The Metropolitan Tabernacle Mystery

On a recent morning I was sorting postcards to sell from my collection. I came upon a card that mystified me. Truth be told, many a postcard makes me wonder why I chose to buy that particular card.  Was it for the winsome portraits of children or the phrase “Metropolitan Tabernacle” that made me purchase this card?

Collection of the author

With little else to do I turned to my computer, typed in “Dixon Metropolitan Tabernacle 1911”. Within seconds I was gobsmacked to discover precisely who Dr. and Mrs. Dixon were. And more.

A citation from the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives informed me that one Amzi Clarence Dixon was born in Shelby, North Carolina in 1854. According to the source, he was converted by his father’s preaching and was baptized at the age of twelve.  He received an A.B. from Wake Forest College and ordained as a Baptist minister in 1874. He served as pastor in North Carolina churches until he continued his theological studies at Southern Baptist Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina (1876-79). And then . . . .

Asheville Weekly Citizen 1 29 1880.jpg
Asheville Weekly Citizen, January 29, 1880

Mr. Dixon (as the article referred to him) became the third minister of a church organized in a one-room cabin in February of 1829, now known as First Baptist Church. But not the First Baptist Church whose coppery-domed presence delightfully diverts my attention as I drive through what’s left of Beaucatcher Mountain on I-240.  And not the rather staid version of First Baptist Church from the 1890’s pictured below at the corner of Spruce and College Street.

First Baptist Church and Parsonage, circa 1890’s  North Carolina Collection, Pack Library

It was this version, known at the time as Asheville Baptist Church.

Asheville Baptist.jpg
Copy of a photograph from Genesis of the First Baptist Church of Asheville (copied from transcription by Dr. John W. Inzer, 1943), North Carolina Collection, Pack Library

Having arrived in town the  Reverend Mr. Dixon set about his duties as minister to the congregation. I’m just conjecturing here, but my bet is his female parishioners were all atwitter that their new pastor was unmarried. Alas, that was about to change within a few months.

Asheville weekly citizen 1880 15 July.jpg
Asheville Weekly Citizen, July 15, 1880

Two years pass (I’m glossing over other citations in the local news describing sermons and conference attendance) and the following notice appeared in the local news.

2 15 1882 Dixon to Richmond.jpg
Asheville Citizen, February 15, 1882

While on this trip Mr. Dixon accepted a position at Immanuel Baptist Church  and moved to Baltimore, Maryland.  In 1886 he received a Doctor of Divinity from Washington and Lee University (“conferred on him over his protest”). In 1890 he was called to  Brooklyn, New York and in 1906 attended the first Baptist World Congress held in London, England. From 1906 to 1911 he shepherded Chicago’s Moody Church. After that he lead the Metropolitan Tabernacle (Spurgeon’s) in London, England until 1919. Mystery solved!

When Dixon returned to the United States he ventured west to lecture at the Los Angeles Bible Institute and attended missionary conferences in both Japan and China. He later returned to Baltimore, Maryland where he died in June of 1925.

If you’re curious about the location of each of the churches mentioned I scanned a  map appended to the Dr. Inzer’s transcription of 1943.  The present-day First Baptist is #6; the 1883-1927 version is #5; and the 1860-1883 Asheville Baptist Church where Reverend Dixon preached is #4.

map church059.jpg


Post By Terry Taylor, A.H.S (self-conferred) and Friends of the North Carolina Room board member


  1. Thanks for this well-done and interesting post. Rev. Dixon’s brother, Thomas Dixon, was the author of The Clansman, the novel upon which D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was based. Both Rev. Dixon and his father joined the KKK after the Civil War, although they “ceased to be members” after seeing the violence the Klan perpetrated. See Charles W. Deweese, The Power of Freedom (Providence House, 1997), pp. 72-78. for a full treatment of Dixon’s life and ministry.

  2. Some good detective work. It’s always fun to run down these rabbit holes. So, the postcard was British? What is on the reverse? What made you think there was an Asheville association? Thanks.

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