Shiloh Baptist Church

Built in 1897, the third sanctuary of Shiloh Baptist Church stood on the corner of Goosley and Cook Roads on the Yorktown Battlefield. (Courtesy of Shiloh Baptist Church / February 16, 2012)

    Inside his church, the well-to-do doctor was a mover and shaker, too, leading its relocation to a new site across from the National Cemetery in 1893.
    When that church burned in 1897, he stepped up again, resulting in a stately sanctuary that cost a then-staggering $9,000.
    Like many black churches across the South, Shiloh's influence waned when the relatively progressive policies of the Reconstruction years gave way to the institutionalized prejudice of the Jim Crow era.
    But it still boasted such prominent figures as educator Charles E. Brown, who became president of the state NAACP as well as a tireless advocate for York County's black schools.
    Even 35 years after his death, his example can still be felt in the public park that bears his name and the stained-glass windows he dedicated to his church.
    "Old Shiloh was a church of great influence," Deacon Mark Giles says.
    "When you talked about it, you were talking about the upper echelon of the people who lived here."
    Still, no change threatened that legacy more than the upheaval that took place when the federal government dismantled the neighborhood and its church in the 1970s for a battlefield preservation campaign.
    More than 3 dozen families had to move from their old homes in the community that had been rechristened Uniontown, and - despite the Park Service's success in spurring a nearby development where many residents resettled - the change was traumatic.
    "It was not an easy thing to be uprooted," says lifelong church member Annie Lofton, describing her father's loss of his fruit trees, chickens and hunting dogs.
    "And even if you were lucky enough to move into a place next to your old neighbors, you could no longer just go out the front door and walk to church."
    Raising money for the new church posed another challenge, one that the congregation met partly through a demanding campaign of fish fries, bake sales and spaghetti dinners.
    But as trustee Ralph Carr recalls, no one backed down from investing in a bigger, newer modern structure.
    More than three decades later, the wisdom of that $175,000 gambit can be seen in a bustling church that has not only persisted but prospered. Just five years ago Shiloh expanded again under the leadership of Pastor Barbara Lemon.
    "In the last 10 years we've had such growth. It's like nothing we've experienced," says church Mother Ethel Curtis, whose ties here go back generations.
    "After all we've been through, I'm just glad we're here to see it."