Organized Baptist Church Here in ’47

Edward Everett, Jr.
The Gazette
October 5, 1939

First Pastor Was Joseph Milburn; Built Church in ’53

Minute Church Record Dug From Old Records And From Tradition

The early pioneers of  Union Parish came from the sturdy God-fearing stock of the Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. They came in covered wagons drawn by horses, mules and oxen, and on horse back and other means of transportation of the period. They brought their household goods and effects and drove their cattle and livestock along with them. It was a slow higeria for some seekers blazing their trails through the wilderness, moving ever westward, stopping to establish civilization where the territory bade most promising for their needs. In this home-seeking trek, even though they left their former homes behind and severed family ties, they brought Christianity to the wilderness; and wherever they went they established churches for the worship of God.

So Christianity came to Union Parish, and the Baptists were among the foremost in the establishment of religion. This being a dissertation on the proceeding activities of the Farmerville Baptist Church, it will of necessity deal with Baptists.

Paxton, in “A History of the Baptists of Louisiana,” tells us that one of the first churches established was tin 1822 by a preacher named Head from Mississippi at Lower Pine Hills near Downsville. This was probably in what is Lincoln Parish today. This church was not recognized as a Baptist church and soon came to nought. Although professing most of the Baptist doctrines it included other doctrines not acceptable or practiced by the Baptist denomination.

Early Preachers

The earliest preachers of Union Parish were: Samuel J. Larkin, W. B. Larkin, Sampson B. Thomas, Asa Lee, Elias George, Jesse Tubb, George, Everett, W. J. Larkin and W. Milburn. The first churches were Good Hope, established in 1839, Zion Hill in 1841, Concord, established in 1842. Concord Association was organized November 3, 1832, at Black Lake Church near Minden, and was composed of the territory between the Ouachita River and Red River. It is now limited to a portion of Union, Ouachita and Lincoln parishes. Everett Association, organized  years later and named for Rev. John P. Everett, also comprises a portion of Union Parish.

The Town of Farmerville and Union Parish were established in 1839, but for some reason the present Baptist church in Farmerville was not organized until some time in 1847, with Rev. Joe Milburn its first pastor. He served until 1850 and was succeeded by Elias George, who served until the beginning of the War Between the States.

The record of events is lost here and it is not again picked up until September, 1867, the date of the beginning of the earliest of the minute books now extant, with Starling C. Lee, father of Mrs. Sue Barnes, one of the oldest members of the church at present, (She has died since this was written), as pastor. We must, therefore, resort to what is handed down by tradition and a few brief histories of the church written by persons who were in closer proximity to the dark period of the war than we are. The writer is indebted to ta brief history written in the hand of Eaton Jefferson Lee, fondly known is his lifetime as “Uncle Jeff” Lee, father of Emmett J. Lee, present publisher of The Gazette, and who served faithfully as Clerk of the church from 1882 until his death in 1913, a period of 31 years, for some most valuable information.

Early Church Buildings

The Baptists had no church building for about the first six or seven years, but met alternately in the old brick court house. (This was the first to be erected, in 1840. The second court house was erected in 1870 and the third and present court house was erected in 1904.) and the old brick academy which was most probably located where the present school buildings now stand.

In the year 1852 the lot of ground where the present church now stands, was donated to the church by Dr. William A. Milner to take up his subscription of $150.00. The deed is dated February 9, 1854 and is recorded in Deed Book “G” page 1 of the Conveyance Records of Union Parish. The lot is located on the corner of Franklin and Jefferson streets and is 110 feet by 130 feet.

First Church Built

The church was built by subscription in 1853 and 1854 by W. A. McFarland, John Nichols and Cullen Edwards, and two slaves, namely, Charles, belonging to Thomas Hand. In carrying out the purpose of Dr. Milner’s donation the church was incorporated and made a body politic aby Act 32 of the General Assembly of Louisiana of the year 1885. The incorporators were: Samuel J. Larkin, W. A. Glasson, S. W. Ramsey, Reuben Ellis, Elias George, C. T. Barton and W. C. Carr. Samuel J. Larkin and Elias George were ministers, Elias George being pastor of the church. W. A. Glasson, S. W. Ramsey, Reuben Ellis and c. T. Barton were leading citizens of Farmerville and Union Parish and prominent members of the church. W. C. Carr was the first sheriff of the Parish, a lawyer, legislator and a member of the Secession Convention of the State of Louisiana. He was a deacon of the church and for many years church clerk. C. T. Barton was one of the first clerks of court of the parish, serving in that office from 1849 to 1856. S. W. Ramsey was a deacon and a prominent planter living near Farmerville. W. A. Glasson was a prominent merchant and Reuben Ellis was clerk of the Police Jury and Parish Recorder.

Farmerville church has always belonged to Concord Association, and some of the early meetings of the association with the church were in 1850, 1861, 1873, 1880 and 1888. At the 1850 meeting, the introductory sermon was preached by Elder R. F. Fancher. Elder Williamson Milburn was chosen moderator and W. C. Carr, clerk

Various Church Names

The church was first called “Missionary Baptist Church at Farmerville”. Throughout the old minutes now extant it has been called variously “Farmerville Baptist Church of Christ,” “The Baptist Church of Farmerville,” “The Missionary Baptist Church of Christ Called Farmerville,” “The Farmerville Missionary Baptist Church,” and “Farmerville Baptist Church,” but most of the time designated as “Farmerville Baptist Church”. In recent years some few have erroneously called it “The First Baptist Church of Farmerville,” and even though its official name is “The Missionary Baptist Church of Christ at Farmerville,” common usage has named it “Farmerville Baptist Church.”

Although Baptist churches from time immemorial, have been autonomous bodies with no superior governing authority, great care has been taken in the organization of new churches and in keeping alive the fundamental church doctrine.

Organization Procedure

Two manners were employed in organizing new churches, namely:

  1. by “extending the arm” of an organized church to organize a church in a nearby locality and
  2. by receiving residents of a particular locality as members into the church and then dismissing them to organize “themselves into the fellowship” of a new church.

In this manner, Farmerville Church has become the mother church of many of the churches in the surrounding area. Notable among the early churches are: Rocky Branch, organized July 13, 187; Church at Long Linen school, organized February 1874; Baptist Church of Christ at Downs, seven miles east of Farmerville, July 29, 1877; Church at Taylor school house, organized Nov. 6, 1897.

Old Saturday Conferences

The church, from earliest times until recent years, held its monthly business meeting called “conference” on Saturday. In the earlier days, until about 1920, the most rigid decorum and discipline was enforced. The fellowship of the church was first inquired into before commencing business, and was usually found to be good, but occasionally found not good. It was not good when some member was known to have violated the church discipline. The miscreant’s case was first disposed of by receiving “acknowledgments” from him or appointing a committee to “wait on him”.

 Committee’s Work

Sometimes the committee was appointed to inquire into the truth or falsity of  a charge and if it  reported the charge as being true the committee was ordered to “wait on the brother and endeavor to reclaim him.” The disciplinary rules of the church were most rigidly enforced. The charges usually were: non attendance of conference, dancing, swearing, drunkeness, “non-fellowship by joining another church not of the same faith and order.” and other charges too numerous to name. Acknowledgments were usually made by proxy through the committee or a friend, but in later years, the 80’s, the church required acknowledgments to be made in person. The church, through its conferences and committees effected reconciliations between its disagreeing members and on a number of occasions sent committees to sister churches, at their request, to assist in settling disputes arising between members of the sister church. The conference was presided over by a moderator, usually, but not always, the pastor. It was attended by the Clerk, deacons and members and attendance was rigidly enforced, “fellowship of the church” often being “withdrawn” for repeated absence from conference. All matters of business, finance and church discipline were disposed of and administered by the conference. Conference was opened with prayer, scripture reading and a song, the minutes often giving the name of the song and the citation of the scripture reading. The conference was orderly  conducted by following a specified order of business. The holding of conference is very rare among churches now. They still hold their business sessions, of course, but the old-time conference is a relic of the past.

Colored Members

The “colored brethren” were members of and attended the white peoples’ church until 1873. At the July, 1873, conference the colored members were advised that they were not to attend the church any longer and at the November, 1873, conference letters of dismissal were granted, to them. But the church did not desert the colored brethren, for in the minutes of August, 1874 conference, we find the church delegating Elders S. C. Lee and H. T. Britt to meet at the colored school house where they ordained “Brother Highram Ewing, colored,” to the ministry. The minutes record that Elder Britt presented him with the Bible and Elder Lee delivered the charge and prayer. Prior to emancipation of the slaves there were no separate churches for the colored. If they belonged to a church, it was a church of the whites and segregated pews were provided for them. Often free men of color (f. m. c.) or slaves, styling themselves as preachers preached sermons to the slaves on the plantation.

Rev S C Lee

 

Membership Segregation

Emancipation was undoubtedly the cause of the segregation of the colored and white churches. Slavery was a thing of the past. The negroes were gradually being  taught to look out for themselves and in the course of events were permitted to organize their own churches. Thus the cause  and incentive of the action taken by Farmerville Baptist church in 1873 and 1874.

Denominational Papers

Farmerville Baptist church took the lead early in fostering the establishment of denominational papers. The minutes of June 1, 1879, disclose that “preamble and resolutions” were adopted endorsing “The Baptist Messenger” and recommending the State Convention to adopt the same as State organ for the Baptist denomination. This early denominational newspaper was founded and edited by Rev. Starling C. Lee, of Farmerville, who was ordained to the ministry in Farmerville church and who served as her pastor under three separate calls of the church. The publication of the newspaper was begun in Farmerville in 1878 and was published at first as a fortnightly publication, but it gained such popularity that after two years it had a subscription list of 1,200 and was published weekly. This paper has been continuously published and now bears the name of “The Baptist Chronicle.” It is now owned and published by the Executive Board of the Sate Baptist Convention, under the name of “The Baptist Message.”

Womens’ Organizations

Farmerville Baptist church enjoys the unique honor and distinction of fostering the ladies’ organization of the church prior to the establishment of either the Southern Womens’ Missionary Union or the Sate W. M. U. The writer has been unable to ascertain the exact date of the womens’ organization, but the minutes of the church of August 1, 1886, disclose that a committee composed that a committee composed of Jas. A. Ramsey, George A. Killgore, Jr., A. Ramsey, George A. Killgore, Jr., and Jas. A. Manning was appointed to cooperate with the “Ladies” Mission Aid Society, which has recently been organized in the church in building a new fence around the church and making such other improvements on or about the church as the committee and the Ladies’ Aid Society see proper.” So we may safely say that the present W. M. U. of the church was organized sometime in 1886 prior to August 1 of that year and several years prior to the organization of the State W. M. U.

Some of the first women mentioned in connection with the work of the “Ladies’ Aid Society” are Harriett Webb, Docia Ramsey, Sue Thomas and Mattie Pleasant. Among other members at the beginning were Mrs. Sue Barnes, Mrs. Vada Lee, Mollie Pickel and Mattie Ramsey (now Mrs. Crawford McHenry of El Dorado, Ark). The writer is informed (there being no written evidence of the fact) that Mrs. Mattie Pleasant was first president and Mollie Pickel was secretary. Mrs. Docia Ramsey was second president.

 

Oldest Living Members

The oldest living members who are now members of the church are Mrs. Mag Covington, Mrs. J. W. Stancil, Mrs. Georgia Fenton, Mrs. J. D. Baughman, Mr. W. J. Turnage, Sr.,  and Mr. S. B. Wallace.

Other old-time members, now living elsewhere who were formerly members are Talitha Anderson (Mrs. Robert E. Lee) admitted on letter from Cuba church April 25, 1885, now living at Siloam Springs, Ark., Mary Fenton (Mrs. James Rabun) baptized in August, 1885, living in Monroe, Miss Mollie Pickel (Mrs. J. O. Hodnett) admitted on letter from Shiloh church, 1887 living at Selma, La., Mrs. Mattie McHenry of El Dorado, Ark., J. G. Lee, Sr. and G. A. Killgore, of Baton Rouge, and Mrs. R. C. Webb, Sr. of Huntsville, Alabama.

A few others are still living who were formerly members of the church, among them Mrs. Z. T. Goyne, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Davis of Ruston and Mrs. Lelia Montgomery of West Monore.

(Then follows a long list of names of members of the church, from early times to the present, too volumnious to print.)

 

Pastors of the Church

Following is a list of the pastors of the church from the beginning, as shown by the old records.

Joe Milbutn, 1847-50, Elias George, 1850 to Civil War (A break occurs here that cannot be filled). S. C. Lee, 1867-68; S. T. Cobb, 1869-73, S. C. Lee, 1873-76, J. P. Everett, 1876-77, S. C. Lee, 1884-85, S. T. Cobb, 1885-87, J. R. Edwards, 1887-88, J. P. Everett, 1888-91, J. U.H. Wharton, 1891-93; O. M. Lucas, 1893-95, G. W. Hartsfield, 1895-96, J. U. H. Wharton, 1896-98, T. H. Rhymes, 1898-1900, J. V. B. Waldrop, 1900-00, J. H. Hughes, 1900-02, J. W. Elliott, 1902-03, J. T. King, 1903-04, J. W. Elliott, 1904-06, B. F. Milam, 1906-08, A. W. King, 1908-12; H. C. Rosamond, 1912, J. R. Edwards, 1913, H. F. Killen, 1914, W. a. Lusk, 1915, W. P. Carter, 1919-25, Paul Jones, 6 mos 1926, O. C. Cooper, 1926-30, Tom L. Roberts, 1930-35, M. A. Treadwell, 1935 to date.

 

Methodist Church Built

The Methodist brethren worshiped in the Baptist church building for a long number of years, although one of the first acts of the police jury upon the organization of the parish in 1839 was to donate on acre of ground for the Methodist church. The present Methodist church now stands on this plot of ground. For some reason or other they did not construct a church until nearly 50 year later and it required a number of years for the construction of it, due to the fact that the Methodists were operating on a “pay-as-you-go” plan and would only do such construction as they had the cash to pay.

Mr. H. J. Leimkuhler states in his recollections of the town in the early 80’s that the Methodist church was being built and was not completed when he moved from Farmerville.

The present Methodist church is the second church building they have owned. It, too, has been renovated and additions have been made from time to time which have changed the appearance of the building. Only recently two belfries on the front of the church have been removed.

The Methodists received a donation of land from David Arent and his wife, both Jews, on which the parsonage now stands. They have only this year erected a new cottage for the parsonage, which is a credit to the town.

The writer has endeavored to adhere as closely as possible to the facts as disclosed by the minutes and from other authentic information.

 

 

 

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