NAVASSA, NC (WWAY) — A Brunswick County church built and attended by former slaves shortly after the end of the Civil War still exists in our area. However, over the past few years, it has fallen into disrepair. Now two groups are trying to change that.
Reaves Chapel was built by hand shortly after the end of the Civil War by former slaves of the Cedar Hill Plantation. It was used for more than 100 years before the congregation started to dwindle in the mid 1990s. It was last used for worship in 2006.
“I grew up about a half mile from here. And we used to come here when I was a kid, for Sunday school,” said Navassa resident George Beatty. “In many cases, places of historical significance in the black community are lost to history.”
The community has vowed that Reaves Chapel would not be lost. In March, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust bought the church thanks to a grant from the Orton Foundation.
Working with the Cedar Hill /West Bank Heritage Foundation, they held a public hearing in Navassa Tuesday Night to get input on its restoration.
“I would like to see it to be a museum of sorts, so the community can go and learn about the culture and what the church’s significance is in the community,” said Jacki Davis, who attended the church as a child.
Joel Cook with Coastal Land Trust moderated the discussion. He says the board wants to restore the church to how it looked in 1915, and make it a museum.
Cook also discussed the possibility of having it listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s still a vetting process right now, and we have a really long way to go before we actually settle on what we’re going to be doing here,” Cook said.
Cook says they plan to hold more meetings to get public input, and those will be announced at a later date.
He says right now, the first step is to fix the structure of the church before any details are decided.