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Restoration begins for historically Black church in Brunswick County

A historic Black church in southeastern North Carolina is getting a facelift.

Reaves Chapel was originally part of the Cedar Hill plantation. Formerly enslaved people built it on the banks of the Cape Fear River in the 1860s.

Then around 1911, it was physically relocated to its current location on Cedar Hill Road in the town of Navassa in Brunswick County.

“It was moved by local men and they used logs and oxen and mules and horses, whatever they had,” President of the Cedar Hill/West Bank Heritage Foundation Al Beatty said.

The church remained in operation until 2005 but has since fallen into disrepair. Now various organizations and foundations have come together to restore it.

The Reaves Chapel Restoration Project is the result of a partnership initiated by the Cedar Hill/West Bank Heritage Foundation with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.

Beatty said he thinks the Black community in the area will appreciate the restoration.

"It would mean tremendous pride, and it would reflect their past ancestors' history,” he said. “It will give them a reflection back on the worshipping aspect of the community to faith that bought them through the slavery period."

Beatty said they still need money to fund more of the project, although they have already started the restoration. He said between $150,000 and $200,000 is sufficient.

Reaves Chapel will anchor the town of Navassa’s future greenway. After restoration is completed, Beatty said he wants the state to take it over as a historical site.

“The importance of it is that this area is under pressure for development and this would be a salvation to the African American community,” he said. “They will have some historical significance for the kids and future generations to see.”

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio

Naomi Prioleau joined WUNC in January 2017 as their Greensboro Bureau reporter.