F.T. Baptist Churchas viewed from
the back porch of
The Conyers House.
In 1778 the F. T. Baptist Church was
organized as the Ragged Mountain Baptist Society with meetings
being held in a grove of beech trees on the banks of the Hughes
River in a log house at Sharp Rock. This was at a time when the
Anglican Church was the church of Virginia with taxes given to
the church to look after the poor and needy. The formality of
the Anglican Church was not as attractive to everyone and the
Baptist movement took hold. The Baptist were less cerebral and
preached more from the heart and appealed more to less
privileged country people than the high church patterned after
the English Anglican influence which attracted the local gentry.
Early Baptist preachers were jailed in Culpeper for
espousing differing opinions from their pulpits. By
1804, this congregation had moved down stream to F. T. Village
and had changed the name of the church to the F. T. Baptist
Church. Minutes of 1805 make reference to repairs needed on the
building in F. T. Village. The F. T. Baptist Church was never the Frances Thornton
Baptist Church. F. T. Valley has never been Fort Valley as
MapQuest may have you believe. Whenever we hear such references,
we know the speaker is new to Rappahannock or someone who wants
to aggrandize the names
F. T. refers to Francis Thornton who was given large land grants
in the area from 1730 to 1750 by King George III. Thornton's
legacy is prominent in the county as Thornton Gap, Thornton
River, Thornton Hill
Farm, Thornton Gap Baptist Church, and the Thornton Hill Hounds
are all named for him. Of course F. T. Valley and the church
are too. Chances are trees on Thornton's land were marked with
his carved initials to delineate his borders. When we hear reference
to Fort Valley Road instead of F. T. Valley Road we know we are
chatting with visitors to Rappahannock County.
In 1813 the membership
totaled 88: " 25 white males, 33 white females, and 30 colored"
each group using a specified entrance. The side door for the
"colored" worshippers led to the slave gallery upstairs. At
one time the membership numbered 225 and presently is around
n 1816 the congregation moved to it's present
site next to "Conyers' Old Store", according to the deed, and
built a meeting house in the shape of a cross in what is
presently the parking lot. The "one acre and three roods" was
purchased from John Zimmerman and his wife Jamima Zimmerman (who signed their names
with an X) for the sum of $18.00.
The present church was constructed in 1884 and a more recent
addition has since been added. F. T. Baptist Church is credited
with fostering the founding of other churches in Rappahannock
and Madison counties.
The present congregation is very active and has recently
installed a lovely entrance garden under the leadership of Mrs.
Nelson Revercomb (whose husband's family is first mention in
1844). A pipe organ, the first in a Rappahannock County Baptist
church, is currently being installed. Homecoming is
traditionally held in early September each year. The church is
led by Rev. Daniel Yowell whose family is first mentioned in
church records in 1824. There is an active Sunday School, a
youth group, and an adult choir which are all part of the church
The church does not consider itself a museum, but an active,
vital congregation which is very involved in community affairs.
The above information was taken from a 54 page booklet , written
in 1979 by A. Paul Thompson and the Trustees of the F. T. Church. This is a particularly interesting read and is presently
being reprinted. Mrs. Lucia Kilby, whose family first appears in
the church records in 1835, can be reached at 540.987.8741 and
will know the availability of the booklet. Mrs. Kilby is a
widely known local historian who is active in the DAR, the F. T. Church, and the Rappahannock Historical Society.