HISTORY OF PIGG RIVER CHURCH

This church is situated in what is now Franklin County, Virginia, but at the time of its organization was Henry Co; and is on the south branch of the Pigg River, near the Blue Ridge mountains.

According to Semple’s History it was established by Elder Randolph Hall in 1773, and tradition puts this meeting at a private home, but the record has been lost. The record is complete from 1796 to the present. The first record in the old book is as follows:

Met according to appointment on the 4th Friday in August, 1796. The following brethren were requested by the church to attend on the ordination of our beloved Brother Moses Reutfro, John Trout, John Larence, Henry Carter, Robert Simpkins, William Howard, Thomas Goodson, Robert Jones and Joseph Jones: Elder Larence, Mod."

Then this note follows:

"The above brethren composed a presbytery for the purpose of the ordination of the said Brother Reutfro, which was done, and the brethren were then dismissed in order."

From evidence this man was ordained an Elder and from the record, he asked to be dismissed from the church the next year, 1797. The last named in the above presbytery Joseph Jones, was a deacon of the church.

The first delegates sent to the Strawberry Association was done at the September meeting, 1797. David Barton and Joseph Jones were sent.

At their meeting the 4th Saturday in April, 1797, they returned an arm that had been extended to Remnet fag, and was excepted by the church in the year 1805. The church granted liberty to James Sewel to improve his gift in the bounds of Elder William Howard’s church, then in 1806 he was dismissed from the church.

In conference the 4th Saturday in July, 1807 the church asked Elder Joseph Pedigo to serve them as pastor, and he accepted. In this request it was stated that they had been without a regular pastor some time. This evidently was an able servant and served this church until his death which was Dec. 1,1837. He was also the first Moderator of Pigg River Association, which was organized at Little Creek Church, the second Saturday in August, 1825.

The first deacons that were ordained was on Friday before the 4th Saturday in June, 1809, were Bros. Peter Young and David Lemon, and the names of the Presbytery were not recorded, but as stated before Joseph Jones was a deacon. The next deacons ordained were James Welsh and Capselton Wade, at their August meeting, 1821; Elders Moses Greer, John S. Lee, Wilson Turner and Joseph Pedigo, made up the Presbytery. Then John Jones was Ordained deacon the 4th Saturday in July, 1829; then the 4th Saturday in May 1833, Brother Peytan Ellison was ordained; the Presbytery was not named. Then at their meeting 4th Saturday in July 1853, the Presbytery consisting of Elder G.W. Kelly and Arnold Walker, was called and met at the October meeting and ordained John Trout as deacon; then A. B. Cannaday was ordained as deacon 4th Saturday in October 1867 by Elders John R. Martin, G. W. Kelly and John C. Hall; then Benjamin Cooper was received by letter, (church not stated) in the year 1858, who was a deacon, also Clerk till his death. J. P. Hollandsworth and John C. Roberson was ordained deacons at the July meeting 1896, the names of the Presbytery was not recorded. Then at the May meeting, 1919 Brother Lee Willis and S. M. Prilliman was ordained as deacons, with Elder David Sumner and T. F. West as a Presbytery, and it can be said of Deacon Lee Willis, who could not read or write, that no church at any age has had a deacon who excelled him in manifesting a love for his church. There was nothing that he could do too much for him. Then at the October meeting, 1930 5. G. Akers was ordained as deacon by Elders J.E. Burgess, EL. Blankenship and George F. Dyer as Presbytery. This completes the deacons so far as the record shows, and Deacon S. M. Prilliman and S. G Akers are living, and are Godfearing, faithful deacons, and do not lord over God s heritage.

As recorded before, Elder Joseph Pedigo was chosen Pastor July 1807; Brother George W. Kelley united by letter (church not stated) at the Sept. meeting 1819, and was licensed to exercise by his church, and a presbytery consisting of Joseph Pedigo and Moses Greer ordained him the 4th Saturday in September, 1833. Elder Joseph Pedigo died Dec. 1, 1837. Then Elder George W. Kelley was chosen Pastor at the July meeting, 1838. This Elder continued to serve the church till the 4th Saturday in September, 1862. He resigned as Pastor and the church requested Elder John C. Hall to serve them, and he agreed (Elder George W. Kelley died Nov. 17, 1878). Elder John C. Hall served the church faithfully and well till age beset him; then the Church selected Elder W.A. Via to assist him as pastor at the June meeting 1892, and they both served till April 1901 when Elder J.C. Hall died. Then at the April meeting 1901, Elder W. A. Via was chosen Pastor, and about this time there was a great revival in the church, and Elder Via baptized 20 at one time. This meek and useful servant died Feb. 1903. Elder Peter Corn was chosen pastor and accepted at the March meeting 1903. Elder Corn served this church in a very acceptable manner, and because of age and having to travel some distance, resigned the 4th Sat. in Nov. 1909, and the same meeting Elder David Sumner was made pastor, and this servant served that church faithfully and in meekness often walking to this church even in winter, and he lived over 25 miles from the church. He would leave his home on Friday and return Monday, was a poor man, but the Lord provided for him, and he continued as Pastor till his death, Aug. 21, 1934. At the August meeting, 1934, Elder J. P. Helms accepted the care of the church and has tried to serve them faithfully till the present time.

Above is set out in order the deacons and pastors of this church, but the Lord has blessed this church so wonderfully with faithful members, fathers and mothers in Israel. There has been and now are some of the outstanding mothers in Israel, who love and labor for the welfare of their church.

The first church building was of log construction, a small crude house with stone chimney and a fire place to furnish heat, later there was an addition built of logs and a gallery built for the benefit of the colored, as there were many colored members of this church from its earliest days to about 1890 when the colored members were granted letters in full fellowship to establish a church of their own and let the record show that many of these brethren and sisters manifested that they had been with Jesus and their lives was an adornment to their church. Slaves and masters worshiped the same Lord and partook of the emblems of Him together. About the year 1890 a frame house was built a few yards from the first church, which still is used by the church at present. The first deed to the property was lost or destroyed with the court records of Henry County, but a deed was made by Robert Slone and wife, John Fralin and wife and Brother Richard Paine about 1890 to a plot of about 3 acres, including the cemetery. A few years ago Mrs. Julius Becket, whose ancestors were life-long members of the church, the Jones family gave one acre to the church grounds, and the same time the church purchased about one and one-half acres. So at this time the church has ample grounds, and well cared for.

This church as we trace them in the record, has been compelled to exclude members for various causes against good order, as they have maintained good order all these years but if there has ever been any disturbance because of the doctrine we have no record of it. When the mission movement caused a division in 1833, there is no mention of this disturbance in their record. Pigg River Church was asked to send a committee to Black Water Church and the church sent their Pastor and deacons to advise and labor with this church, which joined the Mission side and changed its name to Fairmont, which today is New School, but not one member left the Pigg River Church in this disturbance. In the uproar of conditional-time-salvation, again there was no notice of trouble. The church seems to always have been sound in faith and of one mind in reference to doctrine.

The articles of faith of Pigg River Church and Pigg River Association, are the same, and their articles of faith or their rules of decorum has not been changed so far as the record shows. This always has been a body of predestinarians who maintained gospel order and demanded an orderly walk of its members, and have always denied that predestination was the cause of sin, but that God causes good, and overrules evil. This church has never practiced foot-washing, but has never made it a test of fellowship, and members who favored foot-washing or were against it, have lived in peace and love.

This church from the record has been as low as 14 in membership to 102, and at the present about 85. It has had the services of some able gifts as pastor. Elder Pedigo was and able gift, and Elder John C. Hall was a great man, and said to have been as able a gift as any man of his day stood extremely high in his county of Franklin, was Treasurer of his county for several years, Clerk of New River Association for year, a great defender of the doctrine of God our Savior. Elder Wiley Via was a wonderful pastor, a free grace preacher who preached with his feet and hands and was followed by my grandfather in the flesh, Peter Corn, who was as good a pastor as any man of his day, served Pigg River Association as Moderator thirty-four years, a good able Godsent servant. He was followed by Elder David Sumner, a meek and faithful servant of the church. All these men were sound in faith and faithful in the ministry, and in this day as we examine the record, we can say with feelings of assurance, that surely the Lord has planted us, and as we leave this record for posterity, let it be always kept in mind that we thank the Lord our Shepherd and King for all of it and pray for grace to keep us and those that may be brought in throughout the ages to come.

This the 4th day of November, 1947.

Elder J. P. Helms
Vinton Va.

Elder J. P. Helms served faithfully from 1934 until his death Sept. 29, 1965. Elder William Holland served protein until May 1967. Chosen as pastor He served until his death December 4, 1987.

Present Deacons W. R. Bernard, John Plunkett and W.W. Abshire.

W.P. Lane Carter
Signs of the Times – Vol. 156, No. 7 – July 1988
pgs 151 - 155