Mt. Ed Baptist Church came into existence during the early years of the Young Republic, when new found freedom surged in the hearts of men. Baptists, being a minority sect, actively sought legal assurance of freedom of religion, and played a major role in obtaining the first amendment to the constitution.
The origin of Mt. Ed Church has been a matter of conjecture. The most reliable source available comes from the notes of a Virginia Baptist minister by the name of John Asplund, who listed a “Whitesides Creek Church”, founded in 1788 with a current membership of 100. The original frame building was thought to be across the road from the church’s current location.
Benjamin Burgher, the founder and first pastor, as well as a blacksmith by trade, served from 1788 until his death in 1822. It was under his leadership that the original name, “Whitesides Creek Church,” was changed to Mt. Ed Baptist Church, taken from Joshua 22:34, “And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed (meaning witness), for it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God.”
A story has been passed down that a distillery once occupied the site across the road from Whitesides Creek Church. Often, the noise of men drinking and carousing would disrupt the preaching services. One day, pastor Burgher decided he could take no more, so during the service he prayed that something might happen to put an end to such wickedness. That night there was a violent electric storm, and the distillery, struck by lightning, burned to the ground. The very place where the distillery stood is said to be the present location of Mt. Ed.
The sanctuary that is still in use today was completed and dedicated on July 19, 1857, and was built at a whopping cost of $3,500.00. Most of the brick on the outside of the building dates back to that time. The old building across the road sold for $125.00 and the pews for $8.91. Tradition claims that the new bricks needed were made by slaves.
Not only is the building of historical value, but several of the pastors who have graced the pulpit of Mt. Ed Church secured a place in history. Among them were men like Porter Cleveland, an ancestor of President Grover Cleveland, Isaac Tinsley, who became Chaplain of Congress, John Massey, former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, and others.
The church flourished during the mid to late 1800’s, but began to falter after the turn of the 20th century, and closed in the winter of 1934. It was during this time that the building was basically left vacant and became the home of vagrants and alcoholics. From 1934, (except for a brief period between 1942-43), the church remained closed until July 8, 1961, when a group of men from Hebron Baptist Church along with many from the Batesville community came together to restore and re-open Mt. Ed Church. Is it not a twist of fate that the daughter church, Hebron, should revive the mother, Mt. Ed? Ironically, not one word is mentioned in the Mt. Ed minutes of the founding of Hebron. Yet, slightly one hundred years later, Mt. Ed was to owe her existence and revival to the church which it had founded.