F. T. Baptist Church


F. T. Baptist Church-Fall 2008)

F.T. Baptist Churchas viewed from 
 the back porch of
The Conyers House.

F. T. Baptist Church)

In 1778 the F. T. Baptist Church was organized as the Ragged Mountain Baptist Society with meetings being held in a grove of beech trees on the banks of the Hughes River in a log house at Sharp Rock. This was at a time when the Anglican Church was the church of Virginia with taxes given to the church to look after the poor and needy. The formality of the Anglican Church was not as attractive to everyone and the Baptist movement took hold. The Baptist were less cerebral and preached more from the heart and appealed more to less privileged country people than the high church patterned after the English Anglican influence which attracted the local gentry. Early Baptist preachers were jailed in Culpeper for  espousing differing opinions  from  their pulpits. By 1804, this congregation had moved down stream to F. T. Village and had changed the name of the church to the F. T. Baptist Church. Minutes of 1805 make reference to repairs needed on the building in F. T. Village. The F. T. Baptist Church was never the Frances Thornton Baptist Church. F. T. Valley has never been Fort Valley as MapQuest may have you believe. Whenever we hear such references, we know the speaker is new to Rappahannock or someone who wants to aggrandize the names

F. T. refers to Francis Thornton who was given large land grants in the area from 1730 to 1750 by King George III. Thornton's legacy is prominent in the county as Thornton Gap, Thornton River, Thornton Hill Farm, Thornton Gap Baptist Church, and the Thornton Hill Hounds are all named for him. Of course F. T. Valley and the church are too. Chances are trees on Thornton's land were marked with his carved initials to delineate his borders. When we hear reference to Fort Valley Road instead of F. T. Valley Road we know we are chatting with visitors to Rappahannock County.

In 1813 the membership totaled 88: " 25 white males, 33 white females, and 30 colored" each group using a specified entrance. The side door for the "colored" worshippers led  to the slave gallery upstairs. At one time the membership numbered 225 and  presently is around 70.

n 1816 the congregation moved to it's present site next to "Conyers' Old Store", according to the deed, and built a meeting house in the shape of a cross in what is presently the parking lot. The "one acre and three roods" was purchased from John Zimmerman and his wife Jamima Zimmerman (who signed their names with an X) for the sum of $18.00.

The present church was constructed in 1884 and a more recent addition has since been added. F. T. Baptist Church is credited with fostering the founding of other churches in Rappahannock and Madison counties.

The present congregation is very active and has recently installed a lovely entrance garden under the leadership of Mrs. Nelson Revercomb (whose husband's family is first mention in 1844). A pipe organ, the first in a Rappahannock County Baptist church, is currently being installed. Homecoming is traditionally held in early September each year. The church is led by Rev. Daniel Yowell whose family is first mentioned in church records in 1824. There is an active Sunday School, a youth group, and an adult choir which are all part of the church ministry.

The church does not consider itself a museum, but an active, vital congregation which is very involved in community affairs. The above information was taken from a 54 page booklet , written in 1979 by A. Paul Thompson and the Trustees of the F. T. Church. This is a particularly interesting read and is presently being reprinted. Mrs. Lucia Kilby, whose family first appears in the church records in 1835, can be reached at 540.987.8741 and will know the availability of the booklet. Mrs. Kilby is a widely known local historian who is active in the DAR, the F. T. Church, and the Rappahannock Historical Society.


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