Leon Forsythe stands outside St. Stephen’s church in Land Between the Lakes, which was fully intact after the tornado outbreak during the night of Dec. 10, 2021. COURTESY OF DAVID NICKELL
Historic St. Stephen’s in LBL survives tornado without damages
BY WKC STAFF
The tornadoes that struck western Kentucky during the night of Dec. 10, 2021 got close to old St. Stephen’s Church in Land Between the Lakes, but the little wooden church escaped the storms without any damage.
As a U.S. Forest Service archeologist told David Nickell, “it was like the church had a bubble over it.”
“It most certainly did!” said Nickell, a member of an organization called Between the Rivers, Inc. “The tornado went within half a mile of the church, and there were trees uprooted just outside the fence surrounding the church and graveyard, but no damage within the fence at all.”
He and fellow member Leon Forsythe took a trip by boat to check on the church to see if it had survived the tornadoes, and were relieved to see it standing intact.
Nickell said the Christmas greenery that had been placed on one of the windows, and the wreath over the door “were all still in place.”
Nickell explained that little St. Stephen’s is the only church left in place what is now Land Between the Lakes – the others being bulldozed and burned or moved out of the area when the federal government took over the area, formerly called Between the River, in the 1950s and 1960s, in order to create a dam. (Local Lake Barkley was the result.)
He said a group of former residents had formed an organization called Between the Rivers, Inc., to restore the church and that the organization has maintained it to this day.
Nickell said Between the Rivers maintains the more than 250 cemeteries in the area, which had belonged to the communities required to move for the dam’s creation.
Originally printed in the January 2022 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.