Historically Black Tryon Parish Celebrates History with Three Plaques
Homecoming at Good Shepherd, Tryon, was celebrated on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, with a blessing of three plaques that tell the congregation's complex history.
Good Shepherd Chapel was built for freed slaves in the late 1800s on the Green River Plantation. The chapel was carried in pieces at the behest of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina to a hilltop in Tryon where people have worshipped ever since. A school of 200 children was a part of this mission, followed by a Homework Center for students after integration.
The first plaque is located along the southern edge of the parking lot and shares the history of the original chapel and mission school built of logs in 1888 by the Rev. Deacon Miller for the African-American Episcopal Community, to the departure of the school's first principal, the Rev. Scotland Harris, due to complaints among the white community. This plaque covers the years of 1888–1921.
The second plaque is located along the sidewalk of the church and shares the story of the era from 1922–1977, in which the Rev. Samuel Radway led worship and education until his death in 1935, and the efforts of the Diocesan Women's Auxiliary to support growth of the African-American Episcopal Congregation, led to Bishop Henry's decision to relocate the chapel, which continued to double as the school after the Tryon Industrial Colored School burned down in 1940. A portion of the plaque reads: "Rebuilt and reconsecrated, Good Shepherd became an important place of worship for the African-American community, continuing to double as a church and school, but each with a long-earned space of its own."
The third plaque brings the scope of the story into today, with the era from 1978–2023 telling of those who brought about diocesan programs to fund tuitions for Camp Henry and a series on race relations, to a literacy program for Polk County and scholarships for education. Outreach ministry flourished under the parish's first African-American priest, the Rev. Walter Bryan, who came in 2003, and continues to flourish today under the leadership of dedicated parishioners and priest-in-charge, Aloha Smith.
The plaques were made possible by the bequest of Mrs. Julia Booker Miller, parishioner, artist, and educator in the Good Shepherd congregation.
"We are honoring our founders and community who have been vigilant in providing education and spiritual support through very difficult and yet proud years," said the Rev. Dr. Aloha Smith, priest-in-charge.