The following is edited from my father's book: A Branch Of The Sturgill Family, Volume I Decendants of Francis Sturgill Sr. & Rebecca Hash. Barring transcription errors, the wording is his - THS
From the earliest records of our family in America to the present time, most Sturgills have had deep religious convictions. Our Scotch-Irish ancestry and the history of the Scotch-Irish people tell us that they were among the first protestants in Europe, and they came to the new world, as did many others, to escape religious persecution. Many of the earliest records of our family are church records. The family has produced many church officials and ministers, and many Sturgills are active in the ministry and church work today.
Sturgills are members of many different denominations and faiths, but regardless of church or creed, the majority of them are basically fundamentalist in their beliefs. The largest percentage of them are Baptists of one group or another; southern Methodists are a close second. The family is also well represented in the LDS Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, The Holiness Church, and Jehovas Witness.
About 1820, a small group of people, mostly Sturgills, constructed a small arbor on the South Fork of New River as a place to hold church services. This open arbor was thatched with pine boughs, and the seats were split logs. This group was not affiliated with any organized church during the years they met here. In 1840, they all agreed to affiliate with the Baptists, and a special meeting was held to organize the church. The following records of that church are included in this story of the Sturgill Family exactly as they were copied from the church record book. Most of these records have little historical value, and some may seem humorous to us now, but they are included to give us a better insight into the character and moral principles of the people from whom we inherited our name.
--David Andrew Sturgill
Constitution of the Flat Grove Church, February the 29th day, 1840. We the Baptist Church of Jesus Christ was constututed by the name of Flat Grove Church on nineteen members. James Sturgill, Mary Sturgill, Rebecca Sturgill, Francis Sturgill, Rebecca Sturgill, Jane Williams, Andrew Williams, David Sturgill, Rosannah Sturgill, and John Sturgill, these from Cranberry. John Austin, Peggy Austin, William Porter, Franky Porter, James Sturgill, Su- sannah Sturgill, and David Allison, these from Piney Creek. These from Cemtre. John Ballow, Sally Ballow, being given from Cranberry, Piney Creek and Centre churches which was solemnly set apart as a church of Jesus Christ being found authodox in the principles of the Gospel and sound in the faith. Also having the keys of the Church of Christ delivered unto us by the Presbetery with all the priviliges and authorities of a Church of Jesus Christ and in union and fellowship with all the regular Baptist Churches. This be done by the date and date above written. Drury Senter Tobias Long, presbytery Henry Vanover March the 4th Saturday, 1840. We the Baptist Church of Christ at Flat Grove met at Bro. William Porters and after prayer proceeded to business and was found in union. Then appointed bro- ther Francis Sturgill as clerk and received brother James Sturgill as our Deacon. F. Sturgill C C May the 4th Saturday 1840 We the Baptist Church of Christ at Flat Grove met at brother John Williams and after prayer proceeded to business and was found in union and received sis- ter Jane Sturgill by baptism. F. Sturgill C C August the 4th Saturday 1840. We the Baptist Church at Flat Grove met and after prayer proceeded to busi- ness and was found in union and then proceeded to made a contribution to the asso- ciation and received from the brethren as follows, John Williams 12½¢, John Austin 11½¢, James Sturgill Sr. 12½¢, John Stur- gill 12½¢, James Sturgill Jr 12½¢, Francis Sturgill Jr 12½¢, William Porter 13 ¾¢ making an aggregate of $1.00 F. Sturgill C C Note: In 1840, there were still many acres of land in the area which could still be bought for less than 12¢ per acre. November the 4th Saturday, 1845 We the Baptist Church at Flat Grove met and after prayer proceeded to busi- ness and was in union. Then took up the report against brother John Williams and brother Hudson Jones to invite him toi our next meeting. The report is this --- that he had bin drunk and swearing and singing worldly songs. Opened the doors for admission and received brother Hardin Williams by letter. F. Sturgill C C May the 4th Saturday 1847 We the Baptist Church at Flat Grove met and was in union, then took up the case of brother Hardin Williams and excluded him from the fellowship of the church for playing cards on sunday. July the 4th Saturday 1847 We the Flat Grove Baptist Church met and was found in union then took up the case against the wider Rebecca Sturgill and excluded her for having a bastard child. David Sturgill CC NOTE: This was Rebecca, wife of Francis, who had served as Clerk of the Church until his death in 1845. In 1850, she and her children were in Letcher Co., KY, living with Alexander Hall who she later married. This child named William Sturgill, was raised in Kentucky. She stated that the minister of the church was his father, but apparently she was not believed, as no action was taken against him. William later changed his name to Hall, but some of his children reverted back to Sturgill. November the 4th Saturday, 1847 Received Sturgill Lucy, a black woman, by experience. NOTE: In 1847, all of the Sturgills who owned slaves freed them by mutual agreement and gave each of them a piece of land to use as their own. As they could not be legally freed in North Carolina nor own land at that time, they remained in the area, where they were actually free but technically and legally slaves. Lucy had been a slave of James Sturgill Sr. She left the area in 1867, and lived to be over 110 years old. March the 4th Saturday, 1848 We the Flat Grove church met and was in union and then took up the case against brother Hudson Jones and he was received to fellowship by acknowledg- ment. The church took up a grevience against brother John Williams for writing a letter to Lewis Wyatt. After writing the sed letter he was instructed that it was wrong and then he still forward it on. Also saying that while Lewis Wyatt was hunting for his shoat that Hudson Jones was cracking the bones and eating the meat and denying of it. July the 4th Saturday 1851 The Flat Grove church mey and was found in union. Then took up thew report against bro. John Ballow and the report was this -- that he did not intend to come to meeting any more until bro. Porter and old brother james Grimaley quit giting drunk and also for saying that if they sed much more to hiim that he shud insult some of them and invited Nathaniel Price and James Sturgill to invite him to our next meeting. 2. Also took up the report against brother Wilborn Richardson and the report is --- that he has bin drunk and fiting. J. Caudill and Blake Weaver to invite him to our next meeting. 3. Then petitioned the association to alter the naem of the FLAT GROVE church to the name of SOUTH FORK CHURCH. Jan. the 4th Sat. 1852. The SOUTH FORK church met and was in union then took up the case against bro- ther Wilborn Richardson and the report was this -- that he had been drinking and fiting and allowing fiddling and dancing in his hoiuse and apinted James Sturgill and Blake Weaver to invite him to our next meeting. July the 9th day 1855 Brother James Sturgill died strong in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. July 1857. The South Fork church met and was in union then perceded to ancer the association consarning the school or college of a high order and ancered to the same that the church was divided Sept 17, 1857 The South Fork church met according to the appointment. Resended the act of the church of the july meeting consarning the school question and ancer to the same. In ancer to the school question we say that we are not opposed to ed- ucation or to an institution of that kind upon sound principles but we are not willing to engage in it at this time but will only say to those who wish to do so it shall be no bar or test of fellowship with us. Nathaniel Senter, moderator David Sturgill, clerk NOTE: The school refered to above was the Oak Hill Academy located between Volney and Mouth of Wilson, VA., which was the first school, of higher education in this area and for many years the only one. Oak Hill Academy has florished as a modern high school and prep school operated by the Missionary Baptist Church. Students from all over the USA and abroad attend this school today. September 1857. The South Fork Church met and was in union and then took up the case of bro. Wilborn Richardson and agreed to send for him at our next meeting in consiquence of him drinking too much spirits and apinted C.G>Fowlkes and Dave Sturgill to invite him to come. July 1859. The South Fork church met and was in union and then took up the report against bro Wilborn Richardson viz of his allowing drinking spirits and playing cards in his house and appointed brothers to invite him to our next meeting, to wit, Allison Waddell and C.G.Fowlkes Oct 1859. Took up the case against brother Wilborn Richardson and he was ex- cluded from the fellowship of the church according to the allegations against him. NOTE: These references to Wilborn Richardson are included to illustrate onr point: A century ago the coded of conduct , as set forth by most churches, were far more strict than those subscribed to by our present churches, and htey were more rigorously enforced. It will be noted, however, that they also tempered their judgements with mercy and forgiveness. The records of this church show that time after time the same member of the church was received back into fellowship after public confession of his wrongdoing.
From this date on, the old records of this church reflect the growing clouds which were to erupt into the Civil War. Many questions were being raised in all churches, but none causes more heated debates than the question of slavery. One large faction held that no man could live according to the principles of Christianity and own slaves. The Sturgills were in this group and had already freed their slaves several years before. This question and other moral issues were to eventually divide the church, as they were dividing the nation.
When the big split up of the Baptist church finally came, most of the Sturgills sided with the group who opposed slavery and supported Abraham Lincoln and his desire to maintain the union. This group formed a new association, the Union Baptists, which is still active today. Other groups were the Primative Baptists, the Missionary Baptists, the regualr Baptists, and the Southern Baptists. In later years, another group split off from several denominations to form a new group called the Free Will Baptists, at present a very active brach of the Baptist Church.
In 1947, after a century of existence, the old South Fork Baptist Church ceased to exist, even though another group still carries that name. Once again disputes arose over questions of doctrine which could not be resolved, and the church split into two groups. This left the legal question of who owned the old church building. This dilemma was resolved when each group erected a new building of their own. Shorlty thereafter, the old church building, which had known so much joy and sorrow was demolished. Today, only a small meadow of green grass beside a new highway marks the spot where it once stood. One cannot help but wonder if all these groups will finally resolve their differences after that last roll call. --D.A.S.