History of Sinking Spring Presbyterian

Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church and the Ebbing Spring Presbyterian Church, now the Glade Spring Church, are first mentioned, officially, in the records of Hanover Presbytery, as extending a call to Parson James Campbell at a meeting of the Presbytery at Rockfish Presbyterian Church (just east of Afton) in Nelson County Virginia on April 8, 1772. The parson apparently never filled the call, as his death the following September 7th is recorded in the Presbytery minutes of October, 1772. Parson Charles Cummings, called by these churches January 5, 1773, accepted the following June 2, 1773 at the meeting of Hanover Presbytery held in the Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church near Fishersville.

The Sinking Spring Cemetery marks the site of the first church building bearing the Sinking Spring name. Built as a front-log structure in the early 1700’s, it was supplanted by a larger building sometime in the 1780’s. This continued as the church site until 1831-1833 when the third building was built on Main Street and which building has now become the Barter Theater. Later it was sold to “The Sons of Temperance” and was called “Temperance Hall” for many years. Still later it was turned over to the town and has gradually changed into its present state of usefulness both as Barter Theatre.  In 1837 the church divided in the “new school – old school” controversy, part remaining at the Barter location and part moving out. The new school group moved and built Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church at the present location.  Rev. James S. McChain was pastor of the new School Denomination which moved.  

The group that moved built the fourth church structure at what is the present location of this church and dedicated it in 1851. This was the Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church. Built on the lines of the Greek rectangular plan of so many of the Presbyterian churches now found in the Valley of Virginia, it had a lovely, tall steeple over the front entrance. The two churches, weakened by the split of 1837 and the woes of war in 1861-65, were reunited here in a service held April 9, 1865, the same day of the surrender of General Lee to Grant at Appomattox. The Reverend James McChain, a “Yankee” preacher from upstate New York, pastor here from 1843-1869, saw both the new building here in 1851 and the reunification of the church before his death in 1869. Following the death of his first wife and first son after his arriving in Abingdon, Reverend McChain married Jane Cummings Gibson, who was the the granddaughter of Rev. Charles Cummings.  After the war from 1865, the church seems to have prospered steadily and grown with the years. A manse was built about 1878-80 at 133 Valley but has since been sold and renovated into a law office. It is now known as The Copper Lantern which served as a Bed & Breakfast for many years but is now a private home. The 'manse' will celebrate its 150th birthday in the year 2023. The fifth and present sanctuary was dedicated here on the same site of the 1851 structure on December 21, 1890. 

20th Century to present

The wing to the west housing Sunday School, office, and fellowship hall was dedicated December 1, 1929 during the pastorate of Dr. J..G. Patton, Sr.

In 1972 the church  on the corner of Main Street and Pecan Street was refurbished. Another Renovation was completed in 2004.   The cabin built by Parson Cummings as his home, about two miles north of town on Route 19 and given to the Church by the Arthur Cummings family in 1968, was moved in 1971 to the Sinking Spring Cemetery. It is probably is the oldest church relic in this whole region from Roanoke to the Mississippi. It lives as a rugged reminder of the faith and courage of a hearty stock of people.

The Bicentennial Year was celebrated beginning on April 8, 1972 on a very cold, windy, snowy day in the Sinking Creek Cemetery with a prayer service on the site of the first church, near the graves of Parson Cummings, the founding pastor; the Reverend James McChain, the pastor of the reconciliation; and the founding saints. The year’s activities concluded with worship services on January 7, 1973, honoring the call to Parson Cummings, and on June 3, 1973, honoring his acceptance.

In 1997 and 1998, the 225th anniversary of the church’s founding was celebrated with a logo announcing the 225th anniversary on the front of the bulletin, beginning in July 1997. Special recognition of the occasion was noted in the bulletin of October 5, 1997.

The Apostles' Doors

The current Twelve Apostles’ Doors installed between the north and main portions of the Sinking Spring Sanctuary were designed by Dr. Richard Taylor, Pastor-Sinking Spring Presbyterian, 1963-1979.

The panels were cut out in the old garage at the manse and were finished in the Fellowship Hall at the Church.  The best part of a year went into the making of these doors, perhaps in excess of 1500 hours.  Two boys were sent from Abingdon High School to assist Dr. Taylor.  Ray Landon Osborne (16 years of age) and John Lee Wright (14 years of age) worked afternoons from 4:00-8:30 PM, Monday through Friday.  They continued their work for approximately 18 weeks.  They kept the sabre saws and electric drills humming as they cut letters and practically all of the figures except the lines of expression on the faces.  Their help was beyond measure. Fabrication of rails, fittings and the hanging of doors was done by Malcolm Ornduff.  Staining and finishing was done by Hubert Poole and George Dennison. Architect Charles R. Day provided constant aesthetic advice throughout the project.

Join Sinking Spring Presbyterian in giving thanks for the talents and time given in service to Christ for the construction of the Apostles’ Doors.