The Church in the Cove | Tazewell County, VA | c. 1897
This idyllic church in western Virginia is nestled in a quiet rural setting amidst the Appalachian Mountains. The community it served eventually became known as “The Cove” which was comprised mostly of farmers who worked hard to sustain life in a challenging landscape. In isolated mountain communities like this one, people kept to themselves but looked out for their own.
The Brown Family
One prominent farming family here was the Browns. Orville Musick and Zarilda Brown were married in 1859 and when war broke out two years later, it is said that O.M. walked from his home in Virginia to Kentucky to enlist. Records show that he served in Co. E 10th Kentucky Cavalry, although there are conflicting thoughts on whether he served for the Union or the Confederacy as there was a troop by the name on both sides. When he returned from the war, O.M. and Zarilda focused on farming and building a family which eventually included 11 children.
The Church in the Cove
The Browns were known for their tight connections within this mountain community and they wanted to give back. So in February 1897, O.M. Brown and his wife, Zarilda Young Brown, gave 1/8th of an acre to trustees of Southern Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Browns conveyed this land in “the Cove” to be known as the ‘Cove Church.’
A few years after he donated this land, O.M. passed away, his obituary read: “O.M. Brown, aged 62 years, died of pneumonia, on Dec. 22nd at his home in the west end of the county. Mr. Brown was a well-known and prominent citizen of the county, and in the estimation of his neighbors and acquaintances, was highly regarded. He leaves a large family, and numerous connections in this county.” -Clinch Valley News, 2 January 1903
The Church in the Cove
In the early years, this was a federated congregation, used by both Presbyterians and Methodists. The congregation was the same each Sunday, but each denomination would take turns leading services on a rotating basis. In later years, services were mostly Presbyterian and the Church became commonly known as Cove Presbyterian Church.
By 1965, the Methodists had officially removed their interest from the church, and in 1968, the Presbyterians did too due to declining attendance. With neither denomination supplying ministers anymore, the building was lent to a local man named Mr. Walter “Brownie” Elswick who led services here for the Church of God from 1968-2008 in exchange for maintenance of the building. After 2008, the building hasn’t been used for regular services but was sometimes used for weddings and funerals of local residents. In 2013, the nearby Presbytery, who still held the deed for the property, released the deed back to the descendants of the Brown Family. The family hoped to identify a local non-profit to convey the property to for preservation but plans seemingly stalled.