History of Carlisle Wesleyan Church
In the midst of revival that came to Upper Spartanburg County in the summer and fall of 1899, the Carlisle Wesleyan Church came into existence. Places mentioned in The History of the South Carolina Conference, where revivals broke out, were Spartanburg, Clifton, Glendale, Cannon's Camp Ground, Pacolet, Mayo, Valley Falls, Boiling Springs, Buck Creek, Fingerville, Cowpens, Bethany, Gaffney, and Carlisle. There were 1725 conversions reported in the vicinity of upper Spartanburg County in the years of 1899 and 1900. Wesleyan Methodist ministers were used of the Lord. LW. Johnson, G.B. Nalley, and Frank Graham were names prominently mentioned as preachers in these services.
As a result of that revival movement, the Carlisle Wesleyan Church (August 1899) was organized. The History of the South Carolina Conference reports that LW. Johnson held a meeting at Carlisle where there were 120 professions, and a class of 18 members organized. No actual records exist listing the charter members of the church, but a monument is erected in front of the church listing the following probable members: Rufus Brannon, John R. Burnett, Addie K. Burnett, George E. Cannon, Nancy B. Cannon, John Eaker, Haden T. Eaker, Nannie Greene, J. Webb Horton, Mahala C. Horton, J. James Horton, Lola Horton Brock, Amanda R. Lowe, Isaac D. Parris, Elizabeth V. Parris, Montie T. Williams Seay, Emma Parris Shirley and W. Marion Stephens.
As soon as the tent meeting had ended and the euphoria the members of the new church felt began to die away, reality set in. The church must establish and nurture itself or die. So, either at the organizational meeting, or, soon there after, Isaac D. Parris and John Acre became officers of the church. They either approached or were offered a lot at the intersection of New Cut (now Parris Bridge) Road and Furnace (now Old Furnace) Road and adjacent to the Carlisle Academy, owned by Jane C. Willis, an 82 year old widow living with her son-in-law John M. Gilbert. It is not known whether or not she was a member of Carlisle. If not, she was certainly a sympathizer with their cause since the first deed for the church property stipulated that the property was to be used for religious purposes only as long as the church was kept as a Holiness Church. The congregation purchased the lot for $25.00 on September 23, 1899. For some unknown reason, this lot proved unsatisfactory, and on December 26, 1899, Jane C. Willis in consideration of the love that I have for the church of Christ, known as Carlisle... and of one acre of land deeded back to her by J.D. Parris and J.W. Horton, she traded the lot currently occupied by the church cemetery for the purpose of a building site.
Soon thereafter, a frame church described as a little house 40' by 30' was constructed for worship purposes. Rev. LW. Johnson, who had assumed the pastorate of Carlisle, wrote that the congregation had been greatly persecuted and tried in many ways, but they were holding on. Nevertheless, Carlisle Church continued to grow.
In April 1900, Rev. D.R. Brown (who became the second pastor here) held the second quarterly meeting of the Spartanburg Circuit in the new church at Carlisle. It was a glorious meeting in which for three hours the high praises of God were in our mouths... Three joined Carlisle... We are expecting to see greater things than these... Glory to God... and greater things they did see.
The Carlisle folks were noted for their hospitality and for having their homes open to visiting ministers. Mrs. Victoria Cannon had a huge double bed in the front parlor reserved for overnight guests. The same was true for Mrs. Addie Burnett. There were certainly others who opened their homes to ministers but time has erased their names from living memory.
In the fall of 1908, during the pastorate of L.E. Swaney, Carlisle enjoyed a gracious revival with Rev. J.R. George as the evangelist; 33 joined the church. Two hundred dollars was received for enlarging the church.
Although Carlisle Church had existed for a decade when Rev. M. T. Hartsoe assumed the pastorate in 1909, hostility from outside the church still existed. "The doctrines we stand for have been very much abused at this p1ace, but we believe that real truth will win out yet; and this church will do great things," Hartsoe reported in 1910. But, this did not deter him from using Carlisle church as a base from which to build up the Wesleyan church as a whole. One such activity held at Carlisle was a "Holiness Convention" held in July 1910. It was a series of teaching and preaching sessions designed to train workers and also edify and enlarge the body of believers. The exact results of this particular convention are unknown although they are thought to have been very positive since the convention was preceded by a ten-day revival.
By 1924 the roll revealed 146 church members. The membership exceeded 100 members, until 1932, when on1y 61 members were reported. The number climbed back to 153 in 1938 when Rev. W.L. Miller was pastor. In the 1940's the church experienced a decrease, but steady progress was revealed in the 1950's when the membership reached the highest membership ever in 1967.
In the 1970's the church was very effective in its ministry to God and the community. Growth factors that contributed to the effectiveness of the church and its outreach were: Emphasis on strong Sunday School attendance in the South Carolina District. Carlisle had the largest attendance in Sunday School for 10 years. The programs with the children, youth and young adults were effective. A bus ministry and softball program were two means of outreach that were utilized. These efforts drew in many youth and young adults. Canvassing new housing developments in the community, good revival services, and Homecoming events were contributing factors to the church also. As always, the choir outreach produced a spiritual climate for a soul-winning ministry that was very effective. In the 1980's and early 1990's, we experienced some decline in membership; however, we had a good average for the 1990's.
The Carlisle Church has the reputation of providing adequate facilities for worship and pastoral care. In 1941, the church built a five-room parsonage for its pastor. In 1954, the members of the church erected the present parsonage valued at that time at $25,000. Dr. V.A. Mitchell, conference president, described the new home as the nicest parsonage in the conference and perhaps in the denomination. In the summer of 1972, under the leadership of Rev. Foster Gentry, the church installed a central air-conditioning unit in the parsonage of about $1500. Again the same summer the parsonage was remodeled which included the enc1osing of the breezeway, enlarging the study, carpeting about two-thirds of the floor area and painting the entire parsonage. Also, the members have added to and improved its church faci1ities. In 1946, under the direction of Rev. W.D. Correll, pastor at this time, Carlisle built classrooms and brick veneered the church at a cost of about $10,000. These facilities are described in the 1946 Conference Journal as "one of he nicest churches in the conference." Seven years later, in 1953, the church extended the sanctuary, built a vestibule and nursery, installed new pews, and made other improvements. They also purchased a new bus. In 1959, under the leadership of Rev. E.H. Rodgers, the church built an auxiliary building valued at $10,000. With the need of additional classroom space, Carlisle Church built, in 1972, a six-room addition at the side of the church. This building also included restrooms and a storage room. It was fully carpeted and air-conditioned. This structure was valued in excess of $30,000. Once again in 1976, under Rev. Gentry, the church improved its facilities by paving the parking area at the cost of $7,000. In 1993, Carlisle Church under Dr. Hal Robbins, pastor, completely remodeled the sanctuary, including the pulpit, moving the choir, painting, carpet, covered pew pads, a cross was placed behind the pulpit, parsonage remodeled on the inside, new stove and refrigerator purchased. Carlisle was recognized as a Five Star Church in 1995. Rev. Michael Stepp was the first minister to become assistant pastor at Carlisle Wesleyan and then became associate pastor, both times serving under Dr. Robbins. Rev. Michael Stepp was elected pastor of the church in 1996. God has blessed the work of the church under his leadership. The church is growing spiritually. People are getting saved and bodies are being healed. Thanks be to God!