The Oak Grove Baptist Church Historic District consists of five discontiguous elements across a 1.5-mile-square area of northwest York County. The district tells the story of a vibrant and resilient African American congregation, and documents the early stage of segregated, free public education in the county. The nomination includes the site of the original church (ca. 1900), an adjacent cemetery (1901), the site of an associated school (built in 1912), the current church that replaced the original in 1947, and a second cemetery (1945). Oak Grove is a “daughter” church of First Baptist Church located in Williamsburg (two miles to the south). Generations of free and enslaved African Americans in this traditionally rural area of York County worshiped and were members of First Baptist since the founding of that church in 1776. Following the purchase of a parcel in 1900 and construction of a church building, local members of First Baptist formed their own independent congregation, which the “mother” church recognized in 1913. During this early period, the congregation played a major role, in concert with other African American churches and the local Bruton District school board, in establishing and supporting the Oak Grove School for African American students in grades one through eight (built in 1912, destroyed by lightning and fire in1940). In 1942, with the abrupt condemnation of more than 10,000 acres for the establishment of Naval Construction Training Center (Camp Peary), the federal government compelled the church to sell its property contained within the planned boundary of the installation. Despite the hardship, the congregation purchased land for a new church and a cemetery in 1945, and constructed a church building by 1947. Since the forced move from its original location, the church has reacquired ownership of its cemetery (2003). The Oak Grove Baptist Church Historic District is significant for its associations with the Reconstruction-era community of Magruder established by emancipated African Americans, the community’s forced abandonment in 1942-1943, and the church’s resilience in the face of this displacement.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark