By Steve Keenan
Montgomery Herald Staff Writer
MONTGOMERY, W.Va. — Dale Payne’s latest journey back in time focuses on the early years of churches in Fayette County.
Payne, a retired State Policeman and Fayette County magistrate, recently released Fayette County Churches 1790 to early 1950s, a book featuring photos and historical information of about 200 early Fayette County places of worship. Payne said his former pastor, the Rev. Harry Fuller, provided the impetus for the book with his suggestion that Payne compile a book on county churches. “He played a big role in getting me started.”
The book took Payne about two years to complete. Payne said he gleaned much of his information from minutes of various church meetings from the past. “A lot of the churches still have their old meeting minutes,” said Payne. “There’s a wealth of information.”
He also visited many current churches and talked to members, in addition to securing information from Fayette County Courthouse records and other historical sources.
He had some old church photos in his collection, and secured more from local historian and author George Bragg and other sources.
Payne also ventured to Ripley with the Rev. David Sneed to perform research in the archives of the WV Baptist Historical Society.
“Every church I could possibly find in Fayette County is listed,” said Payne. Some still hold services, but “most of ’em have come and gone.” He said there are probably some he doesn’t have listed.
Hopewell Baptist Church was the earliest church built in Fayette County. It was constructed in what is now Ansted in 1790 and housed in a log building “erected along the old road that would later become the James River and Kanawha Turnpike,” he wrote in the book’s introduction, citing “History of Fayette County” by Peters and Carden, 1926.
“I really have visited some beautiful churches, absolutely gorgeous,” he said. “They’ve been maintained and kept up well; there’s been a lot of pride and care in those facilities.”
One of the “most beautiful” is the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Ansted, Payne said.
One of the aspects of church life Payne explored and learned more about during his research phase was the concept of many churches having two separate entrances. “A lot of the early churches had two front doors, with the men entering on the right and the women entering on the left. Once inside, the congregation was segregated, too.”
Payne and his wife, Marilyn, paid for the up-front production costs for the book, and the proceeds in their entirety will be shared with various charities in the county. It’s their way of providing a service to the community for its support, he said.
The book can be purchased directly from the Paynes at [email protected] or by calling them at 304-574-3354. Books cost $25, plus in-state sales tax and $5 for shipping ($1 additional shipping for each extra book sent to the same address.) It is also available at the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce/New River Gorge CVB, the Fayetteville CVB and several area businesses.
Since he and Bob Beckelheimer teamed up in 1991 to publish “Tales and Trails from The Fayette Tribune,” Payne has remained active in producing history books. He has explored numerous aspects of history in southern West Virginia in his other books, some of which are out of print but others which are still available for purchase.
His next collection will be based on research originally done by Rev. David Sneed, who collected numerous old photographs from early life in the Mountain Cove District. Payne has expanded the book to include all of Fayette County, and he wants to focus on the county’s early pioneers.
Early settlers arrived in the 1800s, Payne said, and he’s especially searching for early photos from the late 1800s to the early 1900s (nothing later than the 1920s). Families who may have photos, combined with a brief family history, to share can contact Payne via email or phone. If sending photos, they can be a print or digital copy, but not a Xeroxed copy.
— E-mail: [email protected]
Photos & Cutlines:
pix dale payne & jodie church:
Steve Keenan/The Montgomery Herald
Author Dale Payne was photographed recently outside the current Oak Hill Baptist Church.
Courtesy photo/Dale Payne
This very early photograph of the Jodie (Mt. Radiance) Baptist Church is included in Dale Payne’s new book, “Fayette County: The Early Churches, 1790-1950s.”