By Jane Mabe and Paula Drady
To commemorate the 100 years of Aaron’s Fork Church, a special service will be held on August 19 at 1 p.m. All descendants of former members, others of the faith and friends of Aaron’s Fork Primitive Baptist Church are invited to attend.
Since the beginning of Patrick County, as is the case in rural areas of our country, the church has been an important part of many people’s lives. It was where believers learned about and practiced their faith, but for many it was also the place to see old friends and make new ones, to learn the news of their community, to say farewell to departed family and neighbors, and to welcome the newborn and newly wedded.
This was the case at Aaron’s Fork Primitive Baptist Church.
On the Saturday before the third Sunday, August 19, 1917, Aaron’s Fork was organized as an arm from Russell Creek Primitive Baptist Church. Led by members from Russell Creek, Aaron’s Fork was located just across the state line in Stokes County, N.C., on land donated by John Aaron and his family.
On that date a meeting was held to organize the church. E.M. Barnard was chosen as moderator and N.B. Gilbert as clerk. They agreed on the name of the church and ordained H.H. Young and R.L. Dalton as deacons. Letters were accepted from Bob Simmons, R.L. Dalton, H.H. Young, W.H. Freeman, L.T. Tucker, and Paul Priddy. Witnesses were Walter Mabe, N.B. Gilbert, Mary Young, Mary A. Boyles, E.M. Barnard, S.J. Corns and D. Collins.
Through the years, a number of men faithfully served Aaron’s Fork as moderators: E.M. Barnard (1917), D. Collins (1917), N.B. Gilbert (1917), W.J. Brown (1926), and J.W. Beasley (1933). R.L. Dalton (1939), J.S. Sechrist (1961), N.G. Hutchens (1965), J.H. Gardner (1977), Frank Pegram (1993), and Cletus Turner (2003).
Aaron’s Fork was an active church until March 16, 2003. At that time only one member, Brother Arthur Martin, remained. Elder Cletus Turner was the last pastor to serve the church. After Aaron’s Fork closed, the church minutes were misplaced, but some documents remained to tell the story.
In May of 1919, the Mayo Association, of which Aaron’s Fork was a member, met in its spring session. Member churches were as follows: Aaron’s Fork, Axton, Big Creek, Buffalo, Cascade, Clear Springs, Dobbins, Draper, Flat Shoals, Friendship, Good Will, Macedonia, Matrimony, North View, Blue Ridge, Pleasantville, Pleasant Grove, Piney Grove, Ridgeway, Russell Creek, Red Bank, Shiloh, Snow Creek, Spoon Creek, Spray, Stateline, Sugartree, Stuart, Wilson and Walnut Cove. At that time, there were 1,005 members in the Mayo Association.
Another document tells of a meeting on the Saturday before the third Sunday in August, 1934, when the Presbytery was called upon by the church to ordain Brother Bob Dalton in the full works of the ministry. Also, N.B. Gilbert was elected moderator and W.A. Leake clerk. Brother J.S. Hill was chosen as spokesman for the church and Brother J.O. Pruitt was to give the charge.
The last baptizing at Aaron’s Fork took place in the river in 1985. At that time, Elders Cletus Turner, Kenneth Hopkins and Frank Pegram baptized Brother Sam Dalton, Sister Mozelle Dalton and Sister Zelma Cruise.
Many people have fond memories of their days attending the church at Aaron’s Fork. At Communions and Associations, cars were lined up in every direction. The preaching stand was across the road from the church and still stands today. Trees were cut to about two feet high, leaving the stumps to top with planks for seating. The church would be full, and ministers would go to the stand and preach so that all could hear the news from on high.
Pose and Babe Gray brought in a concession stand for these occasions. They had a little trailer and moved it from one church to another each Sunday. Folks could purchase cold drinks from tubs of ice, Nabs, cookies and ice cream for five cents. A barrel of ice water on the back of a pickup was always there to enjoy. In later years Leonard Dalton supplied this treat.
Ann Overby Jones related a story about her grandmother, Annie Puckett Overby, wife of Harbour Overby, who made the unleavened communion bread for Aaron’s Fork Church. One time, after making the bread, she set it carefully in the back of their vehicle and placed a cloth over it to take to church. Well, as children will do, their little son Frank, riding in the back, decided to eat a little. Upon arriving at the church, his mother was shocked to find that Frank had had his own communion!
It was with bittersweet memories that members and friends attended the last preaching service March 16, 2003. Today only singings are held from May through September and in December, the Saturday before the second Sunday, at 4 p.m.