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Heritage Weekend Tile 1986

Old Fields Church

Heritage Weekend Tile 1986

Also known as the Fort Pleasant Meeting House, the Old Fields Church holds special significance in the history of the South Branch Valley. It is the oldest church in West Virginia; and because it served, too, as a school house, it is believed to be the oldest extant school house in the state.

The church was built in 1812 on land donated by Isaac and Elizabeth VanMeter, early settlers in Old Fields who, in 1832, built Fort Pleasant, an 18-room mansion of mixed Georgian and Federal styles nearby. The original deed for the church stipulates that while the property was owned by the Methodist Church, it would be available for use by any denomination at any time.

Religious tolerance did not extend to racial equality. While black slaves were allowed to attend services, they were segregated in a balcony accessed from an outdoor staircase. “A contributor to the Moorefield Examiner in 1904 recalled ‘Uncle’ John and ‘Aunt’ Lydia Lowe and all the old servants in the gallery before the war,” reports Richard MacMaster in The History of Hardy County, 1786-1986.

The meeting house had fallen into disrepair and was closed briefly in the late 1800s. According to MacMaster, Methodists from Old Fields and Moorefield raised enough money at an ice cream social in 1897 to repair the church and reopen it in 1898 with a service led by the Rev. S. G. Ferguson, who had served with Mosby’s Raiders in the Civil War.

After the removal of the unsafe balcony pre-1900, the building has been maintained in excellent condition. Members of the VanMeter and other prominent local families continue to be buried in the church yard as their ancestors have been for the past seven or eight generations.

Directions: US 220 north from Moorefield for about 4 miles, turn left at grey barn (just north of Fish Pond Rd.) and at historic sign and farm gate. Watch for green flag, drive through field on left.

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