north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     As early as 1780 the Methodist Church began efforts to establish a church sponsored school in America similar to John Wesley’s school in England. Francis Asbury met with the Reverend John Dickins of Halifax County in June of that year and two local men had the honor of purchasing the first subscriptions. Their money, however, went to the formation of Cokesbury College, opened in Maryland in 1787. It would be about seven years before North Carolina’s Cokesbury School would open near the Yadkin River in what is now Davie County, then Rowan. It was the first Methodist-sponsored school in North Carolina. The name Cokesbury was a tribute to the first two Methodist Bishops in America, Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, and has since been associated with Methodist education.

     North Carolina’s Cokesbury School was organized by James Parks, an elder district preacher and teacher, and Hardy Jones, a wealthy church member who donated the land on which it was built. Asbury visited the school in 1794 and described it as “twenty feet square, two stories high, well set with doors and windows…it stands on a beautiful eminence, and overlooks the Lowlands, and river Yadkin.” The aesthetically pleasing location, however, was not a practical one since it was off the beaten path. The school was no longer listed in the Methodist Conference minutes in 1795. Local churchgoers who had attended sermons at the schoolhouse continued to do so. The congregation eventually became known as the Advance Methodist Church.

     Much of what is known about the school comes from the commonplace book, or notebook, of George McClasky, a student there. The journal-like book was discovered in the personal papers of a local Methodist preacher. While the original was returned to the preacher’s family, copies were made for the Western North Carolina Conference Archives in Charlotte and the North Carolina State Archives. McClasky’s notes provide evidence of the curriculum and everyday life at the school, as well as important information as to the books available. McClasky’s father, John, was involved with the Methodist Book Concern and helped to supply the school and church with appropriate books.

W. L. Grissom, History of Methodism in North Carolina (1905)
O. Kelly Ingram, Methodism Alive in North Carolina (1976)
James W. Wall, History of Davie County (1969)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources