It's history dates to the years just after the Civil War when the people of Prairie Bellvue decided that they needed a community meeting hall and a cemetery. On April 14, 1876, they incorporated the Bellview [sic] Hall Association "to extend the advantages of religious and secular education, to provide appropriate and suitable ground for the burial of the dead, and to build a good and commodious house for the use of the church, school, and Grange."
Apparently the community need went beyond any old animosities. The association's incorporators included James J. Bailey, who had been a Confederate officer, and Addison Dimmick, who had been a Union officer.
Dimmick said the association could use a piece of his land, and members built a two-storied frame building and painted it red. The first floor was used as a church and the second floor as a school. A cemetery was plotted just behind the building.
In 1928 Frank Dimmick, Addison's son, donated the property to the people of Bellvue with the provision that ownership would go back to the Addison family heirs if the property was no longer used for worship or as a community gathering place. That document was amended in 1958, removing the clause that would return the property to the donors.
Children of the community attended classes at "the little red schoolhouse" until 1922, when the second floor of the building was taken down. The resulting building came to be known as "the little red church."
Over the years the church was pastored sometimes by a Presbyterian minister, sometimes by a Methodist. Regular services were held there until 1941, when gasoline rationing made it difficult for families to get to the church. Services were suspended during the war years, and attempts to revive them after the war met with only limited success.
Many of the young people who'd gone off to war did not return to Bellevue afterward. Paved roads made it easier to get to other churches. It was hard to keep a pastor for such a small congregation.
Services were finally suspended in October 1947, after which the old building began to deteriorate—and continued to do so for a decade until a group of citizens decided to do something about it.
On March 15, 1957, a handful of local citizens led by Hamilton Burleigh, who had been custodian of the church and cemetery since 1939, made plans to rebuild the church. The result was the brick church that stands there now. It is of the same size and shape as the old church and the metal spire that sits atop it was salvaged from the old one.
Some 500 people from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas showed up when the church was dedicated on March 16, 1958. Since then, an annual homecoming has been held there each April.
This widespread "congregation" has also established a perpetual care fund for the cemetery where their kin are buried. There are more than 150 graves there, including those of J. Frank Ard, one-time sheriff of Lafayette Parish; Lafayette physician J. Boring Montgomery; and James J. Bailey, one of the first incorporators of the old association. The Addisons, who gave the land for the church and cemetery, are buried in a family graveyard not too far away.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.