Ketoctin Baptist Church

 Members of Ketoctin Church were hard working farmers and tradesmen who possessed modest land holdings. Like other Baptists and dissenters, they were not pleased with the established church. Pastor Marks is listed as an ardent patriot and he “. . . actively espoused the Revolutionary cause . . . [and] was strongly opposed to all the efforts of the British government to levy any kind of taxes on the colonies but with equal vigor he opposed the established church and all the efforts of England to levy taxes for its support. . . So intense did the patriotic sentiment become under the fostering zeal of Marks that nearly every man of military age in that section enlisted in the Continental Army.”  It is believed that meetings for the revolutionary cause may have been held at Ketoctin Baptist Church. 1

A plaque inside the building lists the names of six Revolutionary soldiers, followed by that of the Reverend John Marks, who was pastor during the war (all in which are buried there). Above his name is engraved “Patriot.” 1

   Ketoctin Baptist Church has been served by twenty-three ministers. Dr. Isaac B. Lake served the longest period of time – 1872-1921. A plaque bearing the names of the ministers has been placed on the south wall of the meeting room.1 

Our church's History

 The trompe-l’oeil mural on the north interior wall of the church is attributed to Lucien Whiting Powell, a local artist, who was born in 1846 and raised at Levinworth Manor, the Loudoun County estate of his father, John Levin Powell. The life size mural is above the altar and was masterfully created around 1880. The painting is done in three-dimensional designs and creates the illusion of an apse. The artwork consists of two fluted pilasters topped by composite capitals supporting a modified Gothic arch containing a white dove with an olive branch sailing among puffy clouds in a blue sky. The space between the columns is painted to give the illusion of three vertical raised panels. (Because of moisture damage, repairs were made to the painting in 1962 by Sylvian Crooker of Purcellville, Virginia)Through the encouragement of his mother who recognized his artistic talents, Lucien Powell studied art at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts under Thomas Moran.1  As a boy, the young Powell sketched turkeys, farm animals and schoolmates. Once stating he often, "escaped the torments of arithmetic by hiring other boys to do his sums while he drew pictures for them." A childhood accident at Levinworth Manor Farm slightly crippled one of Lucien’s legs, but that did not stop the 17-year-old from joining three of his brothers in the Confederate Army. Although no enlistment date is known, Lucien Powell became a Private in Company K of Fitzhugh Lee's 11th Virginia Cavalry serving as a wagoneer and water boy. All the while, he continued to sketch, drawing likenesses of his fellow soldiers. In a postwar interview Powell spoke of the final days of his service, saying “We were half-starved, and our horses were sick. We had lived on nothing but parched corn and water for days.” He also told his interviewer, “I saw General Robert E. Lee surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. I'll never forget Lee's face. Lee was careworn and heartbroken and battle wearied. I put down my sword then, for the brush.” Fitzhugh Lee's troopers surrendered at Farmville two days later. Powell returned to Levinworth Manor after the war, but due to his poor health was unable to do much farm work, his mother begged of him to take up art as his career. 5 Although he is known for his landscape paintings, Powell did many other works as well. The Ebenezer Baptist Church in Loudoun County, placed on the National Register in 1994, also has a trompe-l’oeil mural done by him around the same time. Powell’s work was admired by many including Theodore Roosevelt and J. Edgar Hoover. Although he settled in the Washington, D.C. area, he acquired a summer home in Loudoun County near where he had grown up and named it Powellton [Airmont]. The building that housed his studio still exists there today. 1   
 By 1765 Ketoctin and Mill Creek Baptist Churches, along with Smith’s Creek Baptist Church in Shenandoah County, requested to be dismissed from the Philadelphia Association to form a separate association. This request was made because of the distance that had to be traveled for annual meetings and other events. The Philadelphia Association agreed and representatives from the three churches, along with Broad Run Baptist Church in Fauquier County, met and formed Virginia’s first Baptist association in 1766. The association was named Ketocton Association because the Ketoctin Baptist Church hosted the constitution. Ten years later this association had twenty churches in its membership.1


John Marks (1759-1838) came to Loudoun County with his wife Uriah and children in the 1760's from Montgomery County, PA. As Pastor of the Ketoctin Baptist Church during the American Revolution, he was a staunch supporter of American Independence. Five of his sons - John Jr. Thomas Abel, Elisha, and Isaiah - all served as soldiers during the War. Of his 3 daughters - Mary married Thomas Humphrey(also a soldier in the Revolution and a prominent presence at Ketoctin), Martha married William Howell, and Uriah married Jenkin Williams. The Reverend John Marks is buried in the Ketoctin Church cemetery. His grave was marked by the Ketoctin Chapter DAR in June 1977. 

Other notorious soldiers buried at Ketoctin Cemetery is Thomas Clinton Hatcher.5
Born on the 20th day of December 1839. He was the only child born to Jonah and Adeline "Gregg" Hatcher (also buried at KBC). The Hatcher Family resided outside of Purcellville on a farm called "Maplegrove" (now the location of the Town of Purcellville's Sewer Treatment Plant). Clinton was a proud confederate soldier who carried the flag for the 8th VA Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Ball's Bluff in Leesburg, VA.
To read a most captivating story about Clinton please click on his highlighted name above.5

Most of the markers in the older sections of the cemetery face east as was the custom of the early churches. Some family plots have been set off separately from the others within the cemetery by stone walls, concrete blocks, iron fencing, and low concrete dividers. Since the 1950s the church and grounds have been under the care of the Ketoctin Baptist Church Board of Trustees appointed by the court of Loudoun County. 1 Now, a gentle breeze ripples the aged oak leaves and dances through the silent graveyard. Over 600 graves hallow the site, dates ranging from 1777 to the present day. Crooked fieldstone markers intermingle with elaborate marble and granite ones. But within the building on Sunday mornings, the haunting, angelic tune of Amazing Grace still reaches into every corner, breaking the deadly silence. 3
 Five years before the first log meeting house was built on this spot in 1756, Ketoctin Baptist was founded by a mission preacher, John Thomas of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile the Mill Creek Baptist Church received a resident minister around 1756, John Garrard [Gerrard]. After the defeat of General Braddock, Garrard and his congregation fled from Frederick County (now Berkeley County, West Virginia) across the Blue Ridge Mountains into the area of Ketoctin Church. Around 1756 Garrard was invited by the church to become the first resident pastor, which he accepted, and the two congregations were united. Most likely the first gatherings of the congregation occurred in people’s homes, and it is believed that the first church was made of logs and was built on the present site around 1756. Records indicate that in 1763, Nicholass and Mary Ozborn conveyed land for the Baptist Church. 1    

     Church Minutes from July 1860

"The Church agreed by vote to pay a portion of Brother Taylor's expenses in obtaining a communion metal service."

The cemetery, a contributing resource, of Ketoctin Baptist Church is the burial ground for four centuries of families and individuals ranging from early settlers of Loudoun County to present day members of the community. It contains the graves of former pastors, Revolutionary War soldiers and Civil War soldiers. 1  

The deed states: Grantor Nicholass and Mary Ozborn of Loudoun County, first part, and Peter Romine and Henry Lloyd (Frederick County) . . . two acres or 250 poles for the use of the ______ Baptist Church where now the meeting house is built . . .. After the danger of Indian attacks had passed, the Mill Creek congregation returned to their church in Frederick County between 1757-1760.  Ketoctin Baptist Church then called John Marks as its pastor. Marks had been a member of John Thomas’s home church in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, prior to coming to Virginia. 1
The members had saved for a year and accumulated over $15,000 to install indoor plumbing. Then Hurricane Katrina hit and the church's treasurer suggested sending money to help with the relief. “We asked how much and he said, ‘We have the money saved for the bathroom and many of those people have no bathroom so let's send the bathroom money,' ” said Sweet. “No one batted an eye; in fact, one person suggested we take up an offering to add to the money and in the end it was a bit more than $17,000.” 3 “It just didn't seem right to have all that money sitting around when there were people going without food and water and having so many other basic needs, besides!” said Matthews. 3 Laughter and greetings fill the sanctuary as about 20 people seat themselves and pull out their hymnals. Beneath the slave gallery, which now houses Christmas decorations and little American flags, Ketoctin Baptist gathers each Sunday to worship in a traditional style. 3 So Ketoctin Baptist Church still does not have a bathroom. As the offering basket passed around, one child emptied a bag of coins into it. They still do not have a Sunday school, but the whole congregation offered prayer requests, one little girl raising her hand multiple times to offer requests. They still do not have weeknight programs, but the sanctuary rang with voices joined in singing, “I will tell the world I am a Christian.” 3

2014 Update: Construction has begun to add a kitchenette & bathroom. February 20. 2014

2023 Update: Ketoctin Baptist Church is completely modernized with a bathroom, kitchenette, heating & air conditioning.


In October 2002, O'Connell resigned as pastor, and the doors were almost shut. But a few members refused to let the dream die, and Sweet agreed to stay on as pastor of the miniscule congregation. “Slowly and surely it became important to our lives. God has been moving in our congregation and it has been exciting to watch him work in our lives,” said Margaret Matthews, who drives from Reston every week to play the piano at Ketoctin. “The sermons and the fellowship with other members were feeding a hunger in my soul. We at Ketoctin come from varied backgrounds, and yet there's a bond and a oneness that is amazing! I may not always agree with someone, but they love me like no one else.” 3The congregation grew again to about 20 members and has plans to continue growing. “For the future we want to establish indoor plumbing that is modern and comfortable,” Sweet said. This is the first step toward allowing the congregation to develop more modern programs, such as Vacation Bible School,weeknight Bible studies, Sunday school and summer outreaches to neighborhood children. 3

Bits & Pieces

The Cemetery

As the wind continues to whisper through the giant oaks,the Ketoctin Baptist Church and its cemetery reveal a story about the importance of this place in the hearts and lives of the people of Loudoun County. 1
1. Courtesy of the 053-0308_Ketoctin_Baptist_Church_2003_Final_Nomination pdf 2. 3. Article By Cherise Ryan, Special to the Herald December 14, 2006 4. Ketoctin Chronicle - Editor William Vernon Ford 5. Story of T.Clinton Lovett Hatcher - By Kenneth Fleming

The name Ketoctin has been spelled a variety of ways throughout the years. The name was taken from the Indian word for the stream that flows nearby and is reputed to mean “the ancient wooded hill.” Records indicate that when the church was constituted in 1751, the church was named Ketocton. Since 1886 the spelling has been changed to Ketoctin. 1
 The church is a one-story brick building laid in five-course Flemish bond on a low uncoursed, rubble native field stone foundation. The standing-seam metal roof has a front gable with deep cornice returns. The date 1854 is painted on the brick underneath the front gable. All windows have twelve-over-twelve sash, double-hung wooden windows on the ground level and twelve-over-eight sash, double-hung windows overhead. Louvered wooden shutters are attached to the windows and most surrounds have original pintles. Shutter fasteners and forged hooks for keeping the shutters open can be seen on some of the exterior architraves.1

   The congregation flourished until the early 20th century, when construction of other Baptist churches in the area caused it to dwindle. Soon the building was only used for special occasions or when the board of trustees held their annual meeting. 3

   As of 2001, Ketoctin Baptist had not had a congregation for over 60 years. Its history intrigued pastor Joe O'Connell and inspired him to have one in place by the 250th anniversary. “He wanted to build a congregation in the Purcellville area that provided a more traditional style of worship,” said David Sweet, who came with O'Connell to develop the music program. 3


   “It is not stuck-in-the-mud traditionalism with no point,” Sweet said. “Everything points toward one message, the one idea we are to leave with at the end of the service.” About 38 people shared that vision and joined O'Connell and Sweet in forming the congregation on Father's Day 2001.

   However, after a year, the congregation began to dwindle again. “As we talked about establishing ourselves as a full-fledged church and not a mission and discussed what this would entail, the congregation began to fall away,” explained Sweet. “There seemed to be less long-term commitment among them. I suspect they simply wanted to help found the little mission and then move on—in the end many of them did just that.”

the church Mural

Modern Times

 Land grants for Loudoun County were made by Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax and some of the earliest settlers appeared in 1731-33.  John Covill received a land patent in 1741, a portion of which later became the site for Ketoctin Baptist Church. This part of Virginia east of the Blue Ridge Mountains was originally part of Stafford County established in 1664. The county was divided several times, forming Prince William County in 1731, Fairfax County in 1742 and Loudoun County in 1757. 1 Several denominations preceded the Baptists in establishing churches in Loudoun County. Among them were the Anglicans, Quakers, Presbyterian, and Lutheran congregations. Records indicate that the Baptists in Virginia originated from three sources. “The first were emigrants from England, who, about the year 1714 settled in the southeastern parts of the State (the General Baptists). About 1743 another party came from Maryland and formed a settlement in the northwest (the Regular Baptists) . . . A third party (the Separate Baptists or New Lights) came from New England.”  Ketoctin Baptist Church was formed from the second group. 1
In 1750 Owen Thomas and Benjamin Miller from the Philadelphia Baptist Association were appointed “to write a letter to some people in Fairfax, County, Virginia, in behalf of the association.” The Philadelphia Baptist Association was founded in Pennsylvania in 1707 to provide leadership for the Baptist movement in the colonies. The association appointed Thomas and Miller “to travel to Virginia pursuant to two applications,” one from the Mill Creek General Baptist Church in Frederick County (now in Berkeley County, West Virginia) and the other from Ketoctin. Both churches were received into the association in 1754.  Several records indicate that John Thomas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, helped to organize the Ketoctin Baptist Church and was its first missionary pastor.  Later the church extended an invitation to John Gano who had accompanied Thomas on one of his visits. Gano accepted ordination and traveled to Virginia.  These two missionary preachers provided services to the Ketoctin Church through the mid-1750s.Ketoctin Baptist Church stands as a monument to over two hundred and fifty years of worship among the people of western Loudoun County. The Baptist church was first noted when the denomination was constituted on October 8, 1751. It is believed that two log meeting houses were built on the present site, 1756 and 1780 respectively, followed by a stone meeting house, built between 1800 and 1815. The stone building preceded the current brick building which was completed in 1854.1