Our Church History
Over 140 years ago, the village of Rapidan was officially known as Rapid Ann Station with a post office having been established in 1854.
There was a ford across the river below the dam with a wagon bridge built at the bend. A few dwellings and businesses existed and the establishment of a community was well underway.
The land Emmanuel Church sits on had been part of a farm owned by Mr. Benjamin Franklin Nalle that was partially divided when the railroad was built. Under the leadership of Reverend Charles Y. Steptoe, Emmanuel’s first vestry was elected on November 16, 1873, with five members. The minutes of early vestry meetings were primarily concerned with the construction of the church building and raising funds to cover not only building costs but the rector’s salary as well. On December 11, 1874, Emmanuel Church was consecrated with Bishop John Johns in attendance confirming 5 members during his visitation. According to an article in the Culpeper Observer on this occasion, “It is decidedly the prettiest country church in the county.”
Emmanuel Church sat nestled serenely on the banks of the Rapidan surrounded by trees and the peaceful sound of the river. But over the years, the choice to build in this idyllic setting would not be without consequences. And that would prove to be true on June 27, 1995, when the church was almost totally devastated in what would be known as “The Great Flood.”
When the storm hit, eyewitnesses watched the church go under with haystacks bobbing in the water. Members of the congregation and nearby neighbors rushed to Emmanuel to try to save what they could. But with water five feet deep in the sanctuary not much was salvaged. The Tiffany stained-glass windows were cracked, handmade needlepoint kneelers were soaked in mud, hymnals were shredded and the organ was destroyed. The Vestry Room and Guild Hall would be condemned and a book of church records dating back to the 1880’s was swept away. While insurance paid for some of the flood damage the congregation took on a fund-raising campaign called “Higher Ground” to not only make repairs but move the 122 -year-old church off its foundation and at least 50 yards higher up on the riverbank. It was no small task for a small congregation but they proved that a church built on faith in Jesus Christ can survive any storm. Through their determination to succeed and unwavering spirituality, the congregation clearly demonstrated that with God anything is possible. The restoration project was still underway but services were held in the church on the one year anniversary of the flood. The church building may have washed away but it was the congregation’s foundation in Christ that remained steadfast through the storm.
“The Church Floods” Fresco Mural by Megan Marlatt, 1998 depicting the devastating floods of 1995 and 1996.