Last Saturday, we were talking about all the annual events that already have been canceled in the coming months. No Wallen family get-together this weekend, though just the two of us might drive to Flower Gap to visit family graves. No June meeting at Willis Chapel. These, of course, are events important to our usual calendar. On a wider scale, we’ll miss the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Fun Fest, and other large events. We moved on to saying we hope by September there can be a memorial gathering at the Willis Cemetery, and that by October the “So-say-shun” (the annual meeting of the Eastern District Association of Primitive Baptists) will be able to go forth at Copper Creek (Addington Frame) Church in Scott County.
My only reference to Copper Creek in Scott County is the Copper Creek Viaduct, the way-up-in-the-sky railroad bridge visible from Highway 23 going toward Duffield. It’s where Copper Creek flows into the Clinch River. Crossing the bridge on CSX tracks aboard the Santa Train, I’ve stared up the valley from whence Copper Creek flows and wondered what was up there.
I asked Mom if Copper Creek Church was near the railroad bridge. She said she didn’t know. (It is not.) I asked her if she knew how to get to the church. She said she believed you go toward Nickelsville. And then she said that’s where she wanted to go on our Sunday drive if we took one.
We did. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful drive. The map lady in my phone said Copper Creek Primitive Baptist Church, located at 2238 Addington Frame Road, Nickelsville, was about 22 miles from our home, and would take us about 40 minutes to reach. I followed her directions. The trip was either farther than Mom remembered from her last visit there, or there’s a shortcut me and the phone lady don’t know about.
Near the end of our journey there, I told Mom we were nearing Addington Frame Road. She told me if memory served her well, my Uncle Pete (by marriage to my Aunt Ann Wallen Manis) was raised in that area and his family had attended the church. I admit I gave her the side-eye. When Aunt Ann married Pete in 1972 (I’d have been 9 years old), all I knew was he’d been from Richlands, where he’d owned a business. He also had a Corvair, which made him cool in my book. When he died on Christmas Eve 1989, he’d been buried in Richlands. I learned something when he died. His name wasn’t Pete at all. It was Joshua Theldon Addington.
We continued on to the church, which could be straight out of a Thomas Kinkade or Normal Rockwell painting. A cemetery is nearby. Driving past I easily counted more than a dozen “Addington” tombstones. “I wonder if any of those could be Pete’s people?” I asked. “Probably,” Mom answered. “I’d bet they are ... somehow or the other, at least.”
We parked in the church’s semi-circle driveway and got out. The perfect greeting was on the sign out front: “Rejoice and be glad.”
I peeped in the windows at the rows of heavy wooden pews. I discovered a breezeway between the church and its fellowship hall (a modern addition, but in a style not different enough to look out of place next to the 100-plus-year-old sanctuary) and led Mom along it to a back deck. We took some pictures and left, back down the gravel road, both looking forward to hitting blacktop.
For a history of the church, I turned to the minutes of the 162nd annual session of the Eastern District Association of Primitive Baptists. That session was held in 2014 at Copper Creek (Addington Frame) Church. That year marked the current building’s 100th anniversary. From the minutes:
“The church now known as Copper Creek Primitive Baptist Church was established in the early 1800s. The first records show it was organized in 1807 ... services were held mostly in homes and the Saratoga school house. (Eventually) a plot of land was given by William Addington in an area down on the creek about ¾ mile from the present site, to build a meeting house. A frame structure was erected and put under roof, only to run out of supplies and funding. Therefore, the meetings could only be held during favorable weather. The land was donated by the Addington family, also the lumber, most of the labor, and at that time most of the attendees were from the Addington family. This being the case, the structure was known as ‘Addington Frame.’ The first meeting there was in 1866. Later, James and Julia Addington gave land at the present site to build a church. The old frame structure was raised and moved to be included in the building of the new church, thus bringing forth the name ‘Addington Frame.’ The first May Meeting was held in this building in 1884. The present structure was built on the same plot and began services in 1914.”
To try and learn more about Uncle “Pete,” I turned to my Ancestry.com account. I already had saved there a copy of his and Aunt Ann’s marriage license, which includes parents’ names and places and dates of birth for both bride and groom. It said Uncle “Pete” was born in Wise, Virginia, in 1915. But using that and other information, I found the 1920 census listed him as a 4-year-old son of Joshua F. Addington and Pearl A. Addington (maiden name Wampler), living in the Nickelsville area (within the Johnson District) of Scott County. And they were still there for the 1930 census. At the time, his father’s work was listed as in the “oil and gas” industry. By the start of World War II in 1941, draft cards show Joshua Fletcher Addington, was still in Nickelsville, and his son Joshua Theldon Addington was living in Richlands, employed by C.C. Selte.
Ultimately I found that that cemetery next to the church indeed includes tombstones of Uncle “Pete’s” kin — most notably his mother and father. Next time we go, Mom and I are going to stop and say hello.
Every now and again, it’s good to get off the blacktop and go exploring on gravel roads.
The 168th annual session of the Eastern District Primitive Baptist Association will be hosted by Copper Creek Church (Addington Frame), Nicklesville, and Willow Chapel, of Kingsport, with the event being held at Copper Creek. The dates: Oct. 1-4.