Bethlehem Baptist Church

Bethlehem Baptist Church, Hertford Co, NC organized 1835
this is a third building built 1902 by Willis Hofler of Gates Co.

Nov 2000 Bethlehem Church

About 1950, After lightning struck the church’s steeple knocking off its top, a 10 ‘ cone, which had been topped for fifty years with an ungrounded metal rod about six feet long
with an arrow to show the wind direction. It ran down the front left corner of the church ripping off the weatherboards. We were unable to find a workman
who would replace the steeple as it was. I would very much like a picture of the church
before it was hit by lightning.
We attended church at Bethlehem in Hertford Co where just about everyone was a cousin of some degree or connection. I started attending when I was two weeks old, Mama said. I was there every Sunday for the next twenty years. We even went on a Sunday when it snowed about two feet deep the night before. We weren’t the only family that was dedicated to this church – there was a strong, loyal community that came every Sunday. To keep such a loved church alive, donations were of course important. Back then, there were only simple ways to donate to our church. Now however, there are digital ways to contribute to your church via a website in order to give back to the buildings that we hold close. Daddy had just obtained a farm truck so we drove to Bethlehem for Sunday School. Of course, not one other soul showed up. “Where were you last Sunday?” queried my father the next Sunday.
My first Sunday School teacher was Viola Wiggins. Then my Primary Teacher was Miss Ruth Thomas. She also conducted the Sunbeams which met once a month. Later when I was in High School, J.D. Wiggins was my teacher. My mother was the Adult Teacher, and Miss Mary Thomas led the “Young Folks” some who never graduated to the “adults”. Mr. Will Thomas was the Superintendent.
When I was small the church was in a field with Center Grove of Hertford County
and Powellville and Holly Grove of Bertie County.
(That meant that one preacher preached at all four churches twice a month. (Sunday School was every Sunday.) Each church had one-morning preaching service and one-afternoon service
during the month. Our turns were first Sunday afternoons and third Sunday mornings.
I recall once on a very hot August afternoon when the windows were all raised to give some relief from the heat; just as Rev. Teague, who was noted for his very long sermons,
began his discourse a sudden breeze came into the church and took all his notes right out the window –T’was indeed a very short service that day.

“In this distinctive gable-fronted church the boldly sculpted tower features three gables,
one atop the other, amplifying the geometry of the triangular-headed doors and windows
and lozenge decorations. The congregation was formed in 1835 from Ahoskie Baptist Church. [and Colerain and Holly Grove]
The builder’s contract specified a ‘nice, handsome, workmanlike building’ to cost $375.”

from A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina by Bishir & Southern 1996


Interior view June 1958

dinner on the grounds1960

Dinner on the Grounds 1960


The Atkins Home at Bethlehem now demolished.
Picture clipped from 1939 Historical Ed Hertford
Co Herald

Hi Sally – Good to hear from you! Yes I want to tell you about the photo of your wedding inside Bethlehem – when I first saw your website and came upon that picture the first thing my eyes went to was the top of that preacher’s head! And I kept staring at it and knew in my gut – I knew that head!! Finally I looked at the dates and I knew it had to be my father!!

Also have a couple of pics taken inside the church in Sept. 1962, Daddy’s last Sunday preaching at Bethlehem. And my mother (who played the piano when your mother was not able to be there), Florence Gillikin.
Daddy with Dennison Wiggins walking back to the church – 1962.
Picture of the church – Daddy took sometime between 1957-1962.

Next pictures will be of Holly Grove.

My best, Lorrie Gillikin Chapman


Family 1962


2 thoughts on “Bethlehem Baptist Church”

  1. Sally, we have talked before about other people in your and my ancestral history, but time I was curious about the ladies mention in your post above. The Thomas ladies. Can you tell me anything about them such as who their parents were? Thank you for your generous time.

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