Virginia history

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1887: Staunton, VA

Assembly testimony in Virginia seems to have started when Henry Catts from an assembly in Chicago, opened a business in Staunton in the western part of the state and was instrumental in bringing two well-known Gospel pioneers, James Campbell and William Matthews, to Staunton. These brethren pitched a tent there in 1887, resulting in an awakening in which many people were saved, black and white. The joy of these new-born souls abounded over all racial feelings and all were baptized together.

Alexander Lamb and William Beveridge, both from Scotland, were working for the Lord in Philadelphia when Mr. Campbell encouraged them to spend their vacation preaching Christ in Virginia. They went down together the following summer and God used them in bringing souls to Christ.

In 1890, Messrs. Lamb and Beveridge returned to Virginia, this time going to Richmond. James Campbell shipped his tent to them and they pitched it in Fulton, a suburb of Richmond. This was something new in that area, and nightly the tent was packed. A rich harvest of souls was reaped. The work continued into the fall, until the weather turned cool. The tent was taken down and these brethren secured an old building and continued there until the end of the year.

Their first baptism was in the James River in October. The whole community had been stirred and all kinds of evil reports were in circulation about the preachers and the “new doctrine.” Throngs came to witness the baptism that day and small boats were lined up the river as far as could be seen. In late October 1890, the preachers and the converts sat down to Remember the Lord in Breaking of Bread and soon about sixty were in assembly fellowship.

Benjamin Bradford, just beginning his work as an evangelist, met the preachers from Virginia and they encouraged him to go to Richmond and continue at the Richmond Gospel Hall while they visited Canada. This he did, and more souls were saved, though opposition was strong, especially from a secret order called the “White Caps.” One morning, placards were posted in Fulton, setting a time limit for the “Mormons” to get out. The following Sunday night, the hall was crowded. The devil was defeated in his purpose, for the leader of the “White Caps” was saved that night and the saints were left unmolested.

1891: Gayton, VA

In 1891 and after, Messrs. Beveridge, Bradford, and a Mr. Stevens from Cleveland would walk to a coal mining village called Gay ton, about 25 miles from Richmond to preach the Gospel. Many souls were saved, and a small assembly began Remembering the Lord in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Clairborne of Gayton. This Gayton Assembly seems to have lasted only a short time.

1897: Matoaca, VA

The preachers went also to Matoaca, a town south of Richmond. Messrs. Lamb and Beveridge secured a hall there with only planks for seats, but the place was crowded. A tent season followed and there were very few homes in that village that did not witness the grace of God in the salvation of some of the members of their families. The preachers Lamb, Bradford, and James Hamilton from Scotland built Matoaca Gospel Hall for the new assembly in 1897. The Matoaca Gospel Hall continues today.

1900: Petersburg, VA

Hugh Campbell, who was saved in tent meetings held by Mr. Matthews and Mr. McGill, moved to Petersburg, a short distance south of Richmond. The brethren pitched their tent in that city and again the work took hold, and an assembly was formed. W. R. McEwen had a tailoring business in Petersburg and a number of his daughters and his son Sam were saved in those seasons of blessing. Sam McEwen became a well-known servant of the Lord and was much used of God in Virginia, as was the youngest son, Hugh. The Petersburg Gospel Hall dates to 1900.

1950: Richmond, VA

Al and Mattie Ridolfi, Joseph Cheetham, and Thelma Reams, who were in fellowship at Shurm Heights Gospel Hall in Richmond (now Carlisle Avenue Gospel Chapel), decided in 1950 to have a series of children’s meetings in a home in McGuire Park in south Richmond. These meetings drew the interest of a number of parents, and a number of them came to know the Lord as their Savior. A small assembly was started in a home in that area, and before long, plans were made to build a chapel.

With the help of a number of Christians, primarily from Durham, Raleigh, and Siler City, Grace Gospel Chapel in Richmond was completed near the end of 1951 at 3459 Chapel Drive. A number of additions followed over the years, including an apartment which was used by visiting speakers and traveling missionaries.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, the attendance reached 200 or more each Sunday. But when urban blight reached the area, families moved away and attendance dwindled. A six-acre site in Chesterfield County was found and purchased, but it was about eight years before the old chapel was sold. The new chapel at 1201 Spirea Road was finished enough for occupancy in 1995. Attendance was up to about 80 people in 1998 and has grown as a result of visitation in the neighborhood. Grace Gospel Chapel has commended workers to the Pittsboro Children’s Home and other service in North Carolina.

1900: Newport News, VA

Bethany Gospel Chapel in Newport News dates back to the turn of the century when five families met each Sunday to Break Bread in the home of William Dunning in the 300 block of 49th Street. At about the same time, a different group formed a Sunday school in a nearby building that had been used by different churches. The leader of that group met Mr. Dunning and was so impressed with the type of services held at Dunning’s home that he made his building available for the assembly services.

A few years later the growing assembly purchased a house and land and organized under the name Gospel Hall. Expansion led to plans for a new building in 1938. The first meeting held in the new Newport News Gospel Hall at 82 - 29th Street was in May 1940.

Around 1962, when the area around the area was becoming more commercialized, the assembly moved to 40 Ballard Road in a residential neighborhood, where more children could have easy access to hear the Gospel. Construction of Bethany Gospel Chapel was begun in September 1963 and the chapel was dedicated in June 1964.

1989: Poquoson, VA

Hampton Roads Community Church in Poquoson, north of Newport News, began in September 1989 in Poquoson High School, having split off from Bethany Gospel Chapel. Earl Cheek, Gary Stewart, Chancellor Bailey, Joseph Kingsboro, Kenny Cheek, and Tom Ward were those who started the assembly. The church grew slowly in the first six months as the elders developed a philosophy of ministry. Then they moved into the Poquoson Primary School, where they had exclusive use of the facilities on Sundays. Gary Stewart, Kenny Cheek, and Tim Rutman have been the elders. About 110 adults and youngsters attend Hampton Roads Community Church.

1955: Arlington, VA

The assembly known today as Cherrydale Bible Church in Arlington started in the mid-1950’s from a home Bible study group led by Colin Heath. This group established an assembly and moved into Tucahoe School in North Arlington, where it was called Cherrydale Community Chapel. In 1958, the assembly moved to the present building at 1905 North Monroe Street. In 1980, the group took the name Cherrydale Bible Chapel, and later Cherrydale Bible Church.

Mr. Heath was with an assembly in southeast Washington before starting the home Bible study in Arlington. In addition to Colin Heath, Warren Lane and George Grimm were involved in starting the assembly. In 1963, the assembly recognized elders as their leaders, and these have been Bill Barr, Donald Tinder, Dale Knowles, Claude Poole, Edward W. Payne, Excell Duncan, and Conrad Tolosa.

The congregation was fairly large through the 1960s with a good youth ministry. The 1970s witnessed a departure of a large percentage of the young members, and today about 40 adults and youngsters attend the assembly.

Cherrydale has commended or co-commended workers to Ecuador, The Netherlands, Chad, Rumania, France, the Emmaus Correspondence School, and to prison and youth work in Virginia. Ted Payne has been commended to ministry at Bethany Bible Fellowship, Canton, OH.

1953: Hopewell, VA

An assembly in Hopewell was prospering in 1953. Hopewell Gospel Chapel was built in 1955.

1951: Victoria, VA

Northside Gospel Chapel in Victoria, a rural town in southern Virginia, was begun in 1951 through the efforts of Robert Adcock, Les Doby, C.O. Dunnavant, Ralph West, W.H. Hardy, and A.S. Holloman. The assembly began as a Baptist church, but after about a year, and discussions with the brethren in Durham, NC, they switched to a New Testament style of governance and worship. The group has always occupied the same building at 2300 Marshal Avenue. In leadership over the years have been Woody Murphy, W.J. Oglesby, and Glenn and Clifford Hood, in addition to those mentioned above. In 1996, the assembly had about 40 adults in fellowship and about 20 children. Northside has commended Glenn Hood to work in the assembly. Charles Vaughan of Lynchburg, VA often ministered the Word at the assembly.

1969: Blacksburg, VA

Blacksburg Christian Fellowship in southwestern Virginia, began in 1969 in rented facilities of the Wesley Foundation at Virginia Tech, where it met until building its own chapel in 1989. Jerry Caskey, Paul King, Sam Metcalf, Paul Ribbe, and Victor Zitta, with their families, were the initiators of the assembly. Others in leadership have been Joseph Kelley, David Kingston, David Kenyon, Dennis Schnecker, and Jay Sullivan.

The assembly has commended workers to Spain, Ecuador, Bolivia, Austria, Cambodia, Nigeria, and Austria. Attendance at Blacksburg Christian Fellowship on a typical Sunday is about 600 to 700.

1952: Criglersville, VA

Sunnybrook Gospel Chapel in Syria, near Culpeper, about 60 miles southwest of Washington, DC, began in 1952 in Criglersville. Mr. and Mrs. Ermal Robinson were the principal people involved in the start-up, and since then McKinley Jenkins and James Hasse have shared the leadership. About 65 adults and youngsters attend the assembly.


• Questionnaire Responses • History of Cherrydale Bible Church, in The Cherrydale Messenger, Fall 1997 • Hampton Roads Community Church, mid 1990s • Grace Gospel Chapel: Historical Sketch of Assembly, 1998 • Letters of Interest; November 1946, p.34; December 1946, p.30; October 1966, p.9