Rock Mill Methodist

Hancock County
Org 1840
Photography by Scott Farrar

In 1840, William Shivers donated three acres of land to establish a Methodist church. He was born in 1783 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, and was one of the first settlers in the Jewell area before 1810. The Rock Mill Plantation and environs included the Rock Mill Plantation House (which still stands beautifully today), a grist mill, a cotton carding mill, and support buildings.

The church’s original location is referred to as “just off the Jewell-Mayfield road” about 1 ¼ miles from Jewell. Shivers also gave the church access to water from a nearby spring. Rock Mill Methodist remained on these three acres until 1894, where it was moved to the Jewell community across the street from the Jewell Baptist church. The land for the new location in Jewell was given by Dr. Rhodes, who is buried at the Baptist church cemetery. In 1981, Mrs. Hattie Jewell Cody, the only surviving member of the family for whom the village was named – remembers that in earlier days of the community, the Methodists and Baptists worshipped together often.

Many revivals were held at the church, but the Great Revival of 1868 is known as the greatest in local church history, for the church gained forty new members that year. Both Bishop George F. Pierce and Bishop Lucius Holsey preached the gospel at Rock Mills Methodist. By 1877, a Sunday school was organized and the congregation purchased its first organ despite the protests of older members. Ten years later in 1887, the Woman’s Missionary Society was organized.

In 1927, when the Jewell Mill burned, many families moved away and membership dwindled to a fraction of what it had been. The once thriving community was forced to scale back its church programs and involvement with the Methodist Conference, but dedicated members have held things together since then. Rock Mill Methodist was purchased by the current owners of Rock Mill Plantation in 2002. The church is beautifully restored and is well taken care of.

The names of the earliest church members – Birdsong, Brantley, Lewis to name but a few – can be seen throughout the cemetery across the street. The Jewell community town green offers a quiet picnic spot for great family moments or solitary reflections on our shared religious history and heritage.