Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Old Fincastle Church To Receive Restoration

Rex E. McCarty
Staff Writer

     For generations now, the old Fincastle Church, as it is known locally, located on Quillen Ridge near Dungannon has been the silent witness to historic events along the Fincastle Turnpike.

     The church served as the Methodist Episcopal Church South and has seen scores of local folks use the church as a place to worship or as a community gathering place.

     During the span, the church also served as the Fincastle Lodge No. 33 which was chartered Dec. 4,1902 and was used as a meeting place for the organization.

     In recent years though, the structure has fallen into disrepair. And for a number of years now, families with a fond connection want to see the church restored and placed on the National Register of Historic sites.

     Betty Salyer and Frieda Graham Tate have single-handedly taken up the charge to have the church restored and placed on the prestigious list

     A stroll through the cemetery which is located in the shadow of the church, names appearing on the headstones reads like a Scott County history book. Names prominent to the area such as Blackwell, Graham, Flanary and others were pioneer settlers who found the valley such a beautiful and bountiful place decided to put down roots there and call it home.

     One of the earliest settlers to the area was Patrick Porter. Porter was one of the original settlers of Scott County and established the first grist mill on Falls Creek, just two miles from Dungannon and less than half a mile from Fincastle Church.

     Pointing to headstones in the cemetery, Salyer and Tate recall a deceased great-grandparent or cousin. With great pride they have taken it upon themselves to see that the next generation of Scott Countians will also be able to recall with pride the independent and resourceful nature of their families.

     "We felt like the people in the community lived, worshiped and died here and we owed this to their memory," Tate said.

     Noting only minor repairs, Salyer and Tate hope to get the structure placed on the National Register after the repairs are done. Currently only a seal on the west wall, windows with a few sashes missing and a partition inside the building are among the items on the short list of things to be repaired as the items blocking the way for the historic recognition of the church.

     In a preliminary information form sent to the Department of Historic Resources in Richmond, Tate described the church in great detail acknowledging its historic worth.

     The letter describes the church as having "several unique features, and was built as an ordinary country church of that time."

     The design and structure denotes the hand of an architect or someone who possessed architectural knowledge. At the present time, the designer of the church is unknown. Tate noted the church was the only one of its kind in the day to have a bench (pew) for the visiting minister and a mourning bench which is known today as an altar.

     The church served as a meeting place for the Fincastle Masonic Lodge No. 33. At that time, the building had a porch with access to the second floor for use by the Masons. In order to eliminate the upkeep of unused space, after the Masons left the building and moved to a new facility in 1914, the porch and upper level were removed.

     The building now stands in its original design with two large doors opening into the sanctuary and a large decorative bell tower. The bell still rings out its sharp tones that once called persons to a community meeting, church service or to notify residents within ear shot of other events in the community.

     Salyer and Tate hope to get a fund-raising event started shortly and enlist anyone with skill or desire to see the old building restored to its grandeur, come and aid them in their quest to restore the site. Tate has contacted local, state and federal officials asking for their assistance. She is certain that after the proper steps are taken the church will be placed on the National Register and designated as an historic landmark.

     Samuel D. Blackwell who was the husband of Martha J. Blackwell had the church built as prescribed in the will made by her father. A deed was placed on record on the 31st day of May 1905 in deed book 45 page 179 in the county seat (Gate City). Martha Blackwell was carrying out a deed of instruction made by her father, Aaron H. Nash who had recently died. The land in the deed was to be used by the Methodist Episcopal Church South to build a house for the public to worship God. Restoration will begin this April and a tentative date of spring 2001, is slated as the opening of the full restored facility.

For persons interested in helping with the restoration project or donate funds may do ,so by calling Salyer at 479-2426.

Return to Glory

Betty Salyer (bottom) and Frieda Graham Tate are leading: local effort to place the Old Fincastle Church on the National Register of Historic Sites. See related story on page 3.

 

Handwritten in margin: March 2000

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