WV Baptist History

O A K    H I L L    B A P T I S T     C H U R C H

On December 22, 1892, seventy-two former members of the Bethel Baptist Church met to start a new Baptist work and organized the Oak Hill Baptist Church.  Following two years of meeting in a school house and a local Methodist Church building, the new Baptist group managed to purchase property and build their own building on Main Street, across from where Plateau Medical Center is now located.  The new church was dedicated on December 23, 1894.  The Church experienced considerable growth and in 1923 a new building fund drive was launched.  On July 4, 1926, two years to the day following the ground breaking ceremony, the congregation marched approximately three blocks from their former church home to the present beautiful facility.

The Oak Hill Baptist Church was founded as a result of great vision and missionary fervor.  Under strong Pastoral and lay leadership, the Church began to make a significant contribution to West Virginia Baptist growth by starting missions throughout the area, leading to the formation of Baptist churches at Minden, Red Star, Scarbro, Sanger, and Mount Hope.  In 1932, a mission station was established in the east end of Oak Hill.  This work led to the purchasing of property and the building of a church through designated mission money.  In 1946, the East End Baptist mission was organized into the Calvary Baptist Church.

For one hundred years the Oak Hill Baptist Church has been "...like a beacon upon the top of a mountain and like an ensign on a hill."  (Isaiah 30:17)  Today, the church continues to make significant contributions to the community through the ministry of the members.  The present resident membership exceeds 500 with a program of ministry designed to disciple all ages.

In this new millennium, the Oak Hill Baptist Church stands ready to meet the challenges of a new day and is prepared to serve the community for another hundred years.





Born Thanksgiving day, November 30, 1854 at Toga, Buckingham County, Virginia, Thomas Fitzgerald was converted at the age of 17.  He was educated in Buckingham Field schools, and Richmond College, where he graduated in 1876.  Ordained as a Baptist minister at Pleasant Grove Baptist in Virginia in 1875.  He was pastor at several churches in Virginia form 1875 to 1882, and was called to Broad Run, Sinks Grove and other Baptist churches in Monroe County, WV in 1882.  He organized the Indian Mills Baptist Church in Greenbrier County in 1889.

Pastor Fitzgerald accepted a call to Bethel Baptist in Oak Hill in 1890, where he became the fist pastor of our church through the Raleigh Baptist Association.  He was  pastor here at OHBC until the end of 1894.  After being called elsewhere, Reverend Fitzgerald returned to become pastor here form 1908-Februarty 1922.  He is buried at the Woods Avenue Historic (Odd Fellows) Cemetery here in Oak Hill, West Virginia.




W N Bibb was born June 6, 1855 in the Gatewood area of Fayette County, Virginia prior to WV statehood.  The son of Cary & Nancy Calvert Duncan Bibb, his father served in the Confederate army during the Civil War.  His mother Nancy died in 1863, the year of WV statehood.  W N obtained a meager education in three months schools after the close of the Civil War.  He was converted at the age of seventeen and was baptized in October 16th, 1863 by his uncle, Pastor Martin Bibb.  W N joined Bethel Baptist Church on September 17, 1873. 

This very gifted speaker and orator was called to Oak Hill Baptist on March 24, 1894 and was still a layman at the time.  OHBC licensed him to preach, and in 1894 was ordained by the Raleigh Baptist Association.  The first OHBC building was constructed under his pastorate.  He left our pulpit in September 1902.  Following some health issues he went to San Francisco filling the pulpit of a California church.  He was there during the Great Earthquake of 1906.  e passed away on Wednesday, October 30, 1940.




Jasper Chambers was born March 10th, 1858 in Peterstown, Monroe County, West Virginia.  His parents were Rufus Alfred Chambers born 1824 and Elizabeth J Williams born 1836, both of Monroe County.  His grandparents were William F Chambers born in 1799 and Paulexa Ballard born 1797.  His great grandfather was Robert Chambers.  All four of these males representing four generations were ministers in Monroe County. 

Jasper married Susan Isobel Meadows on October 6. 1881.  They came to Oak Hill Baptist after he served at Forest Hill in Summers County.  His pastorate at OHBC ran form January 10, 1903 to November 1904.

Rev. Shirley Donnelly's history of the church informs us:  "Pastor Chambers faithfully preacher the gospel and visited his membership.  His last visit to this church was shortly after the present brick structure was dedicated."

Jasper Chambers died January 16, 1944 in Peterstown, Monroe County of a heart attack following influenza and pneumonia.




George Adkins was born in Fayette County December 9, 1865.  his father was Pastor W. H. Adams who served in the Confederate Army when George was born in a one room log cabin. 

George taught several terms in Fayette County schools, attended WVU, and then the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky. 

Pastor Adams was licensed and ordained at Ansted Baptist Church.  He served as pastor in 20 churches on the Hopewell Baptist Association, three in the Elk Valley Association, and two in the Raleigh Association.

George Adams was pastor of Oak Hill Baptist from March 13, 1905 to November 1907




CS Donnelly was born at Rock Castle (Given) in 1895 in Jackson County.  The son of Hugh and Rosa (Parsons) Donnelly, CS (Shirley) moved to Charleston at the age of 13 when his father Hugh got a job as a streetcar operator.  Shirley  graduated for Charleston High School and was editor of the school publication, "Book Strap."

Serving 50 years in the ministry, he was in the military as a Chaplin rising to the rank of full Colonel as he served as Head Chaplin for the US Army in Africa in 1944.  He read burial services for more than 11,000 service people, including some of the enemy.

Shirley was Chaplin of the VA Hospital in Beckley, On the Board of Directors of Merchants and Miners Bank of Oak Hill, Trustee of Alderson Broaddus College, and President of the WV Baptist Historical Society.

The local papers, Fayette Tribune and Beckley Post Herald ran his column of local interest form 1924- 1950, running under the heading "Yesterday and Today."

Pastor Donnelly served as pastor of OHBC from 1922-to July of 1943.  Under his leadership the membership grew from 200 to over 900.  Our present structure was constructed during his term.  He was involved in the organization of the Fayette Baptist Association in 1939, and served as its first moderator. 

Shirley Donnelly passed away on August 31st 1982.  Following a funeral  service completely filling the OHBC Sanctuary,  he was buried at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens Mausoleum with full military honors.




 AS Kelly was born October 7, 1869. 

His grandmother, Phoebe Cunningham,  was captured by Indians in 1785 and her entire family of children was massacred by those Indians.  She was held captive for over four years. 

A.S. Kelly was ordained at Glenville in July 1896.  Dr. Kelly was Chaplin with West Virgina troope in the Spanish American War in 1898.  For 16 years he served as a pastor in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. 

In 1912 he was elected Director of Evangelism for the West Virginia Baptist Convention, serving five years.  In 1917 he was elected Executive Secretary of the West Virginia Baptist Convention, serving twenty-three years.  During his tenure WV Baptist increased in number from about 49,000 to over 100,00 members.

A. S. Cross served as co-pastor of OHBC from January 17, 1941 to July 1, 1943 while Pastor Shirley Donnelley was serving as Chaplin for the Armed forces during World War II.




Gilmer Cross was a native of North Carolina. He pastored at Scarbro before being called to Oak Hill Baptist Church  on October 1, 1943, pastoring here to 1950.

During his pastorate a parsonage was purchased at 172 Maple Avenue in Oak Hill.

During the war years here at OHBC under Pastor Cross many of our young men and women served in the military service.

During his pastorate a lot was purchased adjacent to the OHBC building on Lundale drive to be the site of our new parsonage.

In 1950 he served as President of the West Virginia Baptist Convention.

During his pastorate 41 letters were granted and also during his tenure it was under the leadership of E. L. Boothe that OHBC sponsored the launching of a new church in the growing East End section of Oak Hill, our sister church, the Calvary Baptist Church.




Randolph Farnam Johnson was born May 21, 1908 in Williamstown, Wood County, West Virginia.  His parents were Emma Catherine Dils and Homer D. Johnson. 

Randolph graduated from Williamstown High School.  He earned an AB degree form Marietta College, AM DIV Degree form Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and a MA from the University of Pennsylvania.  He received an honorary DD degree from Alderson-Broaddus College.

Randolph Johnson was ordained into the ministry at First Baptist Church in Williamstown, West Virginia. 

On December 27, 1930 Randolph Johnson married Jeannette Price in Doddridge County. 

His pastorates included First Baptist Church of Hurricane, Parkersburg's Broadway Baptist, and the Old Greenbrier Baptist of Alderson before being called to Oak Hill Baptist in 1956.

Randolph Johnson served twenty-seven years at OHBC, including and interim period following his retirement.  He and his wife Jeannette built a home near Oak Hill High School for his retirement years, as he chose to remain in Oak Hill.

Randolph Johnson passed away on July 29, 1992 and is buried at Riverview Cemetery oin Williamstown, West Virginia along with his wife who passed later.



February 1982- May 2007

David Richard White was born in Charleston on January 10, 1945 to Erma Mae Morris White and Clarence E. White.  He grew up in Belle and graduated form Dupont High in 1962.

David was licensed to preach by his home church, Jackson Baptist of Belle in 1962.

David married Connie King on August 20, 1977 at Jackson Baptist Church in Belle.

In 1967 David earned his Bachelors in Arts Degree from Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky.  He received his Masters in Divinity Degree from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas in 1971. 

Pastor White was called to preach at First Baptist Church in Racine in September of 1971,. He was ordained by Judson Baptist Church in November of 1971.  He accepted a call to Cook Memorial Baptist Church in Pineville in May of 1974. 

On February 1st in 1982 David White was called to pastor the Oak Hill Baptist Church, beginning his duties that March and serving until May of 2007. 

David and Connie are retired and now reside in Cross Lanes near Charleston.  He continues to be active serving on the staff of Mount Vernon Baptist Church as Associate Pastor of Outreach and Discipleship.

Pastor David Sneed

Interim OHBC Pastor

May 2007-February 2010

David Sneed hailed from the Kanawha Valley and served in area churches throughout his  calling in the ministry.  Pastor Sneed graduated form Eastern Seminary, an American Baptist Seminary in Philadelphia.

Pastor Sneed and his wife Carla both served their churches in ministry and song.

He was pastor at  Fayetteville Baptist and also Saturday Road Baptist here in Fayette County as he led many to Christ and fed their flocks.

Pastor Sneed was a member of OHBC after his retirement and served in the choir adn as a member of the OHBC Men's Quartet.

Pastor Sneed came out of retirement to step in as Interim Pastor at OHBC for two years and nine months as the Pulpit Committee searched for the individual God had called to serve at OHBC.

OHBC found Pastor Sneed to be more than a "normal interim," as he worked full time here keeping established programs running and energetically working in outreach to youth, elderly, and visitations to those in need in our church family.

The Sneeds currently live in Fayetteville on Maple Avenue and continue to attend and serve OHBC.

Pastor Steve Malanowski



Steve Malanowski hailed from northern Ohio, raised in a family of ministers, and is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

Steve and his wife Tammy were called to serve at OHBC twice, first as youth ministers two decades back, and in February 2010 as OHBC Pastor.

Steve was active in every aspect of ministry and is bringing a new dimension to OHBC as we move forward into the 21st Century. 

Steve hosted a Sunday night series called "Refressh" where we explored church building and analysis of the risre and fall of community churches and how to rebuid them.

Steve left us after a year and half of service to return to his native Ohio.


Pastor Bryan Knight


2012- 2015

Bryan Knight and his wife Megan came to OHBC in 2012 and served us for three years.  Bryan is an Oak Hill native and Megan is from neighboring Beckley. 

Bryan brought to OHBC his experience in the WV Air National guard and was trained at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.  Prior to his tenure here he served in church planting in Chalottesvulle.

Bryan brought a youthful focus to the services, and early on baptised many new converts to Christ. 

Bryan led the community in an annual Crosswalk at Easter time when OHBC bonded with our sisiter churches in Oak Hill.  Good Friday saw Bruan and a core group dressed as Roman soldiers, actual horses inn period dress, and  people dressed from the era  David Bush (now Pastor at Rainelle Baptist) acted the roile of Jesus in carrying a life size cross thru the streets of Oak Hill to Calvary Baptist for a reinactment of the cruxification. 

Bryan was called to serve as pastor of Plaeasnt Valley Baptist in Parkersburg at the end of 2015.


James Anderson

Interim Pastor 2016-

Jim Anderson is the Southeast Area Minister for the West Virginia Baptist Convention. 

Jim lives near Lewisburg in Greenbrier County, and has agreed to serve as our Interim as we search for the person God has called for our pulpit.



Miss Evelyn Holliday


Resolution of Respect

The following resolutions were adopted by the Young People's Department of Oak Hill Baptist Church.

Whereas, it has pleased our Heavenly Father to take form our midst our beloved co-member and former president and secretary of this department.  Miss Evelyn Holliday therefore...

Resolved:  that we, the young people's department of the Oak hill Baptist Sunday School. express our sense of loss in the death of Miss Holliday and extend to the bereaved parents and family our deepest sympathy and pray that the God of all comfort may comfort and bless them in their loss.

Evelyn dear, you have left us for the kind of peace above

But forever your sweet memory will linger with us in love.

Francis Dillon, Hilda DeQuasie, Cleo B, Harland- Committee

Billy Lovell

Billy Lovell was born in Oak Hill to Mr. & Mrs. Cecil Lovell, who were Louisianans by birth, and West Virginians by adoption.  He had red curly hair and a good disposition.  As always, Rev Shirley Donnelly said about all the boys at OHBC, "I hope we have another Baptist preacher!"

Jane Carroll Estes

Jane Carroll Estes was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. John C. Estes.  Her mother was OHBC pianist, and her daddy was the "candyman of the countryside."  She is the grandchild of the Editor of the messenger because he married her parents.  -as written by Rev. Shirley Donnelly in the OHBC Messenger of October 1929.

Mrs. Marjorie Bibb

Alma was one of the girls of the OHBC Sunday School's Senior Department, and was married to Mr. Grant Thomas.  Grant Thomas was a faculty member of Oak Hill Jr High School.  She was the youngest daughter of Mr. & Mrs. M. C. Bibb, and was a member of the Oak Hill High School Class of 1929.  She was pianist of the OHBC Young People's Orchestra.

Mrs. F. M.  Jones

Do you remember?  This is from one of our OHB church publications from many decades back...  "There is splendid work being done by one member of our church, about which little is said but would be greatly missed by every regular church attendant.  This is the work of Mrs. F. M. Jones, who Sunday after Sunday has furnished and arranged the floral decorations that each of has enjoyed.  There is never any worry about who will be responsible for the decorations.  Whether it is for special services in the church, or arranging the flowers and decorations for a banquet, Mrs. Jones is the person who is called upon, as we always know she can be depended upon to make the results a bower of grace and beauty.  Someone on e who has visited our church on several occasions has remarked that she never realized before that the lowliest flower could be arranged so beautifully as they are frequently used in our church auditorium."

H B Clower

Henry Blaine Clower was born January 8, 1888 on a farm in the hill country of Floyd County Virginia, at a place known as Perry's Fork.  he was one of a family of eight sons and three daughters born to John Wesley Clower and wife.  The family, as might be expected from the fathers name, was Methodist.  At age fourteen Henry Blaine came with his family to West Virginia.  From 1908-1910 he was in the General Store business at Kaymoor.  In 1910 he came to Oak Hill and worked for a year in a store owned by Ashley Blake where the Midland Store building later stood.  From 1911-1915 he worked in a store owned by BC Peters.  On June 11, 1913 he married Miss Duncan in Charleston.  In 1913 he was employed by the Oak Hill Hardware Company.

HE served as recorder a number of times for the city of Oak Hill.  On coming to WV his parents settled anong the Dunkard Brethren and he joined that church.  Agter moving to Oak Hill he cast his lot wit the Baptists.  He became secretary of the Men's Bible Class and one of fifteen Deacons.  During the building program of eht new church he served on the finance committee.

Mrs. J E White

Mrs. White was a Virginian by birth and education.  Born in Portsmouth, Va, she was graduated form Portsmouth High School and form Virginia State Teacher College in Farmville. 

When coming to WV she first worked at the Baptist Temple in Charleston.  Later she came to Oak Hill and became superintendent of the Junior Department of the Sunday School here and led the Junior BYPU.  She slso served as church pianist and held offices in womens work.  She served on the staff of the church publication, the OHBC Messenger

According to her, the Junior Dept was the oldest fully organized in the OHBC Sunday School.  It began with six classes and included Mrs. JW Ray, IC Pennington, Mrs. CP Cobb, Mrs. Allie Brown, Ms Amy Mankin, & Mrs. Francis Boothe-Dillon.  The attendance at the start included an enrollment of about 50, averaging 55 weekly.

It has been said, "If you want something done get a busy person to do it,"  and that was certainly true in her case.  According to Shirley Donnelly, "No church ever had a more loyal, tireless, and consecrated Christian character than Mrs. White."

Mrs. Bessie Harvey Rule

Bessie Harvey was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. John W. Harvey and was born near Sanger.  Her whole life was spent around the Oak Hill area.  She was the mother of two children, Ruth & John Ray Rule.

Mrs. Rule was educated at Oak Hill High School, graduating with the class of 1909, and then on to Marshall College in Huntington.  For a number of years she was a public school teacher.

She was Superintendent of the OHBC Primary Department, and was affectionately called by all, "Mrs. Bess"  According to the late Rev. Shirley Donnelly, "there was not a more faithful and efficient worker in the entire Sunday School than she."

According to Mrs. Rule, Mrs. Sallie Fitzgerald/Archer organized the Primary Department about 1912 when new Sunday School rooms were added to the old church building.  She indicated in 1927 when writing about the primary department, that the teachers included Mrs. Hattie Duncan Christian, Mrs. Cleo Blake Harland, Mrs. Ed Blake, Mrs., Roonie Blake Bibb, Mrs. Sadie Harvey Wilmer, and Miss Marguerite Blake.  Fifty children were enrolled with an average attendance of thirty-five.

Edgar Lee Boothe

Edgar Lee Boothe was born December 19, 1879 at Terry's Fork in Floyd County  Virginia.  He was the son of Irish immigrants who came to the USA sometime before the Civil War.  The father served in the Confederacy throughout the war.  Edgar was one of thirteen boys and four girls.

Many of the Boothe boys were mechanics in the Old Dominion.  their father had been a wheelwright, making buggies or surries, the forerunner of our automobiles.

Edgar traveled west to Oak Hill in 1902 and was married by Rev. G W Adams to Miss Mary Blake in 1907.  For a number of years he was the farm superintendent of Lundale Farms, belonging to CT Jones.  Later he owned the Excelsior Fruit Farm adjacent to Oak Hill.

In 1906 he was baptized into the fellowship of OHBC, serving as Deacon, President of the Men's Bible Class, leader of the Senior Boys BYPU, & served on the Finance Committee.

He was the father of six children, including our Anna Lou Holt and our late Martha Kate.


The first Baptist Church in what is now West Virginia was in the Eastern Panhandle at Mill Creek in Berkeley County.  This church no longer exists.

The first Baptist church continually in existence in West Virginia is the Simpson Creek Baptist Church in Harrison County, as it dates back to 1770-1775.  It is one of our larger active churches.
The second oldest WV Baptist church is Forks of Cheat near Morgantown dating back to 1775.
Southern West Virginia's oldest active church is Old Greenbrier at Alderson, organized in 1781.  Dr. Randolph Johnson, our former pastor at OHBC, was also pastor at Old Greenbrier.  His son, Jim Johnson, is an active member in that congregation.
Fayette County's oldest active Baptist church is Hopewell at Victor just off Route 60 near Ansted.  Hopewell began in an old building there in 1790.
The Oldest Association in what is now the WV Baptist Convention is "Greenbrier Association," dating back to 1800.
In 1829 Charles & Elizabeth Gatewood Bibb left Virginia and settled at the mouth of Mann's Creek on the New RIver
After operating a ferry there for eight years, Charles Bibb  bought a tract of 200 acres on the plateau south of the New and named it "Gatewood" , in honor of his wife's maiden name.
Later the families of John Duncan and Philip Thurmond, who were also Baptist, chose a site to establish the first Baptist church in this area in the Bowlin section, a mile or two south of present day High Lawn Memorial Park.
In 1843 the Fancy Hill Baptist Church was constituted on the "Rose Murray Land" road leading from Oak Hill to Gatewood.
On September 16, 1854 the Fayetteville Baptist Church was constituted
On October 14, 1854 the Baptist  congregation in Oak Hill became known as Bethel Baptist Church.
In 1873 the Bethel congregation moved to a site later to be occupied by the Oak Hill theater.  (next to modern day BB&T)
In 1892 ninety-three members withdrew from the Bethel church to form the Oak Hill Baptist Church.
The Bethel congregation later remodeled a school building into a church on a knoll near Summerlee.
In 1935 Bethel relocated to its present site near Lochgelly with the sanctuary being dedicated August 23, 1936.
The ninety-three members forming the Oak Hill Baptist Church included the following families:  Bibb, Blake, Bragg, Brenneman, Burgess, Burkholder, Crew, Cooper, Evans, Field, Fitzgerald, Ford, Gentry, Harvey, Humphries, Jones, Lewis, Light, McClain, Painter, Rodes, Terry, Thurmond, Treadway, Waters.
OHBC- First Pastor- Thomas H. Fitzgerald was born on Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1854 at Toga, Buckingham County, Virginia.  He was converted at the age of 17 and graduated from Richmond College in 1876.  After being ordained, he pastored several churches in Virginia from 18785-1882.  He came to Monroe County, West Virginia where he pastored different churches until 1890 when he came to Oak Hill and accepted the call to Bethel Baptist Church.
After leaving Oak Hill to serve in the Huntington area, Thomas Fitzgerald was followed by W. N. Bibb as the 2nd OHBC Pastor, receiving the call on March 24th, 1894.
During Pastor Bibb's pastorate the 1st house of worship was erected, a wooden traditional church building typical of the era.
The new meeting house was said to be the best in the Raleigh Baptist Association at the time.
Mission stations were maintained at Minden, Scarbro, & Red Star and extended to McDonald
Pastor Bibb also served churches in Fayetteville & Beckley
In January of 1897 the Golden Rule Baptist Church (now Mt Hope Baptist Temple) was organized.
The Red Star house of worship was built while W. N. Bibb was OHBC pastor.
W N Bibb was born June 6, 1833 in the Gatewood section of Fayette County. He was the son of Carrie & Nancy Calvert Duncan Bibb
His father served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  His mother died in 1863.
W N was converted at the age of 17, and was baptized October 16, 1872 by his uncle Martin Bibb
As layman he was called to the Loop Creek Baptist Church in Wriston
He was called to OHBC also as a layman and the church licensed him to preach
In 1894 he was ordained by the ministers of the Raleigh Baptist Association
He was pastor of OHBC from March 24, 1894 thru September 20, 1902
After resigning form OHBC he went to San Francisco following a breakdown in his health
In October 1906 he returned to Oak Hill serving as a station agent for the Virginian Railway Company but was forced to retire in February 1923 due to failing eyesight
On Wednesday evening October 30, 1940 W N Bibb went to his reward

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2008  -Oak Hill Baptist Church