One of the most important churches ever established in the county from the standpoint of its influence over the future development of the religious life of the people of northwestern Virginia was the Broad Run Baptist church which began its existence in 1805. Elder John Carney, an itinerant Baptist preacher from the Buckhannon valley, came to Duck creek, now in Harrison county, about four miles north of Broad run, in 1804, and began a series of meetings among the New Jersey settlers who had lately emigrated there. As his monthly visits continued considerable interest was awakened in religion. Settlers who had been good Baptists in New Jersey again felt the impulses of faith. A meeting was called for the purpose of considering the wisdom of forming a Baptist church. On February 5, 1805, the people of the community met in a private home in the presence of an advisory council. The meeting is said to have been "one of great solemnity and glorified by the conscious presence of the Holy Spirit." An opportunity was offered for those who wished to become members of the Baptist church, and while the congregation sang,
"Am I a soldier of the Cross
A follower of the Lamb -"
eight persons presented themselves for membership. The charter members of the church were Walter Smith and wife, Job West and wife, Samuel Romine and wife, and Solomon Wires and wife. They were declared to be the Good Hope Baptist church. Elder Carney continued his monthly visits to the church for some years.
The Baileys and Minters and others, Baptists from Fauquier County, Virginia, who had come to Whiteoak Flat run in the latter part of the eighteenth century, also formed a congregation under the guidance of the Rev. John Carney, in 1806. The pioneer members of this church were Jacob Minter and wife, Alexander West, Edmund West, James Bailey and wife, and Elizabeth, wife of Captain James Bailey. Because of the fact that most of the members had belonged to the Broad Run Baptist church in Fauquier County, they chose the same name for the new congregation.
Meanwhile some of the New Jersey settlers moved from Duck creek to land in the West Fork valley about the mouth of Whiteoak Flat run. The church at Duck creek became divided geographically but not in a religious sense. Meetings of the Good Hope church were held in private homes both on Duck creek and on the West Fork farther south. The membership of the two Baptist congregations increased rapidly. In 1808 the congregations had outgrown the accommodations to be found in the cabins of the pioneers, and a movement was begun to erect a church building. John Brown donated a few acres of land for a church and a cemetery about two hundred yards from the location of the old Mongue fort. A building of hewn logs, twenty-four by thirty feet, was constructed in the same year, and here the united churches worshipped for many years, until the log structure became inadequate for the purpose. A frame church, "low and squatty," took its place, followed by another frame church and finally by an imposing brick edifice.
The second pastor of the church was Elder John Goss, of Georgia, an evangelist in the employ of the Southern Board of Missions. He is described as being tall, of angular build and of quick, nervous movement. His sermons were interspersed with humorous anecdotes and quaint illustrations. Elder John J. Waldo succeeded him after some years. Benjamin Holden, one of three brothers who did much to extend the Baptist faith in Northwestern Virginia, came next, and he was followed by Elder Carr Bailey, one of the pioneers of the Freeman's creek country and the leader of the church there. Anthony Garrett, one of the earliest converts of the church, whose ministerial labors are said to have been more abundant than those of any of his co-laborers, followed Elder Bailey in the ministry. The influence of Broad Run church in the religious development of northwestern Virginia was tremendous. From Broad run as a center Baptist preachers went forth over the whole northwest, from the mountains to the Ohio river, riding on horseback through trackless forests, preaching to small groups collected in the homes of the settlers, baptizing converts, forming new churches and carrying the seeds of a higher civilization with them all the while. The Broad Run Baptist association, which was formed as a result of their labors, embraced at its inception about half the territory now included in the state of West Virginia. The great number of Baptist churches scattered over the northern part of the state attests the success of their endeavors.
[From Edward C. Smith, A History of Lewis County, West Virginia, 1920, pp. 159-161. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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