Forgotten Places: Cub Creek Church
Updated: Jan 6
Located in rural Charlotte County, Virginia are the ruins of a historic Christian community called Cub Creek. Once the center of a thriving Presbyterian neighborhood, it attracted all sorts of pioneers. From Scots-Irish, disowned Quakers and converted Anglicans, it was a refuge for those seeking religious tolerance. Originally located in Brunswick county, Virginia, it was a vast wilderness and was also ideal for those who preferred isolation. Established by Presbyterian Ruling Elder, John Caldwell, and his congregation, this community was important for the development of Brunswick and later, Lunenburg County, Virginia.
After receiving permission to settle on “ye western side of our [Virginia’s’] great Mountains” from Governor William Gooch in 1738,1 John began his long journey from Pennsylvania. A Scots-Irish immigrant himself, his leadership attracted fellow countrymen and other sorts of pioneers. Seeking new opportunities, they desired to fulfill the “Liberty of their Consciences, and of worshipping God in a way agreble to the Principles of their Education.”2 Little did they know the future that awaited.
Traveling on the Great Wagon Trail Road, Caldwell and his follows are next documented as in Louisa County, Virginia. Living at “John Caldwell’s at Buck Mountain” around 1741,3 their settlement was located in an area known for its population of religious dissenters. Although, they had found like-minded frontiersmen, this situation was not ideal. Unlike the life they were promised in southern Virginia, it was common for Presbyterians to continually be fined in central Virginia.4 Within a couple of years, they would continue their migration to Brunswick County, Virginia.
Beginning in 1745, the original inhabitants of Cub Creek began purchasing their plots of land. Buying land next to the Presbyterian settlement, Alexander McConel is one of first known references. Buying 217 acres of land “near Cubb Creek,”5 he became part of this exploratory frontier community. The majority of these pioneers were originally Scots-Irish, but over time, news of its success attracted all sorts of adventurers.
Able to now worship as they pleased as long as they obeyed the Act of Toleration, the villagers of Cub Creek, like other preapproved nonconformists’ colonies, were seen favorably by government officials. Despite being placed on the frontier as a barrier against hostile Native Americans, their contribution to the tobacco trade helped boost the local economy. By 1746, when Cub Creek became part of Lunenburg County, Virginia, it had started to earn quite the reputation. Drawing well-known politicians such as Patrick Henry, the citizens of Lunenburg County began to become influential in politics.
Now forgotten by many, the ruins of this historically important site still exist. Hidden in the backcountry of Charlotte County, Virginia, a marker sits upon the likely site of the original church. After it was burnt, a second church was built, but even now that is gone. In its place stands a stone foundation which serves as a reminder of this once well-known community. Without the labors of Ruling Elder John Caldwell and those that followed, the history of southern Virginia would have turned out differently.
Documentation and Suggested Readings:
1. Robert P. Davies, James H. Smylie, Dean K. Thompson, Ernest Trice Thompson, William Newton Todd, Virginia Presbyterians in American Life: Hanover Presbytery (1755-1980) (Richmond, Virginia : Hanover Presbytery, 1982), 12-13.
2. Robert P. Davies, James H. Smylie, Dean K. Thompson, Ernest Trice Thompson, William Newton Todd, Virginia Presbyterians in American Life: Hanover Presbytery (1755-1980) (Richmond, Virginia : Hanover Presbytery, 1982), 13.
3. John Craig, List of baptisms by Rev. John Craig, Augusta County, Virginia, 1740-1749 (Staunton, Virginia : L. B. Hatke, 1979), Title page 2; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/genealogy-glh08036025/ : accessed 4 May 2019).
4. Robert P. Davies, James H. Smylie, Dean K. Thompson, Ernest Trice Thompson, William Newton Todd, Virginia Presbyterians in American Life: Hanover Presbytery (1755-1980) (Richmond, Virginia : Hanover Presbytery, 1982), 24-25.
5. Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., Brunswick County, Virginia, Deed book Volume 2: 1744-1755 (Lawrenceville, Virginia : Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr.,1998), 46.