Church Burns To The Ground In Muskogee County

Thursday, October 12th 2006, 5:08 pm
By: News On 6

Investigators suspect arson destroyed a 120 year old church south of Muskogee.

The congregation awoke Wednesday morning to find the building burned to the ground. Church members say New Hope Baptist is what holds the tiny town of Oktaha together. Though the building's undergone some changes over the decades, the church dates back before anyone can remember and no one can believe it's gone.

Deacon Ted Logan: “The Church has been a part of this community around a hundred years. I was baptized at this church."

Church members gathered together as they surveyed the damage and saw nothing could be saved.

Margie Oakely-Walker can still read the charred plaque bearing her family's name. Her grandfather helped found the church the dining hall was named for her mother. She says it's not just the building that was lost. The fire stole a vital piece of history, irreplaceable pictures lined the walls following life events through the years.

Margie Oakley-Walker:"It was just, I just felt like we had such a loss, like the death of something that had happened to us."

Church members think someone pried open the front door in the middle of the night. They say they can't understand why anyone would want to destroy what's been the heart of this community for generations.

Margie Oakley-Walker: “It was just one of the worst things. I've never seen a church burn. And I just thought, who could do something like this."

Church members had just pulled together and done hundreds of dollars of renovation on the building. An order for a new steeple is now cancelled.

Deacon Ted Logan: "I just feel sorry, and I'd hate to see those people when they face judgement cause they're gonna have to answer for what they done."

Margie Oakley-Walker: "We're gonna keep going, we're gonna build another church, we're getting a portable building out here Saturday and have church on Sunday."

A state arson investigator is joining the case. Insurance will likely cover some but not all of the damages.