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Anniversary print: Churches of Harmony Grove

The HGBC print

by Betty Kennon

On June 21, 2009, Harmony Grove Baptist Church on Route 33 near Topping will celebrate its 150th anniversary. The morning worship service will begin at 10:30 a.m. followed by lunch on the grounds at noon. The theme around this entire day has come from the print drawn by Robert Crump depicting the three churches of Harmony Grove.

Between 1838 and 1847, Zoar Baptist Church built two new houses of worship, “both of which were neatly and comfortably furnished, and at each of which they had preaching twice a month,” according to church history. One was built near the lower end of the county. The other, about 10 miles distant, was built in a grove of oaks on a tract of land “called and known as ‘The Trap,’ one acre of which had been laid off for the purpose of putting a Baptist Meeting House on.” This first meeting house, built on what is now Routes 3 and 33, was called “Harmony Grove.”

Tradition gives the following account of the origin of the name: A group of devout men and women gather in a grove of trees on the present church site and engaged in song and prayer. Mrs. Annie Miller Blake, mother of Robert Ludwell Blake ( a charter member of Harmony Grove), “raised” the songs, and suggested the name “Harmony Grove” because of the beautiful surroundings of stately trees and peaceful and harmonious atmosphere that pervaded the gathering.

Harmony Grove Baptist Church was constituted on June 21, 1859 by Zoar granting letters to 124 members. On July 9, 1859, Zoar “ordered…trustees of Zoar, to make a deed to . . . deacons and trustees of Harmony Grove Church. . . .” Rev. Holland Walker was called to be the first pastor of the church.

As the young church grew, the question of whether to remodel and repair that building or to build a new house of worship was debated earnestly. In 1883, the church made the decision to build a new house of worship. No record was made of the date of the laying of the cornerstone nor of the dedication of the building.

In 1890, the church bought two acres of land near Wake and built a chapel for the benefit of those who had no way of getting to church. With the coming of the automobile, the need for this site lessened until services ceased and in 1955 the property was sold. 

After the turn of the century, the need for expansion became evident to those with vision. Dr. H.J. Goodwin set on foot a movement for the erection of a new building, the outcome of which is the present house of worship. Ground was broken in 1911 and in 1917 the cornerstone of the new Church building was laid. On August 1, 1918, the building was dedicated.
Before many years, the seemingly large building had many obvious limitations in meeting the growing demands upon it. Recognizing the need for a modern building and equipment, a Baptist brother who believed in the church community and worshipped here, left the church a legacy of $2,000 in the spring of 1951, designated “for the Building Fund.” Led by Dr. E.V. Peyton, the church began to plan and work for the erection of an educational annex. The ground breaking ceremony for the annex was held on April 17, 1955 and the addition was dedicated on June 10, 1956. 

The newest wing of the educational building was erected in 1964. Under the leadership of Rev. Charles A. Chilton, a plan to construct a brick, two-story addition to the north side of the sanctuary came true. This building, in use today, houses all departments for children’s work, including the nursery, the youth and today the library.

In 1997 expansion work was done to the 1955 addition of the church. 

This Sunday, June 7, 2009, Rev. Charles A. Chilton will come back to Harmony Grove to preach and reflect on his years at Harmony Grove.

posted 06.03.2009

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