THE HISTORY OF CLIFTON PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The first Presbyterian churches of southern West Virginia were organized in 1783. These churches, sometimes referred to as The Three Corner Stones of Presbyterianism West of the Mountains, were Lewisburg, Union,and Spring Creek. The Lewisburg church, better know as the Old Stone Church, became a pioneer in the work of congregational home missions as an instrument in the establishment of churches.
The Old Stone Church, Clifton’s mother church, was built in 1796,while this part of the state was still known as Virginia. West Virginia became a state in 1863. From the Old Stone Church, two outposts were established: Richlands and Maxwelton.
Clifton Presbyterian Church was organized by Greenbrier Presbytery on September 23, 1900. There were fifty-nine charter members. The congregation, which had begun as a Sunday School outpost of the Old Stone Church, grew rapidly into a thriving, self-supporting church. At one time, with over 600 members, it was known as the largest rural church in the General Assembly.
Early services were first held in private homes. As the church grew,worship was held in the Arbuckle school house. The first church building was dedicated on September 23, 1900 and renovated and enlarged about 1920. The fellowship annex was added in 1938; the educational section in 1958. Extensive renovation was completed in 1978 by bricking the exterior and remodeling the sanctuary. A conference room was constructed in 1991.
Three chapels were established and erected to serve nearby neighborhoods. Lewis Chapel was erected in 1930. It is now the property of Lewis Community Cemetery Committee. Edgewood Chapel was built in 1941. In 1989 Edgewood Chapel became Edgewood Presbyterian Church. Bethel Chapel was built in 1951 and is now the property of Bethel Church.
The cross on the front wall of Clifton’s sanctuary was fashioned and installed as part of the renovation in 1979. The solid black walnut upright and crossbeam are hand hewed. They came from a log barn near Blacksburg, VA., which was built in the early 1800′s. Legend claims that the barn loft was used as an early place of worship. The two steel spikes in the crossbeam were hand-wrought, and were originally used (with five others) to anchor the steeple to the bell tower of the Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg, The wood and one spike were given by Fred B. Neely, Jr. The other spike was donated by Billy Yates. Both men worked on the construction of the cross, dedicated in 1979.
The seven acres of land behind the manse was developed into a playground/park. In the spring of 1986, work began to build the shelter. The shelter, supported by heavy steel beams, contains two bathrooms, a storage room, and features a large fireplace with a white Ohio sandstone cross in the center. It has a concrete floor and ceiling of white pine. Preparing the land and building of the shelter was done by church members, donating their time, talents and money. The park is used on the first Sunday of June, July, August and September as Afternoon in the Park for church activities. Other activities are held year round such as Easter Sunrise Service, hayrides, bonfires and private gatherings by reservation. On October 28, 1986 the park was dedicated and named the Charlie Mackey Memorial Park, in loving memory of Charlie Mackey. An estimated 200 people participated in the afternoon activities including a service of dedication, recreation, fellowship and a cook out/covered dish dinner. At the same time an old farm dinner bell, presented by the Wade family children, was dedicated in memory of their grandparents, Mr. & Mrs. Frank D. Wade. A gazebo was designed by the Fred B. Neely, Jr. family. The gazebo was constructed in the center of the park with donations of money and some labor by family and friends of Clifton. On June 16, 1996 the gazebo was dedicated in loving memory of Tracey Allison Neely. The planting of flowers and maintenance on the Gazebo are provided by the Neely family.
An elevator was installed in the main educational building during the spring of 1998. This elevator provides access to both the second and third floors of the church. Long hours of planning made this dream of accessibility a reality. On Sunday July 12, 1998 the elevator was dedicated in memory of Ralph Lynn Blake at the 11:00 AM worship service.