Pictured Above: Dover Baptist Church, 1855.
DOVER BAPTIST CHURCH
635 Manakin Road
Manakin-Sabot, Virginia 23103
The seed for Dover Baptist Church was undoubtedly planted in the year 1766 when Colonel Samuel Harris of Pittsylvania County came to Goochland and held one of his many camp meetings. Afterwards, he returned each year until churches were established throughout the region.
In 1767 William Webber, a 20-year old Manakin lad, heard Colonel Harris preach and became converted. Webber was baptized by Rev. John Waller and shortly after this was ordained to preach, becoming united with Lower Spotsylvania Church. In 1770, Webber and John Anthony were sent into Chesterfield County to preach, where they were imprisoned on the charge of "preaching the Gospel with no authority but from above". Upon being released in March 1771, they moved into Cumberland and Powhatan Counties. Later, Webber went to Middlesex County and joined with John Waller and his associates. Here, they were again imprisoned and William Webber became gravely ill. The County Court was petitioned by sympathetic friends for the release of Webber and Waller. They were released in September 1771 and Webber returned to his home in Goochland County, not to die, but to carry on his work.
By the year 1771, converts in Goochland were gathering in two meeting houses; one in Manakin and the other in the present Goochland Baptist Church. In the autumn of 1773, Dover Meeting House was constituted with a membership of 45. There is no record of the charter membership names. Matthew Woodson, a man of considerable means and a close friend of Webber, gave land on which the meeting house was built. The original meeting house was a simple one-room log structure, situated on the west side of Manakin Ferry Road (now Rt. 621 or Manakin Road) and slightly south of the present church. There are no known pictures of this building.
Dover Meeting House witnessed many important events in the early life of Virginia Baptists and William Webber was particularly involved in these events. 1799-1800 marked the years of Great Revival at Dover. The London Baptist Annual Register reported that Webber had baptized 175 converts and "their happy season is still going on". By 1800 membership had reached 275.
It should be remembered that coal mines, being operated in the Manakin area at that time, furnished employment for a large number of people with the result that Manakin was a thriving village and the surrounding countryside was well populated. Many Dover members were slaveholders (including Webber) and the slaves comprised a large percentage of membership until after emancipation.
On February 29, 1808, William Webber died at the age of 62. It can rightfully be said that he was almost solely responsible for the constitution of Dover Meeting House; he had been its pastor from its beginning until his death and he was never pastor of any other church.
In 1854, the congregation resolved to build a new house of worship. This building, dedicated on October 17, 1855, was located on the opposite side of the road from the original log structure. It was a simple weather-board building, facing south, containing one large, square, high-pitched room with a door on either side, both front and back. Pews were handmade benches of wide heart pine boards. It is thought that land for this building was given by Edwin DuVal of nearby "Oak Grove".
What transpired during the Civil War at Dover is unknown. The many gravestones (13) of Confederate soldiers in the cemetery indicate that most of the able-bodied males went off to war. The minute book of meetings was preserved, and, after the surrender, recordations continued as though nothing had happened; not even a page was skipped to show the break in time.
"Woman's Suffrage" came to Dover in March 1909, when a motion was made and unanimously carried to allow the "sisters" of the church the privilege of voting.
On the 150th anniversary of Dover, September 2, 1923, Dover Baptist Association presented the William Webber Memorial Marker to the church. It was placed in the fork of the two walks leading to the front doors. Sunday School classrooms were added inside this frame building and dedicated in 1925. The two outside doors on the front then led into narrow vestibules with two classrooms and a utility room downstairs. Upstairs there were three classrooms reached by steps to a balcony stretching across the entire back of the church. Windows were added to the facade to provide light to these rooms.
World War II years at Dover were times of struggle. Nearly all of the young men of the community were serving in the armed forces and many activities were curtailed due to gasoline rationing. The pulpit was served by numerous students from the University of Richmond and, even though several were called as "regular" pastors, they remained only for short periods due to draft status.
In 1946, a field was formed with a neighbor church, Salem Baptist, at Cardwell. Financial aid from the Baptist General Board allowed the two churches to call the first full-time resident pastor.
On the evening of October 29, 1951, the 1855 frame structure burned to the ground. By the next morning, all that remained of Dover Church was a pile of ashes. The congregation voted to re-build. Ground breaking for the existing building was held in August 1952. During the period November 1951 — July 1954, all regular services were held in the old Manakin schoolhouse located one-half mile north on Manakin Road. The new building faced the road and was dedicated on April 3, 1955. Additional space for Sunday School classrooms was constructed in 1967. This is a separate building of board and batten construction.
Dover's 200th anniversary was celebrated in October 1973. Dr. Theodore Adams of First Baptist, Richmond, was speaker; a large crowd gathered to pay tribute to the men and women who created Dover's heritage. A fine Casavant Freres pipe organ was purchased in 1976. A major and continuing project has been the identification, charting and marking of cemetery gravesites. Baptist Women undertook, in 1988, the publication of Dover's only history which had been compiled in the early 1960's by Mrs. Helene Barrett Agee, a Dover member.
Dover installed an elevator in 1996 to allow full handicapped access to both levels of the sanctuary building.
In 2006, Dover dedicated a new, million dollar fellowship facility, Heritage Hall. It is a state-of-the-art building, with modern audio/visual capabilities and a commercial kitchen.
Our MISSION STATEMENT, adopted in 1997, is a focus for the church's ministry to members, community and the world.
Many other events have taken place at Dover over these past 249 years. Dover offers many opportunities for spiritual learning and community services: Sunday School, Morning Worship (nursery provided) and Children's Church each Sunday, Bible Study and Prayer Emphasis each Wednesday evening, Missions organizations for adults, youth and children, Music programs for all ages, and Vacation Bible School each summer.
Blessed with a long and rich history, Dover looks forward to serving the needs in this community for future generations.