Round Oak Baptist Church traces its roots to an 1840 gathering under a majestic old tree at a Caroline County farm then owned by Robert Jesse. A group met to discuss forming what they called the Baptist Church of Christ at the Round Oak. Those early members had branched off from Liberty Baptist near Rappahannock Academy to organize what became the county’s 10th Baptist congregation. In the early days, Round Oak members met in homes and in a frame structure built by the wealthy Battaile family to minister to slaves from plantations in the Corbin area. Church records indicate an existing wooden meeting house was razed after the 1852 construction of a brick sanctuary still in use today.
Round Oak continued to grow over its first two decades, but the church’s progress—along with the rest of the nation’s—was interrupted by the Civil War. Church records indicate little official business transpired during the war years, and it’s unclear how often services were held. Many of the male members served in the Confederate Army. The war reached the Corbin area directly in the winter of 1862-63. Grace Episcopal Church just down the road from Round Oak was used as a hospital for Rebel soldiers, but the rector still preached on some Sundays, mostly to soldiers. In March 1863, the Confederate Chaplains Association was founded at Round Oak. The chaplains met there weekly, except when fighting or weather prevented it, until at least May 1863. The Confederates also used Round Oak for court martial hearings during the same period.
As the nation healed after the war, the community around Corbin also struggled to recover emotionally and economically. The church faced financial difficulties just as its members did. Round Oak didn’t expand its physical space until the construction of a two-story, four-classroom addition in 1915. By 1951, the now thriving church needed improvements to the existing building, eight more classrooms, a kitchen and restrooms. Three classrooms had dividers that could be folded to create a sizable fellowship hall.
The expansion of the church was not over. In 1962, Round Oak added a two-story educational wing that added more classrooms, restrooms and offices, and a large basement fellowship hall and kitchen that served the church for more than three decades. In 1986, the church added a vestibule to the front of the sanctuary and a steeple. In 1997, the church added Oak Hall, a multipurpose building with a large kitchen and restrooms. Oak Hall is used for fellowship, worship services, special events and more. In September 2004, Round Oak expanded its ministry to families by adding a preschool.
God has blessed Round Oak with gifted ministers throughout its history. The Rev. Randy Newsome became Round Oak’s 15th pastor on Jan. 1, 1984. His tenure so far is second only to the Rev. Jimmie Reynolds, who served for 39 years.
Nearly 180 years after a small group of believers gathered around that large oak tree, Round Oak is a church that remains “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). The church has grown in spirit and love, and it has adapted—sometimes reluctantly—to the changing world around it. Though most of its members now live in subdivisions or on small lots instead of farms, Round Oak has retained the friendliness and camaraderie of a little country church. And Round Oak isn’t a church married to its past. The congregation focuses on following God’s will and His commandment to “love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7).