DVPC Abridged History by Sydney Painter


History of Draper’s Valley Presbyterian Church

Abridged and Adapted from Miss Sydney Painter’s History

Draper’s Valley Presbyterian Church finds its roots in the Old Harmony Congregation of Southeastern Wythe County.  In 1808, a group of believers from various denominations purchased a parcel of land overlooking the New River.  The minister also served as schoolmaster for the children from nearby farms.  For about 24 years, members of four denominations worshipped together at Old Harmony: Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptist, and Disciples of Christ.


In the late 1820’s, a young Presbyterian minister, the Rev. George Painter, of Tennessee Theological College joined the church group.  He also worked in other Presbyterian churches in Pulaski and Wythe County.


In 1832 Painter organized his 57 followers into a new church, as a congregation of the New School party in the Presbyterian Church (USA).   They obtained land from a Harvey Shepherd, who lived about one-half mile from the Wythe County line, and, in 1840, built the Draper's Valley Presbyterian Church of brick made from the native clay.  They also built a two-room school house on the east side of the church (no longer standing).  A year later, Painter, using the same home-made brick, built a home for himself about one mile north of the church.  Both the church and the house still stand and are in good condition.


The building, having large double doors, faces the South.  There were two large square windows of clear glass at each end of the church and three windows on either side.  Over the front doors is a large wheel-shaped window.  The first change to be made was to close the two windows behind the pulpit.  All other windows had arches built over them and the clear glass was replaced with frosted glass.  At the same time, a steeple was built over the front.  The original small vestibule, used for session meetings and Sunday School rooms has been changed to enlarge the vestibule.  The balcony staircase is found here.  The pulpit was in the north end of the sanctuary and was graced by three beautiful hand-crafted chairs, cushioned in red velvet.  These chairs are still in use today.  In the early days, three rows of home-made benches filled the interior of the sanctuary.  The benches on the west side of the sanctuary were occupied by men and boys, and those on the east by women and girls.  The center benches were reserved for families.


There are two original beautiful chandeliers extending from the ceiling, each holding four oil lamps.  In the 1930’s, when electricity came to the valley, these chandeliers were wired and fitted for bulbs.  They are still used today.


To the original sanctuary were added two educational additions, under the pastorate of Rev. Preston O. Sartelle, Sr., in 1949 and in 1954.  In 1990, a beautiful and functional fellowship hall was added, which beautifully complements the original rooflines and red brick façade.


Throughout the years, the church has been affiliated with the New School Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Presbyterian Church (Confederate States of America), and the (Southern) Presbyterian Church (US). In 1982, in light of the impending merger between the Southern and Northern Presbyterian Churches, the church voted to affiliate with the Presbyterian Church in America, an evangelical denomination “faithful to the Scriptures, loyal to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.” 

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