“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
The brave young Wesleyan Pastor, Adam Crooks, came to North Carolina to build the Kingdom, and he began by building a meetinghouse near the town of Snow Camp in Alamance County. It was named Freedom’s Hill because it stood for freedom for the slave and the sinner alike. The congregation started the building soon after Crooks arrived in late October 1847. The church was dedicated in March of 1848.
It was a simple building 27’ X 36’, erected on a foundation of fieldstones. The hand-hewn pews were constructed with pegs, not nails, and the church had no heat source at first. The windows were only shutters. Simple as it was, it must have seemed like a cathedral to those new Wesleyans who had campus of Southern Wesleyan University in Central, SC. It has been restored to its original condition and is used for occasional weddings, classes and frequent prayer gatherings.)
Almost immediately, the Freedom’s Hill congregation began to operate a station on the Underground Railroad. Of course, that “railroad” had no tracks or trains but was a network of safe houses all the way from captivity to freedom for escaping slaves. Routes to Ohio, Indiana, and New York were well established, with a major Southern terminus of the historic pipeline being the Piedmont area of North Carolina, where Freedom’s Hill was located.
Slaves were hidden under hay in a “friendly barn”, sometimes in a false-bottom wagon, or a hollow tree.
One such hollow tree, less than a mile from Freedom’s Hill Church, was used by two congregations – the Wesleyans and the Cane Creek Friends (Quaker) Meeting – to hide slaves during the daylight hours and to help them escape at night.
Other Wesleyans were active in the Underground Railroad, too. For example, Laura Smith Haviland was a Wesleyan Methodist from Michigan, who worked closely with Levi Coffin, the “Father of the Underground Railroad.” Her home was the first “station” of the Underground Railroad in Michigan, and she has been honored with a statue in her hometown of Adrian, Michigan. She worked among African-American refugees in Kansas and the town of Haviland, Kansas is named in her honor. To us she is a hero, but in the title of her autobiography, she saw it simply as “A Woman’s Life Work”.
Why am I sharing all this history? Because when someone asks, “What’s a Wesleyan?” you will be able to tell them we are one of the main reasons slavery no longer exists in America. Because you need to know the heritage of the movement to which you belong! It is a great heritage but the next chapter of our movement is being written and through FredWes, you and I have are part of that story! If a tiny church like Freedom’s Hill can impact the moral conscience of a nation why can’t FredWes?