Historical Sketch of
Berryville Baptist Church
(formerly "the Church of Christ in Buckmarsh")
written by Dandridge B. Allen, September 2002, in celebration of the Berryville Baptist Church 230th Anniversary
On Saturday, September 12, 1772, twenty-nine devout men and women assembled themselves together and formed "the Church of Christ in Buckmarsh," Elders John Garrard and John Marks being the constituting Ministers. How long they had been worshiping together we do not know, but we are told that William and Daniel Fristoe had journeyed seventy mile by horseback from Stafford County to preach to these believers of "dissenters" as they were then called.
John Garrard became the first Pastor of this congregation and served until 1788. He was succeeded by James Ireland , who served until his death in 1806. He died at his home on the Opequon Creek in Frederick County . His body lies in an unmarked grave in Old Buckmarsh Cemetery . A monument to his memory has been erected in our church cemetery by the Virginia Baptist historical society. In 1964 an appropriate marker was erected in Buckmarsh Cemetery marking the site of the original church.
By 1810 Buckmarsh had 207 members, standing second in members to a Baptist Church in Powhatan County, which was the largest Baptist congregation in the State of Virginia.
Buckmarsh Church first joined the Ketocton Association, but after some years it was expelled from the Association for being too missionary-minded. The church then joined the Salem Union and, after some time, the Potomac Association. In 1882 when the Shenandoah Association was formed, Berryville joined the Shenandoah Association and has remained there ever since.
When Buckmarsh was organized in 1772, Baptists were persecuted in Virginia for their beliefs; hence so much of their work has gone unrecorded. Volume I of the Buckmarsh minutes records the constituting date of this church as 1772, but it was not until the Bill of Rights was passed in 1783, that Buckmarsh began recording the business that was transacted by the congregation. On June 12, 1783, John Barnett gave to the Trustees of Trap Hill Meeting House, a deed for a small lot on which the meeting house stood. The consideration named in the deed being one shilling. (Deed Book #20, page 42, Frederick County Clerk's Office)
By the 1840's the congregation having grown, a lot was purchased in Berryville. This lot faced onto Academy Street and was bounded on the east by what is now Buckmarsh Street and on the west by Rice Street . Old Buckmarsh Meeting House was abandoned, and a brick church building was erected to the east of the present church cemetery. The building was damaged during the War Between the States, and in 1884 the present church building was erected. In 1875, the lot upon which the parsonage now stands was purchased from J. Rice Smith for $75.00.
This church has always taken an active interest in the forming of other Baptist churches. In 1792, members from Buckmarsh united with Zoar Church in Jefferson County, West Virginia. That church is now Charlestown Baptist Church . In 1808, James Sowers and his wife and William Davis asked for letters of dismissal from Buckmarsh in order that they might help in constituting a Baptist church in Bethel in Clarke County. In 1810, Salem Baptist Church received a deed for a lot in the western part of Clarke County on which was erected a stone church building. This is a very active Baptist church today in the Regular Baptist Association. Around the year 1840, members from our congregation helped to form Winchester Baptist Church, which today is First Baptist Church in Winchester, and the largest church in the Shenandoah Association. In 1857, the Mountain Baptist Church was constituted and is a member of the Shenandoah Association.
In the 1940's the church experienced a great awakening. Under the leadership of the Reverends Carrington Paulette and Arthur Brown, the church made great progress in many ways. In 1949, an educational building was constructed, and the parsonage was moved to its present location.
In 1950, the Baptist Kindergarten was organized and continued to operate until 1972. With the advent of kindergarten in the public school system, the church discontinued its kindergarten.
In 1957, during the pastorate of Reverend Julian Orrell, a renovation of the original church building was undertaken. The north wall of the sanctuary was extended twenty feet, allowing for interior renovation. On the ground floor of the renovations included new rest rooms and a dressing area and practice room for the choir. In the sanctuary, a new choir loft was added along with an area for a new Moler pipe organ. Area was also provided for a new baptistry. Carpet was placed on the floor throughout the sanctuary, and the beautiful Willet stained glass windows depicting scenes in the life of Christ were added to the east and west walls. In 1969, the windows on the south wall and the Resurrection Window were installed to complete the replacement of the old church windows.
In 1961, a lot at the corner of Rice and Academy Streets was given in honor of Dr. and Mrs. L.A. Parker. Dr. Parker served as pastor of this church for 29 years. In 1967, the lot in the front of the church was purchased from Mrs. W.S. Dix. During the pastorate of the Reverend Darryl Maxwell in the 1970's and during the pastorates of the Reverends Herman Elam, James Banks, Dr. J. Robert Stiff, Robert Royal and Warren Boling, many more improvements were made to the church building. The church office and the pastor's study were redecorated. Chimes were added to the organ. An outside bulletin board was given as a memorial. The walk in front of the parsonage and church was constructed by the Living Memorial Fund in memory of our members and friends who have passed away. An updated sound system and closed circuit TV were installed. The sanctuary and fellowship hall were air conditioned. More recently, the church bell has been electrified, a carillon has been installed in the belfry, and a three-octave hand bell choir has been added to the music ministry.
In the 1980's a bequest from Miss Florence Huff established a scholarship fund. These scholarships can be used by members of the church to continue their educations after high school. In September of 1992, new hymnals and new choir robes were presented to the church. The church office and pastor's study were renovated in December of 1993. In 1995, the sanctuary was again renovated to include new carpeting throughout and cushioned seats on the pews, as well as a new sound system.
The life of the church has been more than physical improvements. In 1979, the church voted to amend the Church Constitution to allow for the ordination of women as deacons. Later in the year, Frances Madigan and Gay Allen were the first women ordained as deacons. In 1985, and again in 1987, the church produced an Easter musical drama. This covered the final week of Jesus' life. When it was first presented in 1985, the church was without a permanent pastor, and the drama had a very positive effect on the congregation. It required almost a year of planning as well as using the many and varied talents of the church. The making of costumes, props, stages and many hours of rehearsal by the choir and actors required much dedication. The person responsible for much of the musical ministry of the church has been the Minister of Music. In May of 2002, Dorothy Price was recognized by the church and presented with a certificate for her 40 years of service the church as the Minister of Music.
In 1985, the Youth Department conducted "Backyard Bible School" for one week in the summer. This is an outreach program, designed mainly for children who are currently not enrolled in our Sunday School. In the summer of 1992, the Youth Department had a half-week mission trip to Ocean City, Maryland . In 1993, the Youth Department was more adventuresome and went for a week in the summer to Wheelwright, Kentucky, for a mission trip. The following year, the youth went to the inner city of Columbus, Ohio. In 1995, the youth went to New Martinsville, West Virginia, and in 1996, to Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. In 1998, the Youth Department undertook their biggest mission trip of all. They went to South Africa for three weeks. This trip required a great deal of planning. Then in 2000, the youth went to Puerto Rico for a mission trip. In 2001, they visited the migrant camps on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. In 2002, the youth were again on the move as they went to Montana where they visited an Indian reservation and other areas. Joan Houck, working with many other dedicated works, has been the leader for these many mission trips.
The church has had a puppet ministry for some time. This has been sponsored mainly by the members of the Youth Department. They have appeared at our Sunday Worship Services as well as the County Fair. The puppets have also taken their show "on the road," appearing at local churches and charitable events as well as Children's Hospitals in Washington, D.C., Shriner's Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, Bea Gaddy Family Ministry in Baltimore, MD, Andrews Air Force Base, La Frack housing project in Queens, NY, Women's Shelter Programs, Salvation Army, and many others. These programs have had a very definite effect on the youth that have participated.
Our church in its 230 years (as of September 2002) has experienced good times and also hard times. Great men and women, both ministers and lay people, have passed through its doors. Some of them, such as James Ireland, have been remembered in history but many others have not been recorded in history.
When this church was constituted in 1772, Virginia was a British colony, George II was King of England, Lord Dunmore was governor of Virginia , and the Union Jack flew over the country. George Washington was 40 years old and Thomas Jefferson was 29; hence we are older than the United States itself. With the coming of our current pastor, Reverend Dr. William Ingram in 1985, the church embarked on a new era in its history once again.
So much for the past. The future rests in the hands of those present and generations yet unborn.
(Appreciation is give for the historical sketches previously made by Miss Mary Gold, Miss Lucy Allen, Dr. D. Blanton Allen, and Mr. Oscar M. Carr.)