National Park Service
The church at Blue Heron was built at the initiation of camp supervisor, Lemmie Wright, who put down $100.00 of his own money to begin the project. The Joy Company, maker of mining equipment, reportedly gave money for the church as well. The labor came from those who lived and worked in the camp, and the materials were purchased by pledge. Each church member was to pay on the church until his pledge was met.
This congregation was Southern Baptist, holding church meeting for business on Saturday night, prayer meeting on Wednesday, and Sunday school and regular service on Sunday. According to the faith, baptism occurred by decision at "the age of reason," and ministers were "called" to preach, then ordained by the church governors, called the presbytery.
The service was fairly simple and direct, but long by some people’s thinking, often lasting two or three hours.
There were three or more hymns selected by the minister, choir or members of the congregation, a scripture reading, prayer and a "message" or sermon usually preached interpreting a biblical passage. There was also an effort to encourage the congregation to a stronger faith or to "be saved" if they had not yet been.
The church, church music and the life of faith were central to Blue Heron, and to the people of the region generally.
The church was also the core of courtship and social life in a community where there was little entertainment, and dating rules were stringent. It can truly be said that the church was the center of the camp's community culture.
Like our entertainment, like church. Church on Saturday night. Church on Wednesday night, which did not bother me because I am a Christian. Sundays were very quiet there. It just hard to explain the quietness on Sunday. You know the church bell would ring and that was about the noise, you know the noise.
We had church in the schoolhouse before we finally got well organized. We built a real church house out of blocks.
The church I remembered cost us sixty-six hundred dollars. We didn't borrow any money from anybody. And we took pledges from anybody (who) wanted to give. We had the Joy Loader Company. But everyone pitched in and helped. Everybody worked. We built what I thought was one of the nice and beautiful churches there was in that country.
The bell we had Blue Heron was a bronze bell. It had a different ring to it than any other church bell that I ever heard. This was a bell that went on a Southern Railroad engine.
And the choir usually sit on the right-hand side you know. So the back of the church was like a half-moon effect. It had a high ceiling. It had a beautiful sound.
But that is the only church that I ever knew of in my life that didn't take up a collection. I thought now if the people had no money they would be embarrassed to pass it around and them not give nothing.
We had different preachers. Some of them I liked and some of them I didn't.
Jack Slaven was a preacher there, pastor. Willard Willis Lawson preached there and Hobert Vaughn some. Oh just different ones, Thomas Stanley.
All of these years of my preaching I always have to pray. Some of them would wait to the last minute to get to church. But when the church bell would ring, well it was amazing to see them come out you know. And a lot of them would run to get to the church. And it was nothing strange to see the house. A lot of people would not have time to go home you know at the closing of the shift. They wouldn't have time you know to go home and change clothes. But come right on to church. Yea. And they would wear their overalls. It was just an old-timey church you know.
I supposed just immediately after I was saved I felt the urge you know. This hard to explain. I wanted to preach and I could get no relief in my mind you know. And I just uh, I felt that God had called me to preach. I just wanted to be a minister.
People back then people were conscientious of God and heaven because that was the only thing they had to look forward. That was the only way of getting out of there, dying and going to heaven.
Wife and me were baptized together. There were about twenty five, possibly twenty-five people, baptized that day. People kind of preferred you know white to be baptized in. I wore white duck pants and white shirt. Christine and me were baptized together. It was a great day. It was a great day.
Usually you had your own little pew that you sat in. And you were supposed to be very quiet. The sermons were long and the preaching was hard to understand. Like I said I was just a child.
I consider it this way. I had a hard time and worked hard all my life. I considered my life has been a good day because God is blessed.
To continue your visit through the Blue Heron Mining Community, choose the next "ghost structure" you wish to visit.