County’s Methodist churches got their start by holding services in homes or
shared meeting houses.  In remote areas,
like the mountains of Western North Carolina, circuit riders traveled assigned
areas preaching to settlers and organized congregations.

In 1857, 29-year-old
Alexander Fletcher English came to what was then Henderson County as a circuit
rider.  Two years later he married
Melvina Young, the daughter of Strawbridge Young who was an early settler on
the Davidson River. 

Rev. English
was strongly opposed to slavery and the viewpoint of the Methodist Episcopal
Church South on this issue.  He gathered
together a small congregation of followers and started a church that remained
with the northern body of the Methodist Church on property belonging to his
father-in-law.  The church was originally
known as Young’s Chapel but soon became English Chapel.  On May 12, 1867 Young sold the property to
English for $5.00. 

English Chapel School

The first
church building was a built of timber from English’s land.  For many years it served Methodists on one Sunday
and other congregations the remainder of the month.  It was also the schoolhouse for children
throughout the Davidson River and Avery’s Creek area well into the 1900s.

In the mid-1890s
George Vanderbilt bought thousands of acres spreading nearly from Asheville to
Brevard, including land all around the English Chapel.

Sylvan Valley News articles from the early 1900s
regularly report of preaching, old-time singings, box suppers, revivals and
meetings held at English Chapel.  An
April 8, 1904 article states, “As a church building the chapel is not much to
brag on, but it stands in one of nature’s beauty spots on the banks of Davidson
river—an ideal spot for a church; and by erecting a neat house of worship Mr.
Vanderbilt would win the loving remembrance of all the good people of the

Vanderbilt died suddenly in 1914.  Within two years his widow, Edith, sold 86,700 acres to the U.S. government
to help create Pisgah National Forest. 
The unique location within a national forest have helped to preserve the
natural beauty around English Chapel for nearly another 100 years.

Congregation at English Chapel

Repairs were
made to the original wooden chapel in 1914 but it was not until 1940 that a new
church was constructed.  The new church was constructed with rocks
from the Davidson River as well as from neighboring states.  The words “English Chapel” are spelled out
over the entrance.

Located near
the Davidson River Campground in the Pisgah National Forest English Chapel continues
to hold weekly services for locals and visitors.

Photographs and information for this column are provided
by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. 
Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more
about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information,
comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or
828-884-3151 X242.

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(828) 884-3151

212 S Gaston St, Brevard, NC 28712