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St. Mary’s Grove Free Will Baptist Church - Benson, NC

  The minutes of Cape Fear Conference from October 1866 notes that this church had twenty-two members. Since the Conference did not meet for five years due to the Civil War, this church may have originated a few years before this mention.

  During the 1880s, this church would sometimes hold services with the members of Rehobeth (a Primitive Baptist church). This first one-room structure was very small. After the first building was moved to one side, another one-room frame structure was then built to take care of the congregation and visitors. The new building served as the sanctuary until 1911 or 1912. After that building burned, a new structure was built to replace it. Later wings were built on both sides of the one room sanctuary. This building (pictured) was used until approximately 1961 or 1962 when it was sold.

  In 1911, property was obtained from E. N. Jones and his wife for the price of $50. The present building was started with the Sunday School rooms being constructed first and then the addition of the sanctuary. In 1955, the parsonage was built. An Activity Building was completed in 1974 behind the Sunday School rooms and the sanctuary. The cemetery was surveyed, the graves plotted, and many of the stones were reset and straightened in 1976. The parking lot was paved in 1977. A new parsonage was built in the 1990s.