Malden Baptist Church
Located at 202 Wise Drive, Malden Baptist Church has served the community of Malden, West Virginia for over 140 years. The church was dedicated in 1876 following a revival that had taken place nearby and inspired its converts to establish their own Baptist congregation. A modest white structure, Malden Baptist Church’s appearance closely resembles that of the nearby African Zion Baptist Church, which was built four years earlier. At the time of Malden Baptist’s foundation, the town was at the center of the Kanawha Valley salt industry, although the salt business had been declining since the Civil War. While the local economy evolved and Malden became a primarily residential community, Malden Baptist Church remained open, with few changes to its appearance. In 1980, the church was included in the Malden Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, Malden Baptist Church is a member of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists and the Pioneer Baptist Association, and is involved in missionary work.
Backstory and Context
During the first half of the nineteenth century, Malden emerged as the seat of a booming salt industry. As settlers pushed westward into the Kanawha Valley, they discovered the abundant salt springs along the river, first boiling the brine to make their own salt before beginning to harvest it for commercial purposes. Following innovations in brine well drilling and the development of an efficient production process, the valley industrialized rapidly, with dozens of salt furnaces producing millions of bushels of salt per year by the 1840s. As the salt business flourished, the town of Malden developed into a prosperous commercial center. Along with the saltmakers’ fine mansions and a number of businesses, Malden was home to several churches, as the town offered a centralized place in which congregations could gather. The oldest church building is the Kanawha Salines Presbyterian Church, built in 1840 to house a congregation that was established as early as 1819. African Zion Baptist Church was constructed in 1872 for a congregation that was formed in 1852.
Malden Baptist Church was dedicated in 1876, four years after the nearby African Zion Baptist Church was built. According to church history, the congregation was established in 1873 following a “brush-arbor” revival in a field at the mouth of Georges Creek, WV. Simple structures called brush arbors were used to protect worshipers from the weather during lengthy revival meetings. After the revival, the converts decided to build a church, which was constructed on a lot of land donated by Nathan Slack. Though slightly larger in size, Malden Baptist Church closely resembles African Zion in appearance. The clapboard structure has the same type of gabled roof and short, pyramidal belfry as well as gently arched window frames similar to those of African Zion. Malden Baptist Church also has arched frames for its two entrance doors, along with a bell that was once used to sound alarms when needed.
By the time that Malden Baptist Church was established in 1876, the Kanawha Valley salt industry was already in decline following the devastation of the Civil War and wider economic trends that had shifted the country’s salt supply elsewhere. As the valley’s salt furnaces closed one after the other and were eventually replaced by chemical plants, Malden’s commercial significance fell and the town became a predominantly residential community. Despite these changes, Malden Baptist Church has remained in operation and played an active role in the community. In the early 1950s, it became the second church to join the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists. Malden Baptist Church is also a member of the Pioneer Baptist Association, a group of Southern Baptist churches in Kanawha and Putnam Counties. Additionally, Malden Baptist Church has been involved in missionary work both abroad and in other parts of West Virginia. In 1980, the church was included in the Malden Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In the years following the historic district's creation, a new wing was added to the church and the building's facade was modified. Despite these alterations, the original Malden Baptist Church structure has not significantly changed since its foundation in the late nineteenth century, contributing to the community’s timeless character.
National Register of Historic Places, Malden Historic District, Malden, Kanawha County, West Virginia, National Register #80004028.
Our History, Malden Baptist Church. Accessed February 26th 2020. https://maldenbaptist.com/Our-History-.htm.
Rowe, Larry L.. Malden, The West Virginia Encyclopedia. January 30th 2013. Accessed January 23rd 2020. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/1479.
Stealey III, John Edmund. Salt Industry, The West Virginia Encyclopedia. October 26th 2010. Accessed January 23rd 2020. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/168.