Historically Speaking

Historically Speaking


Last week I spent the day with a fine gentleman who descends from the prominent Pigott family. His family is responsible for the creation of the old Pigott Church on Lower Arnolds Creek (now known as Sam Cavins Road).
What is a country church, you might ask? Good question. What is the difference between a larger populated church and a small country church? For one thing, the small country church is usually also a place to be in touch with your friends and neighbors. Sometimes a small country church can mean the difference between isolation and social stability. The church allows its congregation to become a part of something larger than themselves. It is a way for you and your community to connect with each other.
Sadly, like most areas, there are too many churches and not enough people who wish to attend them on Sunday mornings. Thousands of churches are forced to close every year due to the shrinking of the size of the congregation. If you feel like it’s your church with the problem, it isn’t. The issue is not only nationwide, but also worldwide. It’s a problem that many denominational leaders are facing.
In a study that analyzed church data from 34 Protestant denominations and groups, it found that 4,500 churches closed in 2019 and only 3,000 new congregations were started.
One of the biggest reasons for the closing of churches is a drop in church membership. A March poll from Gallup found that fewer than half (47%) of Americans say they belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque. This is down from more than 70% in the year 2000. According to one national heritage group, 9,000 churches will close over the next ten years.
What’s the solution? The answers are varied. Some believe these churches to be sacred structures, while others believe the buildings should be repurposed. Perhaps the answer is somewhere in between. I’ll leave you to answer that question.
But let me get back to the old country church that is the subject of this article, the Pigott Church located on Lower Arnolds Creek or otherwise known as (Sam Cavins Rd.)

Pigott Church on Lower Arnolds Ck.
Now known as Sam Cavins Rd.

The church and cemetery were part of a parcel of land owned by Arron and Mary Pigott Shinn. The couple sold their home (the oldest home in the area) in what is now called Shinnston, WV. They moved to land they had homesteaded on Lower Arnolds Creek in Doddridge County. There they built their home in the middle of the land they were homesteading.
The property was eventually inherited by their daughter, Sarah “Sally” Shinn Pigott and her husband, Lewis Harvey Pigott. Sarah and Lewis Harvey had several children who also resided in the community.
The Pigott and Shinn families were very religious people, and in the beginning, they attended church in Central Station. Then between 1898 and 1900, Lewis and Sarah donated the land for the church and cemetery. His brother, William Harrison Pigott donated the standing timber for the building. Members of the community cut the timber and hauled it to Hiram Rollins’ mill on Upper Arnolds Creek where it was sawed into lumber. The Pigott Church was completed by William Harrison Pigott who made the greatest contribution of building material, Seth Shinn who made the greatest contribution of money, and Charles H. Pigott who made the greatest contribution of labor. The lead carpenter was Freeman Pigott.
The church was never owned by any denomination, although John P. Pigott, who served for a time as the Presiding Elder of the United Brethren Church in WV was considered the chief minister. He was also the son of Lewis and Sarah Pigott. It is said that the man who made the greatest contribution in maintenance and devotion was George Hiley.
George’s nephew, Raymond Hiley, who was a businessman in Parkersburg, left money in his will to be invested and the proceeds of the investment was to be used to maintain the cemetery. The church now stands empty and in need of some tender loving care.
I believe the last activity there was the wedding of my son and his beautiful bride some thirteen years ago. Upon going to visit there last week, I was so disheartened to find it in such a sorrowful state. Some of the window glass panes were broken on the right side of the church, allowing the birds to enter the church interior, and then lose their way out,

Broken window glass panel on Pigott Church

only to die on the church floor. It was so sad to see it. Bird droppings were on the church pews and everywhere else, even on the Holy Bible left at the pulpit. My heart was broken, to say the least. We are planning to clean it up on the inside this week. I’ll post some before and after photos next week. However, it needs work on the windows immediately, and a new chain-link fence is in the works, if we can raise the funding. A professional installer is working up an estimate for us. I’ll be requesting donations as soon as I have a quote. I am trying to make all this happen, but I need your help. Any help in that area would be greatly appreciated.
Now back to the event that brought me to the Pigott Church and Cemetery. Mr. Summerfield, the others, and I went to the small cemetery at the back of the church (Pigott Cemetery) to view the work being done to erect a marker at the back of the cemetery on the left side. The gravestone read “Pigott” followed by the names: “Lewis Harvey, Sarah E. Shinn, Martha J. Hickman, Ross, Roe Manner, Laura I., and Sina May Morrison.”

Photo showing Mike Looney, Tom Summerfield, and Tom’s grandson.

Tom Summerfield’s grandfather, Riley Pigott, was the son of Dexter L. Pigott and grandson of Lewis Harvey and Sarah Ellen Shinn Pigott. The family moved to Meigs County, OH in the 1890s.
Riley first arrived there when he was about 10 years old but went back and forth between WV and OH until he married Daile Coffman on June 10, 1916. While in OH prior to marriage he lived with his father. After their marriage, they lived in a house belonging to his father until Riley purchased land from his father and built their own home. Riley and his father farmed together until Dexter died of a kidney infection in 1929.
Daile was the historian, usually keeping a diary or notes, and their daughter, Sina May Pigott Bailey (Tom’s aunt), was the next-generation historian.
The names on the gravestone placed in the Pigott Cemetery that day are from family discussions handed down from Dexter.
I was honored to be a small part of the recognition of these family members who are buried in this cemetery.
It cannot be overstated how important it is for us to preserve our small country churches and cemeteries in the county. It is our duty, and our responsibility to preserve these small churches that were the social event locations of the era. I hope you’ll contribute to the preservation of these priceless assets.
God Bless
Patricia Richards Harris, President
Doddridge County Historical Society