Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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History of the Church

  Frederick William Neve was born December 8, 1855 in England.  He was ordained on May 23, 1880.  He was called to take a position in Ivy and arrived by ship in May of 1888.  He had two churches, St. Paul’s, Ivy (near where he was staying) and the other 10 miles away, Emmanuel, Greenwood.  He traveled to Greenwood by horse and buggy.

  Having spent considerable time ministering among the poor in England, he soon became drawn to similar circumstances in this area.  He began holding services in a schoolhouse in the Ragged Mountains near Ivy. 

  Two years after his arrival, he decided to build a church for these people. The Rev. Neve funded the building of the church himself.  A wooden church was built near the dirt road that passed by the land.  The residents had no regular transportation so they walked to the church for services.

  On November 1, 1890, All Saints’ Day, the church was opened for the first time.  The building was filled to overflowing.  Rev. Neve named the church the Mission of St. John the Baptist, “as I thought it was helping to prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness” (The Autobiography of Frederick William Neve).  The mission house was built around 1900.

  Miss Louise Smart became the first volunteer worker for the mission in the 1890s.   There was no Mission House then, so she boarded in a farmhouse in the neighborhood.  She traveled by horse, seeing to the circumstances of the people for which she had taken responsibility.  She served for five years.

   “Perhaps 1931 was the banner year in the life of Mr. Neve.  On June 11th there were... important events.  He celebrated the completion of fifty years as a priest, the dedication of the new St. John’s church…  The original church of St. John the Baptist was the first to be built in the mountains by Mr. Neve.  Now it was being replaced by a larger and more substantial structure, a memorial to Miss Mary Lee Fleming, with funds supplied by her parents, as Mary had been preparing to come to work in in the mountains when she met a tragic death.” (Neve’s Later Years by Dennis Whittle)  The donation is commemorated by a plaque above the doors inside the church.

  The new church was built with fieldstone.  The altar and pulpit were constructed of local white quartz.  A stone from St. Alban’s Abbey Church in England is included in the altar, a gift from the Dean of St. Alban’s where Neve was ordained Deacon.  The pulpit contains a stone from St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, given by the head of the Church Army in the United States.  At present there is no documentation or knowledge of who donated/created the stained glass image of the Madonna and baby Jesus above the altar.

  The original building was deconsecrated for use as a church, taken apart, and moved to become a consecrated building for another use elsewhere.

   Rev. Neve eventually created thirty missions in the isolated hollows of Albemarle, Greene, Nelson, Page, and Rockingham counties.  He traveled riding his horse or in a buggy on dirt roads or animal trails up mountains.  He spent his entire working life sending letters to obtain funding for these endeavors.

  He was appointed Archdeacon of the Blue Ridge.  “His mind and spirit were keen to the end of his life.  On November 8, 1948, in his ninety third year, Mr. Neve passed peacefully on into the Larger Life.” (Neve’s Later Years, Dennis Whittle).  He is buried at St. Paul’s, Ivy beside his two wives.  

  The original part of the Parish Hall was built in 1947.  The addition was added in the late 1990’s.

  An assisted living complex was added at the site, also built with stone.  It was operated by women of the church and was a forerunner of current day nursing homes.  This has since been sold and converted to homes or apartments.

    In 1985, St. John's became a Mission Church in the Diocese of Virginia.  November 1, 2021 will be St. John's 131st year of service.  There are photos of the buildings on the Images of the Church page.

Neve, Virginia’s Thousandfold Man, Frances Scruby, 2010
Secrets of the Blue Ridge, Volume I, Phil James, 2010
Secrets of the Blue Ridge: The Mountain Missions of 1942, The Whistle, Phil James,
           December 2003
The Autobiography of Frederick William Neve, The Magazine of Albemarle County
           History Vol 26, 1967 – 1968, Albemarle County Historical Society, converted
           from handwritten by Dennis Whittle
Archdeacon Neve’s Later Years, The Magazine of Albemarle County History Vol
           26, 1967 – 1968, Albemarle County Historical Society, Dennis Whittle