Walnut Grove White Frame Church – 1880 – 1961 Walnut Grove Presbyterian Church – 1961 – Current Walnut Grove Presbyterian Church Monument Walnut Grove Presbyterian Church, Oldest Church in Bristol, VA It is difficult to believe that the oldest church of any denomination in the Bristol area is still active after almost 250 years. Walnut Grove Presbyterian Church sits atop a hill in Bristol, VA, flanked on both sides by retail on Lee Highway. The church, not chartered until 1866, had been serving the people of the community for many years prior. It was named for a pioneer plantation called “Walnut Grove.” Many well-known Bristolians participated in the church’s beginning. Pioneers and Revolutionary war patriots are buried in its cemetery. Robert Preston Sr. contributed the land for the church and cemetery. His wife, Margaret Rhea, was a minister’s daughter and together with her mother-in-law, Eleanor Fairman Preston, wife of John Preston Sr., established the church and graveyard, according to Southwest Virginia historian Lewis Preston Summers (1868 – 1943). They were pious women who exerted a great influence in their day, wrote Mr. Summers. The land on which the church was built was the Preston family estate, belonging to John Preston Sr., and then to Robert Preston Sr. Col. Robert Preston’s home, built c. 1800, stands nearby on Lee Highway. It has been restored by the Bristol Historical Association. Similar to the television show “Little House on the Prairie,” the earliest church was a log building which was also used as a school. Summers says the old log church stood for many years. The church’s original name was “Beaver Creek.” In 1879, the church burned, and a new place of worship was built by 1880, according to church minutes. This white frame building stood for many years until a larger modern church was built in 1961. The church which once stood alone on a hill in Bristol, VA, is now surrounded by subdivisions and retail establishments. By D. Gail Fleenor, Web Correspondent - Bristol Historical Association

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