Description of Historic Place
The Greenville United Baptist Church is a simple Vernacular style building that was built in 1853 by and for the Black community of Greenville, Yarmouth County. The church is located on the north side of Greenville Road, which connects Dayton and Hebron with Highway 103. An inactive cemetery is located on the east side of the church. The building, cemetery and property are included in the designation.
The Greenville United Baptist Church is valued as one of the oldest surviving churches erected by the Nova Scotia Black community and since its erection, it has been little altered and remains on its original site. It is also valued for its unique Vernacular style of architecture with its Greek Revival style pilasters.
In 1820, a colony of Black Loyalist descendants established themselves at Salmon River, later renamed Greenville. Though a small community, they erected a church in 1849, called the African Bethal Church. The building of this church was a major advancement for the community. The land on which the church was built was owned at the time by George Gideon Dies, a lay member of the church, who deeded it to the Trustees of the African Church at Greenville upon his death in 1869.
This church was not associated with any other churches as far as it is known until the visit of the Reverend Richard Preston, a former Virginian slave who was one of the most dynamic Black leaders of his day. This visit was part of a tour by Preston of western Nova Scotia undertaken in 1853 with the object of founding an association of Black Baptist churches, which was to be achieved the following year when twelve churches united in an association. Preston is given the credit for organizing a church at Salmon River in 1853, what is now the Greenvile United Baptist Church. At some point the African Bethel Church burned and all that remains is an inactive cemetery. The only marker indicating that there are graves on the site of the church is a lone wooden sign, marked ‘Cemetery.' This cemetery is located beside the site of the current Greenville African United Church.
Preston appointed the Reverend David Dies, brother of George G. Dies, to serve as Pastor to this community. He did so for many years and lived to the memorable age of one hundred and ten years. In the twentieth century, the most noteworthy pastorate has been that of the Reverend M.L. Anderson, who arrived in 1919 and would stay for half a century.
There were two other churches erected in Nova Scotia that served a Black community earlier than the Greenville United Baptist Church, but they have been either substantially altered or moved. Therefore the Greenville United Baptist Church is the oldest, largely unaltered church serving the African Nova Scotian community on its original site in Nova Scotia.
Source: Provincial Heritage Property program files, no. 165, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements of the Greenville United Baptist Church relating to its Vernacular style include:
- exterior wood frame construction;
- one storey back addition;
- one storey centred front entrance;
- medium pitched gable roof with bell-cast eaves;
- symmetrical facade;
- large, roughly defined Greek Revival style pilasters standing in high relief along the side elevations;
- double hung sash windows;
- 6/6 glazing in facade windows;
- 6/9 glazing in side windows;
- pedimented crowns on windows;
- shingle cladding;
- exterior chimney at back;
- location on its original site;
- inactive cemetery with a wooden sign marked ‘Cemetery.'