150 Years of Being a Light on the Hill

Matthew 5:14

September 19th, 2021, we mark a great mile stone in the life of our church here at Mull’s Chapel. 150 years of being the light on the hill, a beacon of hope, grace, and love on our hill along the Jacob’s Fork River. This is a wonderful time to praise God for what he has done on this hill, thank God for his mercy and hand of providence during the tough times, and look forward with great anticipation on what his plans are for his church, here at Mulls Chapel! 

Throughout the last 150 years much has changed, the early church body that would later become Mull’s Chapel likely had no musical instruments. No beautiful stained-glass windows, comfy pews, or even more than one Bible would have been unlikely at the time. But God’s message is still the same as it was back then, Jesus Saves! We are incredible blessed to be able to worship as how and where we do now. And these blessings, didn’t come without sacrifice and dedication. Let’s look back to our rich history and those that help bring us to where we are now.

The First Mulls to Ezra Mull

In 1729 there arrived in this country on the ship “Mortonhouse” one Johann Peter Moll (1679-?), with wife, Christina Anna Bieber (1672-1731) and children. The ship landed at Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania. It was told from father to son that their ancestors came from Holland and were of Dutch extraction, but many settlers from Germany, in the old days, stopped in Holland en route to the New World, so we do not know if they were of Dutch or German extraction. Early German’s used the name Johann to indicate that person was a descendant of someone named John. Many Molls/Mulls have this name attached. These early immigrants, with others, first settled in the county of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but later learned of a milder climate in the south land and moved to North Carolina. 

His son Johann Chrisophel Mull (1704-1762) and wife Anna settled in Rowan, North Carolina. Their son was Captain (Sheriff) Johann Peter Mull (1735-1814) married Barbara Klein/Cline and moved to the Catawba County area.  His brother, Abraham Mull was scalped and massacred along with most his family by the Indians. Captain Johann Peter Mull fought in the Revolutionary War at Kings Mountain, being a member of the Burke Militia, 7th Regiment and was the 8th High Sheriff of Burke County. At the time of Sheriff Mull's death in 1814 he had in his possession 1,560 acres of property in Burke County alone and was also one of the largest slaveholder's in the county. Peter’s oldest son was John Mull (1760-1812), was very prominent citizen and one of the early settlers of Catawba county. John Mull married Catharine Whitener/Weidner in 1781. John was the first person to be buried in the old cemetery in 1812. John Mull had a son name Henry Mull (1787-1857). Henry married Mary Hull in 1809 and gave birth to the founding father of our Church, Ezra Mull.

We don’t know terribly much about the early years of our Church, due to misplaced records, likely lost to the years, but here is some of what we do know. Before the Church was officially organized the old cemetery was established, and at some point, a small log meeting house was built before the start of the Civil War. Years passed and the Mull family and its relatives and surrounding neighboring families grew and the need for a church also grew.

Church and Cemetery circa 1911

The Civil War, Ezra Mull, and the 1st Church (1871-1898)

North Carolina seceded from the Union on May 20, 1861, and the state's involvement in the Civil War began. There were at least eight Mulls from Catawba County, who took up arms to defend their homes against “Northern invasion”. John Mull was captured at the Battle of the Wilderness and died a prisoner at Elmira, New York. Peter M. Mull, John’s brother, rose to the rank of captain in Company F of the 55th North Carolina. He fought in the war’s first battle— Bethel Church, Virginia. Later, on September 6, 1862, he was given command of two hundred picked men at Washington, North Carolina. In a battle that ensued, Peter was shot once in the head and once through the left lung. Amazingly, he survived and continued to serve until just a few days before Appomattox, when old wounds finally were getting the best of him. “He was considered one of the bravest men in the Confederate Army.” After the War, the wound eventually healed, and Peter Mull settled down as a farmer/miller in Catawba County. D.F. Mull, Ezra’s brother, fought with Company A of the 23rd North Carolina. He died of disease in 1863 in the Confederate camps outside Fredericksburg, Virginia.

 Ezra Mull was born in 1827 in Catawba County. He was a son of above-mentioned Henry Mull, and a grandson of John Mull. Ezra at age 34 enlisted in the Confederate Army, April 24, 1862, was appointed fourth sergeant May 16th, 1862. Ezra was very devoted to his faith, in a letter written during the War, Ezra wrote, “We [Co. F, 55th North Carolina Regiment] have religious services twice on Sabbath and prayer meeting every night. Our Chaplain is Rev. Wm. Royall, who seems disposed to do his duty in regard to our spiritual good.” Knowing the need here and the grim realities of war, he bequeathed land and a sum of money for the purpose of building a Baptist meeting house in this place. On September 25, 1863 he wrote his will giving three acres of land and one thousand dollars to build a church near where his grandfather John Mull had been buried and where later on he too would be buried. Ezra, a cousin of Peter and John, was killed in the trenches at Petersburg, Virginia in February 5, 1865.

April 9, 1865 the war ended. Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. The last battle was fought at Palmito Ranch, Texas, on May 13, 1865. After this the Reconstruction Period began.

P. Warlick is noted in (The history of the South Fork Baptist Association; or, the Baptists for one hundred years in Lincoln, Catawba, and Gaston counties, North Carolina. by- Major W. A. Graham) as reporting concerning the matter of building a church house at the Mull Graveyard, pursuant to the will of Ezra Mull. This money had not been paid by the executor, probably for want (lack) of knowledge as to who was the proper person to receive it. The Association, on investigation, referred the matter, in 1871, to the N. C. Baptist State Convention. The Convention appointed Elder G. J. Wilkie to attend to it. He collected the money and had the house built and organized a church here built and named in honor of Ezra Mull. It stood approximately 50 feet north of the old cemetery and the 4 original cornerstones still stand. The chapel was only about 24 x 30 feet in size. It was called a Chapel because the funds were not large enough to build a sizable church building, but Ezra’s funds were instrumental in building the church which grew and became known as Mull’s Chapel.

On October 9th 1873, the missionary’s report to the association reported a house of worship had been built at Mull Grove (name for this area where the church is located), but the inside had not been completed, but the grave yard had been cleaned off and fenced.

Thursday, Oct. 8th, 1874. The Catawba River Baptist Association met with Smyrna Church, in its 45th Annual Session. The Secretary called for newly constituted churches, whereupon Ezra Mull Chapel was presented by letter, with church covenant and articles of faith, which was received as a member.

In 1878 the South Fork Baptist Association had its first associational minutes published from its first official meeting of the churches. It was held Kids' Chapel Church, Lincoln County, November 22nd & 23rd 1878. Ezra Mull’s Chapel was represented by delegate Elder W.F. Hull, listed as church clerk. Pastor was listed as Rev J. Jones in the minutes. In 1879 it is noted in the South Fork Association minutes, Preaching occurred on the 4th Lord’s Day here at Ezra Mull’s Chapel. Later the day of preaching would be moved around. Early churches who could not afford to pay a pastor or due to a shortage of ministers had a circuit preacher/ rider a as minister who would officiate at multiple churches in an area, thus covering a "circuit".  It appears from the minutes around 1885 the church was able to have a dedicated pastor.    

October 8, 1891, The Catawba River Baptist Association met with North Catawba Church. Churches desiring to unite with the Association were called for. Delegates from Bethel a newly constructed church and Mull's Chapel, of South Fork Association, came forward with letters which are read and accepted. October 6th, 1911, The Catawba River Association granted letters of dismissions to the following churches: Zion Hill, Mull's Chapel, Pisgah, Olive Grove, Hull's Grove, Corinth, Mountain View No. 2, Mount Gilead and Wilkie's Grove to organize a new Association.

The 2nd Church (1898-1924)

Later in 1898, the 2nd Church was erected, about 150 feet north of the 1st building, just above the old cemetery. This structure was later sold to Jones Robert Greenhill and the Greenhill Memorial Church of God Fellowship (now the New Covenant Church of God), up the road the Advent Crossroads Community. This was a simple plank church, with a tin roof and a small steeple on top. The church had 3 windows with shutters on each side of the building, a humble porch, and wood stove. This building still stands but has been enclosed by brick. After remodeling it now serves as Sunday School classrooms for New Covenant.

In 1911 the South Mountain Baptist Association was formed. Mull’s Chapel first appeared in the minutes in 1922. Our relationship with the Association has only grown since.

The Mulls also held two family reunions the first one on September 2, 1911 and one on September 12th. 1912 the one hundredth anniversary of the death of John Mull the pioneer. The News-Herald on September 7th, 1911 reported the following article: On Saturday, Sept. 2nd, there was a reunion of the Mull families from the counties of Burke, Catawba, Lincoln and Cleveland. In a beautiful grove near Mull's Chapel, a speaker's stand erected. Crowds of well dressed, well behaved people was estimated at between 800- 1000. A splendid choir open the services with a hymn and then an inspiring prayer was offered by Rev. Gold.  Captain P.M. Mull, of Newton, was master of ceremonies, and after the hymn and prayer he introduced Mr. Jno. M. Mull, of Morganton. In well-chosen and apt words Mr. Mull welcome the great audience. He Commended the spirit of brotherly love that prompted the reunion and urged that this spirit be carried in our daily life and conversation. "This," said he, "is your meeting- you can, make of it a great success if you wish and will. This is a historic spot, from here our ancestors went forth to battle with life. Through toil and sacrifice many of them obtained success. Others fighting against adverse wind; and wave have been forced to the Egyptian task of making brick without straw; and that out of Nile like mud. While most of them began life without a golden spoon, yet they were good providers for their loved ones and ever stood for truth and the right. Here many of our ancestors are buried- and this spot should be sacred to us. “My friends”. I now have the pleasure of introducing to the speaker of the day - a man I who needs no introduction to any audience in Western North Carolina- my friend -the friend of humanity- Charlie McKesson, as everybody calls him. Mr. McKesson thanked his friend for the commendation and the invitation to be present. He looked over the great audience, and a smile played over his face as he recited a humorous poem that greatly tickled the crowd. Then a few sallies of wit, and a capital joke, he gave a history of the first Mull who came to Burke county from Pennsylvania Conrad Mull by name (He’s Father was Johann Chrisophel Mull, brother to Sheriff Peter Mull). In 1753 he got a grant from Lord Granville for a section of 640 acres of land on the waters of the Catawba River and Upper creek, which was called in that grant Mull's creek. Bellevue, the beautiful farm of the heirs of the late Joseph J. Erwin, was part of the Conrad Mull place. The Mulls came from Holland and their name was originally spelled Moelle. They ever stood for law, liberty, justice, and all the nobler virtues. Many of them are the best type of our citizenship, Uncle Jimmie Mull of Hunting creek a Patriarch in our modern Israel; Peter M. Mull of Burke and Peter Mull of Catawba and Joseph Mull of Lower Fork in Burke county, are all men worthy of the respect and confidence of their neighbors, Mr. McKesson then made some humorous criticism of the Dutch and why they came to the United States. "But," said he, "I must tell you why we Scotch Irish came to this country. One writer says it was because the British Parliament was oppressive, another because of the shortage of the Irish potato crop, and still another assigns the reason that they came because the government doubled the tax on whiskey." After giving a history of the Mulls he made a plea for the education of the boys and girls; that they be given a fair chance in life and closed with a tender appeal to all present to pattern their life after the divine Ideal Mr. Otis Mull, a promising young lawyer of Shelby, made a brief but eloquent address on the brotherhood of man. He is an earnest and captivating speaker. Mr. Peter P. Mull of Burke, though over eighty years of age, gave an instructive and entertaining history of the Mulls of Burke, and was satisfied that there were more than a thousand of them and their descendants. After this the choir sang an appropriate hymn, followed by the benediction. Under spreading oaks, a great feast, fit for the gods, was spread, and was greatly enjoyed. Apart from the substantial’s, there was an abundance of lemonade and most of the soda fountain drinks ice cold. It was a great day great in numbers, great in historic reminiscence in the good seed sown, and the spirit of good fellowship

The Charlotte News reported the following article October 19th, 1912 on the 2nd Mull Reunion. Dr. Clarence Peeler, of this city (Charlotte), has returned from Catawba county where he attended a "re-union, of. the Mull family". He was the speaker of the occasion. The Cleveland Star, has the following is regard to the re-union: "The Mulls and their relatives met in their second annual ' reunion at Ezra Mull's chapel in Catawba county last Saturday, Oct. 12. with a big crowd. Dr. C. N. Peeler one of the relatives, and a prominent physician in Charlotte was the speaker of the day. Capt. P. M. Mull, of Newton, spoke on the history of the Mulls, showing the descent from the " Holland-Dutch blood. The first settlers came, to Catawba county and the. house is still standing with the- port holes in the sides used for shooting at Indians in the year 1730. One of the Mulls and two of his children were killed by the Indians. " 'Squire Jim' Mull of Morganton, and others made talks on the history of the Mulls. People from Shelby; Morganton, Newton, Hickory and the Mulls from Haywood county were present! After eating dinner, all went to the cemetery and pictures were taken. It was a pleasant day for everybody. The next meeting will be held at the same place at the same time.

The Lincoln County News, September 25th, 1914 made mention of Mulls Chapel saying “Much good has been accomplished in this church, and Sunday school have been a great inspiration to the old as well as the children.”

Captain Peter Mull and the 3rd Church (1924-1954)

The Foyer of our current Church was the 3rd church. It was a brick church with large beautiful windows, beadboard walls, and a stately front entrance. Captain Peter Mull, a cousin of Ezra Mull, at the time of his death left funds and the land for the building of this Church, which was completed in 1924. Captain Mull was the son of Jacob and Mary Mull, and grandson of John Mull, born July 11, 1832. His early life was spent on his father’s farm until he enlisted. Captain Mull was wounded twice, once in the head and once in his left lung which nearly killed him. He was considered one of the bravest men in the Confederate army. A few months after the war was over, Captain Mull went to South Carolina and hauled supplies for the railroad company, the railroad then being rebuilt from Columbia to Winnsboro. He also ran a stage coach. After staying in South Carolina for nearly two years he returned to Catawba County and bought a farm, and improved the old Mull mill and engaged in farming and milling. His obituary in the Hickory Daily Record reported; Peter Mull had always been charitable and warm hearted and a devoted Christian and was noted for his great love of truth, honesty and sincerity. Upon completing the 3rd Church the name officially became Mull’s Chapel Baptist Church.

The Current Church (1954-Present)

Members of the church gathered beside the present building (the 3rd church), Saturday March 6th, 1954, at 2:30 pm to break ground on the site of the new auditorium to be constructed in the near future. As the stains of “How Firm a Foundation” died away Rev. Julius E. Hoffman, pastor began reading 1st Kings 6 1-14. After brief comments were made Mr. Dewrel Rhoney led the group in a prayer of thanksgiving and supplication. Mr. W.L. Rhoney, oldest member present lifted the first sod.

This Addition included the bell tower, the downstairs Sunday School rooms, fellowship hall area, and kitchen. In 2002 the fellowship building next door was constructed.  Until this time, Homecomings, 5th Sunday Meals and other large events, church members and guests had dinners on the grounds. Tables where spread with bountiful meals out behind the church and the church yard was filled with chairs, blankets, and fellowship.

So today as we celebrate and mark 150 years of being a light on the hill for our community, we remember those who came before us. Those who started the fire and those who have kept the fire burning through the generations, and through their dedication to sharing the gospel have brought us where we are here today. I challenge us all to be more like them, and faithfully pass the torch of faith to those around us, and the next generations! 

2nd Church Building