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Constructed in 1845, this brick church features the Jeffersonian Greek Revival style of architecture and features fine woodwork and original lighting fixtures. The African American Baptist congregation of Union, organized by the Reverend Charles Campbell, acquired the church in 1870 from the white Baptist congregation. Today, the property is owned by the Monroe County Historical Society. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, through the National Historic District of Union, WV. In 2021 the West Virginia Humanities Council offered a grant to help pay for interpretative signage at the church.

Reverend Charles L Campbell

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First Baptist Church built 1845

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Interior view, baptismal for immersion is under stage

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Delegates to the New River Valley Missionary Baptist Association meeting in 1917, from across the state

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Coat, Headgear, Suit, Vintage clothing

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In the 1840s Rev. Hartwell Chandler, a Baptist minister from Charlottesville VA came to Union to organize this Baptist church. The church building was constructed in 1845 of hand-made bricks that were made in Union. According to records of the Monroe County Historical Society, enslaved people were referred to as “brothers “and “sisters,” and eligible for baptism and communion, but the fact that Black members later bought the church from the remaining white members reveals that Black members were not considered stakeholders until after they assumed control of the property.

In 1849 Hartwell Chandler deeded the property to the trustees of the Regular Baptist Church: Lewis Alderson, Peter Miller, and Oliver Skaggs. In the decades that followed, the number of white congregants gradually declined. While the white congregation built the church building, the African American members of the congregation continued to sustain the church and eventually purchased the building from the white congregants in 1870, when it was renamed the First Baptist Church.

In 1868, the following African-American members were baptized into the church while it was still owned and controlled by the white members: James Clair, Sr.; Mr. Henry Campbell; Mrs. Agnes Twist; Mr. William Bailey; Eveline Brown; Lucy Haynes; and Mrs. Edmonia Marick. Mr. James Clair, (Sr.), was the grandfather of Matthew W. Clair, who grew up to be a Bishop in the Methodist-Episcopal Church.   These members became charter members of the African-American First Baptist church.

Charles L. Campbell, born a slave in 1839 to the Campbell family in the Pickaway area, attended this church. When his enslavement ended, he went to Ohio to acquire an education, working by day as a Blacksmith and going to school at night. Upon his return, he studied to become an elder, and was ordained. 

The ex-slave, Rev. Charles Campbell, was instrumental in the purchase of the church from his former master who was a trustee of the church when used by the white Baptists. Rev. Charles Campbell was the congregation’s first pastor. He rode a horse to Athens W.V. to get the papers signed for the purchase. 


The church is constructed in what is believed to be a somewhat close copy of Christ Church Episcopal which Thomas Jefferson designed for the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. The hand-made bricks are laid in a Flemish bond. It is held together by distinctive ribbon joinery (mortar). The bricks are dyed red for uniformity and the joinery is penciled white. The white and red paint was thinned with linseed oil which protected the brickwork from water damage. Two monumental Doric columns stand within the recessed entry. Two doors lead from the portico to the sanctuary, as well as two doors to the antrae leading by winder-stairs to the second story. The interior supports a U-shaped balcony with Doric columns. The recessed pulpit is surrounded by a Roman arch. Under the platform lies a baptistery which can be used by removing part of the portable flooring.


Photographs show the Rev. Charles Campbell, the exterior of the church, the interior of the church, and delegates to the 1917 meeting of the New River Valley Missionary Baptist Association hosted by the First Baptist congregation in Union.


The church was deeded to the Monroe County Historical Society in 1998 by the remaining members of the congregation which included Stella Campbell, the grand-daughter of Rev. Charles Campbell, the first pastor.

The Monroe County Historical Society records and research