Below, Guy Cox’s late 1960’s photo of historic Barnes Church, a Primitive Baptist church a few miles north of Stantonsburg. The church is said to have been established by African-Americans enslaved by Edwin Barnes.
A search of current Wilson County’s on-line tax records shows a parcel nominally owned by “Barnes Church” on Old Stantonsburg Road.
Locating the parcel on a 1940 aerial view of the area reveals the church sitting at a slight angle to the road in an open sandy area within a grove.
Eighty years later, the little wooded thumb of land remains, but there are no signs of Barnes Church, which ceased meeting in the 1960s.
Photos courtesy of the Wilson County Tax Department; Wilson County Aerial Photographs (1940), U.S.D.A. Photograph Collection, State Archives of North Carolina; and Google Maps.
Per county GIS mapping data, there are two property owners remaining in Wilson County whose named include the word “Colored.” The first I know well — Elm City Colored Cemetery Commission. The second pulled me up short — Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church.
Though I have driven through it on U.S. Highway 301 hundreds of times, I know little about Sharpsburg, other than that its town limits straddle three counties — Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe. Because I’m not familiar with the locations of these boundaries, I have not looked closely at Sharpsburg as a source of material for Black Wide-Awake.
I pulled up the GIS map for Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist and was immediately struck by two things.
One, the Wilson County sector of Sharpsburg is cleanly bounded by SE Railroad Street on the west and Main Street on the north. Two, this is the historically Black section of town — the church is there, it is “across the tracks,” and its street names include Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.
And then there’s this grainy Google Maps image of the church itself:
Per county tax records, trustees bought the lot at the corner of Railroad and Lincoln Streets in 1915 and built Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church in 1920. Another grainy photograph linked to the tax record and date-stamped 2016 shows a large sign mounted on the church tower that reads “Bellamy Chapel P.B. Church.” Bellamy Chapel appears to be defunct as well.
I’ve added Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church to my follow-up list. Stay tuned.
I was on my way to Saratoga when I spotted a road sign for Cornerline Place and thought of this old church. The first post about Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church relied on Google Maps for a relatively recent photo. The up-to-date situation reveals not just the expected decay of an abandoned church, but quite intentional depredation as well.
Here is Corner Line straight on. At left, a collapsed wooden building, one room wide, with a gabled front.
The church’s plywood sign has rotted beyond help. In its last days, Corner Line held worship services only once a month.
The church’s front doors are gone. As is half its floor, which, based on the straight cut across its width, appears to have been scavenged. The back of the church shows ordinary damage, collapsed ceilings from a rotting roof. The church’s original tongue-and-groove beadboard is visible under the wall’s faux paneling and sheetrock ceiling. Look closely at bottom left. That stump may have been one of the original posts supporting the church’s floor.
In 1917, Atlantic Coast Realty prepared a plat map subdividing the James W. Hayes Farm near Elm City into ten parcels. The farm’s location is readily identifiable as the tip of the triangle formed by present-day East Langley and Haynes Roads. At the tip of the tip, this notation: “Church 1/2 A, Excepted.”