A Brief History
Birchwood Baptist Church was organized on the fourth Saturday in September 1873 by a group of people living in the Birchwood area, who wanted a church in the center of their thriving community, located in the north-west section of James County. The charter members were of the Old Salem Baptist Church, which was located several miles to the south. With the mode of travel being horseback, horse and buggy, or horse and mule drawn wagons, and with the winter just ahead, this was the ideal time to organize. Reverend George Luther was the organizing minister.
The congregation met in a small log building for church services until 1879, when the First Baptist Church of Birchwood was built on land given by Malinda Erwin for the church and cemetery. The original church is the center part of the structure as it stands today, with additions being built in 1904 and again in more recent years. Mr. Genoe and his son from Decatur did the carpentry work. Mr. Lloyd Munger hauled logs to Mr. Haze Martin's sawmill in Blythe's Ferry and had the lumber sawed for the church. From time to time, additions have been made to the full length of both sides of the original church to accommodate Sunday School rooms and a nursery. Each addition is in keeping with the original structure. The windows, weatherboarding, and other materials have been made to match the original structure.
During the very early years of the church, there was no Sunday School organization. When Mr. F. N. Sanders came to join the church, he encouraged starting Sunday School. Sunday School classes first met in different corners of the building. Several years later, the side Sunday School rooms were added. Sometime later than that, the two rooms and furnace rooms were added. Originally, the church was heated by two pot bellied wood stoves.
Every summer the church had a revival usually one or two weeks in length. Baptisms were held in different locations (the river at Blythe's Ferry, Mr. Heman Roark's place, and also at the Harrison Roark place). Betty Roark remembered at one time there was a Junior Choir and a Senior Choir. One sat on the left of the platform and the other on the right. During the early years, it was also customary for women and small children to sit on the left side of the auditorium and the men sat on the right side.