The congregation that gathers today at Antioch Community
Church in the eastern portion of Lunenburg County has a proven history of
worship from its beginnings in 1806 in a meeting house situated on an acre
“across the road from John Hite’s outlet” about a half-mile southeast of
today’s sanctuary. By 1855, according to the records of the Charge Conference,
the Lunenburg Circuit was comprised of ten churches: Antioch, Concord,
Courthouse, Fletcher’s Chapel, Olive Branch, Providence, Rehoboth, Smyrna,
Spring Hill, and Winn’s.
By March 1857, in the year of the “Great January
Blizzard,” the old Antioch meeting house was sold by the church trustees and
construction began on what is now the oldest part of the present building.
Known then as the Antioch Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the new house of
worship was constructed on the former site of Flat Rock Academy, opened in 1840
by the brothers John Chapman Blackwell and Thomas Blackwell, graduates of the old
Randolph-Macon College in Boydton. The new church had features typical of some
Southern churches in the mid-1800s: a gallery with separate entrance for the
Negroes who then attended services in considerable numbers, and a division
strip through the middle of the sanctuary with separate entrances for the male
and female church members.
By 1866, Antioch had 75 members, although the report
for the Lunenburg Charge in June 1861 noted that many members of the Antioch
church were away in the army, because of “the circumstances of our country.”
In September 1879, a parsonage for use by the
Lunenburg Charge was built on property adjacent to Antioch and is still in use
today. Within the cemetery located
behind the church is a fenced-in Wilkinson graveyard with a large holly tree.
The earliest grave reads “Agnes M. Wilkinson 11/29/1838 - 5/20/1906.”
The Antioch church stood without alteration for forty
or more years after its 1857 construction. Then, a recessed pulpit was added,
which necessitated removal of two of the original windows. Later, the ceiling
was altered, stained-glass memorial windows were installed, and five classrooms
and a vestibule were added, eliminating the gallery. There have been other
interior changes and structural additions, but the original pews and division
strip have been maintained, as well as the original foundation, flooring, and
weatherboarding on two sides. (See 1913
photograph at left.)
May 10, 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South
and the Methodist Protestant Church united to form the Methodist Church. In
1968 the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church united as
the United Methodist Church, and thus the current designation as Antioch United
Methodist Church. Currently only two churches are on the Lunenburg Circuit --
Antioch and Williams.
Constructed in 1857, the present building is over 150
years old, making Antioch the oldest Methodist Church in continuous use in
Lunenburg County, with a congregation dating back over 200 years. Here in the
Lochleven District of Lunenburg County, some descendants of early members of
the Antioch Methodist Episcopal Church South still hold membership in this
church of their ancestors.
from A History of Antioch Church,
Lunenburg County, Virginia, compiled by June Banks Evans and Brenda McHenry
Barnes, Bryn Ffyliaid Publications, New Orleans, LA, 2006.
Some Lunenburg Circuit Methodist
preachers and presiding elders:
- William Henry
Christian was Presiding Elder of the District from 1859-1862 and a
trustee for Randolph-Macon College for many years. He was professor in the
Warrenton Female College, President of the Raleigh Female College, and in
1857 was President of the Petersburg Female College.
- Paul Whitehead,
preacher at Antioch from 1861-63, served as Assistant Secretary of the
Virginia Annual Conference, chief Secretary for a total of 54 years in
that office -- the longest term in the conference history, president of
Murfreesboro Female College, North Carolina,(1866-1873), presiding elder for
25 years (at the time was the longest term ever known), member of the
Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia in 1876, trustee of
Randolph-Macon College, nine times elected to the General Conference
(without a parallel in the history of our church) beginning in 1865, a
member of every General conference but two for 40 years in which his
influence in that body for shaping legislation was notable. He was the
author of the Rules of Order by which the Conference conducted its
business for 20 years, and it is said had more to do with framing our
present Church discipline than any other man. Another official position of
importance which Dr. Whitehead filled for many years by the appointment of
the General Conference was as a member of the Book Committee of our
publishing house at Nashville, Tenn.. In 1901 the college of Bishops
conferred upon Dr. Whitehead the distinguished honor of electing him as a
delegate to represent our Southern church in the third great Ecumenical
Conference of the world’s Methodism that met in London. The last official
position to which he was appointed by the General Conference was as a
member of the special joint committee from the Methodist Episcopal Church,
South for the revision of our hymn book.
- Thomas Moore
Beckham was preacher at Antioch from 1878-1882. . He was father of the
Rev. B. M. Beckham, the founder of Ferrum Junior College.
- Lemuel S. Reed
was Presiding Elder from 1882-1886.
His son, Dr. Walter Reed for whom the Walter Reed Hospital is
named, proved that mosquitoes carried yellow fever.
- Joshua Soule
Hunter was Presiding Elder from 1890-1891, and was one of the founders
of Blackstone Female College.
- Thomas Horace
Campbell was Presiding Elder from 1891-1895, during which time he
founded the Rosebud Society.
- J.W. Hilldrup,
of this circuit, was with General Lee during the surrender at
Thornton Clarke, preacher from 1925-1929, was Tipper Gore’s great
Some members of Antioch Methodist
- John Chapman
Blackwell was the first
graduate of Randolph-Macon College when it was at Boydton, Virginia,
having received the degree of Bachelor of Arts in June of 1835. He
established Hinton Hill Academy in 1839. Hinton Hill was located where the
current Antioch United Methodist Church is situated. Here he conducted a most useful and
successful school for boys for nine years.
In 1848, he became President of the Buckingham Female Institute,
the first institution of this kind established under the auspices of the
Methodist Episcopal Church of Virginia; the Institute suspended operation
because of the Civil War and Blackwell then became President of the
Petersburg Female College. He was Professor of Chemistry at Randolph-Macon
College from 1866 until 1868, and then became President of the Danville
Female College for two years. His wife, the former Mary Bertonia Letcher,
was the sister of John B. Letcher, Governor of Virginia during the
- Mr. Isham
Trotter Wilkinson at the age of 21 became Superintendent of Schools in
Lunenburg, being the youngest Superintendent in Virginia at the time. He
held this office from 1906-1917. He served as Mayor of Kenbridge for many
years and served two terms in the General Assembly. He was co-owner and
publisher of the county newspaper, The
Free State News. He bought the Spoke and Handle Factory in Kenbridge
and renamed it Railway Handle Corporation. He donated land on which
Lochleven High School was constructed.
- Dr. Davis
Paschall went on from Lunenburg to distinguish himself as
Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Commonwealth of Virginia and
later as the President of the College of William and Mary. While in
Lunenburg he was a teacher at Victoria High School, where at the age of 22
he became principal of the school, but continued to teach English to
seniors with whom he became well acquainted and often wrote their letters
of recommendation to various colleges. It was at this time that he became
acquainted with Woodrow Wilkerson who later became a close associate in
the State Department of Education. Paschall left Lunenburg to enter the
Navy during World War II.
- Paul Clarke,
great uncle of Tipper Gore, was listed in the church records as “being
away at the Naval Academy.”
- Russell Moon served
as Superintendent of Lunenburg County Schools for many years and is buried
in Antioch’s cemetery.
- Members of Antioch have fought in the Civil War,
World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and Iraq
war. Other members of Antioch have held public offices including School
Board, Board of Supervisors, Southside Electric Cooperative Board, Soil
Conservation Board, and the VFPA Board.