Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oaky Grove Church / Mial Plantation - Clayton, North Carolina

As one that is fascinated with any historical structure, I visited the Oaky Grove Church in Clayton, North Carolina yesterday.  After hearing about this place from a friend, we did a little research and found some interesting events in North Carolina history have taken place here.  The general area is often referred to as Mial Plantation.  Mial Plantation was one of the original land grants in North Carolina - the land acquired by Mallichi Hinton in 1761 "from Lord Granville of England."  The farm became one of the largest post-Civil War agricultural operations in Wake County, with over 2,700 acres and at least twelve tenant families growing cotton, corn, and some tobacco in the late nineteenth century. A local Raleigh resident retains a lion's share of the land that has not been sold off for residential development - a tract of 345 acres.


The plantation, owned and operated by members of the interrelated Mial and Williamson families since 1775, was one of Wake County's largest and most prominent cotton plantations throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the main house was destroyed by fire in 1973, many of the plantation's core buildings still survive.  One structure, Oaky Grove Methodist Church, is a shining example of Greek Revival architecture and served the plantation land and its neighbors from its construction in 1876 for a then-staggering sum of $600.  Interestingly, the church was relocated to this current spot.  Many folks report that the church was built by request of a man's fiance.  She claimed that she would not marry him until he built the church. 
In some disrepair it stands proudly guarding its small cemetery out back and is flanked by some outbuildings some distance away. One of these served as one of the first schools in the county (Frog Pond Academy). 

This area was the encampment of General Johnston during the Civil War, as it is the highest point in Eastern Wake County. 
The steeple on the church is not original. The steeple now crowns a Catholic Church in Salisbury, NC (allegedly).  The steeple was destroyed by fire in the early twentieth century. 


Overall, this is a beautiful area enriched with history.  I'll be back to visit again.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank for these excellent photographs and for putting them on the Internet. I resided in Shotwell many years ago, in the Big House (destroyed by arson after I moved away)...and passed the old church many times, walking and driving. I too heard the story about how the bride-to-be explained to her fiancee that she would not come to reside at the property until a church was built there. It was a fine country neighborhood when I lived there...good neighbors - black and white, some historic structures, old cabins, sharecropper's home, folks who received few county services or any assistance, though obviously in need...Sandra Green

AddictedtoAspartame said...

Do people need permission to visit and photograph the area? I'd love to use the church as a photo location.

Deborah Dunn said...

I live very close to this church. It is padlocked, so there is no access inside. I have spoken with the owners and the land is being considered for a conservancy for a park upon the death of the current owner, an elderly woman, or turned over to the state historic preservation society. Since the Civil War it was used as a church for the African-American farm workers who ran the plantation. Many are buried in unmarked graves around the church. There are a few who have seen strange lights at night and believe it to be haunted.

I cannot remember the name of the woman who owns the land. I once called her because I was hoping it could be leased for an artists co-op. But there is no electricity or bathroom on the property and it would take a great deal of money to improve it for commercial purposes. I also offered to buy it, but the owners aren't interested in selling.

Many photograph on the steps and sell their photographs. I've photographed for paintings I'm working on. But I would do the proper thing and call on the neighbors, get a phone
number, and make yourself legitimate.

Pattie said...

My mother grew up just down the road at the corner of Major Slade and Turnipseed roads. She was married in this church.

Pattie said...

My mother grew up just down the road at the corner of Major Slade and Turnipseed roads. She was married in this church.