I almost always go for an extended bike ride on long holiday weekends. And although this weekend was not a long one, when it’s February and the temperature is in the upper 70’s here in the D.C. area it’s impossible to stay inside. So I took one of my recumbent bikes and went for a long, leisurely ride this weekend. And during the ride I happened upon the historic site of the New School Baptist Church, which is located along The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail at 15557 Cardinal Drive (MAP) in Dale City, Prince William County, Virginia.
According to the historic marker it was the site where slaves from plantations in the area “gathered between 1861 and 1865. They built a brush arbor church, worshipped God and became a faithful congregation. On December 5, 1881, Reverend John L. Bell and four other church leaders purchased one acre of this land for eleven dollars and called themselves the New School Baptist church. George W. Thomas helped erect a wooden, steepled church which was renamed Neabsco Baptist Church. The building was used also to educate children of former slaves and free persons of color. This church has undergone two renovations. Hand-hewn timbers below the flooring of the present church are silent reminders of the toll of many persons who held a dream during troubled times.”
While I was there I also ventured behind the church where the church’s historic cemetery is located. There are headstones there that are so old that the names and dates are worn away. The cemetery also proudly has the grave of a World War I veteran, Owen Thomas, whose family members still attend the church.
Neabsco Baptist Church has undergone many changes throughout its history and is about to undergo another major change. On six acres of recently-purchased land adjacent to the existing church building they are curretly building a new and much larger sanctuary to accommodate its growing and dynamic congregation. Even with its long history it’s pastor, Pastor Joshua Speights, Jr., feels some of the best days for the church are still ahead. So it appears that the 156 year-old church will continue to make history well into the future.