Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church
Backstory and Context
In 1882, summer resident and boarding house owner Mrs. Alfred M. (Emma Reid) Stewart of Mecklenburg County, NC, sent a letter to the presbytery expressing her concern for the spiritual wellbeing of the inhabitants of Watauga County. She noted the "widespread religious destitution” of the area and proposed “an inexpensive house of worship.” (Saunders p.2) Her efforts combined with those of William J. Martin, a college professor from Davidson and the Rev. Dr. Jethro Rumple, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury eventually lead to the establishment of the Blowing Rock Presbyterian Church on land donated by Mrs. Stewart.
Dr. Rumple, a prolific writer and preacher, also pioneered causes in religious education and social concern. After graduating with distinction from Davidson College in 1850, he taught and studied at Columbia Theological Seminary in South Carolina and was licensed to preach in 1856. In 1882 The University of North Carolina honored him with the Doctor of Divinity degree. (Saunders p7)
As early as 1872 Rumple spent time in Blowing Rock as part of the Presbytery’s effort to send missionaries to the mountain counties and establish mission schools in the region. By the fall of 1886, just a few months after his dedication sermon at the new church, Rumple along with William Martin, joined the ranks of “cottagers” purchasing lots in Blowing Rock. Rumple would become a lifelong supporter and proponent of mission work in the Blowing Rock area, assisting Munroe with preaching duties when in town and continually promoting the interests of the church.
In the spring of 1895 Rev. Edgar Tufts arrived in the NC mountains to be the only permanent Presbyterian minister covering the needs of Watauga and Mitchell County, preaching once a month in Blowing Rock. Tufts legacy would become Lees-McRae Institute, now a full-fledged college, and Grandfather Home for Children, an orphanage, both located in Banner Elk, NC. The Children’s Home would become the primary charity supported by the Rumple congregation. During the 1930s, 40s & early 50s Mr. David Ovens, namesake of Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, “brought performers from the New York Metropolitan Opera Company to Blowing Rock for benefit concerts which become one of Blowing Rock’s summer social scene.” (Buxton 133)
- Buxton, Barry. Burns, Jerry. Jones, Robert. Village Tapestry: The History of Blowing Rock. Boone, NC. Appalachian State University Press, 1989.