Watercolor Church Histories – Baxter Presbyterian
Green Bank, WV – Green Bank artist Dorothy Sutton has created watercolor paintings of four northern Pocahontas County churches, to be auctioned off on December 16th at the Green Bank Artisans Co-op open house. During a recent reception for the paintings, volunteers shared some the history of those churches. We’ve already heard from David Rittenhouse about the Boyer Community church. In this second of four stories we’ll hear about Baxter Presbyterian from Kestra Pritchard. She says the pre-Civil War era church was built for very pragmatic reasons.
“Baxter church was constructed for the worship of a number of members at Liberty Presbyterian church who found the distance from Dunmore to Green Bank impractical and inconvenient,” she says. “In the summer of 1858, these Dunmore Presbyterians raised a house of worship in their own community. The structure they built stands today in a near perfect state of preservation.”
“It is believed that Baxter was named after the man in charge of building the church. That information came from Phyllis. Phyllis isn’t here to verify it, so I’ll take her word for it.”
Pritchard says the architecture of the church, not surprisingly, is Virginia Colonial and still has the original slave gallery as well as the original partitions that separated men and women during worship, though they’re no longer used in that fashion.
“The chancel and the sanctuary have been changed very little,” says Pritchard. “The basement was constructed by a horse and sled moving the dirt out from underneath the church. The church was jacked up and steps added that were made of concrete, but have since been replaced with wood.”
There is a long tradition of holding fundraisers, organized by the women of the church. Pritchard says one of these fundraisers was Harvest Day, held to help pay for the construction of the basement. She says this year, the 76th annual Harvest Day celebration and auction brought in over $9000.00, money that helps keep the doors open for another year.
“We presently have 10 members on the active role, but we have several summer friends attending during the spring and summer season,” she says. “Recently the roof was replaced from shingles to tin and the shutters replaced. The birds had made a hotel out of the bell tower, so steps were taken to eliminate that in the future. A cross was fabricated and covered in stainless steel. I live across the road and when the sun is shining and I walk out on my porch, the cross shining brightly renews my faith in God.”
Baxter Presbyterian officially came into being on August 21st, 1859, under the leadership of Reverend John C. Barr. 16 members of Liberty Presbyterian were transferred to the new church at Dunmore. Robert McCutcheon resigned as Clerk of Session at Liberty to become the first Clerk at Baxter. The church also has a colorful Civil War history.
“During the years of the war between the states, Baxter church was used several times as a shelter by troops of the Union army,” says Pritchard. “The structure was somewhat despoiled by these troops. It was also used as a hospital following several battles in the nearby area. The floor was sanded to try and remove some of the bloodstains embedded there. The repairs that had to be made included a new floor, roof, painting and refurbishing. The repairs were started in 1865 and not completed until 1900.”
Pritchard says they celebrated the 150th anniversary of the church in 2008, and are looking forward to the bicentennial celebration.
“Baxter is yoked with Liberty and Alexander [churches],” she says. “The three churches form the Upper Pocahontas County Parish, and our minister Bill Cox, preaches services at all three churches every Sunday. In closing I pray, Lord our God, be with us as you were with our fathers in the past. May you bless our mission in this community and the continuation of worship and fellowship at Baxter Presbyterian church.”
Tune in for noon hour on Thursday, December 1st, for our third segment about Liberty Presbyterian.