The Evolution of Warlick’s

W.A. Graham, in his History of South Fork Association, states that a group of Christian believers started holding meetings in a log structure near Baker’s Mountain. This place of meeting was known as the “Mountain Meeting House.” A renowned Baptist preacher, Elder Hosea Holcombe, was the leader of this group. They eventually organized as Union Church in 1815, “and united with the Broad River Association that year.”[1]

Alexander Abernethy, a young minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and his wife Elizabeth were baptized and received into Union in 1817. They lived on Henry’s River some three miles south of the present site of Warlick’s Baptist Church. Elder Abernethy was ordained to preach and followed Holcombe as pastor of Union in 1834. “Union, (Mountain Meeting House) in Lincoln, joined by letter from Broad River Association, membership 20; Elder Alexander Abernethy and Ransom P. Cloud, delegates.”[2] Shortly after this time the small congregation moved to a site nearer to Abernethy’s home. Preaching services were held only once each month and there is no record as to what type of facilities they used.

Mr. Philip Warlick, a prominent businessman who owned and operated a stagecoach line and held title to considerable acres of land in eastern Burke County, became a member and a deacon of Union in the early 1850’s. Warlick gave land and enough timber to build a log church building. The building and enough land for a sizable cemetery were located a short distance west of Warlick’s home. Mr. Warlick died January 14th, 1878. A full page obituary extolling Mr. Warlick was printed in the Associational Minutes that year.[3]

In 1851, the North Carolina Baptist State Convention sent a missionary by the name of Robert Bruington Jones who “labored as a missionary in the territory of the South Fork Association, 1851-1857, preaching in all the churches and frequently in residences.”[4] He immediately became involved in the reorganization at Union and the building of the first church building on the Warlick property. It was at this time the name was changed to Warlick’s Baptist Church. Reverend Robert B. Jones married Catharine Warlick, daughter of Deacon Philip Warlick, for whom Warlick’s is named, on December 8, 1852. No specific date has been found in official records which establishes the exact date Union became Warlick’s Baptist Church. Numerous references in the History of Penelope Baptist Church indicate that the name was changed sometime between 1852-1854.[5]

The church was represented at associational meetings by Alexander Abernethy as pastor and 1882 records indicate there were 29 baptisms with 49 members on roll. Abernethy served as pastor until a few years prior to his death on August 31, 1866. “Claudius M. Murchison, founder of Penelope Academy and first pastor of Penelope Baptist Church, served as Pastor of Warlick’s 1884-1889. Membership was one hundred twenty-seven in 1885.”[6] Reverend Murchison probably continued as supply pastor at Warlick’s, preaching only one Sunday per month, after accepting the pastorate at Penelope in 1887. He wrote a letter to the Biblical Recorder dated August 18, 1893, stating that “Warlick’s would be finishing a new church building by the end of the year. He had just closed a revival meeting at Warlick’s which had lasted nine days with results of 39 baptisms and four restored.”[7] This new white frame building would serve the church from 1889 to 1931.

A new brick building was completed in 1931 and is still used as the Children’s Educational Building at this writing. In 1939-40, while Reverend W.T. Bryant was pastor, the front porch was removed and a bell tower and two Sunday School classrooms were built to the front of the building.

Associational records indicate that Warlick’s had only one preaching service per month until 1935. That year, Reverend Jack Keller began preaching every first and third Sunday. In 1944, Reverend Will Young, a member of the church at the time, was called to pastor Warlick’s full-time (Sunday School and Preaching Sunday morning and Preaching on Sunday night). On April 7, 1957, Warlick’s congregation voted to build a new sanctuary and additional Sunday School rooms. This new facility was dedicated November 24, 1957.

On October 8, 1995 Warlick’s approved a motion to build Sunday School rooms, restrooms and a Christian Life Center adjoining the south side of the present sanctuary. In the same meeting, the church voted to hire Jeff Knox and Mike Taylor, building contractor who were members of the church, to build the new facility.

Six months later, the church called Reverend Gary Murry as pastor. Construction on the new additions was in progress by the time Murry and his family settled in at Warlick’s.

On March 17, 2002, the church approved a proposal that Moss-Marlow Construction Company be given a contract to renovate the church sanctuary at a cost of $375,000. Much needed seating space was gained by adding a balcony and extending the length of the sanctuary. Many aesthetic qualities were added to the interior.


[1] Graham, W.A., History of South Fork Association, The Journal Printing Co., Lincolnton, NC. 1901, 17.

[2] Ibid, 46-47.

[3] Ibid, 78-79.

[4] Ibid, 53.

[5] Abernethy, F.R. and Greenhill, L.W., Penelope: Her First One Hundred Years 1888-1988, Clay Printing Co., Hickory, NC, 56.

[6] Ibid, 56.

[7] Rev. C.M. Murchison, “Letter to Biblical Recorder”, August 30, 1893. p. 1 Col. 5