(above) The historic structure of St. Paul Baptist Church continues to serve an active congregation.
The Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission board voted unanimously to add St. Paul Baptist Church of Kearneysville to the inventory of registered Jefferson County Historic Landmarks at its December meeting. St. Paul Baptist Church was nominated under Criteria A.1 — a property associated with events having made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history. Current trustee and church leader, Reverend Jeanette Eggleton, said there has been “excitement and true joy by all those who have been able to read the nomination” which tells the story of “the many who have sacrificed and worked to make Saint Paul the open, welcoming church it is today.”
A Home-Grown Effort
The years following the Civil War saw the building of many segregated “colored” schools and churches in Jefferson County. Many were funded and built through the efforts of white missionaries from the North. Notably, St. Paul Baptist Church was one of the first churches in Jefferson County to be fully funded and erected by local Black community members. In 1879, John H. Fox, along with George W. Johnson and George Mason, purchased a plot of land in Hartstown, the African American community of Kearneysville. The Shepherdstown Register reported (April 5, 1879): “The colored folks have broken ground for a church in “Hartstown,” the southern suburb of Kearneysville.” Fox, formerly enslaved and a Civil War veteran, was able to acquire a great deal of land in and around Kearneysville throughout the late 1800s. According to his granddaughter, Bertha Fox Jones, much of the lumber used to build St. Paul was from his land. Fox was also on the Board of Education for the local “colored” school in the early-mid 1870s, according to a contemporaneous article published in the Shepherdstown Register (February 6, 1874).
An Enduring Community
St. Paul Baptist Church has a rich history of quarry and mill pond baptisms, bush meetings, concerts, revivals, weddings, funerals, family reunions, and other community events. Families have remained dedicated to St. Paul through generations, and it remains a place that draws people home to visit whether they live nearby or have moved elsewhere. The congregation of St. Paul has a long history of community service and charitable giving (it ran a Red Cross Auxiliary program during World War I, for example) and, more recently, the “Willing Workers” committee donates and delivers food to community members and offers free baked goods following Sunday morning’s worship service.
Addison Reese is one of five commissioners serving on the Jefferson County Historic Landmark Commission (JCHLC). The Commission plays a key role in highlighting the county’s diverse history through preservation of structures and historic landscapes as well as documenting the oral history of the people who live in these places. If you have any records, photographs, and/or stories you would like to share about St. Paul Baptist Church or other under-documented places throughout the county, you can contact Reese at AddisonReeseJCHLC@gmail.com. To read the full landmark nomination for St. Paul Church, visit JeffersonCountyHLC.org.By Addison Reese