A little local history inspired a moto day ride this Sunday. Per Wikipedia:
“Bob Childress (1890–1956) was a Presbyterian minister who was born in the town of Ararat, Virginia, and raised in the Primitive Baptist tradition. He became known throughout the Southern Appalachian region for his work to transform the region’s culture of violence, and promote basic education. He is also the founder of the famous “Rock Churches” of Floyd, Patrick and Carroll counties in Virginia….
…Through his 40 years of ministry he built and led congregations at 6 famous “Rock Churches”, which remain in the towns of Mayberry, Bluemont, Buffalo Mountain, Slate Mountain, Dinwiddie and Willis. All but the Willis church are Presbyterian congregations. In 2002, the Churches were submitted to the National Register of Historic Places as the Reverend Robert Childress Presbyterian Churches MPS.”
I learned about said history from a local ADVRider.com forum member, who posted up a little ride report about visiting five of the churches. The roads connecting the architecturally distinctive “Rock Churches” are mostly small, hilly back roads in southern Virginia, plus a little bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and are therefore some of our favorite to ride. Replicating the rock church tour seemed like a great idea for a day ride, so we set out on Sunday to ride to all six, including taking as many unpaved roads as possible.
(As always, click on the photos to see the larger image).
Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church and Cemetery (Built 1932)
As far as we could tell, all the Churches have been kept up, and are still active, although not every site may have services every Sunday.
Mayberry Presbyterian Church (Built 1925)
More on Bob Childress, the man behind the locally famous Churches (from his Wikipedia article):
As a young man he witnessed and was caught up in the violence, alcoholism and ignorance of his impoverished and then isolated Buffalo Mountain community…Unable to attend school for much of his childhood he often resorted to violence and began drinking heavily. But upon witnessing a massacre at a court house he vowed to quit drinking and entered law enforcement. Eventually he got married and had children. After a chance visit to a Presbyterian church he began attending regularly and soon realized that he wanted to become a minister. He returned to high school at the age of 30 in the same one room school as his 6 year old son.
After getting a high school diploma he enlisted the help of his local minster to gain entry into the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond Virginia, and was ordained a Presbyterian minster in 1926.
Buffalo Mountain Presbyterian Church and Cemetery (Built 1929)
Willis Presbyterian Church and Cemetery (Built 1954)
Dinwiddie Presbyterian Church and Cemetery (Built 1948)
Bluemont Presbyterian Church and Cemetery (1920, and modified in 1946)
This was a neat way to organize a moto ride, and the Churches are certainly photogenic. I wish I had bothered to set up my helmet camera, or at least stopped to take photos, as views and scenery between the Churches were the best part. For all the pictures of the unique stone churches, I wish I had taken some pictures of the dirt roads and scenic views. Guess I’ll just have to go again:)
5/4/2014 – 203 mi of fantastic riding in perfect sunny and 75°F weather through hilly, southern VA paved and gravel back roads.