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Old Stone Presbyterian Church


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The Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg is thought to be the oldest church building in continuous use west of the Alleghenies. The sanctuary on Church Street was built in 1796 from native limestone, with walls 22 inches thick. Church history says the women worked with the men of the congregation, riding horseback to the Greenbrier River to fetch bags of sand for the mortar. Rev. Benjamin Grigsby dedicated the structure, originally named Lewisburg Presbyterian Church, with this verse: ‘‘Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’’ (Psalm 127:1)

The establishment of the former Greenbrier College for Women and Greenbrier Military School followed the education effort begun in 1808 by Old Stone’s Rev. John McElhenney, who served as pastor for more than six decades.

The church escaped damage during the Civil War, when it was used as a hospital and for billeting troops. Following the Battle of Lewisburg, May 23, 1862, Confederate dead lay in the sanctuary. The Union commander refused to allow services, in retaliation for sniper fire that killed one of his wounded soldiers. The Confederates were unceremoniously buried in a trench along the south wall of the church. After the war, 95 soldiers were reburied in a common grave mounded in the form of the cross, on a hill just beyond Old Stone.

Old Stone Presbyterian Church, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, remains in active use. Its churchyard cemetery has the graves of many local families.

Read the National Register nomination.

Written by Belinda Anderson

Sources

  1. Montgomery, John F. History of Old Stone Presbyterian Church. Parsons: McClain, 1983.