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Courtney Chapel at Lelia Tuttle Park

The History of Courtney Chapel

By Ruby Courtney

December 17, 1913 - June 12, 2011



                 In 1775, a small number of people lived in this area of the Appalachian foothills, and like people everywhere, they wanted a place to worship God. So they built a small log meeting house and named it Littlejohn Church after the family that donated the land. By 1825, this church building was too small for the worshipers, so they decided to build a larger church a short distance away. They cut nearby pine trees and erected a simple wooden building.
                 Along about this same time, trouble was brewing over the slavery question. War was later declared, battles fought, men killed, wounded and dislocated. My grandfather, Dan Courtney, had been in many battles during the Civil War, but in the Battle of Gettysburg, he was seriously wounded. His left leg was almost blown in two just below the knee. He lay on the battlefield for a long time before he was picked up and carried to a hospital. So very many men were killed or injured that the medics were just exhausted trying to save them. His leg became infected and the doctors decided to remove the limb from just below the knee.
                 After lying in the hospital for a long time, he healed enough to put his knee into a hand-made wooden leg. Of course, this wasn't comfortable, but he wanted to come home to see his wife and little son, John. He started the long journey walking all the way from Pennsylvania to his home in Hartland, North Carolina. Roads were unpaved and muddy. He didn't cover many miles per day, and there weren't places to eat or sleep along the way as there are today. So when he found that he couldn't go any farther, he would stop at a home and ask for food. He said he was never refused, but the people were kind and shared what they had with him. He lost count of the days that it took to make the journey, but when he reached home, he found that his wife and child had no food except a little bit of hominy made from corn the miller had given them. They would have paid for the corn, but no one had any money. All southern money was confiscated. People were kind and helpful in some way, they had gardens and saved food for winter. Because of his wooden leg, Grandpa couldn't plow and follow a horse to grow food. So he decided to make a building to tan hides of animals for making coats and warm clothes.
                 Because of years of neglect during the war, the log church needed repair, and the congregation decided to build a new one to replace it. The logs that had made the little 1825 church were in good condition, and Grandpa asked the members if they would sell them to him. He told them he had no money, for the government had not paid for his war service, but as soon as he could earn money, he would pay. Neighbors came in to help, bringing wagons pulled by horses and mules that were sometimes too old and crippled to really work. Before long, they moved logs to his home near the house where I now live. Nobody had money to pay for this, but everyone who helped, gave of themselves gladly. Soon there was laughing, joking, and shouting when a heavy log was picked up and raised to its place in the new building. Grandpa saw promises of big animals being caught to have the hides tanned for coats. He worked hard and really enjoyed hearing the wild tales of catching the "big ones."
                 As the years passed, his family was growing too. There were five boys and three girls. Dan and his wife Polly were proud of every one. Dan passed away in 1909 and is buried at Littlejohn Cemetery near the place the logs in his tanning shed once stood as a church. One of those boys grew up and needed a barn, for he was a farmer. His name is Henry, and he's my pa. He had three boys and two girls. One day his sister Fannie said, "I wish you'd take that log building from in front of our house."
                 "Great!" Pa said. "We need it for a cow barn." So Pa and his three boys, along with Enoch Johnson, Tom Harshaw and other neighbors moved the log tanning building closer to my house where it has been used for a cow barn for many years. The cows loved it because it was warmer than the straw shed they had been using.
                 Those old logs have served as a church, a tanner's shed and a cow barn for almost two centuries. Years ago when we needed a larger barn, we built a new wooden barn around it and added a huge roof that sheltered it from outdoor weathering. It unexpectedly protected the logs.
                 Now, in this new twenty-first century, the congregation from Littlejohn Church has made it once again a house of worship. I donated the logs back to the church and the board at church voted to build a chapel at Lelia Tuttle Memorial Park using the logs. Fund raising began immediately and by the fall of 2005 enough had been collected to begin construction. The barn was torn down in October, 2005. Construction began in the spring of 2006 and was completed in July, 2006. It was named Courtney Chapel in memory of my grandfather, Dan Courtney, and my brother, Benson Courtney and in honor of his wife Era Courtney and me, Ruby.


>Visit Historical Caldwell County - Lenoir, NC

>Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce

>Caldwell County Historical Society Heritage Museum

>History of Caldwell County, including reference to Littlejohn UMC