Written by Mr. Gene Stowe, the son of a former minister of Williamston Presbyterian Church, and freelance writer now living in Monroe, NC.
My first memory is driving away from Williamston in my dad’s car with my mother telling me: We’re going to Charlotte! I was 3 years old. It was 1957. My dad, Rev. Joe Stowe, was the preacher at Williamston Presbyterian Church when I was born in 1954, and we were moving to Central Steele Creek Presbyterian. On March 26, for the first time, I came back.
I didn’t expect to make it in time for church. I was returning home from a visit in Highlands with a retired Erskine professor who had known my father, and I had planned stops in Walhalla, where I spent summers with my great-uncle W.R. Lenhardt and his wife Lois, and in Liberty, where my grandmother, Emily Hester Berry, grew up. Those stops were brief – no one was out who could tell me whether any relatives are still around or direct me to my grandmother’s country home. So I arrived in Williamston at 11:15, took some pictures of the building, and decided to let myself in for the service.
The sanctuary is as beautiful inside as out. So are the people. I felt welcomed as a stranger and enjoyed the old hymns. After the service, Rev. Ochart introduced me to Ms. Smith, who knew of my dad although in Gaston County, where he was from, rather than Williamston, and Ms. Corbin. Ms. Corbin told me a delightful story about my dad’s encouraging her while she was in high school to go to Erskine College, which she did. We also have journalism in common – she has worked for the Journal for decades; I was a reporter for The Charlotte Observer from 1981 to 1993. I am now a full-time freelance writer living in Monroe, N.C.
We stayed at Central Steele Creek until 1963, then moved to First Presbyterian in Mooresville until 1969, then to First Presbyterian in Monroe, where I graduated from high school. Afterwards, I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill while my family moved to Myrtle Beach, where my dad was at First Presbyterian for 10 years. He got his D.Min. in 1975, the same year I got my B.A. He took early retirement and moved back to his home county, where he raised corn and okra for the farmers market, in 1982. He died in 1994.
Thank you for making my return to my roots after 60 years such a pleasant experience. God bless your congregation, and keep up the good work!