THE TEAM FROM Barnwood Builders moved its equipment and manpower to Droop Mountain and began to dismantle the 137 year old Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church Monday. Each salvageable board and log was numbered so the materials can be reassembled – somewhere, sometime. B. Nottingham photo

Brandon Nottingham
Staff Writer

Droop Mountain was alive with the sounds of machinery Monday as the renowned Barnwood Builders went to work taking apart the Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church – board by board, and log by log.

October 7 marked the third anniversary of Barnwood Builders’ first episode on the DIY Network.

The Barnwood Builders team breaks down log cabins, cribs and barns in such a manner that they may refurbish them to be reassembled or rebuilt. And that is what they are doing with the Mt. Olivet church.

The Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church log structure has been a part of the Pocahontas County community for quite some time, 137 years to be exact.

The church was organized in 1877, when the congregation met in the field right across from the church. Once the congregation grew in number and they acquired the proper funding, they built the church, and it was dedicated in 1880.

Mark Bowe, the owner of Antique Cabins and Barns and star of Barnwood Builders, took on this project to help preserve some of the county’s history and support his home state.

“I was born and raised in Glasgow, West Virginia,” Bowe said. “I lived there until I was eighteen. Then I went to work in the mines in Boone County, and I worked there until I made enough money to go to college. I left the mines and went to West Virginia University. Once I ran out of money, I came back and worked in the coal mines, or I would go out and dig some ginseng. After college, I helped tear down and restore a barn, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. So I opened up my own restoration business, Antique Cabins and Barns, and that led me to work alongside a producer, who introduced me to the TV business, and the rest is history.

“I currently live in Lewisburg. We have the Boneyard in Neola, where all of the wood goes to get restored, and we have an office in White Sulphur Springs. I have been doing this for twenty-one years, and we have done over four-hundred structures. Of all of those, this is only my second church.

“Being a West Virginian and knowing the history here, I want to see this live on. I want to see it live on here in Pocahontas County, but if that’s not possible, then I want to see it stay here in West Virginia so that other people can enjoy what it has been and what it will be.”

Although it has raised a bit of controversy, the condition of church made it no longer serviceable, but no one wants to destroy a piece of history like that without having some remembrance of it.

BARNWOOD BUILDERS WORKED fast and meticulously as they dismantled the Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church Monday and Tuesday. This photo shows the interior of the logs and the rafters along with a hornets nest. Very impressive work – going up and coming down. Photo courtesy of Tom Taylor

That’s where Bowe and his work crew and film crew come in.

“We heard that the church had come to the conclusion that it was not salvageable and as are going through this church building, log by log, we are starting to see that they were right,” Bowe said. “They decided that they wanted to build a better church that would also last over a hundred years. We got together and thought about bidding on it and decided that it would be a great project to save. Other companies that were bidding on it were wanting to tear it down and use it as beams, or make flooring out of it. So once we got it, we are cataloging every good board so that once it comes down, it can go back up the same. We want to preserve this history in one way or another. There will have to be some fundraising for sure. We are donating a lot of time, resources and expertise, but it can’t be built without things like a foundation, a sub-floor, a roof, shingles, electricity, chinking and all the things it takes to build a house. Not everything inside is salvageable. Our main goal is to save the log walls.

“There are rafters that are no good, the floor joist aren’t very good and there just isn’t a whole lot we can do. That’s why we need the donations to help replace these things. I know that there are some very capable people here in Pocahontas County, too. Some that have done amazing restoration work and would be great to take over where we leave off.”
As Bowe and his crew disassembled different parts of the church, it was all in a very precise and careful manner, taking time to label each and every board. As the pieces were coming down, Bowe made one final statement before returning back to his work.

“The one thing that I want people to know is this show and especially this particular episode will always portray West Virginia in a positive light,” he said. “We won’t have any negativity. We won’t have any bleeps.

“I am proud that we get to wear this West Virginia symbol on our shirts and to show the country just how beautiful the people and the terrain are.

“If someone were to offer me the entire area of Washington, D.C., I would trade it all for Pocahontas County.”