Green Hill House
Louisburg, North Carolina
Heritage Landmark of The United Methodist Church
Major Green Hill (1741-1826) was a native North Carolinian, a major in the militia and a member of the colonial assembly. In 1781 he enlisted in the Continental Army as a chaplain, and after the war served as Counselor of State.
Major Hill became a Methodist around the age of thirty, shortly before his marriage to Mary Seawell in 1773. He became a local preacher, probably the first native of North Carolina to serve in that capacity. There were Methodist societies in eastern North Carolina as early as 1774, and there was a North Carolina preaching circuit by 1776.
The Hill home in Louisburg was familiar to Methodist preachers traveling the circuit, including Francis Asbury. It was a large house, built for a family of eight children. Following the Christmas Conference in December 1784, the Green Hill House was chosen to host the first meeting of an annual conference of the brand-new Methodist Episcopal Church.
From April 20 to 24, 1785, twenty preachers from 31 circuits in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina met in the attic, a large room covering the whole upper floor of the house. Mrs. Hill and her family fed the preachers, who slept on the attic floor and in tents on the lawn.
Bishops Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke guided the proceedings. Asbury recorded in his diary that the conference met "in great peace," and Coke wrote that "we had a comfortable time together."
There was some tension, though, over the issue of slavery. In the weeks prior to the conference, Coke spoke out forcefully against slavery as he traveled through the south. Just before arriving at Green Hill's, he noted: "I have now done with my testimony against slavery for a time, being got into North Carolina again, the laws of this State forbidding any to emancipate their negroes."
However, Coke did not follow his own advice, and statements he made against slave-holding led to some uneasy moments during the conference. The question of Methodism's position on slavery eventually divided the church.
Three succeeding conferences also met at the Green Hill house, in 1790, 1791, and 1794. In 1796 the Hill family moved further west to middle Tennessee, where they continued to show hospitality to Methodist preachers. Major Hill died at his home, Liberty Hill, on September 11, 1826.
Points of interest at this Heritage Landmark: The house is the original structure and is a private home. It was renovated in 1988, and the second floor has deliberately been kept much like it was at the time of the 1785 conference.
Special events: None as of this writing.
Area attractions: Louisburg College, a two-year school related to The United Methodist Church, was begun in 1787 as Franklin Academy for Men and is the oldest junior college in the United States. Nearby are the cities of Raleigh and Durham with numerous sites of historical and cultural interest. Whitaker's Chapel is a short drive to the northeast.
To visit: The home is a private residence and is not open to the public.
Location: Within the boundaries of the North Carolina Annual Conference, in Franklin County. The home is south of the city limits of Louisburg.
Food and lodging: Louisburg has several restaurants and a Bed & Breakfast; restaurants and motels are also available in Raleigh and Durham.
For further information and to make an appointment to visit, contact: Visits cannot be accommodated at this time.
To learn more about United Methodist church history in this area:
North Carolina Annual Conference Archives, P.O. Box 10955, 1307 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, NC 27605; 919-832-9560; Bill C. Simpson, Historian.
Terry D. Bilhartz, ed., Francis Asbury's America: An Album of Early American Methodism (Grand Rapids, MI: Francis Asbury Press, 1984).
James Reed Cox, Pioneers and Perfecters of Our Faith: A Biography of the Reverend Green Hill, North Carolina Statesman, Revolutionary War Patriot, Zealous Methodist Preacher, Crusader for Liberty (Nashville: Parthenon Press, 1975).