The third day of the project was me and my aunt Audrey on Sunday, January 22. We decided to stay within the Jenkin Jones, Anawalt, Conklintown, and Leckie area. We started with Jenkin Jones first and rode up to the old company store. We looked around in both of the Pocahontas Fuel buildings and the craftsmanship of both buildings is amazing. They don’t build anything like that anymore. In a way, I wish there was time travel. I would love to see things in McDowell County as they once were when coal was king.
The first church we stopped at was Morning Star Baptist Church. There is a road that leads behind the church, but there is a large ditch in the road and Audrey was afraid I would mess up the Tahoe going around the road. We got out and decided to walk up the steps — the many, wooden steps. Audrey went first and I very cautiously followed. The good thing is, if one of the steps were to break, the ground was about a foot underneath, so injury would be minimal….hopefully.
Once at the top, we could see that this was a fairly large church. Those stained glass windows in the front are very tall. I was really excited in hoping that we would get to see inside. Audrey tried the door, but it was locked. We thought that maybe someone uses it for storage, as it doesn’t look as if church services are held there anymore. The paint is chipping on the walls and the road and stairs aren’t maintained. I took several pictures, and tried to get a good shot of the bell that is still in the belfry. I love those old bells. Audrey looked to see if there might be another door opened, but the back door was locked, also.
We cautiously descended the stairs and I took a picture of the sign that is by the road. The only word on that sign that is complete is “Church”. Like the word on the sign, that church building is still there. The Church, however, …..it is gone. Again, such sadness and the same wandering thought: “Where did they go?”
We went down the road, not even a quarter of a mile, to the next church which is Clinton Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church. This little church looks well kept and the door was locked, but we were unsure if services are still held there. I took a couple of photos and we left. I think we now have a contact that may be able to let us in to take some inside shots and give us some information about the church. Is this light still burning for the Lord?
Down the road, “just a fer piece”, is a church that is now being ran by another church from North Carolina. It is now called “The King’s Closet”. They bring in clothes and food and hand them out to whoever needs or wants them. I was told that after the pastor of this church died, the parishioners would attend church and listen to the pastor’s tapes that he had left behind. They worshiped this way for years. I’m unsure of why they decided to close the doors, but they did. The church had the name of the pastor: “Wylie Davis Baptist Church”. This is a picture of the way it looked that Sunday we were there.
The next church we stopped at was the little Methodist church on the school road in Anawalt. This little church doesn’t have services anymore, but is used as storage. It does have a sign on the front that says, “Hope Chest”. Where did their hope go that the doors had to close?
Jenkin Jones, Anawalt, and Leckie used to be full of people and things to do because of coal. That’s why all these churches are here in the county — coal. People came from everywhere to mine coal and established these churches for worship. Those people got coal in their veins. While the heart of the county was beating like a drum with every piece of coal that left the mines, the soul of the county was somewhat Spirit filled. Everyone knows the history of Keystone. Although, there were and are churches there, too. “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:5.
McDowell County’s coal filled blood is still flowing. It is barely being pumped by the heart that is trying to be mined, despite objections and stipulations. In order for us to keep going, we have to mine that coal because we can’t survive without it. But what is a body without a soul? “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Luke 4:4 As man can not live by bread alone, we can’t live by coal alone. We need the Spirit here with us, to feed us from heaven, just like in the old days when coal was king.
McDowell County needs to look to the One who gave us coal in these mountains that we love. He is the only One that has the answers we need.
*Update: Wylie Davis Baptist Church was also known as Jenkinjones Southern Baptist Church.
*Note: I did not photograph the churches in these areas that are still operating. I will come back to those this summer.
© Post & photos: D. Renee Bolden