Courtland Baptist Church
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
In the Beginning...
In 1791, Southampton County, Virginia, incorporated its first town: the small village of Jerusalem, on the north bank of the Nottoway River. For its first 54 years, the town had no church of its own; but on Sunday, December 7, 1845, eleven citizens of the town incorporated a small fellowship of believers at the county courthouse. This small beginning was the foundation of what was then called Jerusalem Baptist Church.
Shortly afterwards, in September of 1846, the church’s members built a wooden, one-room church building overlooking the Nottoway River. Due to the scarcity of trained ministers and the great distances between churches in the area, Jerusalem Baptist Church rarely had a full-time pastor for most of its early history. Generally, the church was part of a circuit, where a preacher would itinerate between several churches, spread across a region. For example, Rev. J. W. M. Williams, the first pastor of the church, traveled by horse and carriage between Jerusalem Baptist and his other church in Smithfield twice a month!
When the Civil War broke out, Southampton County lay along the “Blackwater line”—the Blackwater River—separating Union troops in Suffolk and Norfolk from advancing further through the Tidewater region toward Richmond. Even though no major battles were fought there, Southampton County became a staging and logistics area for Confederate troops; during 1863, Jerusalem Baptist Church was used as a field-hospital and war cemetery for troops from Robertson’s Brigade, Hood’s Division, and Longstreet’s Corps.
In 1874 Jerusalem Baptist Church was able to hire a full-time minister (for $150 yearly!), and the church continued to serve its town in Gospel ministry, despite the significant economic depression of the reconstruction era. This arrangement did not last long, however–in 1893, the original church building burned to the ground. For the following twenty-four years, the church returned to meeting at the county courthouse, as it had at its founding. Meanwhile, the town of Jerusalem changed its name to Courtland; and in 1913, the church changed its name to match the town’s. That same year, Courtland Baptist and another regional church formed a new circuit to share a minister between them, an arrangement that lasted until 1956 when the church was again able to hire a full-time pastor.
Between 1917 and 1920, on the site of the former wooden church, Courtland Baptist Church constructed a new brick building, which is still used as a chapel today. In this building, the church was able to accommodate its needs and minister to the town for many years.
However, in 2001, following decades of growth, the church began investigating ways to expand its sanctuary. In 2003, the construction committee presented several possible plans to the members, but it was not until 2010 that a new building, across the street from the old chapel, was completed.
Since then, Courtland Baptist has seen some real changes and growth: in 2021, the church joined the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia (SBCV); and the same year, approved a new constitution, statement of faith, church covenant, and instituted its elder board. We look forward to serving our town and county in the years to come by proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.