Several weeks ago I wrote about the Baraca & Philathea convention in Asheville in 1909. Many churches opened their doors to the conventioneers for various meetings. I recognized most of the church names, but was puzzled by one in particular: Ora Street Presbyterian. Do you know where Ora Street is located? I didn’t until I started looking for it.
One morning on eBay, I found a real photo postcard (RPPC) marked Higgason that piqued my curiosity. Luther Higgason was a photographer active in Asheville from 1907-1934. To my astonishment the description of the postcard read “RPPC Asheville, North Carolina: REV GRAN (sic) ORA ST. PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH 1910 PASTOR”. Did I immediately place a bid on the card? You bet I did!
The Reverend Edwin Lysander Grau (not Gran) was born in 1864 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Grau first appeared in the city directory of 1909 when he boarded at 96 Bartlett Street. He likely arrived in Asheville sometime in 1908. At that time he preached at Depot Presbyterian Church located at 94 Ora Street. Reverend Grau was engaged in October of 1908 to the former Mary Frances Trompeter , born in Louisville, KY in 1890. According to The Courier-Journal of Louisville, KY, they were to be married “during the holidays”.
From information found on the Buncombe County Register of Deeds website, Reverend Grau purchased a lot on Ora Street in October of 1908. Ora Street runs from Bartlett to Ralph Street, roughly parallel to South French Broad. Reverend Grau and his new bride probably built the house on the lot, which became #37. It’s still occupied today.
Reverend Grau’s mother came to visit the newlyweds for an extended visit in August of 1909 according to the personals column in The Asheville Citizen.
The Grau’s daughter—Mary Frances—was born on May 11, 1910. As you can see on the back of the postcard the photograph was taken sometime in June of that year. J.H. Gudger was an elder of the church. Mr. Gudger and his wife, Sue, lived at 30 Ora Street. He was a freight conductor for the Southern Railway. In 1922 they built an eight-room home at 345 South French Broad.
The Grau family sold their home in 1911 and moved to Trenton, Tennessee. Ora Street Presbyterian had other ministers until 1936. In 1936 it became the First Church of the Nazerene; in 1950, Ora Community Chapel Church of God; and finally, Ora Street Church of God in 1955. For 50 years it was Ora Street Church of God until it was sold to a holding company in 2014. Through the years the church building was variously listed as either #94 or #96. Here’s a photo of Ora Street Church of God taken in the 1980’s.
Here is the renovated building, now a family home. The double door is painted a welcoming red.
Post by Terry Taylor, Friends of the North Carolina Room Board Member