Church bicentennial celebrations not a coincidence

Published 11:29 am Saturday, October 29, 2022

When noticing the number of churches in downtown Washington celebrating bicentennials, one may wonder why the celebrations happen to occur seemingly at the same time. 

Jill High satiates a person’s curiosity in a chapter she authored for “Washington and the Pamlico.”

When he established the town of Washington in 1775, Colonel James Bonner donated two lots, one to be used for a church but the other for “public use of the township.” However, years passed before a place of worship was constructed by “leading citizens.” 

The place of worship was used freely by Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians. It was located at the corner of Main and Bonner Streets where St. Peter’s is located today. It was used by all denominations until the Methodists constructed their own building in 1798 known as Potts Chapel. The Methodists were the first denomination in Washington to “form a permanent organization,” High wrote. 

Episcopalians built their own church in 1822, but the sanctuary fell victim to Union Troops who burned Washington in 1864 as they evacuated. 

The Presbyterians followed the Episcopalians forming a congregation in 1823 then built a place of worship in 1824. 

The Baptists moved the place of worship used by everyone to Market Street opposite from the Post Office. Many of the timbers from the 1822 building were used in a remodeling project in 1896. It was the only church building to survive when Washington was burned. Between 1916 and 1917, the Baptists decided to construct and build a new sanctuary at the corner of Harvey and Main Streets where First Baptist Church is today, per “Washington and the Pamlico.”