Watercolor Church Histories – Liberty 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. In parts one and two of this series of four stories, we heard from David Rittenhouse about the Boyer Community church and from Kestra Pritchard about Baxter Presbyterian.
In the third of our four stories we’ll hear about Liberty Presbyterian from Becky O’Brien. She says the congregation of what would become Liberty Presbyterian actually started in another church just up the road.
“The people who built that church actually started out worshipping at a church that was located where the Arbovale Cemetery is now; it was called the Deer Creek Union church,” says O’Brien. “By 1850, the congregation had grown and the Deer Creek Union church was no longer large enough to accommodate the worshippers.”
She says the much of the land in that area of the county was owned by the Arbogast family.
“Jane Arbogast donated the land as one acre and 30 poles of land,” she says. “All the sources say that Patrick Bruffey was the man who sawed the white pine boards at his up and down sawmill and that he also helped lay the foundation. A man named David Kerr was secured to construct and erect the building with the help of members of the congregation.”
O’Brien says at that time there were no planing mills, so all the lumber had to be dressed with hand planes. An interesting architectural detail of the church is a continuous 8 x 24inch wooden beam at the back of the sanctuary. She says it spans the entire width of the church and serves to support what was the slave gallery.
O’Brien also talks about the mysterious grave enclosed within a wrought iron fence just to the left of the church building and who lies in it.
“He was Reverend Edgar Floyd Alexander and he’d come to Pocahontas County in 1891 when he was still a student at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond [Virginia],” she says. “Following his graduation in 1892, he was ordained as a regular minister and began serving her in the first pastorate for him, which included Liberty, Baxter and Frost. But he became ill and died here. His home was in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, a distant place in those days, too far to transport his body for burial.”
O’Brien says the Huntersville Masonic lodge erected the headstone on the grave. In 1931, the Presbyterian Church in Stony Bottom was named Alexander Memorial in memory of the minister.
The story also goes that gypsies and cowboys from a nearby ranch would camp out on the grounds of Liberty. The cowboys were said to hold a yearly barbeque and horse riding exhibition. The final story in this series will feature Arbovale United Methodist Church.