Poplar Ridge History
In the state of North Carolina, in the northwest section of Randolph County, about half-way between the Uwharrie River and Caraway Creek the land lies in an elevated ridge. As one resident of the community explained, this ridge is so definite rainfall is divided here - with that which falls on the west side of the ridge flowing toward the Uwharrie and that to the east making its way toward Caraway.
Along this ridge runs a rural road, commonly called the Hoover Hill Road - getting its name from the foothill of the Shepherd Mountain known as Hoover Hill alongside which it runs and from a small gold mining operation carried on there in days gone by.
At one spot on this ridge there grew to maturity a stately Poplar tree. I picture it being somewhat apart from the other trees - standing straight and tall - with its roots firmly embedded in the soil and lifting leafy arms to the heavens. Much the same could be said of the little band of Quakers who began meeting for worship in this area, sending roots deep into spiritual soil while their hearts and spirits were lifted in arms of prayer to the God of Heaven.
Is it any wonder then that the community and the meeting-house erected here became known as Poplar Ridge?
In the year 1867 this group desired to erect a house for worship and on December 14 of that year Joshua Hill deeded a tract of land to David Davis, William Jones, and Isaac Coltrane, trustees of nearby Marlboro Monthly Meeting of Friends, for that purpose. Shortly after this the first little meeting-house was built. Financial help was received from Northern Friends and this first building was used for both worship services and public school. It is said that because of the detraction caused by the children during the hour of the fourth day meetings the decision was made to erect a separate building for school purposes. Thus a small log schoolhouse was built nearby. The first meeting-house was built near where the third one now stands. It was a small one-room frame building about 18 x 24 feet. Descendants of many of the families who worshipped in this first meeting-house are active in Poplar Ridge Meeting today.
Little is known between this time and the turn of the century, but mention is made in Marlboro minutes in early 1900 and their Monthly Meetings were held here at times. Poplar Ridge was under the care of Marlboro Monthly Meeting for many years.
Minutes of the Marlboro Meeting in second month, 1900 states that salable timber on Poplar Ridge Meeting land was sold for $5.00. In seventh month of that year it was directed that his money be used to put a new floor in Poplar Ridge Meeting house and Newton Farlow was appointed to have the work done.
The minutes of Marlboro Meeting 3rd day of 3rd month, 1906 contain this minute: "The Friends of Poplar Ridge Meeting requested that a Monthly Meeting be established at that place, and this Meeting for the most part approving of the same, the clerk was directed to forward the proposition to Quarterly Meeting for its action."
In minutes prior to this in late 1905, Marlboro considered and approved a proposition to hold their Monthly Meeting at Poplar Ridge. This was done in second month, 1906 and then as previously noted request was made the following month for the establishment of a Monthly Meeting "on the 6th day before the 3rd seventh day in ninth month, 1906." Friends appointed to attend the opening session, appoint a clerk and organize the meeting for business were Erasmus B. Henley, Martha Henley, William C. Winslow, Ida Lowe, Lewis J. Hinshaw, Lucy Hinshaw, Jones C. Voncannon and Delphina Farlow.
First officers of Poplar Ridge Monthly Meeting were:
Clerk - Nathan H. Ferguson
Assistant Clerk - Ruby A. Farlow
Treasurer - Lewis Spencer
Correspondent - Thomas E. Farlow
Overseers - Thomas N. Jones, Mary E. Skeen
Elders - J. Newton Farlow
Nancy E. Farlow
Mary J. Davis
The land was deeded to the trustees of Poplar Ridge Meeting in August, 1908.
Early in the year 1911 plans and preparations began for building a new meeting-house. J. Newton Farlow, Lewis Spencer, and N. H. Ferguson were appointed as a committee to make an estimate of the cost and recommended a building 24 x 36 feet and an estimated cost of $500.00. A committee: Thomas E. Farlow, Lewis Spencer, J. Newton Farlow, Elijah Lanier, George W. Frazier, Emma Lanier, Mary E. Skeen and Mary J. Davis was appointed to solicit funds for this project. The new meeting-house was built across the road in 1912.
There were times in the years following when attendance was small but a few sincere and faithful Friends met for Sunday School and worship. John Tilman, Michael C. Farlow, and A. S. Craven were among those who ministered to this little group of worshippers. Gratitude is due those who held on even in times of struggle for survival.
Evidently no Monthly Meetings were held from 1932 to 1935. However, meetings for Sunday School and worship were held and times of revival are remembered prior to and during these years. An unusual revival is remembered with Thomas Stamey and Robert Melvin as ministers. Bascom Rollins and Sam Nelson also preached in revivals. For a period of time, while a student in college, Seth Hinshaw came on weekends as supply pastor.
A few Friends, interested in renewing the Monthly Meeting, called a meeting, appointing as officers:
Clerk - George W. Spencer
Treasurer - George W. Frazier
Finance Committee - Harris Skeen, Herbert C. Lanier
About that time, the Lord placed a concern upon the heart of a young lady to come to minister to the meeting here. Margaret Farlow (Davis) was attending Peoples’ Bible School in Greensboro and helping with the household chore in a minister’s home there. One day while ironing, God spoke to her directing her to come to Poplar Ridge and gave to her the promise from Isaiah, "the desert shall blossom as the rose". It was then that renewal began to come to Poplar Ridge. Margaret came with a great concern for the work and George and Flossie Spencer opened their home to her for weekend stay. One, she relates, she was snowbound here and asked for a ride back to school with the Greensboro Daily newspaperman who delivered papers in this area. With her dedicated work, the prayers and help of the Friends here and the blessing and increase of the Grace of God, "the desert began to bloom". During her ministry here Cora Lee Gardner was invited to preach for a revival effort. This was a time of real revival and many were saved and Poplar Ridge began to grow.
In 1936 Cora Lee Gardner was called as pastor. Soon the little meeting-house was over-flowing and plans were made for a new building to be erected. In October, 1937 a committee was appointed to collect funds for this purpose. In February, 1938 the funds collected amounted to $752.50 and the Building Committee was directed to begin work on the meeting-house. This building was erected across the road near where the first had stood. Cora Lee Gardner, Herb Sawyer, Enos Skeen, John Baker, and John Hill were among those on the Building Committee and overseers of the building project. Neighbors and friends of Poplar Ridge, many of whom attended church elsewhere, joined together in this work and in August, 1938 the minutes record the cost of the meeting-house to be $2,415.12. This, the third meeting-house was occupied in the spring of 1938 with dedication day on Mother’s Day of that year.
A ministers home was built a short distance from the meeting-house in 1939 on land designated by George W. Spencer for that purpose.
On Easter morning, 1940, Cora Lee Gardner, pastor of Poplar Ridge Meeting was married to Charles G. Johnson in a ceremony just following the morning service. Charles and Cora Lee remained as pastors at Poplar Ridge until 1944. Their ministry here will never be forgotten and the fruit from the seed they have sown still remains.
In later years again as the attendance grew the need arose for more space. In 1955 the building committee recommended to extend the full width of the building to 16 feet to the rear, to include additional classrooms, bathrooms, and choir loft. With the completion of this addition the building contained approximately 5500 square feet of floor space. Through three decades the work of God’s Kingdom at Poplar Ridge has been carried on in and carried out from this building.
Also, during this time the community has grown from a quite sparsely populated farming section to a thickly settled residential area. Opportunity has again knocked loudly upon the door (and heart) of the Meeting. A concern came to the Monthly Meeting held 8th month, 1968 of a need for more space for Sunday School. Classrooms were overflowing and attendance increasing, therefore something must be done. A committee, Joe Farlow, Barney Pierce, Wayne Monroe, W. R. Lanier, Jerry Neal, J. C. Coggins, Allen Nelson and Charles Coltrane, was appointed to consider this concern and report to next meeting. After prayerful consideration the Meeting decided that a complete new building be erected, rather than just an educational building alone. The amount in the building fund was small but the need and the faith in the heart of the Monthly Meeting was great, so began the endeavor to again step forward. Others were added to the committee and soon plans were under way. Those appointed by the Monthly Meeting to serve on the building committee were Joe Farlow, Barney Pierce, Charles Coltrane, Bill Hedrick, W. R. Lanier, Allen Nelson, J. C. Coggins, Jerry Neal, Wayne Monroe, Charles Steed, George Sumner, Janice Morgan, Wanda Gurley, Ruby Ward and Inez Nelson.
A tract of land, approximately 6 1/3 acres, was donated by the Enos Skeen family - a beautiful location for the new meeting-house. This land lies on the north side of the cemetery across the road from the old Poplar Ridge school house. An interesting note is that Enos Skeen is a nephew of Joshua Hill who donated the land for the first meeting-house in 1867. Construction soon began and through the faithful leadership of the pastor, Barney Pierce, and the cooperative working, praying, and giving of the members and friends of the Meeting the fourth meeting-house now stands to promote Christ’s Kingdom at Poplar Ridge and to accommodate those who will come to worship Him here. This new building, a T-shaped structure, includes a sanctuary of more than 430 seating capacity and an educational area 42 x 204 feet.
Surely the hand of the Lord has been upon Poplar Ridge as His people have worshipped here for more than a century. Our heritage is great and our hope for the future encouraging!
Ministers who have served the Meeting through the years are Rufus King, John Tilman, Albert Peele, Mary Moon, Michael C. Farlow, Samuel Cross, Samuel Pickett, Thomas Stamey, A. S. Craven, Herbert C. Lanier, David Farlow, Jr., Seth B. Hinshaw, Margaret Farlow (Davis), Cora Lee Gardner (Johnson), Charles Johnson, Nell V. Brady, Cleta Briles (Evans), Dallas Rush, Waldo Smith, James Rahenkamp and Barney Pierce.
Trees may fall and men may die but their posterity goes on and on - So it has been with the meeting-houses that have served this community at Poplar Ridge and the people who have worshipped here. As each of the three former buildings have been erected, have served well, have grown old and inadequate and have given way to the one to follow so we, with gratitude, more into this, the fourth.
...And now back to the Poplar tree on Poplar Ridge...as years have come and gone that tree has lived and died but from its roots sprang up another and from that another and ..who knows?...possibly the small poplar trees just to the southeast of the educational area may be descendants of that stately tree for which this place was named. But two-fold is the manner of a tree’s posterity - year after year, as springtime comes that tree and her descendants have burst forth in adornment of yellow bloom. Thus she held in her leafy hands the seeds which have been carried on the wings of the wind to places near and far, there to be embedded in fertile soil to spring forth to new life. As these mature and bloom they send out their seed and it well may be that many, many miles away there grow those trees which are the descendants of our own Poplar tree. This I relate as a parable.
So it has been - through the years there have been those who have "sprung up" from the roots of the Poplar Ridge Meeting - even now many members of the Meeting here are direct descendants of the first families who worshipped here. These have chosen to remain to carry on the work of Christ’s Kingdom here at home;...but at the same time, generation after generation of "home saints" have lifted in hands of prayer the seed of the gospel message to be carried by the Holy Spirit to other areas to bear fruit. There have been those of the children of Poplar Ridge who have gone to places near and far to spread the seed of God’s Word. Today, we could not say who and where are all the spiritual posterity of Poplar Ridge. We do know in Japan, in Mexico, in Peru, in Ohio, in Alabama, in Florida - as missionaries, as pastors and pastor’s wives, as evangelists in our own and other states and in many other ways has seed been sown by those who are themselves products of the seed sown here.
May it ever be that as generations come and go there may remain here those with roots firmly planted in this place to grow and bear fruit. May we also continue to send out those to sow gospel seed and to bear fruit in other places, even unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
We, the history committee would like to express our appreciation to all who helped in securing the information contained here. We apologize for any error or omission in names and dates. There have been many who are not mentioned here who have contributed much to the life of Poplar Ridge - for all of them we are grateful.
Committee: Irene Farlow, Dessie Coggins, Inez Nelson