Community expresses concern for Pine Torch Church

Stones can be seen missing from the foundation of the historic Pine Torch Church, which was built circa 1840 near Moulton. While an anonymous tip suggests theft is to blame for missing stones, Pine Torch Preservation Society Chairman Charles Borden believes natural erosion is the likely cause.

Lawrence County Archivist Wendy Hazle turned to Facebook last week to raise awareness for a historic structure that could be in danger of collapsing.

 County resident Joyce Cole received an anonymous tip last week from a neighbor to Pine Torch Church who was afraid foundation stones may have recently been stolen from the historic landmark. Cole then relayed the information to the archives.

“It seems that some people have been removing the foundation stones from Pine Torch Church causing the church to be in danger of falling,” Hazle posted on Aug. 5. “Dr. Charles Borden and a crew of volunteers are acquiring the sandstone to shore it up, and will hopefully be able to do that soon.”

Dr. Charles Borden, a dentist in Moulton who also serves as the chairman and president of the Pine Torch Preservation Society, says he has no reason to believe the church is in any immediate danger of falling. Borden added that he also has no reason to think anything has been stolen from the property.

“We did some repairs on the building a few years ago to stabilize the structure. We didn’t have enough rock available at the time to fill in all the space around the perimeter, so we used what we had,” Borden said. “We’ve had a few stones missing over the years, but I’m not sure exactly what the circumstances were in regards to those missing. We have not in the past had any serious vandalism.”

Nevertheless, Borden agreed that foundation stability for the church could be improved.

 “As part of the ongoing upkeep and preservation, we need to do some things to control erosion around the perimeter of the church better,” he said.

A workday will be announced by the Pine Torch Preservation Society soon, according to Borden. Cole, who says she has ample amounts of the sandstone in her yard, plans to donate what is needed for the restoration effort.

“Dr. Borden is ready to get the repairs done,” Cole said on Monday. “From him, I’m hearing that the only problem is getting additional sandstone, which they now have.”

The preservation society has undertaken other projects in the past to ensure the landmark’s longevity. Borden said the structure is sprayed with a wood preservative regularly but will need a new coat soon as well.

“We would appreciate anyone who wishes to participate and help out with labor or with donations,” he said. “We appreciate all the interest the public has shown in the preservation of Pine Torch Church.”

A historic marker in the churchyard indicates that Pine Torch Church was built circa 1840. According to the marker, the church gets its name from congregation members who would use pine torches to light the building at night, and then use the torches to guide them on their journey home after services.

The church and Pine Torch Cemetery are located on County Road 70 in the Bankhead National Forest near Moulton.

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