Historical Society fights to save Alexander Hill Baptist Church

Published 12:41 pm Thursday, August 24, 2023

Alexander Hill Baptist Church is the oldest Black church in Buckingham County and Historic Buckingham Inc., along with many others, is working to preserve it.

The church congregation formed before the building during the time of slavery. Since slaves could not have their own building, they met under a bush arbor. Just like the name sounds, they would build an arbor and put brush on top to provide shade as they sat under it on logs. The property still has one for people to see who they used before the building. Once emancipated in 1865, the church was able to construct a building, the same one there today.

According to Martha Louis, president of Historical Buckingham, this church was originally part of a whole community and doubled as a community building. Alexander Moseley gave 300 acres to this emancipated group of slaves to build a place of worship. There were also numerous homes and a school building that are no longer there.

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“Our ultimate goal is to have a historical and educational venue for people to learn about a piece of American history that is often left out,” said Louis.

On Wednesday, Aug. 16, the Historic Buckingham and the United Baptist Association of Central Virginia gathered to celebrate the completion of the first phase in the restoration process. This phase was funded by donations and a Dominion Energy grant. Those in attendance included Ellis Acres Memorial Park and Training School, Bham Life and History Society and the Buckingham Chapter of NAACP.

Alexander Hill Baptist Church, under construction

For the first phase, they focused on restoring the outside of the building. This included repainting, a new roof, new shutters and windows and refurbishing the doors. Since the church was built from hand hewn logs from the property, a window was put in the side to show off the original logs that still make up the building. The building also has the original bell from 1870 that rang to mark special occasions like weddings, births, deaths and the end of wars. This bell was one of the only ways they knew World War I ended.

Unfortunately, there is no timeline for the second phase of the project. This phase will focus on redoing the inside of the building, including water, septic with handicapped restrooms and storage buildings. They also want to put in a pavilion to have this act as a meeting place for school groups, churches, historic groups and others.

Looking for funds

The main delay is acquiring funding for this next phase. They have applied for a grant from savingplaces.org and hope that this will come through. Luckily, the project caught the eye of State Senator Mark Peake who hopes to help.

After reading Louis’ column in The Farmville Herald, Peake wanted to learn more about this project. As a longtime lover of history, he attended the tour on Wednesday to learn more and see what he could do to help. He is currently looking at state grants to see what funding the project can get to preserve this history and the stories of those impacted.

“It’s a great story and unfortunately, too many buildings like this fall into disrepair and are destroyed,” said Peake. “We need to save as many as we can in that critical time in history.”

The project is still looking for funding for Phase 2. Anyone interested in donating can call the Buckingham Historical Society at 434-547-2296.