Category Archives: Abandoned building

Mt. Zion AME Church

On Saturday, February 16, Buddy and I were traveling to Kimball on route 52.  As always, we were both searching for a church that we had not visited.  As we crossed the bridge at Eckman, I said, “Hey, that looks like a church over there.  I’ve never noticed it before.”  Buddy insisted that he had told me it was there.  If he had, I didn’t remember.

After our visit to Kimball, we traveled to Vivian.  While at Vivian, I took some shots of the old Vivian Grade School.  We had been down there last summer with Elaine McMillion, who was filming for “Hollow”.  Everything was so grown up at that time, however, that we could not see the school very well.  Buddy and I found a side entrance that was easy to get to, but we did not go in.  Not because he didn’t want to, but because I am a chicken when it comes to old buildings.  I know they have been standing there for years, but today might be the day they fall.

After taking a few shots of the grade school, I took a few more shots of the Peerless Coal & Coke Company Store.  My Granddad, Eltrue Gordon, had worked for them at some time.  That fact alone makes that old, burnt, falling down building a part of my family history.

We then drove to Eckman.  As we always do, we “discussed” how to get to the church.  I always say, “Let’s go this way”.  Buddy always says, “Let’s go that way.”  Of course, since I am driving, I always choose my way first.  (I don’t like it when I have to turn around and go the way he said, but it does happen more often than I like to admit.)  On this day……I was right.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV Window

We pulled up to the church and the first thing we noticed was all the trash beside of it.  Looking at the church, we noticed how bad a shape it really is.  The roof on the left side is partially gone.  From viewing it on the outside, we were unsure if we would be able to go in.  I walked up to the window and said, “At least I can peak in and get some shots.”  As he always does, while I am repeating words of warning, Buddy ignored me and walked in the wide open door.

He came back out and said, “It’s ok, you can come in.”  I said, “Are you sure?”  He always gets aggravated at this time.  The time when my OCD kicks in and I require complete reassurance….once, twice and sometimes three times.  He calmly says, “Yeah, I’m sure.  Come on.”  I slowly and cautiously walked into a vestibule.  The first thing I did was look up for a bell.  I could see nothing but a wooden ceiling.  At least I would hear the bell before it crashed onto my head.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME Church, Eckman, WV, Vestibule

I walked into the church  more cautiously than I did the vestibule.  The whole time, I was gripping my camera in front of me.  This way, if a human or animal lunges at me, I have a defense.  The defense of shooting them first. Essentially, taking their picture BEFORE they harm me.  Laugh if you must….go ahead.  I know that you are.  I can hear your laughter before you read this.  However, this is truly how I enter these falling down churches or buildings.

The first thing I noticed in the floor was a piece of gold Christmas garland.  You know the kind.  The kind that we have all used in Christmas plays when we dress the kids up as angels.  My first thought was this:  “Was their last service a Christmas service?”  I started looking at the roof and the ceiling.  I noticed a ceiling fan whose blades are completely drooped down, as if it is in complete despair.  There are a few wooden pews over to the right.  Two of them are upright while one has a leg missing and the other is laying on it’s back.  To the left is another pew against the wall and an old cabinet that has hymnals and papers strewn all over the floor in front of it.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV, Sanctuary

Buddy was up to the front looking around.  There is a book laying on the altar that was a hymnal.  There is another book that is laying on the banister.  It has been purposefully laid there as if someone is coming back to take it home.   When he saw that book, Buddy said what he always says when he finds something unbelievable.  “You’re not going to believe this.”  “What is it?”, I said.   “You got to get a picture of it.  It’s a Bible with ice on the cover.”  He opened the cover to search out a name.  There is none.  Completely soaked through with ice on the cover, it is completely ruined.  It’s laying under a part of the roof that is halfway gone.  I took a few pictures.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV, Bible

Buddy started toward the back of the church and I followed.  There is some more garland laying on a step that leads to the back.  There is a wall that partitions the front of the church to make a little hallway to the side.  Towards the back, we could see a restroom that had a shower.  To the left before the restroom is another room.  This room has a piano.

The piano, like the Bible, sits in that room like it is waiting on someone to return to get it.  It is turned towards the door, as if it could watch for someone to come pick it up to take it home.  The light from the window behind shone on the top and back of it.  I took a few pictures of it, and went back to the sanctuary.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV, Piano

I took a few more shots of the Bible laying on the banister with debris all around, the pews that were left, and the falling in roof.  While alone in the room, I cried and said aloud, “Why, Lord?  I just don’t understand.”

I keep telling myself that population decline is one reason our churches are empty, am I lying to myself?  There are 22,000 people in McDowell County, enough to fill the open AND the closed churches.

As were leaving through the front door, we noticed it was starting to snow.  After taking a few shots outside, I went back in to attempt a few shots of the snow falling.  I said, “Can you make them a little bigger, Lord?”  And wouldn’t you know it, they got a little bigger.  I couldn’t hold my camera well enough, though, to take a good shot.  Before we left, I asked Buddy if we should take the Bible with us.  It didn’t seem right to leave it there, but then, it didn’t seem right to take it, either.  It is still there.

“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”  Exodus 25:8 KJV

I wish I could show you the snow falling through that church roof.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV


Review of 2012 Churches

“This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine”…….

On January 7, 2012, Buddy and I started this adventure of visiting the churches in McDowell County, West Virginia. Unfortunately, we did not get to visit as many as we would have liked. We still have many more to go.

This is what I have seen….in reality and in my mind’s eye.

All of the houses that we passed to go to one of the churches are standing. The houses are occupied, lights are on everywhere and the community is filled with life up and down the streets and rows! We are prosperous.

First Missionary Baptist ChurchKimball, WV

First Missionary Baptist Church
Kimball, WV

McDowell County is supplying the nation with coal, as we ARE the nation’s coal bin! Welch has one of the first parking garages in the nation built, downtown is full of banks, shops, and theaters. The lights from downtown light up the night sky! It is Little New York, the Free State of McDowell!

It is Sunday and in all the churches, I see people sitting in the pews and standing all around as there are no seats to be had. The children sing, “This Little Light of Mine”, the Gospel is preached, then the pianist plays “Amazing Grace” as the congregation sings. I can see them even now, as their light shines bright into the community.

Time flies as the hands on the clock circle unimaginably fast.

There are some empty houses now in the community, and not as many lights shining on the streets and rows. Many people have moved to find work elsewhere, due to the fact that there are no jobs to be had or because of the raging waters that claimed their home. Coal is still being mined, but the people are not benefiting from it as they once were. A few shops in town have closed and the theaters. Lights are still shining downtown, though!

© Renee Bolden

Long Point Missionary Baptist Church, Spencer Curve, WV

It is Sunday and my view is heartbreaking to say the least. I see a few empty seats, here and there. The hands on the clock continue to move. Then I see a few more empty seats. The hands are never failing on that old clock. It keeps ticking.

In half the churches, I see a few children still singing “This Little Light of Mine”, the Gospel is still being preached, and the pianist still sits at the piano playing “Amazing Grace” as the small congregation sings. I see them leaving now to come back next meeting time to this church house. It’s light continues to shine in the community.

In the other half of the churches, I see a handful of parishioners gathered with the pastor. I hear “Amazing Grace” being sung, but with no music as there is no pianist. I hear them talking. I’m not sure of the words that are being said, although I can tell they are words that these few never wanted to speak. I can feel the ominous meaning of them. I see them leaving now, not to return next meeting time to this church house. It’s light goes out in the community.

That old clock keeps ticking, just the same.

Many of the houses in the community have fallen in. No one has lived in them for years. Just as a body that has no life, the earth claims them with gravity, decay, and flood. There are a few standing. Some are occupied. There are a few lights on the streets and rows. Coal is being mined. There are not many people left to mine coal as machines now do what men used to. Mining is now all evaluations and regulations. Only a dress shop and a consignment shop now remain downtown. There are a few professional offices. The lights still shine at night….though somewhat dimmer.

© Renee Bolden

St. John Baptist Church, Pageton, WV

It is Sunday, and some of those churches that had to close their doors are as the houses in the community. Gravity has pulled in the walls and ceilings. Their steeples have crashed into the pews and beautiful wooden floors beneath. Pianos are underneath the collapsed walls, ceilings, and steeples.  Those ivory keys will never again play “Amazing Grace.”

Down the road, just a little ways, though, I can faintly hear sweet little voices in harmony: “Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” A pause as I hear the clanking of a coal train in the distance. Then much louder I hear someone starting to play old ivory keys to the tune of a beautiful song, and on cue, voices singing in unison: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound”…….

Tick, Tock, Tick.

I have always considered myself an optimist; however, before I reviewed the churches we had visited, I was convinced there were more closed churches than open. I was surprised to learn that they are even. We visited 35 churches. Of those churches, 16 are open, 16 are closed, 2 are used for missions, and 1 moved to another building. Those churches that continue to operate are still letting their light shine!

By doing this project, we have met and talked to so many wonderful people. For those of you I have I have met and talked to, thank you for your help, stories and encouraging conversations! For those I have yet to meet, I can’t wait to visit your church! Remember to keep your light shining as we still have amazing grace!

Thanks to all who have read the blogs and newspaper articles, encouraged us to keep going, and those who went with us on the journeys!

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

Big Four Methodist Church Update

On January 8, 2012, my mom (Caroline Mitchem), my aunt (Audrey Goins), and my daughter (Emily Bolden) visited the Big Four Methodist Church.  We were unable to go inside as the floor was starting to separate away from the door.  We peeked in as best we could, as there was a piano behind the door.  I took a few pictures as we visited, and was heartbroken at the condition this little church was in.

Big Four Methodist Church: January 8, 2012

As I had stated in a previous blog and article, this little church was special to me.  My Granny (Laura Gordon) attended that little church, with my mom, aunts & uncles in tow.  It is located just across the road from where they lived on Big Four hill.  My aunt Audrey remembers going to this little church as a child.

Passing by this fall, I discovered that the roof had collapsed.  It broke my heart once again.  Many people have told me they considered that little church to be a beautiful, country church.  My hope was that it could be resurrected to be a tourist attraction as a little coal camp church.  A place to show people that pass through what we used to have here and how things once were in McDowell.  We have such a rich history that is slowly crumbling away.

Big Four Methodist Church: November 28, 2012

This little church now stands as a shadow of what it was once.  The steeple that once pointed proudly to the heavens, has now crumbled into the body of the sanctuary.  The reason I call the sanctuary a body is because that is what it once held — the members of the church, which was it’s body.  The church’s Soul, however, is in Heaven, as it always was.  The Spirit of it remains here on earth, just not in those four walls.  That is my comfort.

I wish I had the money to reconstruct this little church, as the little coal camp church as it once was.  It would then erase this memory that it is now.  What a difference the ticking of the clock makes — whether it be to the good or to the bad.

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church

Our next church hunting adventure was a rainy Sunday afternoon on May, 2012. We had decided to go over to the Maybeury and Switchback area. We rode across Elkhorn Mountain and then south on 52. I like to ride around first and see what churches are opened or closed. I knew there were no churches past Maybeury and I drove towards Me and Mr. Jones Estate.

Me and Mr. Jones Estate is an old mansion that was renovated into a bed and breakfast. (More information about it can be found here: Hatfield and McCoy trail riders are welcome there as a trail head is not far from that location.

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV

We rode around that mountain until we were in Switchback bottom. There is a white church over there that sits on the side of the mountain. The railroad tracks and Elkhorn River are to the left when facing it. There are a couple of old trailers that we passed before we got to the church and I had a bad feeling about them — not sure why. Maybe it was just the atmosphere that day with the rain and overcast sky.

As always, I was nervous when we started towards the church. This church sits quite a distance from any houses or major road and I wasn’t sure what we would find. Since it was May, the weeds had overtook the stairs that led up to the church. As I have stated before, I am completely terrified of bats, rats, and snakes. Buddy was the first to start climbing the stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs are two coal houses. They are quite a distance from the church. I’m not sure if they were used for coal for the church or maybe a house that used to be nearby. The stairs were so overgrown that there was one place where we both had to duck to avoid the weeds. We also had to watch our footing on the stairs (anyone that knows me knows that I am not graceful when it comes to walking, at times!).

We made it to the top of the stairs, and looked at the church to determine if it was safe enough to go in. One of the first things we look at is the steeple. If the steeple looks like it is still straight, then we know that the church’s foundation is still sound. This one looked ok, even though it looked like there had been a cross at the very top of it at some time.

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV, Window

We stepped onto the covered porch as it started to rain and noticed a sign on the door. The sign read: “This church has an appointed trustee board that was effective June 2005. For more info call (304) xxx-xxxx.” Buddy checked the door, and again to our surprise, it was unlocked. Again, he walked in first. The first thing I do when I walk into an abandoned church is look up. Those churches have some old bells in those steeples and I like to make sure they are not going to fall on my head! Buddy stepped through the vestibule and into the sanctuary. As I looked in, I was shocked and then terrified! The entire sanctuary was glowing. It was glowing RED. I said, “Why is it red??!!” Buddy looked in and said, “The windows are red stained glass.” I immediately calmed a little and felt somewhat childish! I said, “Oh, OK”.

Like he always does, Buddy started going to the back of the church. Of course, I voiced my warning to him, like I always do, of which he pays absolutely no attention. I started taking photos from the back of the church as I had no intentioned on venturing any further. As Buddy was busy looking around in the back room of the church, and as I was taking photographs, I had the strangest feeling of something walking up behind me. I immediately turned around to see who was standing there. There was no one; however, there was a feeling of evil. I started singing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know”! I yelled to Buddy to hurry up as we needed to get out of there.

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV, Sanctuary

Buddy had found some things and asked if we should take them. I told him yes and I would find someone who would appreciate having them. Our impression of the church was that it wouldn’t be there much longer. I had taken pictures of the sanctuary and a closet to the right in the vestibule. As we were leaving, I tried to get a picture of the basement stairway that was to the left. My camera failed to focus on anything there. There was adequate light, but still no focusing. Buddy told me to hurry up and let’s get out of there.

We left and carefully walked down the weedy stairway. I turned around a couple of times to take a couple of more shots. I was unaware of what kind of church this was. At that point, I really wasn’t concerned. Once we were back to the safety of the Tahoe, Buddy showed me what he had picked up. There was some letterhead that said, “Switchback Memorial Baptist Church”.

We hurriedly got in the Tahoe to leave and search for more churches. We drove to Barlow Holler and I realized that I had to go back. Buddy said, “Go back for what?” I had forgotten to video.

We returned to the church, but I did not have the same feeling of an evil presence being there the second time. I told Buddy that I knew when I said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” that whatever was there was gone. When I called on His name that day, He came to us, in that church, and the devil had to flee. We live in a world filled with spiritual warfare, and I know there were angels all around us.

Psalms 91:10-13

10. There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

When we got back to Mom’s house, I called the number that was on the door; however, I had to leave a message. Someone called Mom back and told me to call Tuesday.

On Tuesday, I again called the number on the door and spoke to a lady who had been raised in the Switchback church. She told me that the church had been closed and an attempt had been made to open it again. Before I told her my experience, she had went to the church alone one day and had the feeling of an evil presence. On that day, she had walked to that back room where Buddy had went and the door was closed. She had to push it hard to get it to open. When she started to walk in, there was a copperhead coiled in the corner ready to strike. She slammed the door and rebuked the devil. She later learned that the church had a history of being filled with snakes. At one time, there was one hanging from the ceiling before a church service. During our conversation, I also learned that there had been activities in the basement of the church that are against the will of God. That piece of information was confirmed by niece.

This lady also had me look this verse up with her:

“And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12 KJV. She said, “This is what you are doing.”

Weeks before we visited this church, my sister had told me to be very careful. She had a dream where Buddy and I was in an old Baptist church and he had told me to hurry up and get out of there as there was an evil presence in the basement. She told me the church had a lot of rock around it, but she didn’t know where it was.

I called her when we got to Mom’s and told her to come look at my pictures. Before I told her where we were, I asked her if the church looked familiar to her. She said, “That’s it! That’s the church I dreamt about!”

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV

***August 28, 2012 — I failed to add this which I should have.  It was evident that this church had done a great work for the Lord.  Inside, was a plaque awarded to the church for their donations in the 1980’s for “Toys for Tots”.  That, in itself, is a great work.

Also, people no longer respect the Lord or these houses of worship.  It is a sad situation and a clear reminder of the times that we live in.  The activities that I mentioned that occurred in the basement of this church were NOT by members.  This had happened long after the church had closed.

© Photos — Renee Bolden

Churches and Emptiness Slideshow 1

“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness:”

Psalms 96:9. KJV


The hymn you will hear playing at the beginning and the end of the video is “When We See Christ”. It is being played by my school teacher and friend, Rhonda Farley, when we visited Whittico Memorial Presbyterian Church in Keystone on March 3, 2012. Thank you, Mrs. Farley, for encouraging and supporting me since the beginning of this project and for being a part of it.







Churches and Emptiness Part 7

To conclude from last week:


Whittico Register

While riding through Keystone, we saw a church across the tracks. From the way it looks outside, we thought that it was probably still in operation. As we got out to look at it, a man was walking across the tracks. There was a very large chain in his hand and a very large pit bull at the end of it. Introductions were made, but I did not catch his first name. I do know that his last name is Young. I told him about the project and asked him if he knew who I could contact to get inside to take some pictures. To my surprise, he pointed to himself! He said that he would go get the key and be right back.

When Mr. Young returned, he opened the door and allowed us to go inside. As we went in, I asked Mr. Young if the church was still operating. He said that it had been closed for a few years now, as there were only five members.

There were several items that were covered with sheets and he removed those so I could take some pictures. The first thing that I look for when I enter these closed sanctuaries is the register board. I want to know how many were in attendance during that last service. This is the first closed church that I have been in that the register board is still hanging on the wall. That was the first picture I took. Then I read it. I read that there were only five souls that attended the last service held in this church. Five — the number of grace.

Farley Piano

We all started looking around the sanctuary. Buddy started looking at all the furniture, Mr. Farley found some newspapers articles lying on the front bench, I was snapping pictures, and Mrs. Farley went straight to the old piano. She attempted to play a hymn, but the piano is very out of key.

There was another piano on the opposite wall, so she went to that one. This one sounded far better than the first. She chose the hymn, “When We See Christ”. She sat down and started to play. Everything got really quiet as we listened to the music. There was not even a train to go down the tracks. I have heard this lady play the piano many, many times. That day, though… it was different. As I videoed her playing, my thought was that this was probably the last time that piano would be played in reverance in that old Presbyterian church. I am so glad that she played it one more time.

After she finished the hymn, we began to look at the articles Mr. Farley had found. Those were a treasure! They were specifically about the church. The title of the paper was The Observer. I asked Mr. Young if that had been an insert in the Welch Daily News. He said that he thought it had came from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, but he wasn’t sure. I would love to have a copy of it.

Whittico Presbyterian

There was a little table set up in between the pews on the right side of the church. There were a few books with pictures and biographies of people who had attended the church. There were also some old bulletins. I asked Mr. Young if it was alright if I took one and he said it was. There was another one that had a man’s picture on the back of it and he said I could have it, too. That man, was Mr. Matthew Thomas Whittico. I’m not sure if Mr. Whittico had built this church, but it does have his name on it — Whittico Memorial Presbyterian Church. Mr. Whittico had purchased a newspaper after he had moved to Keystone. The name of that paper was the McDowell Times. I would love to see one of those newspapers. Mr. Whittico is the man who thought of McDowell County’s slogan: “The Free State of McDowell”! Besides being rich in coal, McDowell County is rich in history. The town of Keystone being one of the richest of all.

After we left Keystone, we traveled up Northfork Holler. There are a few churches up that way. Many are still operating and some I’m not sure about. We did find one that we knew wasn’t operating as the door was wide open. It is located in Ashland. The name of it was Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church. We were a little hesistant about going in as we looked at the condition of the vestibule. Of course, I reminded Mrs. Farley to let Buddy and Mr. Farley enter first!

Mt. Carmel Inside

As we went in, we noticed that there wasn’t much to see. This church had been robbed by copper thieves. The ceiling was torn down and insulation was thrown everywhere. I stood at the door and took pictures as I was untrusting of the floor. No register board in this forgotten church. The church covenant, however, is still on the wall.

Buddy walked in and went into a back room. He found some old church certificates and a document that listed the conduct required of a deacon. He told me what he had found and asked if I wanted them. There was no point in leaving them there in the building. I brought them home and preserved them. Certain things (church documents, church buildings, and the church itself) should be preserved.

Mt. Carmel Outside

“Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God; arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary of the Lord God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and the holy vessels of God, into the house that is to be built to the name of the Lord.” 1 Chronicles 22:19 (KJV)

Something is horribly wrong. We are not doing as we were commanded. We are not building sanctuaries to the Lord. We are letting them die. A building, whether it be a church or home, is much like the body of a person. When the body (building or home) quits being nourished by the flow of blood (parishioners or dwellers), the heart (the will) stops beating. The Soul (Christ, life) then departs. And then…. decay.


I am thankful for that day spent with Mr. and Mrs. Farley (I can not bring myself to call them Cotty & Rhonda — it just doesn’t seem right. Plus, old habits die hard). Even though I didn’t feed them the whole day and I’m sure they were starving (so sorry I didn’t feed y’all!), I hope they will go with us again sometime soon. I have promised to feed them next time!


Copyright posts & photos: Renee Bolden


Churches and Emptiness Part 6

The sixth day of our adventure was on Saturday, March 3. This day was going to be a little different than the others. My childhood teacher, Rhonda Farley and her husband, Cotty, were meeting us to go “church hunting”. Mr. Farley is a little familiar with the county, but Mrs. Farley had only been there a couple of times. I wasn’t exactly sure where to go that day, but I thought we wouldn’t go too far as they had already traveled a ways to get there.

We started out at Carswell Holler. We saw a few churches that were still operating, but decided to go to the one at the beginning of the holler named, Carswell Holiness Church. As I pulled up to it, I got a little nervous as the road is very narrow. We had experienced bad thunderstorms the night before, so there was a stream of water running down the road, also. There was no where to park, so I had to leave the Tahoe in the road. As we got out, we had to step in water.

Carswell Holiness Church

Buddy checked the door and it was locked. I was disappointed as I could tell from the outside that this was an older church and would be a good one to see inside. We asked a man who lived next door if he knew who we could contact to let us inside. He told us the man’s name and informed us that he was currently fixing it up. I took a few shots outside, and we all looked around to see if there was a window we could peek in. We saw one that looked like a small Sunday School room, but we could not see the sanctuary.

Buddy backed the Tahoe down the small hill as I was a little nervous about going in reverse on that narrow road. We headed south on 52 towards Langraff.

The next church we stopped at was Masks Chapel Church of God. The first thing we saw were beer bottles right beside the back door. What a horrible disgrace to a house of the Lord. Whether a church is operating or not, people should have respect for what is or what it once was.

Buddy checked the doors and they were also locked. Due to the evidence outside, I was somewhat relieved that they were locked. Maybe the people who had been drinking didn’t have access inside, after all. Buddy found the cornerstone and I took a few pictures. There wasn’t a whole lot that we could see as this church sits very high.

Masks Chapel

We went down the road a tad bit and came to another church named “Wingfield Baptist”. I parked beside the road and we walked across. There are stairs from the church that lead down to the highway. We started the long climb upward. In some places, there were some difficulties as the stairs had some weeds and debris in the way. Once we reached the top of the stairs, there was a small “tub” to our left. I thought maybe it was a cistern. Facing us was a door that led into the basement of the church. The sign above it says, “Palmers Pioneer Center”.

Wingfield Baptist

There were a few more stairs to climb, however, to reach the front doors. When we walked around the left side of the church, there was a small alleyway and doors that led into the sanctuary. The first thing I noticed was that they were filled with buckshot. One door had been shot from the outside and the other from the inside. Again, I was amazed at the lack of respect. Someone had put a board on the doors to keep them closed and prevented us from entering. As we started down the stairs to leave, we noticed that a window was out. We were able to peek into the sanctuary, through a small room where the window is located. Inside the sanctuary, I saw a sign that was above the pulpit. It read, “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism”. I wanted a picture but there was no way to get one through the window. As always, my mind wondered what had happened that these doors were closed and even more so why they had been shot. Was the latter part just an act of vandalism?

This church is very large. There is a beautiful window in the back of it. The sad part is that it won’t be there long. There is part of it that is ready to crash to the ground. Mr. Farley pointed out the architecture and design of it. When these churches were built, they were built beautifully. Not only were they built to be a house of the Lord, but also a monument.

Buddy found the cornerstone before we left and we were able to find out the name of the church and the building date. Buddy always looks for a cornerstone. If there is one to be found, he finds it. Genesis 28:22, “And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”. KJV

As we left, Mr. Farley said that he thought the “tub” at the stairs was actually a small baptistry as there were small steps that led down into it. After talking to my aunt Audrey, she said that she thought it was a baptistry, also, as she could remember that a church in Langraff did have a baptistry outside.

From there, we went to Eckman. There are not many people left in Eckman now and no one lives in the holler anymore. There is a small church on the hill there, though. I am unsure what denomination it is as I failed to get a picture of the sign that pointed the way to the church. The only thing I remember was that it said, “Trinity”‘. At first, we thought this church may be closed? We noticed a window had been broken and was boarded. After peeking through the window, it looks as if church may still be held there. The outside looks decent, a new coat of paint would improve it dramatically. Mr. Farley pointed out the beautiful workmanship of the building.

My mom told me that my aunt Sylvia used to attend that church, so I may be able to get some contact information from her. If anyone reading this has some information on it, please let me know.


From there, we went through Keystone and Northfork. As we waited for the train to pass, I noticed that one of my oldest friends in the world — Tanya Asbury Sarver– was sitting behind us, waiting also. Tanya’s grandpa had passed away that week and they were on their way to his funeral at Burke Baptist Church. I was unaware that his services were being held that day. I can remember Mr. And Mrs. Asbury always being in attendance at Burke Baptist Church when I visited there. Although I know it is heart breaking for their family to see them go (as she passed away last year), they have reached their goal. They are walking on those streets of gold with their Savior!

Pen Ridge

After we talked with Tanya, we traveled up Burke Mountain. I was looking for the old Burke Baptist Church. I have only been there a couple of times and that was years ago. We were unable to find it, but we did find Pen Ridge Old Regular Baptist Church. This church is well kept and services are still held there. I love the location of this church. Being up there on top of that big, old mountain makes me feel like I’m on top of the world and that much closer to the Lord! I told Mrs. Farley that if there was one place I could live in the county , it would be on top of a mountain!

We went down the other side of the mountain, back into Keystone. I was getting disappointed as we had not been able to go inside any of the churches we had visited. Lucky for us, though, that was getting ready to change.

The next church we visited is in Keystone. It is currently closed, and we got to go inside. However, y’all will have to read next week’s post for more!


Copyright posts and photos: D. Renee Bolden

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