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Murkland Presbyterian Church

Old Providence Rd.

c. 1912


On a hilltop on the east side of Old Providence Rd. stood a small, wooden, Gothic Revival style church building. Erected about 1912, this was the second home of Murkland Presbyterian Church. The church was named for its first pastor, Sidney Murkland. He was a white Presbyterian minister who came South just after the Civil War to help establish churches for former slaves and free blacks in Mecklenburg County and the region.

Most of the original members who formed Murkland Presbyterian Church in 1865 were ex-slaves who had been forced to attend services with their white masters at nearby Providence Presbyterian Church. Now free, the former slaves decided to worship in their own churches. Before the Civil War there were no black churches in Mecklenburg County. Charlotte had 456 slaves in 1850, who made up about 44 percent of the population. It was impossible for these bondsmen and bondswomen to establish their own houses of worship. Slaves could not assemble without the permission of the mayor and the town commissioners. They could not be out on the streets after 9:30PM unless they had written permission from their masters. It was even illegal to teach slaves to read and write. Town slaves worked for the most part in industrial enterprises, such as John Wilkes' Mecklenburg Iron Works, or were hired out as servants. County slaves worked on plantations.

Life for blacks in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County started to change dramatically during the Civil War. Some slaves took advantage of wartime confusion and ran away. The real transformation in the lives of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County's blacks occurred in April, 1865. Federal troops, mostly from New Jersey and Ohio, occupied Charlotte. The church became the Matthews-Murkland Church when the congregation merged with Matthews Chapel in 1969. Sadly, the building was destroyed by an arsonist in 1996.