"Ocracoke islanders in the 20th century rarely talked about the source of local church conflict, so much is speculation, but tradition indicates that the major reason for the division centered around the choir. According to Fannie Pearl Fulcher, who heard the story from her grandmother, 'a young singing master' came to the island who 'wanted to teach the choir to sing by note.'
|Southern Methodist Church|
"This was in the early 1880's. Other islanders remember hearing that church leaders also wanted to replace the older hymn books (which included only the words to songs, not notes) with newer hymnals that included notes. Some members were attracted to singing classes and musical notes while others were not."
|Northern Methodist Church|
This is how Carl Goerch described the situation in his book, Ocracoke:
"A singing teacher visited the island and wanted to teach the church members how to sing from books. One brother (a Howard) said this was all foolishness; that the singing was good enough when they h'isted the turne and he didn't see any reason for making a change and investing money in song books. But another brother (also a Howard) was equally vigorous in the contention that the singing would be greatly improved through the use of song books.
"Each of the two Howards had his followers and the dissension became quite bitter. Some of the members dropped out and started a new church.
"From what I've been able to find out, the new church was known as the Methodist south Church. The old one was known as the Methodist Episcopal Church [Actually, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was the existing church at the time of the dispute; the new church was the re-introduced Methodist Episcopal Church. The national body had split in the 1840s over slavery). It had not been called the Northern Church because of any Yankee affiliation or sympathy but because it was north (in direction) from the other church.
"The two Howard brothers whom I've mentioned were [Perry] Coleman and [Enoch] Ellis Howard, but there seems to be some disagreement about which one did which."
[Coleman Howard was definitely a pillar of the Southern Methodist Church].
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.