History Of Torrence Chapel AME Zion Church
Torrence Chapel AME Zion Church, located in northern Mecklenburg County one mile north of Highway 73, stands magnificently reflecting the laborious sacrifices, religious enthusiasm, and joys of one of the most loyal memberships of Zion Methodism.
Torrence Chapel's historic beginning was similar to that of most rural churches. With only a few members, it was organized by Rev. Ephrim Torrence a few years prior to the year 1869. Rev. Torrence came from Charlotte, NC, nineteen miles south of Cornelius, NC. After many trials and hardships, a "Brush Arbor" was built near the township of Cornelius, NC, in a small Negro settlement called Smithville. A few years later, the membership moved to the present location and built a frame structure (in 1869) on a site of land given to them by white friends: the Glaspies
Among the lay members who participated in organizing Torrence Chapel were Mr. Miles Works and Harriet Torrence. Several other lay members participated in this effort.
Growth of the membership and decay of the old building necessitated a new structure. Hence, another frame structure was completed in the year of 1909. Rev. A.L. Newby was Pastor. The first brick structure (replacing the old frame structure) was begun by Rev. B.A. Crawford in 1928. Several lay members who began and finished this building were Mrs. Bessie Bush, Mrs. Julia Torrence, Mr. James Torrence, Mr. David S. Reid, Mr. W.M. Work, and Mr. John Brice.
Various organizations developed simultaneously with the physical plant to meet the increasing needs of the membership. The original organizations were the Trustee Board, Steward Board, Class Leaders, and Sunday School Department. Our present organizations consist of all of the above along with the following: Christian Education Department, Senior Choir, Woman's Home and Overseas Missionary Society (all departments), Stewardess Board, Deaconess Board, Senior Usher Board, Junior Usher Board, Lay Council, Strollers, Messengers, Chenaniah, Men's Choir, Men's Booster Club, Educational Committee, Culinary Committee, and Mass Choir.
Torrence Chapel's progress can be seen in the increase of the physical plant and membership. The physical plant has grown from the "Brush Arbor" to the present brick edifice (well-equipped with classrooms, fellowship hall, arbor, and a spacious graveyard) - all of which is debt-free.
Through the years, the membership has remained loyal to the AME Zion Connection in spirit and in finance. It has contributed unselfishly to the education of several ministers, among whom were Rev. N.V. Jones, Rev. V.R. Hill, Rev. D.L. Blakeney, Rev. W.F. Owens, and Rev. W.J. Jiles.
It has given birth to two AME Zion churches, namely Union Bethel AME Zion Church and Reeves Temple AME Zion Church.
Several young people who had their start at Torrence Chapel have answered God's call to the ministry. They are the late Rev. Dr. George McNeely (former Presiding Elder, Lincolnton District), Rev. Willie Ray Derr, Rev. Terry Kerns, Bishop Randell Black, Rev. Steven Howard (Pastor, Watkins Chapel Chapel AME Zion), Rev. Tabatha Stanback (Pastor, Herndon Chapel AME Zion), Rev. Christopher Springs, (Pastor, Brown Hill AME Zion), and Sis. Auritta Lee Wilson Payne (Local Preacher, Torrence Chapel AME Zion).
In 2003, Torrence Chapel purchased a parsonage under the leadership of Rev. S. Franklin Russell, II. It boasts 1,700+ square feet and sits on .51 acres of land just 10 minutes south of Cornelius, NC. The mortgage of this property was burned on May 18, 2008.
Torrence Chapel is currently under the leadership of Rev. Ellison Bowman, Sr., whom we hold in high esteem, along with his most capable staff comprised of four associate ministers: Rev. Thomas Mitchell, Rev. Patsy Archie, and Sister Auritta Lee Wilson Payne. We have continued to progress spiritually while increasing our membership. Above all, we thank God. He has brought us from a mighty long way.