The earliest known Lutheran and Reformed Church west of the New River is Saint Paul, near Rural Retreat, Virginia, formed in 1776 according to accepted history although no document has ever been found to substantiate this date. The church is located about two and one half miles NE of Rural Retreat, Virginia, on state route # 699. In the early days, the Meeting House lands were surrounded by the lands of William Engledove, Henry Lambert, Peter Neff, and Adam Baugh. Although it is accepted that the church was formed in 1776, the first known baptismal book is dated August 17, 1793, when the family of my gggg grandparents, John Peter and Margaret (Daut) Kinder, were baptized.

      There are at least two published family genealogies that state Michael Cormany, who settled "Cormany Springs," the present day Edward Buck place just east of Rural Retreat, Virginia, gave the land for The Saint Paul Church, and was it's first minister.    There are private records in the LDS Library, in Salt Lake City, Utah, that also repeat the Michael Cormany story.    This story was started many years ago and is unfortunately and incorrectly being copied and disseminated as fact.

     There are absolutely no official records or documentations to substantiate the Michael Cormany story.   The original tract of land for the Saint Paul Church consisted of 100 acres of unclaimed land and was surveyed for Martin Kimberling, Michael Steffey, Michael Wampler, and John Phillippi, Elders of the congregation.   The deed for the land is dated September 13, 1782, and is recorded in the Montgomery County, Virginia, Court House.

     The Cormany families were in fact very active in the Saint Paul Church, and the name is found very often in the old records however, no records exist indicating Michael Cormany was one of the ministers.   The Reverend W. P Huddle, in his history of Hebron Church, Madison County, Virginia, states there were no Lutheran ministers in Virginia, in 1782.   The notable Reverned Paul Henkel never mentions Michael Cormany as a minister in any of his early writings about the Lutherans and their church in western Virginia.   The Reverned Alexander Phillippi, was also a noted Lutheran minister in Wythe County, Virginia, and his writings do not mention Michael Cormany as one of the ministers of The Saint Paul Church.

     Before the first resident ministers arrived in Wythe County, Virginia, The Saint Paul Church was visited by itinerant ministers who baptized and administered communion.    Perhaps Michael Cormany was an early teacher in the congregation, an un-named Elder, or perhaps even a self made preacher, who in the absense of any ordained minister, gave the day's service.

     Some historians state the Kimberling Church, in the Kimberling Section of Wythe County, Virginia, is older than Saint Paul Church. The oldest date in the Baptisimal Book for The Kimberling Church is October 17, 1779. The land for the Kimberling Church was donated by Martin Kimberling, in 1797. It is clearly evident that the congregation existed before the land was actually deeded to the church.

     One of the first, if not the first settler in the Kimberling Section of Wythe County, Virginia, was my gggg grandfather, Jacob Tobler, whose land joined the Kimberling tract to the North and East. Records of an early minister, Rev. Paul Henkel, indicates he visited and stayed with Jacob Tobler, as did he with Henry Lambert, who lived near the Saint Paul Church. Since many of the early settlers names appear in both the Saint Paul, and Kimberling Records, it is thought by some that both congregations may have been formed about the same time and that a single Baptismal Book was used for some time.

     There is and will most likely always be much debate over the formation dates of the two churches. It is enough to say that our German ancestors made their faith known in the area at a very early date.

     The next two German Congregations in Wythe County, Virginia, would be Zion Church, in 1791, located on the waters of Cripple Creek, south of Rural Retreat, Virginia, and Saint John's, in 1800, located just north of Wytheville, Virginia. At this time, I do not have the records for these two churches for publication.

     In the Black Lick Community of Rural Retreat, Virginia, north of the town and the Kimberling Section, old deeds dated in 1806, indicate a meeting house existed somewhere on the north side of Pine Ridge on land that belonged to Lewis Able. I have not researched for other documents concerning that meeting house.

     Most researchers state the first church on Black Lick, known as, "The Brick Church," was located near Ward's, (Doak's), Mill, and was organized in 1840 when Ephraim Ward deeded the land to the trustees. This church, known as "The Brick Church" was built as a school building and a Presbyterian meeting house although the building was used by the Lutheran Congregation. The Brick Church stood near the home know today as "Wayside Gardens." Some of the old brick from the old church, which was produced on Black Lick, are in the chimney of Wayside Gardens.

     Macedonia, an ole log Methodist Church dating back to 1845 was located on the banks of Reed Creek on land donated by Eli Davis. Macedonia burned in 1879, and the congregation constructed the present Marvin Church in 1881. Marvin Church is located on route 680, north from Staley's Crossroads near Rural Retreat, Virginia. The church is approximately two miles north on 680 from the crossroads. I recorded the names in stone at Marvin on May 15, 1981. The cemetery records for The Marvin Church Cemetery are among these pages. I have included these records because they contain many connections to the first settlers of the area.

     Other Lutheran Churches would follow later. The present day Grace Lutheran Church, in Rural Retreat, Virginia, dates back to "Oak Grove," in 1866, and later known as, "Hawkins Chapel." It is said this church started as a school in the basement of the old Michael Cormany home.

     In the appendices of my book, "Early Settlers of Old Mount Airy, Wythe County, Virginia," I have the baptismal records for the Saint Paul and Kimberling Churches. I obtained these records from the late Mr. Frank Brown, of Rural Retreat, Virginia, and the State Archives, in Richmond, Virginia. I also have the records of all readable tombstones in the cemeteries at Saint Paul and Kimberling Church, along with the cemetery records from the cemetery at Marvin Church, on Black Lick, and a few other Church Cemeteries in the area and I will add more as I get the time. Many of these cemeteries were transcribed many years before my efforts by the late Mr. Frank Brown, of Rural Retreat, Virginia, however, his records have never been made available to me or anyone else to my knowledge.

      These baptismal and cemetery records are included in our home pages and can be freely copied and/or distributed.


Church Baptismal Records Here

Chruch Cemetery Records Here

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