Members of the First Baptist Church Chesterbrook of McLean, Fairfax County's oldest black church, remembered last week the man who founded their church 120 years ago, with the unveiling of a monument at the grave of the Rev. Cyrus Franklin Carter on the church grounds.
The large granite slab, engraved with Carter's name and the three Northern Virginia churches he helped to found, cost the less than 100-member church about $2,000.
"It was worth it to us," explained Albert Brown, chairman of the church's Deacon Board. "It's good for church history . . . it's a marker that will last for a number of years."
The ceremony took place after a memorial service and processional from the First Baptist Church Chesterbrook, at 1740 Kirby Rd., to the grave site, which is about 700 yards from the church.
Carter was born in Port au Prince, Haiti, in February 1815. When he was a young child, Carter was brought to the United States as a slave with his parents. He was emancipated before the end of the Civil War after working as a slave much of his life in Lancaster County, Va.
In 1863, as a free man, Carter and his family traveled to Northern Virginia and landed at Maison Island, now known as Roosevelt Island.
During the Civil War he served in the ambulance corps for the U.S. government. Between 1866 and 1891, the year he died, Carter helped to establish four Baptist churches.
He also served as pastor at those churches, the First Baptist of Fairfax County, now the First Baptist Church Chesterbrook; the First Baptist Church in Vienna; the Fourth Baptist Church of Fairfax County, now known as Shiloh Baptist Church, in Odricks Corner, Va., and Mount Salvation Baptist Church in Arlington.
"We're very proud of him," said Brown. That dedication to the church's founder is evident in the Annual Cyrus Carter Day held each year since 1980. Six years ago, church members formed the Cyrus Carter Memorial Club. Members of the club now are working on a written history of Carter's life.
Brown said it's difficult to find out just what Carter did during his early years. "I understand that there is a book on the history of Fairfax County and he Carter is mentioned in it."
A few descendants of Carter, including his great-nephew, were honored at the May 26 ceremony.