KERR — To some, the small, rural community of Kerr is better known as Kerr Station, so named for the old train station that was there. Most of the buildings of the olden days no longer exist but one stately mainstay of the community is preparing to celebrate its 125th year. Harmony Presbyterian Church, which was officially organized the fourth Sunday of March 1887. The name “Harmony” was suggested by Jane Devane Newkirk because of the lack of harmony at Black River, and as a challenge and inspiration to the new church to maintain harmony among its members. The name has been significant throughout the years.
Harmony, according to the church historical sketch, begins with the oldest church in the Wilmington Presbytery, Black River located in Ivanhoe. Because of a dispute within that church, several members of Black River and South River Chapel petitioned the Presbytery in September 1886 to organize a church near Anders Bridge in Bladen County.
The church first worshipped in a schoolhouse on the White Hall Road in Bladen County, and in April 1890 it was reported that Harmony had plans to build and that the church was moving to Kerr.Many of the members donated materials, such as trees for the new church. It was milled at a sawmill near one of the members D. Graham Shaw.
J.D. Stanford was the first pastor of the church as recorded in the records of an October 1891 meeting of the Presbytery. He served five churches at five preaching points, which meant he served four other churches in addition to Harmony.
On Nov. 16, 1904, the Rev. Kenneth McKaskill became pastor, and during his pastorate the first marriage was celebrated in Harmony Church. Dudley Graham Shaw and Mary Madeline Fennel were married in 1906. Their first son, D. Graham Shaw was born Aug. 2, 1907 and was the first baby to be baptized at Harmony. That same year was also the first burial made in the church cemetery. Timothy Fletcher Pridgen, born Feb. 5, 1843, died Jan. 25, 1907; he was the first person buried in the cemetery.
When Hurricane Hazel came through in October 1954, it caused damage to the building and the church decided to add on Sunday school classes when the repairs were made. A fellowship hall was also added, and once again members of the church donated materials and labor to get the work done. Brick veneer was added to the outside of the building at this time as well.
Stained glass windows and comfortable pews were part of the renovation of the church in 1977. It was during this time that a foyer was added to the front of the church and a discovery of a scrap piece of wood was found in the wall with this inscription, “R. B. Knowles built Kerr Church, September 25th, 1896.”
The steeple was added to the church in 2006 courtesy of the Harold Pate Family in honor of Harold Pate.
Today the church has a membership of roughly 100 people. According to lay pastor Herbert Pate, current minister, the church is very active and is involved in the ministry of God’s work among his people. Pate stated that the member come from all over Sampson County such as Salemburg, Clinton and other surrounding areas. “We even have one member who lives in Florida,” stated Pate.
Pate has been pastor since January 1999. He is originally from Kerr and served as post master of Kerr before the post office was dissolved and he moved to Harrells. Pate currently lives in Atkinson with his family.
“The future of Harmony Presbyterian Church looks strong. We have many dedicated members who work hard to keep the church and God’s work moving in this area. We have about six children in regular attendance and we look for Harmony to be around many years to come,” asserted Pate.
The pastor shared that a committee was working hard on the 125th celebration to be held Sunday, May 27.“We are planning to have a musical and historical presentation as part of our celebration,” concluded Pate.
Past minister and pastors
Herbert Pate - 1999 to present
Jane Barefoot - 2003 to 2005
Robert Swart 19?? to 2002
Webster Curry - 1996 to 1998
James Spanogle - ca. 1987
J. Lawrence Ayers - 1983
Clyde H. Johnson - 1979 to 1983
William L. Burnett - 1970 - 1975
Ted J. Plott - 1966 to 1969
R. Robert Basham Jr. - 1962 - 1966
Charles Kirby - 1953 to 1957
J. W. Mann - 1950 to 1951
Cameron D. L. Mosser - 1946 to 1949
J. Alston Boyd - 1942 to 1946
L. W. Keseler - 1938 to 1941
J. Alston Boyd - 1930 to 1936
W. B. Knox - 1927 to 1929
A. V. Gibson - 1926 to 1927
R. H. Poole (Seminary Student) Summer 1925
R. E. McClure - 1922 to 1924
H. F. Beatty - 1919 to 1922
W. B. Carr - 1910 to 1917
Kenneth McKaskill - 1904 to 1909
V. H. Starbuck - 1900 to 1904
N. B. Campbell - 1897 to 1900
Marcellus Wooten - Summer 1897
J. D. Stanford - 1891 to 1896.
Note that some times there was no minister serving on a regular basis or the information regarding their term of service is not know.