Two Fauquier Churches Have Stood the Test of Time

By Eugene Scheel
Sunday, December 14, 2008

Two rural churches in upper Fauquier County, Emmanuel Episcopal and Cool Spring United Methodist, are celebrating their 150th anniversaries this year. Their beginnings go even further back, to 1769, when the Virginia legislature created the Anglican parish of Leeds, acknowledging the growth that had occurred in Fauquier's western sliver.

The parish's Episcopalians and Methodists worshiped at Goose Creek Church, built about 1776, and later at the Goose Creek Free Church, before they outgrew that facility and in 1858 founded Emmanuel and Cool Spring a mile from each other.

When I contacted 103-year-old Molly Ramey Cunningham, Emmanuel's senior member, to discuss the church's history, she thought better of meeting me at the church on a wintry November day. So we met at her home, Molly's Folly, which is west of Marshall, lined by barbed wire at the end of a long, dirt lane. Not many people remain on a farm at age 103.

Why the name Molly's Folly? "In 1966, I squandered my dollar to move it, and felt I had the right to name it," she told me, explaining that the original site of her 1780 house was in the path of Interstate 66.

We were joined by Emmanuel members Jim Herbert, who is Cunningham's second cousin, and Janet White, in charge of planning the anniversary observances.

Cunningham said that some of her reminiscences were a little fuzzy. She told me a story she had heard from her grandmother, an Emmanuel parishioner who taught at the Ada School in the 1880s. Ada is a village at the fringe of a hilly region between Warrenton and Marshall known as the Free State, and Emmanuel often sent clothing to the Free State poor.

"These two mountain women came down and started fighting over one pair of men's pajamas, so their man could wear them to church on Sunday," she said. "Can you imagine, pajamas in church? And then you wonder whose people's grandmothers or grandfathers could have been the people in the story."

Cunningham singled out the Rev. Edwin S. Hinks, Emmanuel's pastor from 1890 to 1894. In 1892, when her uncle was 3 years old and lost his mother, the Hinkses took him in.

Jim Herbert, 90, was not averse to joining me at Emmanuel in the cold weather. He and Cunningham both remembered how their church, like Cool Spring and most Piedmont country houses of worship, was warmed by wood stoves and lighted by coal-oil lamps in the 1920s. Two outhouses stood at the building's rear, de rigueur at rural churches until the 1950s.

As Herbert sat in his pew, he recalled that twice he and Jim McCarty, a former chairman of the Fauquier Board of Supervisors, were the only attendees at Sunday worship.

In 1954, McCarty said he could build the foundation and walls of a parish house for $5,000, Herbert remembered. "We farmers all knew a bit about building," Herbert said. He recalled McCarty's words: "I'll put a roof on it if you finish it."

They did, in 1956, with many pitching in, and the congregation at Emmanuel grew.

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