A Brief Church History
Grafton was established in 1867. With a very few exceptions, the Christian Church in Middlesex County, supported and directed solely by Negroes had its beginning in the years following the Civil War. The setting apart of churches independent of the church of their former masters was another stride toward freedom and a by-product of the emancipation of the slaves in 1863. Our chuch was no exception to this trend, and in the year 1867 a small band of Negroes who were at that time members of the Harmony Grove Baptist Church separated themselves from the parent body and organized the Grafton Baptist Church. This action was granted by Harmony Grove.
The founders had been members of good standing in their former church. Records show that when Harmony Grove Baptist Church was constituted in 1857, sixty-six of the one hundred twenty-four members receiving letters from Zoar Baptist Church in the lower end of the county were colored. Both races worshiped in the same building and at the same time. Later, Negroes were granted the right to hold separate services. Harmony Grove had two colored deacons, Deacon Robert Harris and Deacon Joseph Jackson. This opportunity of having held responsible positions in the parent body was a great benefit in the early growth of Grafton.
On September 30, 1867, a Mr. Robert Healy, a large landowner of the county gave to the church one acre of land to be used for the sole purpose of worshiping God and the promotion of Christ's Kingdom. On December 24, 1873, he gave two additional acres to be used as a burying ground. These transactions are recorded in Deed Book #25, page 221 at the courthouse in Saluda. The following names appear in this book as the official respresentatives of the church: Simon Taliferro, Addison Wake, Beverly Johnson, Gork Banks, Robert Harris, Joseph Jackson, John Laws, Joshua Dudley, Cuffee Washington, and Henry Robinson.
The legal transaction is recorded in this manner: "On the 24th day of December, 1873, between Robert Healy of the County of Middlesex and the State of Virginia and Henry Robinson, Cuffee Washing, Joshua Dudley, Robert Harris, J. Laws, B. Johnson, S. Toliver, Trustees of Grafton Baptist Church providing the same trustees promise to build a good and substantial fence between line and said Healy... two acres more or less will be given to "Grafton Baptist Church as a place of worship and burial ground."
The first meetings were held under brush arbors, but records show that plans were made early for the erection of a building and on the third Sunday in May, 1880, dedication and cornerstone laying services were held for the new building. It was suggested at this time by Cardria Wake Robinson, wife of the late Corbin Robinson that the church be named Grafton Baptist Church.
The church has had three major renovations. The original church does not stand but wth the vision of our leaders and the cooperation of the members we have come to the present milestone along the way.
It is interesting to note from the early records of the church that the church served as the compromising agency for family quarrels, misunderstanding among neighbors and failure of the members to honor their financial and moral commitments. The church exerted a strong influence on the community where its citizens had not too many years before been victimized by the system of slavery. Members were reprimanded for lying, excessive drinking, swearing and other immoral acts. Excommunications and restorations ran high.
During the one hundred and twenty-seven years of the church's existence, it has been served by eighteen ministers. The Reverends J. W. Scott, James Kenner, Christopher Robinson, E. Thompson, H. Shorts, C. H. Morton, Robert Langston, Andrew Adkins, G. C. Russell, J. E. Wright, Russell Jones, St. Clair Harris, H. G. Knight, J. A. Braxton, W. H. Lemon, A. G. Graves, Dr. Freeman S. Rhodes, and Dr. Chauncey E. Mann, Jr.