Members looks back on history as Love’s Chapel prepares to mark 175th anniversary

Driving south through Stanfield out Love Chapel Road on a warm mid-summer morning, the sight of lush green meadows and fields of head-high corn, green from summer rain, make one forget the temperatures will reach the 90s.

Settled on a rise above the road, shaded by great spreading water oaks, Love’s Chapel United Methodist Church seems to say, “Come and stay awhile.”

Rev. David W. Love, pastor, and Jim Whitley are shown next to the grave of Confederate soldier James M. Greene at Love’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Stanfield. (Photo by JO GREY)

It seems that’s exactly what has happened. At least 175 years ago, before the town of Stanfield was established, before the railroad came through, farmers and settlers along the Cheraw Road adopted a spot on the east side of the road as their Sunday-go-to-meeting place.

As people have done for millennia, they came together for worship of God, likely under a brush arbor before a building was constructed.

Now, descendants of those families who gathered together back then and there, still show up on Sunday for worship, or Wednesday for choir practice, and on hot summer days for vacation Bible school.

One officially recorded date indicates a charter was granted by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in 1848, marking Love’s Chapel as one of the oldest active churches in Stanly County.
Records also show that a year later Jonah and Mary Love sold two acres for one cent and deeded the land to the trustees of the newly organized church. It’s believed that a log structure was built first, then replaced by a simple wood plank building. Neither remain.

Part of that original acreage along the old Cheraw Road was set aside for a cemetery. Civil War veterans and many of their descendants are buried there. The names and dates on some of the stone markers are concealed by blackened layers of mildew and the oldest stones are gradually toppling over. That “lower cemetery” is to be renamed Love Chapel Road Cemetery.

Records show Jonah Love also deeded two acres of land on the west side of the road in 1858 to be held by the church’s trustees. Two more cemeteries and the present-day church are now located on acreage that includes that parcel given by Jonah Love 165 years ago.

Jonah Askew Love —one of Jonah and Mary’s 12 children — settled in the area, lost his arm in the Civil War, and had five children of his own with his first wife, Margaret Tyson Palmer. The grave of their infant son, John C. Love, is near theirs in the “upper cemetery” which is to be renamed Love’s Chapel Cemetery on Polk Ford Road. The date of death on the child’s grave marker is May 24, 1860.

Jane Love Whitley views the grave of her ancestor, Jonah Askew Love, born 1825, died 1907. It has the original stone markers and a new headstone. (Photo by JO GREY)

Jane Love Whitley said his grave has the oldest legible dates of any graves in the three cemeteries. She knows others are older, but unreadable due to age and deterioration.

Jonah Askew was Jonah and Mary Love’s 10th child out of 12.
Church members Jane Love Whitley and Kay B. Barbee can trace their lineages through five or six generations in Love’s Chapel cemeteries.

Barbee points to many headstones with names familiar to county residents.

“There were many in our church that sowed the seeds for the community of Stanfield,” said Barbee, “and took part in building a thriving town with all the things the folks in the town needed.”

Two cemeteries testify to the contributions made by earlier generations of church members even beyond Stanfield to the battlefields of the Civil War, of both World Wars and the Korean War.

A third cemetery of unmarked graves awaits a simple sign identifying it as Love’s Chapel Memorial Cemetery in recognition of enslaved people who lived and died in the community.

According to genealogical research, Jonah Love’s 1859 last will and testament gives the names of enslaved people who were emancipated before the Civil War, before the will was probated in 1865.

Today, the only part of the original white plank house of worship remaining on church property is the wood flooring utilized in the 1938 brick structure. The education wing of the church was added in 1953 and partially financed with money raised by members who labored to grow and sell cotton cultivated on church property.

A pot belly stove in the sanctuary for heat. An outhouse across the road. Living next door to the church. Watching John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession on a black and white television set during a turkey and dressing dinner fundraiser in 1963. Such are a few of the memories of Love’s Chapel UMC congregants.

Rev. David W. Lowe, pastor, invites the community to the 175th Anniversary Homecoming services and Open House on Sunday.
During the festivities, the folks at Love’s Chapel UMC look forward to sharing their hopes for the future and their ongoing missions and outreach efforts, as well as their many recollections.

Richard Blount is the guest speaker for the 11 a.m. worship service, and a covered dish fellowship meal will follow.

The church is at 808 S. Love Chapel Road, Stanfield.