Trinity United Methodist Church

From Past to Present

Midlife Crisis and an Old Building on Haywood Road

In an effort to share The Story of Trinity (old and new) we have asked members to share a few words about their walk with God. Here is Jimmy Davis’s story.

The year is 2016 and you are riding down Haywood Road in West Asheville, N. C.  You pass a small diner called “The TasteeDiner” and a short distance later you pass an old building.  It is the Trinity United Methodist Church.  It is an old, but beautiful building and down through the years has been known as “Miller Meeting House”, Balm Grove Methodist Church and West Asheville Methodist Church.  You think,  “That is just an old building, but how many stories could be held in those old walls?  How many people have come through this old building and have affected positively the lives of many thousands of people?

Lets go back to around  1945-46.  It was known as West Asheville Methodist Church. Then  the phone number WAS 734.  Membership was around 2,000 and attendance was around 200 on a Sunday morning.  Back then, they had a Sunday evening service and a Wednesday evening service. (Where did they go away?  Could it be TV?)    The Rev. J. W. Fitzgerald was minister.  It is busy on Haywood Road.  This road is also US Hwy 19-23 and is the only route west to Waynesville, Murphy, Chattanooga and points west.  There is no “Patton Ave” and no Interstate highways.  Behind the church is a large two-story wood frame parsonage where my wife Barbara and I were married. (The educational building will come later in 1959). There is very little parking, and most members park in the A & P Parking lot next door.  World War II has ended and men and women from the church are coming home after 4 years of war. This is  “The Great Generation”.    This old building furnished over 170 people for the Great War.  There were five women, Kate Plemmons, Margaret Byerly, Mildred Fitzgerald, Doris Keener and Mary Kilgo.  Five of our young men gave their lives for our freedom.  They were DAREN HUTCHISON,  A. C. REYNOLDS JR., WILBUR YOUNG, EDWARD E. SMITH, and A. C. RHUDY JR.   Another young man, Garrison Hall (son of Capt. J. Lane Hall, Captain of the West Asheville Fire Dept.), was a prisoner of war in Germany.  Also, the minister at that time, Rev. H. C. Sprinkle, served.  Only four remain of that 170 or so.  They are Malcolm Gamble, Conrad Maney, Hal Starnes, and Hal Blakely who now lives in Winston Salem, N. C.  Those members coming home from war went to college and many members were teachers, railway workers,  postal workers, and small business owners.

Now, let us fast forward to around 1947 or so.  It is a Sunday morning.  A young high school girl, Mary Pepina Patalidas, is marching her siblings (Catherine, Janie, Joe, Billy, Jimmy and Tommy) down Haywood Road from her home on Swannanoa Ave. Their parents are Speros A. and Ella Patelidas, and Mr. Patelidas operates the Terminal Hatters at 112 Patton Ave.  She passes the “Tastee Diner” which will remain here until 2016 when it will be sold and will become a hot dog and hamburger joint.  In the churchyard, a young teenager Tom Harrison plays “capture the flag” with other scouts in Troop Three. (Tom’s parents are W. S. (Bill) and Beulah.  Bill operates the Harrison Auto Parts at 61 Craven St. where a large brewery is now located.)  One of the scoutmasters in the 1940s is J.Nat Arthur Sr. and this troop has produced many Eagle Scouts. Tom has been active in scouting since his teenage years and still continues to support scouting.  (Most recently, and for quite a number of years, Greg Hutchins, Mike Mann and Bill Crout have very successfully headed up the troop.)  ,  Family members of J. Nat Arthur are J. N. (Jim) Arthur Jr and J. Nathan Arthur III, along with numerous relatives, will belong to this church.  (Harrisons, Sales, Evans and many others.). 

Let’s fast forward to 1950.  Patton Ave. is extended from downtown Asheville across “the new bridge” and meeting Haywood Road at Lucerne Park and Johnston Blvd.  This by passes Haywood Road and West Asheville and they nearly resemble a ghost town.  Many businesses close.  Then around 2005 or so, Haywood Road starts growing again.  Traffic is heavy, many new homes are built and young couples walk their dogs up and down Haywood Road, passing the “old building” Trinity United Methodist Church.  Many stop at one of  numerous restaurants along the road.

Fast forward to around 1954. Young men come back home from the Korean War or from college.  This group is in “The Older Youth” class which met on the third floor in a room across from what is now the Faith Class.  All the members in this class are single.  Teachers during that period are Clark Phillips and Hubert Owens.  Also filling in occasionally was another pillar of the church, Murgil Johnston Sr. Later teachers are Joe Boone, Celeste Rast and a Mrs. Worthy.  This is an active class and in addition to Sunday Morning Bible study, they take trips to Cascade Lake near Brevard in cabins along the lake, they have picnics at Rhododendron Park, take trips to Maggie Valley for ice skating,  hikes up Mount Pisgah and rides along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Devils Courthouse.  (A little personal note here; I met my wife Barbara in this Sunday school class and this August, we will have our 60th anniversary.  Our children Marcie, Brian and Sandra grew up and were christened in “this old building”.)

The class grew and eventually all were married.  This necessitated moving to the first floor in a class on the front of building facing “Haywood Road”.  During that time, another young adult class joined us and we had to move into our present location. 

Back to around 1970.  Still the same class, but now the Ownbey Class and it needs a teacher. (What happened to the Older Youth Class?  Well, we were older, but no longer youth!)   Paul Mann volunteers his wife Mary to teach for a quarter.  For some reason, Mary was not there at the time, but she accepts the job anyway.  (This is that same young girl who in 1947 walked her siblings down Haywood Road each Sunday morning to West Asheville Methodist Church).  The quarter she volunteered for, well that has extended to 46 years teaching this one class, and I might also add that she taught the Monday night Bible Class from 1979 until several years ago. 

 This old building has had many improvements over the past couple of years.  A new elevator, new roof to replace the old asbestos shingles, sanctuary painted and refurbished as well as most of the other rooms being painted and bathrooms upgraded.  The yard is beautifully landscaped and many other improvements.  Our thanks to Mr. J. D. Howell who graciously left our church $1,025,000 in his will. 

NOW!  What about this “mid life crisis”?  Well, people have theirs, the old church building has also, and Haywood Road and West Asheville have theirs.  You just take your pick or fill in the blanks; paying college bills for your children, empty nest syndrome (3-4 times), paying off the mortgage for the church, Haywood Road and West Asheville changing back and forth from a bustling and crowded road to a near ghost town.

So this old building and the people within, have weathered it’s mid life crisis as well as Haywood Road and West Asheville.  Yes, from Miller Meeting House in the mid 1800s to Balm Grove Methodist, to West Asheville Methodist, to Trinity United Methodist in 2016.  Many thousands of Saints have passed through ‘this old building” and have affected the lives of countless thousands up and down Haywood Road in West Asheville. 

Yes, we wonder what will Haywood Road, West Asheville and “this old building”  be like in another 170 years in the year 2282.