People and Places with Pierce: The church moved by the hand of God

SWAN QUARTER, N.C. (WNCT) – It’s a story so incredible; you’ll have to hear it for yourself to believe.

“This is a great true story in Swan Quarter, North Carolina,” said life long Swan Quarter resident Dick Tunnell.

It’s a story that’s intrigued thousands around the world for over a century.

“Miracles happen,” stated Dick Tunnell.

“In 1874 the people of Swan Quarter wanted a church, a Methodist church,” said Sandra Tunnell, a member of the Providence United Methodist Church in Swan Quarter.

“They wanted this site that we’re standing on,” said Dick Tunnell, who is also a member of Providence United Methodist Church in Swan Quarter.

“This spot was it,” added Sandra Tunnell. “So they went to Sam Sadler, he owned the land, and he just really didn’t wish to sell the land at that time. So in 1874, they went ahead and built the church on a less desired spot about a quarter of a mile away.”

“They didn’t worship there for about a month and the storm came up on the Pamlico Sound in 1876 and picked up the building with the tide,” said Dick Tunnell. “The wind coming out of the southwest pushed this building that we’re looking at toward Main Street. It slowed down, took a right, and floated right up Main Street. It landed when the water went out. It was on this site, the number one site the Methodists preferred.”

“So the next morning, Sam Sadler went to the courthouse and said I’ll be glad to relinquish this spot to you,” added Sandra Tunnell. “You think well who’s gonna believe that? There are so many things that we believe because of our faith. You don’t have to see it.”

“It was a miracle and it happened,” said Dick Tunnell. “One lady witnessed it.”

“Lelia Brinn, was 10 years old when the church floated by her porch,” said Sandra Tunnell. “She stood and she watched it. She lived and told that story until the early 1950’s when she passed.”

The church, now in its rightful place, would finally get a fitting name.

“They named it Providence which means moved by the hand of God,” said Dick Tunnell.

In a twist of fate, another flood, Isabel in 2003, would prove to be the final straw for this congregation. Although this church moved by the hand of God isn’t actually used as a church anymore, its incredible story continues to inspire today.

“Water brought this church here and closed it down is the way I look at it,” said Dick Tunnell.

But even though its doors are now closed, it’s still a beacon of light for this community of faith.

11dt. “It’s still in our heart, Providence,” said said Dick Tunnell. “It’s where we got our beginning with our religious faith. Yep.”

Many believe a church is much more than just a building. It’s all about the people and the stories that live within.


Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.



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