they originally met to roll bandages for the Red Cross. It was decided they could do much more for others and continued to meet. The Circles became important opportunities for service, witnesses, and fellowship. Presbyterian Women of Mallard Creek continue this tradition with such service projects as the Alexander Children’s Center and the annual UNICEF Halloween Carnival.
Each summer the young children spend a week learning the faith during Vacation Bible School. The first Vacation Bible School was held by the Rev. C. N. Morrison. His tenure continued through the First World War and also included the printing of the first newsletter. It was sent to our young men in service to keep them up to date with the home front, and as a way to let them know that family and friends were praying for their safe return. A plaque hangs in the Heritage Room listing the names of these men.
In 1955, Mrs. Sarah L. Alexander started the first Girl Scout and Brownie troops at our church. The young men also have a long and distinguished Boy Scout Troop. The name of each scout who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout is also engraved on a plaque in the Heritage Room.
Mallard Creek continued to grow in membership, and in 1942, class rooms and a fellowship hall were added. In 1958, a new sanctuary replaced the church built in 1856. Mrs. Justina Robinson, wife of the Rev. H. S. Robinson, compiled a photo album showing the progress of this work. Mr. S. W. Christenbury dug the foundation using his bulldozer, and the steeple was set by Tommy Garrison, “a brave young man,” who scaled the crane to position the steeple. The cornerstone was set on June 8, 1958 by the Rev. Robinson, Rob Caldwell, *** Rhodes, Brice Bingham, and Alex Garrison. The first service was held on September 21, 1958.
When the Rev. Kenneth P. Craig began his ministry in 1967, he asked, “Why did you build such a large sanctuary?” The reply was, “To fill it with believers in Christ.” And full it has been. During Mr. Craig’s tenure, membership rose to over 1,000. Many new programs began during the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1977, Mr. Craig started the Wednesday evening program called “Youth Club.” One of the most successful ministries at Mallard Creek, many families have joined the church because of their involvement with Youth Club. Today those children are bringing their own children to this program. The Mallard Creek Presbyterian Preschool was started in 1986 with Sara Parker as the first director. Shanon Morgan was the director from 1992-1996, and Diane Jordan currently leads the preschool.
The position of Associate Pastor was created as membership continued to increase. The Rev. Owen C. Carriker, III began his ministry in September 1986 in this position. Rev. Carriker, “Little Preacher” as he was fondly called, accepted the call as pastor to our sister congregation–the Eastfield Presbyterian Church in June 1996.
The Rev. Ken Craig faithfully served the congregation for 28 years. He was honorably retired in August 1996 and recognized as Pastor Emeritus. We are still very proud to call him friend.
The Rev. George W. Jacobs became Senior Pastor of Mallard Creek in December 1996. He added his mark upon the congregation as he led us into the new millennium.
Rev. Jim Murray, Parish Associate Pastor, completes the pastoral leadership Pastor Jim has been with Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church since 2001 after faithfully serving as senior pastor at Rocky River Presbyterian Church for many years.
Dr. Larry Mitchell and his wife, Janice, started a New Beginnings when they arrived here at Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church in 2002. Pastor Larry’s unique fellowship and sincere ministry has been bestowed upon each and every one since that first day.
Associate Pastor, Rev. Brian Brock and his family, Maggie, Andy and Wynn brought their New Beginnings to Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church in 2004. Pastor Brian’s life experiences have allowed him to relate the gospel in a way that many of the congregation can identify with in their own lives.
The Youth of Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church are very actively involved within the life of the church and community. In the fall of 2005, the youth began an early worship service, held on the first Sunday of each month. “New Beginnings” is offered as a contemporary worship service with upbeat music and topics that concern the thoughts and hearts of young and old alike. The youth also participate in the annual Crop Walk, Souper Bowl Sunday, and host the “Whale of a Sale” yard sale. They lead the church and community through the “Journey to Bethlehem” at Christmas and help prepare for the annual bar-b-que. They also have many fun activities such as a ski trip, Halloween Carnival and the “Italian Bistro”. These young people are the New Beginnings of the future Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church.
The Fall of 2006 completed the renovation of the main sanctuary chancel. It is said that nothing much changes at Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church, so after 50 years, it was time for an uplift. We now have a beautiful chancel area allowing room for our music ministry to continue to grow. The Sanctuary Choir is lead by Jean Stanford with Lisa Caudle as organist. Their combined musical talents and dedication in the role of music worship leaders has led the way for many more new beginnings. The addition of an inspiring three-piece stained glass window behind the chancel area reminds all of the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Way, The Truth, and The Life.
Sara Grace Montgomery brings many New Beginnings as she joined Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church as Director of Youth and Christian Education in 2007.
There are many other artifacts and important documents to be found in the Heritage Room. Please visit and learn more about the rich history of Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church.