Once known as the Old Sassafras Stage Church, Bethel Baptist Church is the oldest independent African American congregation in Sassafras and one of the oldest in Gloucester County. Bethel dates from the 19th century, when Sassafras Stage and nearby Allmond's Wharf were at the peak of their activity as hubs of commerce and transportation. Bethel was one of several black Baptist churches founded during the Reconstruction era. In 1867, Dr.L.Cattlett Stubbs donated one acre of land to his formerly enslaved butler, James F. Lemon. Mr. Lemon and other pious individuals used the land for their church; first meeting on crude benches under bush arbors, then constructing a small but well-built church with an altar railing, pulpit, and gallery. The present sanctuary dates to 1889. The chairmen of the building committee were carpenter George Leigh and bricklayer/plasterer Thomas Calhoun Walker, Sr. (father of lawyer T.C. Walker, who is buried in the cemetery next to Bethel Church). Five daughter churches developed as offshoots from the Bethel congregation: New Mount Zion, Mt. Gilead, Smithfield, Shepherdsville, and Morning Glory (all located in Gloucester, with the exception of Mt. Gilead in Williamsburg). Bethel Baptist Church was officially recognized as a Virginia historic landmark in 1997.
Site consists of a church and cemetery.
Geographical and Contact Information
2978 Hickory Fork Road