Photography Meetup Turns Into A History Lesson, Part 1

by Dawn Hester June. 22, 2020 127 views

Still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and wearing a mask are a must…but I was so ready to shoot somewhere out of Manassas VA. My photographer friend Renee L. Ferguson ( and I decided to have a photography meetup. I wanted to shoot the Johnsontown church. Late last year as we were driving around after a photoshoot Renee drove by her church in Johnsontown WV. Growing up I remembered Johnsontown and the church but I don’t think I’ve ever been inside.

As we began to start shooting, Renee tried to open the church door but we thought it was “locked”. Yes, as we have always heard “the church doors are always opened” well this is 2020 and no place isn’t safe anymore. Jerry Johnson, Renee’s cousin pops up out of nowhere (long but funny story) and he let us in 😂😂 The door wasn’t lock, Renee didn’t have the “magic touch”. 😉

Jerry has been documenting the history of Johnsontown for years. He shared a lot of history to Renee and I this day. He was sharing so much that Renee had to record him. These two history buffs shared information that the other didn’t know. I guess you can say a lot of blank spaces where filled.

Little history: In 1898, Mount Zion Freewill Baptist Church, also known as Johnstown Church, was built. The JCHLC (Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission) voted unanimously to add Johnsontown Church, under Criteria A, to the rolls of registered Jefferson County Historic Landmarks on March 14, 2018.

What an amazing church! It brought back so many memories of my old home church. Renee asked me why I wanted to photograph the church. My home church has been shut down for years. When people grow up, move away or find another church, you have to continue to try to keep members; which isn’t the case for my home church. When they take away your Pastor, you have no one to speak on your behalf. I have plenty of photographs from the outside but I have a sad feeling I will never see the inside again.

Old churches have so much character and they aren’t built like that anymore. They have so many stories that takes you back down memory lane. It instantly brings a smile to your face. Johnsontown church is one of those churches. As you enjoy the photographs you will visualize what once was. I believe they still have Homecoming Services each year. This year because of COVID-19 there will be no Homecoming Services.

If possible, go back and record/photograph your home church. You may not be able to walk inside but the outside is just as important. Your church is a part of you.


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