Coun­try Church

In­spired by his­tory and her­itage, a doc­tor and his friends re­store a church built be­fore the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion.


J. Fran­cis Amos re­stores a chapel built be­fore the Revo­lu­tion­ary War.

In 2011, a small church in Franklin County, Vir­ginia, went on the mar­ket af­ter the con­gre­ga­tion’s last mem­ber passed away.

At the time, Old Chapel Church, also known in his­toric doc­u­ments as the Snow Creek Angli­can Church, was more than 240 years old and in need of ma­jor re­pairs. The north wall bulged, the roof sagged and the ceil­ing had to be propped up.

It is the old­est of four Angli­can churches built in Vir­ginia be­fore the Revo­lu­tion­ary War. Find­ing no one to un­der­take the preser­va­tion and restora­tion of this his­toric site, I bought the prop­erty.

Carl Louns­bury, an ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian at Colo­nial Wil­liams­burg Foun­da­tion, ver­i­fied the au­then­tic­ity of the struc­ture and di­rected restora­tion ef­forts. The English box ar­chi­tec­ture with ex­posed posts and beams was a tra­di­tional style rem­i­nis­cent of the Angli­can church in the 1608 Jamestown fort where Poc­a­hon­tas mar­ried John Rolfe.

I’m a re­tired fam­ily physi­cian and have al­ways been in­ter­ested in lo­cal his­tory. Af­ter I bought the place, six peo­ple of­fered to help when I called them.

The “su­per six” pooled to­gether their col­lec­tive tal­ents—car­pen­try, con­struc­tion, elec­tri­cal work and plumb­ing—to com­plete the job. Others also vol­un­teered their time and con­trib­uted ma­te­ri­als.

Af­ter years of ded­i­cated work, the orig­i­nal 24 x32 struc­ture has been fully re­stored. Though there are no reg­u­lar church ser­vices, the build­ing hosts wed­dings, re­unions, church gath­er­ings and sem­i­nars.

The one-story, front-gable church stands in an iso­lated and peace­ful ru­ral area. Per­haps that is why the build­ing sur­vived in­tact dur­ing the colo­nial wars and the Civil War. A few ad­di­tions were made in the 1950s.

Spa­cious grounds in­clude large oak and hick­ory trees, a spring, and rem­nants of an east-west roadbed that was prom­i­nent in 1753. An out­door bath­room (or johnny house), pic­nic shel­ter and preacher’s stand for ser­vices held out­side por­tray ru­ral Amer­i­can wor­ship and fel­low­ship in the 18th, 19th and early 20th-cen­turies.

The 1769 Old Chapel Church is ded­i­cated as a mon­u­ment to God and to the re­li­gious her­itage upon which our na­tion was founded.

Dr. Amos and a fam­ily friend dress in pe­riod cos­tumes for an event at the Old Chapel.

The post and beam con­struc­tion is rare.

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