Pine Flat remains a strong community

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 10, 2016

Tucked away in the pine trees just past the Highways 7/9 split toward Bruce, the Pine Flat community is one Lafayette County’s older neighborhoods.

You won’t find a grocery store or a gas station or a restaurant close by, but what you will find is the Pine Flat United Methodist Church, which serves as a community center for the area. Next to it is the Pine Flat Cemetery that dates back to 1880.

Gloria Bishop grew up in Pine Flat. She remembers when there was a school across from the church.

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“I think it closed before I was old enough to go because I didn’t go to school there,” Bishop said. “That had to before 1948.”

Bishop said she isn’t sure how old the church is, but knows it was there long before she could remember.

“The church was the main center and it was always full back then,” she said. “I remember my mother would have Bible school and I’ve seen pictures of wagons and horses of people going to the church.”

Growing up, Bishop said Pine Flat was a quiet community, one where everyone knew each other and just about anyone who lived there had been born there. Today, there are new faces and new families and a few less people at the church each week.

“People moved into the area and some go to different churches,” she said.

Bishop assumes the community received its name from all the surrounding pine trees. However, there are fewer trees now than there were five years ago.

In April 2011, Pine Flat was hit by a tornado that destroyed about 55 homes and damaged twice as many. For a small community like Pine Flat, just about every home was affected to some degree. Within hours of the tornado’s assault, the community members started to make their way to the place that became the glue that held Pine Flat together in the days to come. Amazingly, the tornado seemed to skip right over Pine Flat Methodist Church.

“There was a big tree right there in front when you drive into the church and the tornado knocked it down,” Bishop said. “My brother, Malcolm Cook chopped it up and made a nice table out of it that’s now in the foyer of the church.”

Gene Bramlett was the pastor at the Pine Flat church from 2010-2015 until he was transferred to Ingomar United Methodist Church in New Albany.

“The people of Pine Flat are an amazing group of people,” Bramlett said. “People just started turning up to the church and whoever needed what, we tried to get it. There were no solid plans. No real logistics to it or any real supplies. But it all fell into place. People started stepping up to become leaders. Food was prepared at the church, even when we didn’t have electric. People brought clothing and other relief supplies. We had one rule…whatever someone needed, if you had it, you gave it to them and if we didn’t have it, we found it.”

Bramlett said volunteers remained at the church for about 11 days straight, from daylight to dark, making sure neighbors had food, water and a place to sleep.

“It was never a one-person show,” Bramlett said. “I believe the Holy Spirit broke down all rivalries and disputes among people and joined everyone together. The right people were in the right place at the right time and they said ‘yes’ when they were called to help.”

Jonathan Hester is the new pastor at Pine Flat. He isn’t surprised the members of his new church were there to support each other.

“This is a wonderful place,” Hester said of Pine Flat. “The people are genuinely caring. There’s an amazing sense of community here ,who look out for each other, whether you’re a member of the church or not.”