The year was 1910, just 100 years ago. Hills Community had a one-room schoolhouse at the corner of what is now Mathis Road and Hills Presbyterian Church Road. Mr. Walter Matthews was 15 years old at this time and lived in the community. He was approached to teach Sunday School on Sunday afternoons in the summer at the Hills schoolhouse.
As he was teaching at another church on Sunday mornings, he wrote Mr. John Cook for assistance. Mr. Cook was studying to become a Presbyterian Minister, and lived in the Pine Ridge Community. He agreed to come to the schoolhouse to teach and preach. He would walk 4 miles each way in order to supply our spiritual needs.
Soon the people of the community expressed a desire for a church. Mr. Walter Matthew’s father, Mr. Tandy Matthews, gave ½ acre of land for a church. A building committee was appointed consisting of Mr. Walter Hill, Mr. Charles Matthews, and Rev. John Cook.
Mr. Jim Hill supervised the building of the church with the help of Mr. Arthur Gravitte, Mr. Walter Hill, Mr. Willie Hill, the Jessups and others.
Lumber for the church was donated by area farmers who also helped Jim Hill. The total cost of the church was $650.00. The church was named Hills Chapel, because it was close to the Hills Schoolhouse and was in the Hills Community.
The church, like the schoolhouse, was a one-room frame structure with double front doors. A large woodstove was in the center of the sanctuary with benches (or pews) for seating. A handmade Pulpit and a small Communion table were the only other furniture. The four corners of the room served as Sunday School “rooms” sectioned off by curtains or draperies. Those of us over the age of 55 or 60, who grew up in the community, might well remember this structure.
The first service in the new church building was in November, 1913. The Rev. Satterfield of the Orange Presbytery preached for one year. Rev. C. W. Ervin served as pastor from 1914-1916.
Mr. H. L. Thomas, who was a a Home Mission worker, moved his family to the Hills Community where he preached and taught Sunday School. After approximately two years, he moved to the Barium Springs Orphanage to become the Superintendent there.
Rev. John D. Smith served as pastor for 13 years, from 1924-1937. During this time, a number of ladies served as DCEs, or Director of Christian Education. Miss McRae had the first Bible School in 1927. Miss Virginia Hart came in 1931. And in 1935, Miss Nelle Wilson, a mission worker, came to help with the education of the church.
Mr. L. F. Cowan served as pastor from 1938-1940. He and his wife are credited with getting a number of Youth interested in the church.
Mr. Calvin Norris was also acknowledged as a leader in the church. He, Mr. Willie Hill and Mrs. Sallie Wilson all died in the early 1940s.
Hills Chapel was a member of the Winston-Salem Presbytery. Rev. John (“Shorty”) Smith became the Executive Secretary of the Winston-Salem Presbytery. He is credited with helping Hills Church.
In 1950, Mr. H. H. Culler came to serve Hills Church. Since he was NOT ordained, he would persuade other ordained ministers to come and perform the sacraments of the church.
Then in 1951, the men of the church sheet-rocked the sanctuary to improve the looks and also to make it warmer in the winter.
In 1952, Rev. J.T. Barum came as pastor of the Pilot Mountain Larger Parish.
The early 1950’s saw the death of Mrs. Jim Hill, Mr. Arthur Gravitte and Mrs. Howard (Kate) Hunter. Kate was a teacher at the one-room school house in the early years of the 1930s and very active in the church. As she and Howard were married in 1925, they were considered “newcomers”.
In 1952, Miss Sara O’Kelly, a DCE worker, came to assist the churches in the Parish with the education, music and youth activities.
During this time the Hills Congregation voted to add more rooms and to brick the outside of the original structure. In 1954, Rev. O. V. Caudill, a church architect from Atlanta, GA., came and drew the plans for the new improvements. The architect plans are in the book of Church History.
It was very hard to raise enough money. The Small Church Committee of Winston-Salem Presbytery gave the building program a small amount of money. Church members, friends and neighbors gave time, labor and some money toward the church project; but it was still not enough.
So the congregation voted in 1954 to raise a tobacco crop. Thus it was called “The Lord’s Acre”. Everyone young and old contributed. It was hugely successful bringing in $2,120.00.
It was during this time, that the first “Parish” was formed in the Southern Presbyterian Church. Rev. John Hamly, a “film maker” with the Synod of the Southern Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, came to make of movie of the churches. Some of you might well remember working in the tobacco field of the “Lord’s Acre” when they came to take part in the film. This movie was named “The Pilot” and was shown to serve as an example of how the Parish operated.
In 1954, Mr. Walter Hill died. Remember he was a charter member of the church and served on the appointed Committee of Hills Original Church Building.
Rev. P.J. Garrison was Executive Secretary of the Winston-Salem Presbytery. He is shown in the newspaper article with Fred Smith, Mrs. Kermit Cook (Novella) and Rev. J. T. Barham acknowledging the sale of tobacco for the purpose of remodeling the church.
But the Pastor, Rev. J. T. Barham resigned December 31, 1954 to go to Hickory. Therefore, the church began 1955 without a pastor. This did not dampen anyone’s spirit. The work went on.
Mr. Lester Sheppard of Asbury Church and Mr. Coy Bovender of Winston-Salem – both laymen- agreed to hold services at Hills Chapel twice a month, until a pastor was found. Mr. Bovender moved to Richmond, VA in September, 1955 leaving only Lester Sheppard and Sara O’Kelly to conduct church services.
In October 1955, work began on the new building with hopes of completing the work by Spring, 1956. As of October, 1956 church records show that $7,122.13 had been spent on the Re-construction/Remodeling with $300.44 left in the Building Fund.
The Women of the Church played a very active and vital role in the operation of the church. Known not only for their Bible Studies, but also for their role in getting things done! They helped the men paint, pick out floor covering and finish the hard wood floors.
In 1957, the WOC started a fund for new Pulpit furniture dedicated to Joe Edd Hunter – who had died in our house fire a year earlier. It is noted that Joe Ed had started to save money for the purchase of this furniture. The Communion Table was dedicated to him.
In 1958, the Women of the Church bought a Communion Set and donated it to the Church.
Miss Kathryn Hunt, a DCE, came in 1959 to help Lester Sheppard with the educational work of the FOUR churches Mr. Sheppard served: Hills, Asbury, Francisco and Collinstown.
Also it is noted that in 1960, the Men of the Church dug a well and installed a new pump. Thus we had real “running water”!
In 1961, Mr. & Mrs. R. J. Harris gave Hills a new piano which served the church for 45 years. Also that year, Mr. W. M. Matthews gave the church additional land for parking and cemetery additions.
The church has been the recipient of many of the members talents. A Lectern was donated by Bill Johnson. The roadside bulletin board was donated by Charlie Wilson, a masonary. The Women of the Church purchased the interior board and letters for the “Sign”. The ladies also made the draperies or wall hanging that hung so long in the Santuary.
Numerous weddings are recorded in the church history. Joyously, a number of births are also recorded. And sadly, the passing of our church founders and leaders are likewise recorded. But through it all, the church has held firm. Its members continue to be active within the church and in Presbytery.
Rev. Lester Sheppard continued to serve the Hills congregation for eleven years until 1964 when the Presbytery decreed that he should only have 3 churches. Since Hills was the furtherest from his home, we were to lose the services of this much loved man. So it was with a heavy heart that he left Hills. But he returned frequently to hold Revival services.
In September, 1965 Rev. W.O. Nelson moved into the Manse in Pilot Mountain ready to take the position as our new Pastor for 1966. He served through December 1970.
In 1971, Mrs. Bertha Martinat, the grandmother of Don Martinat, donated money for the building of 2 bathrooms – which, once again, was built by the Men of the church – and the grandson-in-law of Mr. Jim Hill.
Rev. Tom Bagnal agreed to serve as a Supply Pastor in 1972, preaching only on the first and third Sundays.
Then Presbytery contacted Gorrell Hunter to request that we receive a lady pastor by the name of Laura Long. Her husband, Rev. Brad Long was the Pastor at Asbury Church. So on March 11, 1979, Hills ordained and installed Rev. Laura Long as our Pastor.
Then when the Longs decided to go to Taiwan as missionaries in 1981, Miss Kay Miller was our pastor from May through December.
In 1982, Rev. George Wright having retired from a church in Pennsylvania, agreed to accept our call for a pastor. He, with his wife, Muriel, continued as our Supply pastor until 1987.
As Hills began yet another search for a pastor, it was suggested that Hills become “yolked” with Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church in order to support the full minister’s salary. The search took the Search committee to Richmond, Va. where numerous candidates were interviewed. The result was the acceptance of Bill Black to serve as pastor for both churches.
With Rev. Bill Black, the youth took on a vital role in the church. A strong Youth Group was formed with First Presbyterian in P.M. and Flat Rock Presbyterian church rounding out the 4 rotations. Numerous activities encouraged the participation of the youth, as well as fun-raising activities for trips to Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg, VA.
In 1992, Bill and Stephanie Black chose to follow their desires/hearts for missionary work – in Kenya, Africa.
So later in 1992 Jim Mauldin and Linda Blessing agreed to serve Hills and Pine Ridge as co-pastors. Jim handled the Sunday morning worship services, while his wife, Linda handled the nurturing or education and visitation portion of the job.
In 1997 Jim and Linda decided to retire and our search, once again, led us to “Face-to-face” in Richmond@ Union Theology Seminary. Here we met the bubbly spirit of Rev. Erica Durham. She agreed to meet the challenges of serving two churches.
In 2002, Erica chose to return to her hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala. to be near her parents and sister. She began work in the Presbytery office there.
Later in 2002 we met Ms. Jennie Hemrick. She taught us a lot about how we look at ourselves and others. She led our congregations with determination and spirit. Her beautiful voice is a very happy rememberance of her time with us.
When God led Jennie to another church, our Search Committee again sprung into action. After numerous trips and visits, Rev. Pat Ward agreed to pastor our two churches in May, 2006. It was during Homecoming, 2006 that a “Baby Grand” Piano was donated by Don & Kathryn Martinat, Kevin & Lynn Campbell, Tres Martinat and Syb Martinat.
Also, during this time the Holy Spirit was touching the life of our Mandy Santolla, the daughter of Freddie and Sylvia Smith, granddaughter of Fred & Nonnie Smith and great granddaughter of Walter & Rachel Hill. Along with Doug Brinkley of the Pine Ridge Church, they began taking courses of study in preparation to become Commission Lay Pastors. Doug later was installed for Pine Ridge and Mandy for Hills. We rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit.
The talents of our church members through the years have been too numerous to count. We have been so blessed to have piano players, woodworking masters: as in our cross, our Lecterns, cabinets, carpenters, electricians, needlework, quiltmakers, and makers of banners. God has blessed our church as the recipient of these talents and skills. We are so honored.
Thanks to our forefathers, we continue to study the Bible, God’s Holy Word. With the help of our members, we continue to educate our Youth, hold Revivals and Homecomings, Bible School and Christmas Programs. Our Mission work continues within the community, also an outreach program to help those in need, our SEAMS Ministry programs, nationally with our 2-cents-a-meal offerings and internationally with our Shoebox campaigns. And through it all we continue to support each other, work hard and take pride in what is accomplished for the glorification and worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.