J.C. “Craf” McGaha (1832-1908) and his wife Harriet, were significant forces, and operated a free way-station in their nearby home for travelers and drovers (with their cattle, pigs, turkeys, etc) who could not afford hotel or inn overnight fees. The Turnpike was the major connection to Greenville, S.C. and their hospitality was known far and wide. Craf was county surveyor and a teacher; as a child Craf, who later served in the Confederate Army, had convinced his parents, Jesse and Candace McGaha, to free their slaves. The earliest membership roll shows not only Methodist but also other church members, underlining the ecumenical nature of the community.
Craf’s and Harriet’s son, Bunyan McGaha, who served three terms as Sheriff of Transylvania County and later as a Federal Revenue officer in the surrounding area, renowned for the illegal whiskey trade in the late 1800s and early 1900s, helped carry on the church for years. He started the first bus line between Brevard and Greenville, S.C. and used it for transporting members and preachers. An active businessman in Brevard, he established a newspaper in 1898, the Sylvan Valley News.
The pristine chapel remains essentially as it was in 1872. It has some of the original hand-pressed glass windows, weatherboard siding, front-gable roof and boxed eaves; the Chapel rests on stacks of field stones. The hand-made pews made of single boards demonstrate the very large trees sawn by the local builders. The simple pulpit and mourner’s bench, and probably the pews, were crafted by A.J. Loftis. It was an active congregation until about 1930 when available transportation allowed commuting to Brevard. Some modifications such as a chimney, have been removed, and the building has been restored to its original state (adding only a few safety items and some replacement wood). The First United Methodist Church of Brevard turned the Chapel over to the Transylvania County Historical Society in 2007.
For 140 years the McGaha Chapel has served as a symbol of bridging painful differences and healing through gathering, sharing and worship.
Open by appointment only. Call our office at 828-884-5137 and leave a message for appointments.
P.O. Box 2061, Brevard, NC 28712