By R. W. Casey
Ebenezer Baptist Church is one of the oldest churches in Amherst County, having been preceded by only two other Baptist churches farther away from what is now Amherst Courthouse. For many years before the establishment of the Amherst Baptist Church, the Baptists all around the vicinity attended Ebenezer, which was a long distance from many of their homes.
Most of the old residents of this Church have disappeared, but it is believed that Ebenezer was organized in 1771 and a log house with a fireplace in it stood near the present site of the Church. (Editor's Note) According to information given by Robert M. Semple in his book, History of the Rise and Progress of Virginia Baptists, Ebenezer Baptist Church was organized in 1773. It was originally affiliated with the Albermarle Association. The first pastor was the Rev. Arson Flowers who remained until 1805 when he moved to Kentucky. The Rev. William Duncan was pastor when Semple's History was published, Circa 1810, the church then had 80 members. The second house of worship was built on land given to the Church by James S. Higginbotham. One of the old families who were active in the Church was that of Dr. Beverly Preston Morris, who lived at Edloe, a farm near the Church. One of his daughters, Miss Laula Morris of Lynchburg, is still living and recalls that her grandfather and grandmother, Mr. and Mrs. Henry H. Watts, were instrumental in building Ebenezer shortly after the Civil War and that her grandmother did much toward raising funds for its erection. Other families prominent in the Church in its early years were C. J. Higginbotham and his sister, Powhatan Padgette, some of whose grandchildren and great-grandchildren are still members, the James Bailey family, and the Wilmers. The oldest living member at the present time is Mr. B. H. Henson. Before the membership was dispersed among the Baptist churches more recently built, Ebenezer Church used to accommodate 300 members, and the seats for this number still remain.
Among the preachers who have occupied the pulpit in earlier years was Rev. John Martin, father of C. B. Martin of Amherst who also preached at Mt. Moriah, the Rev. Sessons and Rev. James Wiley. Some other families who have remained loyal to the old Church are the Gilberts, Bowlings, Weekleys, Caseys, Smoots, Joneses, Spencers, Storeys, Hensons and the Whites. In 1973, the Rev. John S. Moore supplied the pulpit at services once a month. The Sunday School continues to teach children; there were forty children enrolled in 1973 and Mr. R. W. Casey was the Sunday School Superintendent at that time. (Editors Note: Mr. Casey died in 1975 according to the 1975 yearbook of the Piedmont Baptist Association, p. 37, Table B, the Sunday School at present has 16 members enrolled with an average weekly attendance of 16).
The Womans Missionary Society was once active. (Editors Note: According to the yearbook 1975, p. 40, Table E, there is no longer an active W.M.S. at Ebenezer).
During his lifetime, Mr. Casey served as both Clerk and Treasurer of Ebenezer Baptist Church. (Editors Note: In September 1973, Mr. R. W. Casey wrote to me and said, "many good people who first attended Sunday School and church services at Ebenezer will be found today in the Amherst Baptist Church, the First Baptist Church of Monroe, and in the Lynchburg churches. They love to come back and visit the old church where the good work of teaching the children is still going on and they love to go to the "Church in the Wildwood" to study the word of God and to sing his praises").
Ebenezer stands alone in a grove of tall trees. The remains of a commodious picnic grove with weather beaten tables and benches bear testimony to the many happy crowds that came to worship beneath her roof. This church has made its mark in the historic records of the Baptists of Amherst County. Over seventy years ago, the Baptist boys of Kenmore School in Amherst used to walk the long wooded trail to this church, and it stands today in good repair cherished by its Congregation.
The following update was written by Betty Vanhoozier (member since 1981) on March 24, 2011.
Where there is no vision, people will perish. Proverbs 29:18
Southern Baptist Convention
Updated by Brenda & Vinny
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