The Calhoun Chronicle,
by Boyd Stutler
for The West Virginia Review
Styles in church architecture vary in several
sections of West Virginia, but there
is only one community in the state that has a round church. That is the
Sand Ridge community in
County, which is located
midway between Spencer and Glenville on highway 33/119.
Strictly speaking, it is not a round church at all,
but is octagonal in shape. It has sharply defined corners at each of its
eight sides instead of the continuous curve that is present in a truly
rounded structure, but no one ever refers to it as octagonal.
It is almost invariably called, “the Little Round
Church.” The term “little” is also a misnomer as it is of the average
size of a rural church and its auditorium has a seating capacity of
Completion of the hard surfaced highway through the
community, which directed an almost continuous stream of traffic past
the door of the church, has brought the structure into a prominence
never dreamed of by its planners and builders.
Its prominent position high on the crest of one of
Calhoun’s lofty hills is such a setting that attracts the attention of
the passer-by. Hundreds and thousands now pause to examine the church
and to comment on the peculiar style of construction. Round barns have
been built in several communities, but a round church is something new
under the sun.
The building is of comparatively recent
construction. It was built for service and to express a definite idea
rather than as a curiosity to attract the attention of passing
It was built and dedicated in 1903 and is,
therefore, in its 29th year of community service. The story of its
building is one of self sacrifice that is just as interesting as the
Thirty years ago, the people of the Sand Ridge
community decided they needed a church building. The section was
sparsely settled. A little flock of members of the Methodist Episcopal
Church had held together, meeting for worship at irregular intervals at
the nearest house. The need was great, the laborers few, and the money
scarce, but the faithful few found a way to obtain a comfortable church.
The district conference became interested in the
movement and sought to help in any way it could. They decided to
establish a building committee whose duty it would be to find the ways
survey of the field, Albert Poling, one of the active and zealous
younger workers in the community, was named as the single member of the
The site was selected and the land for the church
and cemetery purpose was given by the father and brother of the
committee of one--Wesley and Asbury Poling--men whose given names would
stamp them as coming from a family in which the names of the founders of
Methodism were revered and honored.
The committee man called upon those interested to
go with him into the woods, cut the trees, shape them for sawing, and
then convert the logs into lumber. A great part of the labor of
preparing the lumber and of actual construction of the church itself was
given freely by volunteers. Much of the necessary cash outlay was borne
by members of the Poling family.
In recognition of the services of Albert Poling,
the church was dedicated and consecrated under the name of Albert’s
Chapel. Though this name is still borne on the church records, it is
rarely called Albert’s Chapel. Even in the section contiguous to the
Sand Ridge community it is known as the Sand
Church, or as the Round
The church grew and prospered and has grown under
the guidance of Rev. Paul Maness, the present pastor, to be one of the
best churches in the Mt.
Zion circuit. It now has
nearly 100 members and maintains a Sunday school with an enrollment
greater than the membership of the church.
Because of the extent of the circuit and the number
of churches under his care, the pastor visits the church but twice each
Many stories have been told as to the reason for
constructing the church in its odd octagonal shape. One that has been
widely circulated is that the Poling boys, Albert and Asbury, while in
military service during the Spanish American war, saw such buildings
during the course of their travels.
Others equally as plausible have been passed
around, but the explanation given by the present pastor in charge is
accepted as the most reasonable and most logical.
The idea of a wheel-shape church was conceived by
the wife of one of the leaders in its construction. She had read one of
the sermons of Dr. T. Dewitt Tallmadge which brought out the thought
that life was a cycle, that each individual sowed good seed or bad, and
that, as the wheel of life turned, each would come back to the place of
sowing to reap the harvest.
So impressed was she with this thought that she
prevailed upon those planning a new church to carry out the idea of its
construction as a wheel shaped church. Since this was obviously
impossible, the graceful octagonal shape was accepted as the nearest
church has been on the National Register of Historic Places since Dec.