Local newspaper reporter hiking the Pinhoti Trail discovers the Shoal Creek Church.

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Hiking the Pinhoti Trail

(Section on Shoal Creek Church)


After they had traveled about two miles, the group saw a large brown sign along the trail.

Behind the sign was a cemetery, and on the other side of the cemetery was a log cabin.

Actually, the log cabin was Shoal Creek Church, one of six hewn-log churches remaining in Alabama.

Gilham, Odom and Hackett removed their backpacks, sipped water and walked down to the century-old church, which gained a listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

“My granddaddy was one of the builders,” Joe Jones, 79, said later from his Huntsville residence. “My daddy was his oldest son, but he was too young to help build the church. He would carry water to the builders.”

Jones said the church was built in 1885-1890.

He said Shoal Creek Church is used for weddings and family reunions of descendants of the people who built the church.

“There are eight to 10 weddings held there every year,” Jones said. “It’s open to the public.”

Once a year, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, people gather at the historic log church for Sacred Harp singing.

“We have a houseful,” said Jones, who is the secretary and treasurer of the Shoal Creek Church Preservation Society Board.

He said the area around the church, now surrounded by the Talladega National Forest, was once a thriving community but by the 1920s, “the population had pretty much moved out.”

He said the church congregation quit having regular Sunday services in 1914.

“It’s been without a congregation ever since,” Jones said.

Most of the graves in the church cemetery only have rock markers — no dates or names. But a couple of stone markers have names and dates from the 1800s and early 1900s.

The group of hikers headed back down the trail after their short visit to Shoal Creek Church. A boom of thunder in the distance told them a rain storm was moving closer.

When the hikers were still about a mile from Laurel Shelter, the clouds turned dark and rain began to pour from the sky.

Hackett stopped on the water-filled trail, turned and waited for her companions to catch up. Rainwater rolled from her cheeks.

“This is God’s air conditioner,” she said.