1857 Chatham Baptist Church:
A Brief History

By Henry, Sarah, David, and Jonathan Mitchell, with research assistance provided by Carrie Tate Aylor and Herman Melton.

1857 Chatham Baptist Church

According to historian Maud Carter Clement's 1946 publication A Page from the Past: Pittsylvania Court House One Century Ago — 1846 (p. 18), “…in 1857 a massive brick church was built in the northern part of the village, which if it stood today, would be the pride of the town. It was modeled after a Greek Temple, with deep recessed porch, and two immense round front columns of brick, plastered white, similar to the Lee home, ‘Arlington.’ The sides of the porch were enclosed each with a door and stairway leading to the gallery, built across the front of the church. These galleries were for the use of the servants. The pulpit rostrum was flanked by two tall, square, flat-topped pillars, each bearing a light — at this time [1857] candles, and in later years, handsome bronze lamps, one of which is owned today by a member of the present congregation, Mrs. David Jefferson.”

During 1890 the Chatham Baptist Church congregation constructed their new Gothic building (dedicated June 1891) on Court Place, which has been greatly expanded and is still their home. The 1857 structure on North Main Street was subsequently occupied until 1901 by the Main Street Baptist Church, an African-American congregation. In 1901 it was ravaged by fire. In 1905 the present Canada-Chaney house was constructed on the site of the 1857 church building.

In 1966, Page Tredway (see his comments) gave the above illustration by architect John F. McLaughlin to the congregation of the Chatham Baptist Church, and it hangs in the present church building today. The congregation also now owns the lamp (see below) Mrs. Clement described, which seems to be a representation of the “three graces: faith, hope, and charity.”

For further information, see a Virginia Historical Inventory report compiled in 1937 by Mattie S. Meadows.

Early lamp

One of two lamps used beside the rostrum in Chatham Baptist Church's first building.

Faith, hope, and charity?

Details of the lamp's base, showing its three figures, which may represent the “three graces.”

Original chandelier

This chandelier, which hangs in the present sanctuary, was used in Chatham Baptist Church's first building. Then, when the present building was constructed in 1890-1891, the chandelier was given to Spring Garden Presbyterian Church, which was simultaneously being constructed. The chandelier was used at Spring Garden for several decades, until several smaller new lighting fixtures were installed there (see photograph). At that point the old chandelier was stored in a woodshed on the farm of Mr. and Mrs. Frank A. Bryant at Spring Garden. Many years later the Bryants returned it to the Chatham congregation, of which Frank's brother Maxwell Bryant was a member, for restoration and installation in the present church building. (Information was provided by Mrs. Frank A. Bryant, August 9, 2002.)

This webpage is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House, Chatham, Virginia.