Fire wasn’t first brush with vandalism for historic church [with gallery]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Vandals etched this pentagram in the floor of Consolation Primitive Baptist Church in 2007.

Vandals etched this pentagram in the floor of Consolation Primitive Baptist Church in 2007.

If the fire that destroyed Consolation Primitive Baptist Church Monday is indeed the result of foul play, as Butler County officials believe, it’s not the first time the church has suffered ill treatment.

According to Star-News archives, in 2007, 13 people – including 10 juveniles – were charged on Fri., June 13, with burglary and criminal mischief after the Butler County Sheriff’s Department investigated cultish behavior there. The church is located near Red Level, off of Oakey Streak Road just across the Butler County line.

Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden said the fire was spotted Monday morning, and the church was deemed a complete loss.

There hasn’t been an active congregation in the white-washed, 19th-century church in decades, but descendants of those buried in the church cemetery still work to keep the grounds in good shape.

In 2 007, then-Consolation Cemetery Association secretary and treasurer Eugene Phillips said the act of desecrating a church is unimaginable.

“I can’t imagine why people would do this to a place that means so much to us,” Phillips said. “This is a historical landmark and they just stripped it of its identity.

“Even if you look on the pew seats closely, you can see burn marks.”

A website presenting stories of haunted places,, is blamed by many for the attraction vandals felt to Consolation Church and nearby Oakey Street Church. According to the website, ghostly figures have been seen in front of the church – a little boy with a ball, a little girl skipping down the road and a mysterious black Ford truck.

Vandals have left broken windows, burned pews and the remnants of candles in the now boarded-up historic structure, where they also have sketched a pentagram, a symbol often used by the occult, on the floor.

“It is heartbreaking to come up here and see what is happening to the church,” said former church member Madison H. Cookin 2007. “The benches are a part of this church and the way that they are being treated is not good.”

Cook, a long-time Red Level resident who was then 89, was a member of Consolation Primitive Baptist in his younger years.

“We had dinner on the grounds a lot of the time,” Cook said. “They would stand me up on the table just so I wouldn’t get stepped on,” he said with a chuckle.

Cook said many members of his family are buried at the cemetery only a few yards away.

“I have a lot of my family buried here,” he said. “My great grandmother died in 1913 and my great grandfather died in 1922.

“My nephew still helps out with mowing the grass around the site.”

The church was a school at one point, Cook said.

The Consolation Primitive Baptist Church has a small board that meets to discuss general business about the church.

There was no damage to the cemetery surrounding the former structure in Monday’s fire, but an outhouse behind it burned, too, Harden said.