Cove Brick Presbyterian Church
Services every third Sunday from April-December @ 7:30pm. Located at the Cove Church on Crockett’s Cove Road.
*The first service in 2021 will be Sunday, May 16, and will be outside. Please bring a lawn chair and a sweater.
2013 marks the 160th anniversary of the Cove Brick Presbyterian Church also known as the Crockett’s Cove Presbyterian Church located in the Cove. The church has withstood the ravishes of time, weather, the Civil War, and vandals. Many friends of the Cove Church have contributed their time, talents and financial aid to preserve the oldest surviving church in Wythe County.
Events leading to the establishment of the Cove Church began with the coming of John Crockett to the settle in the Cove about 1770, and the coming of Robert Graham in 1782 to his home on the Wilderness Road, now U.S. Highway 11. Both of these men had fought for the independence of this country in the Revolutionary War. Their children, John Crockett II and Nancy Agnes Graham, in time were united in marriage.
Nancy Agnes, a bride of seventeen, came to the Cove where she lived the rest of her life. She was the mother of eleven children, two of whom died in childhood. At her death in 1853, she left funds for the building of a church. Her will, which she had written twenty years earlier, after making other bequests, stated, “I give all the balance of my estate towards building a Presbyterian church on a portion of William Crockett’s land.” This balance, amounting to $1152.96, was used to erect the Cove Church which was completed in 1858. The bricks for the structure were hand-made on the site by the contractor, Mr. Wesley Johnson of Wytheville.
The congregation was organized by the Rev. Robert Graham and the Rev. F.N. Lewis. The first sessional records were of a meeting on April 24, 1858, noting Samuel R. Crockett and Robert Raper as the first elders. In 1869 Anchor of Hope and the Cove Church jointly secured the Rev. William Sterling Lacy as pastor, who served as such until 1873.
In 1875, Anchor of Hope and the Cove Church united into one congregation, continuing as such for ten years. In 1885 those living near the Galena Church withdrew their memberships to join Galena, which was being organized.
For the first fifty years of the Cove Church’s existence, the Methodists and Presbyterians used it jointly, the Methodists having services one Sunday and the Presbyterians the next. A cordial relationship always existed. The Methodist Quarterly Conference met in the church at times prior to 1903, bringing leading members of the Holston Conference to preach. Mr. Robert Steffey, the well known and loved traveling revival preacher, held services in this church many times. On the last day of the joint revivals those who had been converted during the services would come forward and give their hand to the minister of their preferred denomination.
The history of the Cove Church would be incomplete without an account of the Battle of the Gap of the Cove. The engagement was on May 10, 1864, the second of two encounters between the Southern and Union forces. (Toland’s Raid on Wytheville had been on July 17, 1863). Union General William Averell, a native of New York and a graduate of West Point, left Charleston, West Virginia on May first with the railroad at Wytheville as his objective. After passing through Tazewell and Bland Counties and crossing Little Walker Mountain on the Raleigh Grayson Turnpike, he stopped at the Elijah Smith farm, in the lower or western end of the Cove, for the night. The officers used the Smith home for quarters and were very demanding of the women to provide food for them. In the battle, which took place between the Allen Crockett house and Cove Mountain, Col. William L. Graham and Gen. John H. Morgan successfully defended the Gap of the Cove, thus stopping the Union advance to Wytheville. Gen. Averell retreated up the Cove, stopping at the Cove Church until he could secure the help of a negro slave to lead the way across the mountain during the night. Gen. Averell and his forces were on Little Creek in Bland County the next morning. Seventeen severely wounded of his men were left in the church where they were found the next morning by local people who gave attention to wounds and fed the men. A few died and were buried behind the church. The residents of the neighborhood were grateful that their homes and buildings were not burned by the retreating Union forces. This was probably due to the fact that the Union soldiers’ demands for food were met by the women of the homes they passed; as mentioned earlier, at the Elijah Smith home, and later by the cooks and Sallie Carpenter Crockett at her home who fed corn cakes to the retreating men.
After the war, the church was used as a school until 1889, when Sunny Side School was built across the road and east of the cemetery. Those who taught school in the church were Miss Susie St. Clair, Miss Calfee, Miss Clara Oewel (later Mrs. Jake Haller) and Miss Kate Whittaker.
The Methodists discontinued using this church until building their own churches, Mt. View in 1894 on the Raleigh Grayson Turnpike and Coveton in 1904 farther up the Cove. Mt. View still exists, but Coveton later dissolved and the building deteriorated until it no longer exits.
Ministers who served in the Cove Church after Mr. Lacy were the Rev. Calvin Smith, Dr. Barclay in the 1890’s, Mr. Alexander and Mr. Hall in the early 1900’s, Mr. Revely in 1906 who preached also in Bland County, and Dr. Gray. The Rev. Francis Brook of the Wytheville Presbyterian Church held Sunday School in the Cove Church in the late 1920’s.
The next link in the activity of the church was in 1941 on August third when the door reopened under the leadership of Dr. Andrew Bird, pastor of the Wytheville Presbyterian Church. Restoration of the building had begun in 1940. Since Dr. Bird’s ministry those who have served as pastors are the Rev. Chalmers McCutchen, Dr. Warren Conrad, the Rev. Harry Topham, Rev. Thomas Sproule, Rev. Mike Wingard and Rev. J. Brad Simpson.
The church is located on Crockett’s Cove Road in Wythe County. For more information, contact the Wytheville Presbyterian Church Office at 228-4715.