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Historic church destroyed by fire

This is all that remains of the historic Valley of Achor Baptist Church near the East Palestine Country Club just south of Negley. (Photo by Scott Lendak)

NEGLEY — A historic church in Middleton Township was lost due to a fire early Monday morning. By the time the fire was reported by a passerby, the Valley of Achor Baptist Church was engulfed by the flames.

After receiving the call shortly after 1 a.m., the Negley Fire Department trucks were unable to use the overpass on Carmel-Achor Road to cut through the East Palestine Country Club due to weight restrictions. By the time they went around and arrived at the church, it was already burned down. However, Fire Chief Kurt Todd said the fire had already done its damage before they even received the call.

“By the time we got call, it was already engulfed,” Todd said. “When I got the call, I looked out the window of my house and could see it.”

East Palestine and New Waterford fire departments responded with Negley, and they also contacted South Beaver Township, Pa., for a tanker. The fire departments cleared shortly after 5 a.m. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The church was vacant and dates back to the early 1800s, and over 30 veterans are buried in the cemetery on the grounds of the church. Although the church had been vacant for a number of years, many residents still reminisced with their children and grandchildren.

Resident Betty Davidson remembers attending the church years ago and was very disappointed when she heard what happened.

“It’s been vacant for quite a long while,” Davidson said. “But that doesn’t mean someone needed to burn it down.”

Although the matter is still under investigation, electricity and lightning were not factors in the start of the fire.

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