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Interview with Jeanne Tingle Scranton

Scranton, Jeanne
Causby, Anna
Date of Interview: 
First United Methodist Church
Mrs. Scranton gives the history of the First United Methodist Church from information in the church archives. She also briefly discusses her job as head of the film and sound department at the Charlotte Public Library.
Interview Setting: 
Interview as part of the WSOC-TV Oral History Project. Interviews conducted at either the downtown public library or the Midtown Shopping Mall.
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Collection Description: 
The Oral History Project of 1979, headed by Dr. Edward Perzel, was an effort to gather and preserve spoken recollections. Interviews were conducted with older citizens, primarily over the age of 65, who were encouraged to share their memories and stories.
AC (Anna Causby): This is Anna Causby May 25, 1979 interviewing Mrs. Jeanne Scranton. Mrs. Scranton, you want to tell us?
JS (Jeanne Scranton): Well, I was born in Pamlico County a little place called Arapaho, which is named for the Arapaho Indians. I left there in 1922 and came to Charlotte and was in a boarding school out in the Hoskins area. It closed in the late 20s. In the meantime, I went to off to college and then after college I came back here in 1929. And had a very difficult time getting a job because it was just at the time of the beginning of the depression, and right after all of the failures and so forth. I joined the First United Methodist Church, except then it was not called United Methodist, in September 15, 1929. At present, I am the church archivist. I've been spending a lot of time researching the church history. Reading minutes of the board and reading some minutes of the quarterly conferences so I have had a little background of the, the church. In 1814 there were no churches in Charlotte. And Dr. David Dunlap was passing through the city, and he stopped to visit his cousin, Dr. Samuel Craighead Caldwell, who was a Presbyterian minister. Most of the people in Charlotte at that time were Presbyterians. Dr. Caldwell suggested that Dr. Dunlap come here and start his practice. And Dr. Dunlap said, "Well, I'm a Methodist. If I come, I will try to get Methodist people and organize a Methodist church." And Dr. Caldwell ju--, jestingly said or jokingly said, "If you do, I'll work against you." [laughter] And they took it as a joke but it really didn't turn out to be a joke. He, he was quite serious about it because something happened between the two of them, and he turned against Dr. Dunlap and tried to turn a lot of his patients away from him. Later he became ill, and had to call on Dr. Dunlap for, for services, and they made up. So it, things progressed fairly nicely after that. Dr. Dunlap was, was elected to the Town Council in about 1815, and he persuaded the Town Council to set aside some property for a community church. So the town council did. The property set aside is now the site of First Presbyterian, and all of the churches were met there for there worship services. Previous to that they had had met in the courthouse for their ser--, church services or religious services. In after the well they, they built the church, and there was a branch of the Bank of New Bern in Charlotte, and they borrowed money from that bank to build the church at eighteen percent interest, which we think was high, but at this time, we're almost at that point. They found it very difficult to pay off that loan and all of the churches, the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, primarily, so there was a Mr. Irwin who paid off the loan and gave the property to the Presbyterians, which is still where the First Presbyterian Church is now. The Methodists went over on, on North College and 7th, and they bought the property in 1833. It was about 1925 when Mr. Irwin gave the property to, to the Presbyterians. The church was built at the corner of 7th and College. The whites and blacks worshipped together because the blacks were slaves and so whoever they, they belonged to the whites took them to church with them. They usually met in the balcony, I understand, rather than sitting with them. Although, the congregation was very small. In 1859 the, they decided the whites well, the church decided they need more space so they bought the property at the corner of 6th and North Tryon and built a church there. The blacks preferred to remain in church of their own so they, they stayed there at the corner of 7th and, and North College. In, in 1859, the church was built, and it progressed. All of the Methodist churches in the city of Charlotte are outgrowths of Try--, Tryon Street Church as it was called then. The first one to begin was Calvary. That was in 1865. Then in reading the minutes of Tryon, I do not have all the minutes, but some of the minutes of the Tryon Street Church. There were other churches. One called Atworth; one called Seversville; one on Graham Street; one on Bee Street. There was a Derita Chapel. All of those were apparently small churches connected, some of them were rather, connected or on the same charge as the Tryon Street Church. As they grew they became in de--, separate charges, except for the Graham Street and the Atworth. I think Seversville was probably what was for--, was known as the Wesley Heights Church, but that one is gone at this present time. The, in 1891, Tryon Street Church was rebuilt and the, while it was rebuilt, the people had their services in the city auditorium. In 1921, the church was beginning to. Let me back up a little bit. In, in 1896, the church was so large that they needed to build another church so they, they built Trinity on the, they bought the property, and built Trinity on the corner and Tryon and 2nd Street. At the present time, the federal reserve building is there. They bought the that property from the joint building committee of the Tryon and Trinity churches which is presently the First United Methodist Church. It was in 1921 that they began to that Tryon Street needed a new Sunday school building because they were had just outgrew their Sunday school quarters. And then they started talking with Trinity about the possibility of uniting with one large downtown church. It was in 1925, that they decided to, to really build, start looking for new property, and to really build a larger Sunday school area and, and a larger auditorium in which the two churches would unite. This church was the property was bought from the Oates family and is at the corner of 8th and North Tryon now. The property was bought for a hundred and forty thousand dollars and some of the money that had been collected to build a larger Sunday school room, rooms at Tryon Street was used to pay off that a hundred and forty thousand dollars. The church was cost almost a million dollars. It was opened October 30, 1927. In 1929, there was the stock market crash followed by bank failures, and the bank holiday after which many banks were not allowed re-opened including the Independence Trust Company where First Methodist's checking account was. Later it was paid, it did pay in full all of its depositors, including the First Methodist Church operating account. But there were several times when the, Mr. Simpson, the business manager, was forced to pay salaries and accounts in cash. The trustees had borrowed a hundred thousand dollars at local banks and personal notes. Many of the board of trustees and board of Stewart became personally responsible for these notes, and they were renewable at ninety-day intervals at six percent interest. And had they had a mortgage to the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company of Boston, Massachusetts for four hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars on the church property payable at twelve thousand five hundred dollars, March 1st and October the 1st with a five and three-quarters percent interest. The bank failures were followed by the Great Depression and a great deal of unemployment. There was a lot of concern among the church members as to how they would pay off the church debt. There was a quite a number of churches having to foreclose because they could not meet their payments. And there was a great fear that this would to happen First Methodist. The numerous campaigns were put on to raise money. There were a great many of the people gave their jewelry, and it was sold so that whatever they could get from it would go for to pay off the debt. And even the interest on the debt. Many of the ladies sold their wedding bands in order to be able to pay. There was a time when people took out building and loan shares, and I was working at that time before Roosevelt came in. I was making a dollar a day, and it was more than eight hours a day. When Roosevelt came in, the salary increased to eleven dollars and fifty cent a week. So I thought I had had, had really arrived when I made eleven dollars and fifty cent a week. [laughter] I was one who did take out a building and loan share at twenty-five cents a week so that when it did become completely paid off, it would give that much money to the church debt. And there were a, lots of people did that. There was one person, Mr. George Stratton, who he and had his brother Wilson, were the sons of the founder of ( ) Winding Company, and they expressed great concern that we would default on our church payments. And others were concerned that if the church did default it would be put up for sale. Then in 1934, the financial conditions were most discouraging and concern was that we wouldn't be able to even meet the interest on the loan on March 1st let alone anything on the, on the principle. Dr. A. M. Whisenant was board chairman, and he had cardboard signs made "Work, Faith, and Prayer" as a motto to be guided by. He gave fifteen hundred dollars so the interest at the local bank would be paid, and the note could be renewed. On February 28, 1934, Mr. D. E. Henderson, who became Judge Henderson, state judge, and Mr. H. B. Simpson, the church business manager, were sent to the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in Boston to, to seek debt relief. They were successful in reducing the interest from five and three-quarters to three percent and this meant a saving of approximately thirty-five thousand dollars. After hearing this report, the board voted to put on a building fund campaign and to get pledges for a hundred dollars to apply on the church debt. It was about that time that the congregation was told of an anonymous gift of a hundred thousand. And that was an inspiration to the members to raise the money and pay off the debt. And the debt was finally paid off in 1940. The church was dedicated in 1944, and finances all along have always been a struggle, even from the very beginning. But we have a great history, a great program and although, we still have financial problems as I guess most churches do. We do have a great program. And I, that's all.
AC: I want to ask you something about the library.
JS: Yes.
AC: Your library ( ). When was this current structure built?
JS: This was, was open as I remember in November of 1956. It this the first church, the first library was a Carnegie library, and there was a contract with the city that the city would give twenty-five hundred a year for the support of the library if Carnegie built it. It was a building with high front steps. And this, there was a bond election for several million dollars in which the main library and county branches would be built. This building was closed in 1954 and demolished. We moved everything out of our, not this building, but the Carnegie building, we moved everything out to a temporary building, which is now the Baptist book store. I was in on the moving of those books from, from the old library to the temporary building. I was in on the moving of the books from the, from the temporary building to this building. And if I remember correctly, it was 1956. I know it was in November. And [pause] what else do you want to know about this building?
AC: This building?
JS: Um-hum. Or about the library? I was head of film and sound at that time. And was that had that job for twenty-one and a half years. And then three and a half years as serials assistant so I worked in non-book materials all the time.
AC: Um-hum.
JS: And we were the film program began in 1942 here after Hoyt Galvin became director in 1940. And we were really a pioneer in films because there were only a very few libraries throughout the whole United States, Cleveland and Dallas and very few, but we were, we were the only one in North Carolina for many years. Before they had any film collections of any sort.
AC: That's interesting.
JS: I thought it was. Real interesting.
AC: Have you got anything else you want to share?
JS: I can't remember.
AC: OK. Thanks for sharing ( ).
JS: Thank you. Thank you. I hope it helps. .