Digging into the History of Wesley Chapel
I made another trip out to the site, this time armed with butcher paper, painter’s tape, and oversized crayons. My plan was to make a rubbing of the mystery plaque. I brought along a stepladder so that I could reach it.
My attempts were successful. I was able to get a legible rubbing of the plaque.
There were some misspellings, but the transcription is as follows:
Wesley Chapel Methodist Church
Wilkinsville SC Nov 15, 1943
Willie Edward Corry, School Teacher, Architect And Builder
Levi Garrett, A. C. Corry, James Love,G. Dewey Harris
Jossie [Josie] Love, Ressie Rodgers, Addie Corry
Strassie Mae Harris
John Davis, Beatrice Jefferies
Vestor [Vesta] Harris, Ninnie [Nannie?] Hambright
Geo W. Davis, Emily Davis
On my way back through Gaffney I stopped by the Cherokee County Museum. There I spoke with Matt Compton and Jacquelyn Powell Graham. Neither of them were familiar with the church, but Mrs. Graham knew lots of the names. She told me that Vesta Harris (spelled “Vestor” on the plaque rubbing) was a well-known florist in Gaffney. I was able to find lots of news announcements on Vesta, but more on that later. Mrs. Powell searched through several books, but was not able to find any additional information on the church. Even so, we had a delightful conversation and spent some time talking about the church.
In the meantime, someone on Facebook found the Find-a-Grave listing for Wesley Chapel and sent me the link. Sadly, this added no additional information. No location was given for the cemetery, which is why I couldn’t find it. It also only had two burials listed, those for Josie and Bud Love. With the photos I’d already collected I knew I could at least triple that listing. I had more work to do first, though.
The first thing I usually do is turn to maps. In 1825 there was no Cherokee County. It was formed from parts of Spartanburg and Union Districts, so those were the maps I check in the Robert Mills Atlas. There was no indication of the landmarks which had my interest. Next I looked at historic topographic maps. The only older maps were 250,000 ft scale maps of Spartanburg, which provide almost no detail.
The 1968 Wilkinsville quadrangle did provide a clue. The word “Cem” is located where Wesley Chapel should be. At least there was some recognition of the cemetery, but it was puzzling as to why the church wasn’t shown.
My next step was to check historical SCDOT maps. The Cherokee County road maps were a bit confusing at first. They tend to compress distances, so the community of Wilkinsville looks much more compact and densely populated than it is in reality. On the 1938 version of the SCDOT map Wesley Chapel is there unlabeled, indicated by a square with a cross, but it’s shown as being much closer to Osment Grocery.
It wasn’t until much later in my research that I noticed two schools on this map. Wilkinsville School is shown in the upper left of the image, but right across from the church is “Wilkinsville Sch. N.” The “N” in this case stands for “Negro.” I would later learn that this school was closely associated with Wesley Chapel.
So far I still didn’t have any real details. That would come after a deep dive into the archives of the Gaffney Ledger. That’s on the next page…