When you have a hankering to explore the roots of religious architecture and freedom, the bible belt of NC is your destination. And Perquimans County has dozens of centuries-old congregations that take pride in where they came from, as well as where they are going. Here are four to get you started.
1. First Baptist Church
211 S Hyde Park Street Hertford, NC 27944
Prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, 58 slaves held membership at Hertford Baptist Church where they were occasionally permitted to occupy the balcony, and eventually given permission to use the basement with a pastor of their own choosing. In 1866, they constructed a bush shelter on the corner of Hyde Park and King Street, and held their first service. This marks their birth as the oldest African American congregation in Hertford. Don't miss the monument to the Union Soldier Colored Troops directly across the street!
2. Piney Woods Friends Meeting
118 Piney Woods Road Belvidere, NC 27919
The congregation of Piney Woods Friends Meeting holds the honor of being the oldest congregation in the state of NC. They've been meeting on the same piece of land in Belvidere, NC since 1743. A dominant feature of the building is the pair of double entrances. This reflects the old Quaker practice of men and women sitting on separate sides of the sanctuary. This part of the county has roots that run deep in Quaker history and its influence on education as well as the anti-slavery movement pre-Civil War.
3. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
207 S Church Street Hertford, NC 27944
The body of community members that make up Holy Trinity Episcopal Church first began meeting in 1848, and their church home was built in 1849 and 1850 for an estimated $2,000. The pointed doorways and arches tell tale of its Gothic Revival distinction. Its wooden buttresses supporting a barrel-shaped roof lead most to believe it is the only one of its kind in the country! But the admiration doesn't end with the structure of the building. On its property lies one of the most serene and picturesque cemeteries in the South. Resting on the Perquimans River, it holds dozens of founding members of the community, all with a story of their own to tell.
4. Hertford Baptist Church
124 W Market Street Hertford, NC 27944
This stately sanctuary was constructed and established in 1854 after the Hertford congregation split from the Bethel Baptist congregation. Its tall, solid columns and multi-tiered front steps are the most striking feature upon first glance, but a second look reveals the character of the raised basement, stunning stained glass, and large windows with arched moulding. Today, if you visit Historic Downtown Hertford at 12 PM or 6 PM, you can hear bells and music chime from the steeple of Hertford Baptist Church.