Dr. William Bernard Harrell

Pastor FBC Hillsborough, 1875 – 1877
On January 18, 1875 the church met and put forth “Bro. W. B. Harrell … for pastor for the present year.”  He was unanimously elected to preach “for us two Sabbaths in each month, viz, the second and fourth Sabbaths.”  As moderator, he conducted a church meeting in May 1875 when a committee, appointed to determine why Sister Agnes Turner was habitually absent from church meetings, reported that she was “antimissionary in her feelings and asked that her name be stricken from the roll of membership.”  On December 11, 1875, the church unanimously voted to have Harrell continue as pastor “upon the same terms as the year closed.”  On March 11, 1876, Harrell and his wife moved their membership from Rose of Sharon Church, Durham to Hillsborough.  On November 10, 1876 the church voted once again to retain Harrell as pastor.  On Sunday, February 25, 1877, the church gathered at 2 pm at the river bank to witness Harrell baptize his daughter Annie.   On December 21, 1877, Harrell asked for a letter of dismission for himself, wife and daughter.1

The following is extracted from several brief biographies:
William Bernard Harrell was born December 17, 1823, in Suffolk, VA.  He was the third child of James and Martha McGuire Harrell.  After graduating from Randolph-Macon College in 1844, he moved to Winton, Hertford County, NC to help his father with the family store. He had no intention of leaving the store, when his older brother, James Albert, wrote and invited him in 1846 to come to Perquimans County, NC to begin a career in medicine.  After studying and apprenticing with his physician brother, Harrell attended the University of Maryland receiving his MD degree in 1849.  On the advice of his brother, he set up practice in Center Hill, Chowan County, NC.  It was here that he met, courted and on March 13, 1851married Ann Judson Battle, daughter of Amos Johnston Battle, a former pastor of the First Baptist Church at Raleigh and one of the founders of Wake Forest College. On the same day Harrell was baptized and became a Baptist; perhaps out of respect for his new father-in-law.  Ann Judson Battle was born on March 08, 1834 in Nashville, TN, educated at the Chowan Baptist Female College, Murfreesboro, NC and a portrait painter and musician. Their marriage produced eleven children.2,3

Harrell served as a Confederate surgeon during the Civil War.  At a railroad station in Wilson, NC, in 1861, he heard a soldier praise the State on his way north to the battlefields. Harrell wrote and his wife put to music a song, Ho, for Carolina, that came close to becoming the official state song, sung often by North Carolinians during the War.4 The song begins:

Ho! For Carolina! That's the land for me;
In her happy borders road the brave and free;
And her bright-eyed daughters, none can fairer be;
Ho! It is a land of love and sweet liberty!

He spent most of his tour of duty at a Confederate hospital in VA.

The War changed the direction of his life.  Soon after returning home, he became active in home missions.  His activities as a layman resulted in a revival at Snow Hill, N. C, out of which grew a Baptist church which desired him as pastor.  Before he knew it, he was in the active work of the ministry.3 According to the Branson's North Carolina Business Directory for 1866-1867 which included the names of churches and their pastors; Harrell was living in Big Lick, NC and had pastorates at three churches in Stanly County: Harmond's Grove, Mount Olive and Peasant Grove Baptist Churches.5 While preaching at Hillsboro, Harrell was employed by the Mount Zion Association as a part-time missionary to establish churches in Alamance County.  In 1877, he was “laboring at Graham, Company Shops, Haw River Depot, and Swepson's Factory - missionary stations, two Sabbaths per month.  He scarcely received enough money to pay his railroad fare to and from them.”6
After an active ministry of forty years or more, he died in Dunn, N. C, November 25, 1906, three days after the death of his wife on November 22, 1906.  They had been married fifty-five years.  She was 72 and he was 83 years old at the time of their deaths.  They are buried side-by-side in the Greenwood Cemetery in Dunn, NC. His tombstone reads: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord" taken from Revelation 14:13.  A biographer noted that “Both of them were gifted musicians. In a number of cases the husband would compose the hymn or song and the wife the melody, and then they would sing it together. 2,3,7 

  1. Minutes of First Baptist Church Hillsborough, NC from November 19, 1853 to December 2, 1953.
  2. JOHN BATTLE "Immigrant In 1654" of Pasquotank & Descendants.  Accessed on March 11, 2011 at: http://www.oursoutherncousins.com/BATTLE.pdf
  3. Brooks, Eugene, Clyde (editor). North Carolina Poems. published 1912 by North Carolina education in Raleigh, N.C.  Accessed on March 11, 2011 at: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL6548430M/North_Carolina_poems
  4. Archives of Benton News.  Accessed on March 11, 2011 at: http://www.bentonnews.net/Archive/may/May05.htm
  5. Rootsweb Genealogical Database: Stanly County, NC Churches and Pastors. Accessed on March 11, 2011 at: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ncstanly/1890ChurchesAndPastors.htm
  6. Proceedings of the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention, 1877. Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (Creator).  Accessed on March 11, 2011at: http://www.archive.org/stream/proceedingsofann1877bapt/proceedingsofann1877bapt_djvu.txt
  7. Family Tree Maker: Descendants of John Battle.  Accessed on March 12, 2011 at: http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/b/a/t/Robert-A-Battle/GENE13-0013.html
Compiled by Reginald Carter, Historian, FBC Hillsborough
Last Updated: March 12, 2011