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Bethel: A church associated with John Thomas almost 200 years ago

Still standing today is a church which is the last vestige of the time John Thomas spent on a farm in Amelia County, Virginia, about 40 miles southwest of Richmond. As I wrote in late March 2023, it is about to be auctioned and likely soon to be demolished.

Thomas lived on the farm from 1837-1839, and close by is this little non-descript church called Bethel in the tiny town of Jetersville. The church was built in 1827 and was still used until around 1973. It was briefly a stronghold of the followers of John Thomas and saw his presence multiple times and also served as the host of a semi-annual meeting of the Brethren in May 1839. The farm of John Thomas is long bereft of any evidence of his presence and is about eight miles from Jetersville, as was his “home” church in Painesville, also long since demolished.

You can find the congregation of Bethel writing in support of John Thomas in his first magazine, the Apostolic Advocate, in 1838. In fact, one of its elders was the agent for this magazine from 1834. Unfortunately, John Thomas left for Illinois in late 1839, and by the time he returned to the area around 1845, his local support no longer included this church, which had returned to the Campbellites.

The building later became a Presbyterian church and is currently in poor shape. Even the house on whose land it sits has been vacant for a few years. Soon, only these pictures will remind us of the long-ago era when John Thomas spoke to a welcoming audience.

Peter Hemingray,
Pittsburgh Ecclesia, PA

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