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Siloam Regular Baptist Church

     This past summer the area along Rocky Fork Road near Mercerville underwent considerable change as the land was reclaimed from a recent 10 years or so that coal was mined there. The Rocky Ford Road itself had been relocated. We have pictured today the remains of the Siloam Regular Baptist Church that was located on the old route of Rocky Fork Road. There is a small cemetery about ½ mile from the church. Some of the founders of this once thriving church are buried in simple graves in that cemetery. Included in the number is Napoleon Bonaparte Burnett.
      Siloam Church was organized in 1876 with a church being erected in 1877 on the farm of William Holley. Some of the organizers besides Mr. Holley and Mr. Burnett were: Mary Burnett, John Sheets, Brice Sheets, Jack Sheets and James Smith. In the 1890’s a number of small coal mines were opened up in this part of Guyan Township and Siloam Church grew by 1901 to have 220 members. That year in fact Siloam was the largest Baptist Church in Gallia County after Gallipolis and Rio Grande.
     Many of the worshippers at Siloam came from a community called Saundersville, which was situated right on the Gallia and Lawrence county line. In 1892 Saundersville recorded a population of 400 thus making it the largest village in Gallia County. In due time many of the smaller coal mines were closed and the membership of Siloam Church began to dwindle. By the 1930’s Siloam had preaching only once a month, it being too small to afford a weekly service.
     Napoleon Burnett whose grave is marked by a small 6 inch by 2 feet stone was a layperson when Siloam was organized. By profession Burnett was a teacher in one of the small one room schools near Siloam Church. In 1886 Napoleon was called to the ministry and he preached his first sermon in a neighbor’s home. In due time Burnett became the pastor of Siloam Church as well as the pastor of several other Regular Baptist churches in Gallia County. In fact at one time Burnett was pastor to 4 Baptist churches at the same time. This was somewhat unusual for Baptist churches as the Baptist tended to avoid in general circuit ministry, that is one preacher serving a number of churches (a circuit) at once.
     Burnett according to the Gallia Times “was a preacher without parallel in the ecclesiastical annals of Gallia County.” He was a much requested guest speaker in other churches. During World War I Burnett traversed the county preaching “The Signs of the Times.” His sermons were noted by the newspapers and there was a great deal of debate for some months in the various newspapers about the connection of World War I to Bible prophecies. Every service that year where Burnett preached he closed with the same hymm: “O I see the gleam of the golden morning bursting through this veil of gloom, O I see the gleam of the golden morning just beyond the tomb.”
     When Burnett was 68 years old he was living in semi-retirement in Huntington, WV, he received a message to come to Guyan Townsip to preach the funeral of a person Burnett had converted in his ministry. The message said for Burnett to catch the Sunday morning train for arrangements had been made for his fare. Burnett phoned back that it was against his religion to ride either the train or a steamboat on Sunday but that he would make it to the funeral just the same.
     Burnett started out from Huntington on foot. A friend in an automobile passed by Burnett on the road and offered to take Napoleon to the ferry. But here Burnett refused to cross on the commercial ferry but instead coaxed another friend to take him across in a fishing boat. From there Burnett walked 9 or 10 miles back into the hills and arrived at the cemetery rested and ready to preach about 2 hours before the service. It was Burnett’s belief that if one caused someone to work on the Sabbath by paying for transportation, meals etc. one was breaking the Sabbath. The man in the auto and the man in the fishing boat were not working.
     Said Burnett about this incident: “ It is just as wrong to purchase a ride and cause others to violate God’s law in working as it is to purchase anything else or labor on the Lord’s day and I cannot be a true servant of the Lord and not practice what the Bible so plainly teaches. It pains my heart and wounds my soul continually to see the way ministers and church members desecrate the Lord’s Holy day and engage in so much worldliness, banqueting, carnal pleasures, revelings, games and fleshly mirths.”
     Burnett died in 1919 and his funeral was held at Siloam Church. It was reported that Burnett’s was the largest funeral ever held in Guyan Township up to that time. The undertaker was Coleman R. Halley. Ironically only a very small stone marks the burial of this man who had converted to Christ over 2,000 people from the hills and hollows of the county. Even more ironic is the demise of the church he founded and preached in so faithfully.

Sunday Times Sentinel
By James Sands
October 9, 1988

Transcribed by Marian Schoonover

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