Hidden Treasure: Gibson family renovating historic building in Stoney Creek

Published 9:39 am Friday, June 24, 2016

Star Photo/Curtis Carden  Annette and Frank Gibson purchased the former Watauga Valley Baptist Church property two years ago and are currently renovating the structure into a home.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden
Annette and Fred Gibson purchased the former Watauga Valley Baptist Church property two years ago and are currently renovating the structure into a home.

It’s all about restoring history for Fred and Annette Gibson.
The married couple came across an old building on Willow Springs Road in Stoney Creek and decided to put in the man-hours to renovate the premise into a home.
What they discovered, though, was a hidden gem inside Carter County — the building which used to house the Watauga Valley Baptist Church, which was the former name of Stoney Creek, and a school/meeting house used by the Carter County Board of Education.
“We were driving by and I said I thought that would make a cool house,” Fred said.
Once the purchase was made, the search, and cleanup, was underway.
“After that, I went searching,” Annette said about locating the history.
While the fondness was in store for the building, the cleanup process has been a tall order, with Frank adding that it took one year alone just to get material out of the building.
“It was loaded with junk,” Annette said with a laugh while Fred chimed in by saying it was “antiques and collectables.”
Annette has performed the due diligence throughout the research of the property, finding out the property was first donated by Godfrey Carriger in 1862. After passing through different stages, and a pair of fires that engulfed the structure, the property was ultimately sold to J. Brown Elliott and his wife in the 1950s and was used as storage for his moving company until the Gibson picked up the property.
There are remnants still within the building that provide insight to how the school and churches operated. Entering through the main lobby, an individual can see where the pews and congregation were seated within the main lobby. Where the congregation performed, there are still pieces of a mural that was in place. The right side of building was used as a main lobby, while the left side of the building feature six rooms that were used for Sunday School classrooms.
When going through the basement, Fred was able to make an interesting discovery that didn’t prove to be ‘too sweet’ for the married couple.
“It was around one million bees,” he recalled. “You entered down in the basement and they just took over. I didn’t want to kill them with them being endangered so I posted online for anyone to stop by and that they were free for pickup.
“Somebody came down and offered to transport them but we were able to identify both colonies, one with European bees and the other with African bees. The honey was already crystallized.”
The building has seen its fair share of history, but the couple are hoping to have renovations finished by December, according to Fred.
“She’s going to be gorgeous,” Annette said with a smile.
Frank added that during the time of its usage, no running water was used and there were outhouses placed on the property. Now with the phase of working inside beginning, he added that they are working to keep the atmosphere of the building the same – using time-oriented material and items. Adding that while he has the sinks and other items ready for installation when the time comes, the roofing is original from the 1930s and that he scoured across the globe online looking for the type of material to no avail.
However, he added that he touched base with a company based out of Morristown that can recreate the roofing that will be installed during the coming months.
The Gibsons are looking to get into connection with citizens who may have additionally information on the building. Even though there hasn’t been a shortage of people stopping by.
“I’d say, roughly, we’ve had 60 to 75 people stop by,” Fred said. “I would finish with one tour with somebody, then another person would stop by with information on the building. It’s been great.”
The Gibsons have relied on locals, including photos from Dr. Floyd May and Jerry Williams, and government paperwork to figure out some of the history. Various stories have been told about the building, including Abraham Lincoln’s parents being in the area six months before his birth and attending the facility. Annette added that she was able to learn that the church ultimately split to two other churches in 1949 — Hunter First Baptist Church and Hunter Memorial — even though a reason was not found before being sold.
Anyone with further information on the structure can contact Fred at 423-335-4168.

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