Monument to James O'Kelly


Legacies Classification
Memorial Artwork
Memorial Type
Sculptural Memorial
Memorial Context
Memorialized Subject
Monument to James O'Kelly
Background and Context
Elon University’s originating body formed in 1793-1794 in response to the objections of some Methodist ministers in Virginia and North Carolina objected to the authority of an American bishop after the US gained its independence. One of the ministers, James O’Kelly (pre-1741-1826), also opposed the institution of slavery as unchristian, writing in 1789, “For us to affirm that slavery harmonizers with the Spirit and religion of Jesus Christ, is – blasphemy!” O’Kelly led the group of ministers to break away from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1792 in protest of its accommodation to slavery and embrace of ecclesiastical hierarchy. While he remained active in the Methodist church, O’Kelly ministered among enslaved Virginians, more than a thousand of whom followed him when he left the Methodist Church. The members of the breakaway group originally called themselves “Republican Methodists” but later chose the name “Christian” for its simplicity and inclusiveness. In 1926 the Southern Christian Convention voted to erect a memorial to O’Kelly on the campus of Elon College. It was unveiled in 1929 and stood in what was then considered the main entrance to the campus. The original monument had an urn in the center that was vandalized in the 1940s. The urn was replaced with the copper cross in 1966-1967.
Physical Description
"An Egyptian-style memorial…the material to be of the best Winnisboro granite, total height to be eleven feet, total weight 16,000 pounds….The cost…$1,275.00."
Memorial Inscription
(south-facing side) "Reverend James O'Kelly Apostle of Religious Liberty Founder of the Christian Church 1794" .(north-facing side) "He gave his life that religious freedom might be vindicated for the individual Christian. Erected by the Southern Christian Convention, 1929".
Date created, installed or dedicated
29 October 2016
Date Modified
Funded by
Southern Christian Convention
Location: Institution, City, State

Position: 676 (8 views)