Fort Bragg has 100 years of history behind it, but the land has been home to people long before the military took up residence.
Evidence from the past can be found all over Fort Bragg. Twenty-six historic cemeteries have been identified on the military installation, a tar kiln has been excavated and numerous homesteads have been found throughout the area.
Fort Bragg is also home to two historic churches — Long Street Presbyterian and Sandy Grove Presbyterian. These two churches are nestled a few miles apart from each other on training grounds at Fort Bragg. They were both purchased by the Army as part of the sale of the land to the War Department, with the sale of the properties finalizing in the early 1920s.
The churches were started by Families of Highland Scots who built communites on the land that would be Fort Bragg.
Much of the surrounding land had been sold to the War Department before the Families who owned the church land capitulated under the condition that the churches and adjoining cemeteries be maintained, the cemeteries would not be dug up and the Families would be allowed to return for reunions every year. Under these terms, the land was sold to become part of the military installation.
Long Street Presbyterian
In 1756, a church called McKay’s Meeting House was located on what would become Long Street Presbyterian. Families in the community continued to come to the meeting place to worship.
A cemetery was created in the area and a school was also located nearby. The third building to stand as a church at the Long Street location was completed in 1847. The Greek Revival building is still standing today and maintained by the Army and the Directorate of Public Works.
On the last Sunday of every June, descendants of the Families who lived in the area come together for a reunion, a church service and a celebration of their Highland Scottish heritage.
Families gather in the building much like their ancestors did, singing worship songs and joining together in not only religious fellowship, but familial company. Members of the Cultural Resources Management Program division of DPW join the Families and share historic artifacts and tidbits for those who wish to learn more.
The church is generally closed to the public for most of the year.
Sandy Grove Presbyterian
Sandy Grove Presbyterian was also started by Highland Scots Families. The building that is currently standing was built in 1854, although parts of it were remodeled in 1917 to add a vestibule and a steeple. The cemetery holds gravestones from 1857 to 1977. This church is not used for reunions, and is closed to the public as well.
Niell S. Blue, the largest land owner in the sale of land to the War Department for Fort Bragg, died during a church service at Sandy Grove Presybterian in 1929.
Both of these churches provide important information about the Families who lived in the area before the Army began using the land as an artillery training ground in 1918. They are important cultural resources as the only two historic churches still standing at Fort Bragg.
Who helps to maintain these locations? Who works to glean information from these important historic churches?
The Cultural Resources Management Program puts a lot of time and effort into discovering Fort Bragg’s past, and I’ll be talking about their important work next week.