Church Trends, Conditions, and Related Questions

Blacksburg Town and District: 1934-1952

"Our civilization can not survive materially unless it be redeemed spiritually."
Woodrow Wilson ( last public address )

Study sponsored by Blacksburg Ministerial Association
in co-operation with Federation's Public Relations Committee
Rural Sociology Division, Va. Agr. Exp. Sta.
(As part of State-wide Rural Church Trends Study)

Blacksburg Community Federation Report No. 3

Background Factors

Population:

13,459 people or approximately 3,400 families lived in Blacksburg Town and District in 1950 (exclusive of VPI students and their wives and children.)

3,058 in Blacksburg town -- in 1952 approximately 4,300 whites; 275 negroes within two miles of the town center (estimates).

10,101 in the magisterial district -- 1950 -- (in ten neighborhoods, six of which - five white and one negro are sometimes rated as secondary communities -- in 1953 approximately 8,105 whites and 95 negro in district exclusive of area within two miles of town -- (estimated.)

Since the coming of the powder plant six miles from the town both town and district have a large transitory population to which married students families also add.

The Economic Basis of Community Life

Most of the people of the Blacksburg area obtain their living through employment

1. At VPI (as professional workers or in college service activities.)
2. At the Radford Arsenal (or in construction work connected therewith.)
3. In farm work.
4. In coal mining.
5. In business or service occupations.
6. In other miscellaneous occupations -- airplane parts factory, lime quarry, etc.

Families with 1,870 individuals secured part of their living through farming in 1950. The other 11,589 (1950) obtained their living through non-farm work.

Living Standards

In general living standards are fairly good -- much better generally than eighteen years ago, although there are still some hundreds of families with low education, housing and income standards. The area has some good roads. Much of the district is mountainous.

1. 1934 figures were based on community study of that date.

2. Estimates of the present population were based on a projection of the 1940-50 increase. Increases thus obtained were checked and ammended by the number of electric meters in the area and a count of new houses. The Blacksburg churches were considered as serving an area in a two mile radius of the town center.

Churches and Church Organizations Membership

Number of Churches

The whites of Blacksburg and vicinity were served in 1952 by ten churches as compared to seven 1934. One of the ten is a short distance beyond the corporate limits. Arrangements have been completed for establishing an eleventh church -- Church of God -- in the town. The Negroes have two churches. In 1934 the whites of the town and vicinity were served by seven churches and the Negroes by two. (See map for the distribution of churches in the area.)

Church Map of Blacksburg Community

The white people of the district beyond the two mile town limit are served by 26 churches--in addition to three unorganized groups with once-a-month preaching. The Negroes of the area have two churches.

In 1934 there were 24 churches serving the whites and four unorganized groups. Four of the churches have closed in the last eighteen years and six new ones organized. There were several addtional churches within a short distance of the district boundaries. (It is assumed that these have about as many members from the district as people outside of the district come to district churches.)

Ministers

The white churches of the town are for the most part served by highly trained strong men, as resident ministers. Town ministers also serve four of the district churches and the college YMCA helps with one. With one or two expectations the district churches have less highly trained men. In fact the pastors of the majority have not gone beyond grade or high school except for a little special church school training. Several work at other occupations during the week. All of the colored churches are served by a different minister -- none a resident in the area. Two of the four are now securing college training.

Membership

The ten churches serving the white population of the town of Blacksburg and the immediated vicinity reported a membership in 1952 of 2,177 or 50% of the estimated 1952 white population of around 4300 within two miles of the town center.[1] These churches also serve a student (and student's wives) population of nearly 3,000.

The seven white churches serving the estimated white population of around 1,900 in the town and vicinity in 1934 then had a membership of 1,213 or 70% of the estimated white population of the area. The white church membership in the 18 year period - 1934-1952 - has increased 76% as compared to an estimated white population increase in the same period of 125%.

The membership of the 26 churches serving a white population of 8,105 in the district (other than the area immediatetly adjacent to the town) was reported as approximately 984 or 13% of the population. Thus the white church membership of the town and district combined in 1952 numbered approximately 3,120 or 23% of the white population of approximately 13,400.

In 1952 the two Negro churches of the town had a combined membership of 90 from an estimated Negro population of 275 or 33%.

In 1934 approximately one in four of the white and Negro population of all ages in the town and in the district together had their names on the church rolls.

In 1952 33% of the Negro population of the town and vicinity were church members. In the other parts of the district approximately 65% of the Negroes were reported as church members.

TABLE 1
Churches and Sunday School Membership
Blacksburg Town and District, 1934-52

Town Church Membership Sunday School Membership
    1952 1934 1952 1934
Town (white)          
  Baptist 385 165 294 128
  Catholic 91 28 30 17
  Christian 113 120 131 138
  Episcopal 172 140 40 42
  Lutheran 179 200 148 185
  Methodist 706 400 460 525
  Presbyterian 433 160 300 135
  Presbyterian (N. Blkburg) 2 Not organized 50  
  True Church of God 34 Not organized 25  
  Wesleyan Methodist 62 Not organized 267  
  Baptist (colored) 20 21 45 25
  Methodist (") 70 40 35 ?
           
District (white)          
  Christian (McCoy) 195 150 155 150
  Lutheran (Long Shop) 39 38 66 ?
  Lutheran (Prices Fork) 96 75 114 ?
  Lutheran (Sunny Side) 91 ? 122 ?
  Lutheran (Glade) 26 60 46 ?
  Methodist (PricesFork) 39 ? 140 ?
  Union (Long Shop) 40(1)      
  Holiness, Pentecostal (Sunny Side) 15 Not organized 75  
  Holiness, Penecostal (Norris Run) 20 12 25 ?
(1) UNORGANIZED GROUP, NOT MEMBERS, THAT HOLD SERVICES ONCE A MONTH.

Church membership rolls vary considerably in accuracy, or degree to which they were kept up to date. Many members are non-residents. The town churches have few members from beyond the two mile limit. Population estimates are conservative. If these were changed the estimates of percent of population who are church members would also change.


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Last Updated: January 30, 1998