Darren Doyle, story:
Law enforcement officials from Mammoth Cave National Park are seeking help from the public to identify individuals involved in repeated acts of vandalism at Joppa Missionary Baptist Church. The vandals have broken windows, kicked in doors, and painted graffiti on church walls between Jul. 5 and Aug. 4, 2023, according to a press release from the park.
The park released two photos which show a group of suspected vandals and a vehicle they were driving during a recent incident. Individuals caught damaging structures or natural surfaces in the park can face serious consequences including arrest with fines of up to $5,000 and six months in jail", the park stated.
“The damage we are seeing at Joppa Church is disappointing and deeply saddening for the park and for our neighboring communities,” said Superintendent Barclay Trimble. “Joppa Church is an important physical connection for individuals and families who once lived, worked, and worshiped weekly on this land before it became a national park. When the walls are spayed with paint, or one of the church windows is destroyed beyond repair, rain is allowed to enter the building to cause more damage to the structure. With these senseless acts of vandalism, we are losing a piece of park and community history forever.”
The church was also vandalized in 2018, with images spray-painted on the sanctuary floor.
The church and cemetery are both listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Local historian Tommy Bolton, said the church was actually established in 1861, although the sign on the church says otherwise, and was a major part of a community called Elko. Eligh Parsley owned a general store there in the vicinity of schools and several houses. "It was a thriving community until the park moved everyone away by 1945" Bolton said.
Anyone with information as to the possible identity of the vandals is encouraged to call the Mammoth Cave Law Enforcement Office at 270-758-2115 or e-mail the park.