THE HISTORY OF

THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH

OF

Florala, Alabama 1881-1961

(This includes some information on other churches in the community).

Contributed by: Winnette Stinson, 2004

 

I have taken the names of people and dates for genealogy purposes. I am sorry this is not as complete as it might be. But, I felt people and dates were more important than salaries, songbooks, etc. Typing is painful for me, and for that reason this had to be as brief as possible. I do hope some of you will find information that will help you along with your research. I want to thank my Mother-in-law, Ferrolyn Mosley Stinson of Florala, for providing the information and materials required to complete this task. Winnette Stinson

 

"The History of the Church is the History and Growth of the Community as well"

Ferrolyn Mosley Stinson

 

Some excerpts taken from the book

THE HISTORY OF

THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH

OF

Florala, Alabama 1881-1961

80th Anniversary Edition

Printed by Southeastern Publishing Company

Dothan, Alabama

 

In the year 1816 a group of pioneers from the eastern counties of Georgia, moved areas around the Conecuh River, into what is now Covington County, Alabama. This was north of Andalusia. December 7, 1821, Covington County was established, by the Alabama Legislature. It was named for Brigadier General Leonard Waites Covington. The first official census taken in 1830 showed the population as 1,118 white and 404 colored.

 

The Earliest settlers in the Florala area homesteaded on the south side of Lake Jackson. This is nearer the present day site of Paxton, Florida, than the actual city of Florala today. One of the first of these settlers was a man by the name of McDavid. He changed his name at some point to McDade. For many years Lake Jackson was known as McDade's Pond. A map made in 1837 by J. L. Williams has the lake named as David's Pond and other maps show it as Jackson's Pond and still other's McDade's Pond. The exact date of the official name change to Lake Jackson is unknown.

 

The first settler in the corporate Florala area was James E. Hughes, who arrived in December 1865. The first post office was opened as Lake City, Alabama on January 11, 1875 in the home of Mr. Hughes. The name was changed to Lakeview on May 18, 1877, and was finally changed to Florala on June 22, 1891. Population increased to 500 by 1901.

 

The first Baptist church was organized in 1852, in Chapel Hill, east of Florala. It is believed Mr. Allen, father of Reverend D. C Allen, was the founder of this church. Reverend Wiley Martin was among the charter members. The date of the first church services conducted in Florala is unknown. There is reason to believe Reverend George Kierce, the pastor of the Chapel Hill Church, conducted services in a log schoolhouse near the present day First Baptist Church prior to 1880.

 

Reverend P. D. Bulger was founder and first pastor of our church. He was the son of Brigadier General Michael J. Bulger of the Confederate States of America and his wife the former Parmela Donald. General Bulger was an attorney, ginner, and cotton broker in the Montgomery area and he owned a plantation in Dadeville, Alabama. Reverend Bulger was born in Tennessee April 14, 1828. He had on full sister and several half siblings. His Mother died during an Indian attack a few days after his sister Parmela was born. Reverend Bulger married Sarah Cockroft in Union Springs, Alabama in the year1850. Rev. Bulger served in the CSA and fought at Shiloh and Chichamauga. After the war he settled in Panther Creek south of Lawrence. He delivered his first sermon at New Hope Baptist Church in 1871. After moving to Florala, where he also taught school, Rev. Bulger organized several churches in Covington County and North West Florida. Rev. Bulger died February 2, 1923 and was buried in the Red Oak Church cemetery.

 

The first official records of Shady Grove Baptist Church are in the Zion Association Minutes of 1883 as follows:

"P. D. Bulger of Shady Grove Church, Lakeview, Alabama was chairman of the temperance committee. Shady Grove pledge $50 for association work, and $10 for missions." The minutes indicate, P. D. Bulger was pastor at Chapel Hill. Zion Association minutes for 1884-1887 were not available. Minutes for 1889-1891 show P. D. Bulger of the temperance committee, T. J. George of the education committee and M. A. George, Sr. of the Sunday School and missions committees. 1890 records show, P. D, Bulger was pastor of Shady Grove and Chapel Hill Churches and N. R. Stewart was elected association clerk. Shady Grove dismissed 19 by letter during the same year, 2 excluded, none added by baptism and letter and showed 63 total members. M. A. George, Sr., J. A. Hart and N. R. Stewart were Shady Grove delegates.

 

No records were found to show charter members of the Shady Grove Baptist Church, however, it is thought several of the members of Chapel Hill were the organizers. It is assumed J. E. Hughes, T. J. George, M. A. Hughes, Sr., N. R. Stewart and J. A. Hart were some of the original deacons of this church.

 

December 20, 1899 the Reverend A. B. Metcalf was called as pastor. Z. T. Blackmon was now the church clerk. August 29, 1900, a committee made up of M. A. George, Sr., Thomas Straughn and J. E. Hughes was appointed to write a Decorum for the Church. Rev. Metcalf resigned and Reverend Wiley Martin returned as pastor during 1901. Rev. Metcalf was born in Ozark, Alabama April 10 1861. He served as pastor in churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia and died in Montgomery May 18, 1947.

 

February 2, 1901 Mrs. Julia H. Price asked permission to organize the Christians' Woman's Union, changed name to Women's Missionary Society and is known today as the Woman's Missionary Union. Mrs. Emma Hughes was the first president. Other charter members included, Mrs. Annie Royals, Mrs. Sissie Hart, Mrs. Frances George, Mrs. Alice Hart, and Mrs. G. P. Heun. On October 23, 1901 Rev. W. W. Faulkner was called and accepted. Tom Strather was elected treasurer on November 20, 1901.

 

Reverend Wiley T. Martin was born in Jasper County, Georgia on November 12, 1841. Records show at the tender age of eleven he was a charter member of the Chapel Hill Church. He served four years in the Confederate Army with Company B, 18th Infantry from Andalusia, Alabama. He was married to Nancy Caroline Cravey, at New Hope Church, November 5, 1865 by Reverend G. W. Kierce. In 1866 he was ordained at the New Hope Church and served there until 1922. He organized the following churches in the area of northwest Florida; Holt, Milligan, Pilgrims Rest and Baker. He was in DeFuniak Springs, Florida 1892-1922. He was a pastor for Laurel Hill, Florida, Hacoda and Sanford, Alabama; Millville, Florida and in Escambia County, Florida until he died in Pensacola December 22, 1922.

 

During this time the following people were members of the First Baptist Church of Florala, also took part in the annual meetings of the Zion Association:

 

M. A. George, Sr. (One of the 1st Deacons)

N. R. Stewart

J. A. Hart

John W. Watson

J. E. Hughes

D. C. Hart

Willis Parker

Mrs. Julia Hughes

H. A. Hughes

F. G. Holley

T. J. George

W. B. Manning

A. H. Helson

Z. T. Blackmon.

Mrs. Julia Price

D. C. Allen 1893-1894

Wiley T. Martin 1897-1899 and 1901

A. B. Metcalf 1899-1900

Mrs. Emma Hughes

Mrs. J. F. Holley

 

October 4, 1903 Reverend Faulkner resigned and Reverend John T. Gables was called. In this year the Zion Baptist Association, formed in 1857, changed to the Covington Baptist Association, then changed back to the original name in 1904. These following minutes were recorded October 19, 1904 through August 11, 1912:

 

October 19, 1904, Rev. Gables, resigns, a pulpit committee was formed and a report by the church treasurer, Dr. J. P. Phillips, that the church raised $1,193.83 this year. M. A. George, SR. was church clerk. Rev. Sam H. Bennett was called by the church and began in November of 1904.

 

1905 reveals the method employed to raise money for the preacher's salary for the year was to take up a subscription at the time the preacher was called or re-elected. The Lake Jackson site was selected for the church Baptism Services, on the beach near the pavilion.

 

1906 - 50 copies of the Baptist Hymnal Praise Book and chairs for the choir were purchased. The May 20 meeting shows the election of A. N. Wilson, W., T. Stephenson, W. A. Mills, J. R. Shepherd, and L. H. Brassell; to the building committee. The following members were granted letters of dismissal for the purpose of organizing a Baptist Church in Paxton, Florida:

 

Rev. & Mrs. D. C. Allen

Mrs. R. D. Cockcroft

Miss Alice Cook

Mrs. H. W. Pillum

Mrs. & Mrs. Sid Quick

Mrs. & Mrs. D. W. Royals

Mrs. Mary Robinson

Mr. & Mrs. A. J. Whitehurst

Rev. Sam H. Bennett

 

Rev. B. S. Bailey was called and accepted. His salary was to be $900 per annum.

 

Rev. Sam H. Bennett was born near Louisville, Barbour County, AL. October 31, 1879 & died December 11, 1951. Educated in Public Schools in Louisville & Clayton, AL., he graduated from Howard College, and the Southern Baptist Seminary. He was first called as assistant pastor at Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. His first church as minister was the 2nd Baptist Church of Selma, AL. He came to Florala late in 1906 and served several churches in Georgia before retiring due to illness, and moving to Fairfield, AL. He married Achsa Hall of Birmingham, AL.

 

1907 A. N. Wilson became church clerk & treasurer, succeeding M. A. George, Sr. A "Decorum of the Church" was prepared by the Board of Deacons and approved by the church the latter part of the year. February 2, 1908, Mrs. W. C. Whitt was elected church organist. May 1909 H. A. Hughes, W. G. Matthews, and H. H. McDougald were elected deacons. December 5, 1909 Rev. J. S. Edmonds was called as pastor.

 

1910 Brother J. R. Shepherd was elected collector of home church expenses. In March of 1910 a baptistry was installed. October 9, 1910 J. S. Edmonds contract expired. January 23, 1911, Rev. E. M. Stewart received and accepted a call for an indefinite period of time. The first Federal Census taken in Florala was during 1910 and showed a population of 2,439. The end of this year the church membership totaled 260. The History Committee was not able to get biographical data on Rev. W.W. Faulkner, John T. Gables and J. S. Edmonds.

 

July 1911, M. A. Helmes & T. A. Goodwin were elected deacons. Mrs. James T. Craley was elected organist. Rev. Stewart tendered his resignation effective August 31, 1911. August 13, .1911 the resignation was accepted and James P. Doster & J. W. Pendrey were elected deacons. October 1,1911 Rev. J. N. Vandiver was called as minister.

 

Rev. E. M. Stewart was born September 22, 1879 and died December 26 1954 in Greenville, AL. He received his license to preach at age 15 and was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Greenville, Alabama. He was Chaplain of the Alabama National Guard while a student at Howard College. He was minister of a number of churches throughout Alabama. After retirement he lived in Florida and severed as interim pastor at several churches.

 

1912 - W. N. Matthews was elected deacon. J. T. Hughes was appointed treasurer of the 1st Baptist Church building fund. J. R. Shepherd was the clerk for the annual meeting of the Zion Association. Rev. Vandiver was selected as the delegate to the Southern Baptist Convention.

 

1913 - Report of Obituaries, from the association minutes grave a tribute to J. R. Shepherd, and W. A. Mills, deacons of First Baptist Church. Rev. D. R. Parker was called and accepted, replacing Rev. Vandiver who resigned.

 

Rev. J. N. Vandiver was born February 26, 1878. Educated in Pisgah, Alabama schools and Howard College and the Southern Baptist Seminary. Ordained 1906 at Howard College, retired in 1948 from the ministry. He died in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, 1960.

 

1914 - J. W. Pendrey was Sunday School Superintendent and clerk of the First Baptist Church. Messenger's sent to the Zion Association in October 1915 were Mrs. G. A. Peterman & Mrs. G. P. Huen. They were the first women to be included as messengers to an associational meeting. H. A. Pettus served as the Superintendent of Sunday School for 1915. Rev. T. V. Shoemaker became the Pastor in 1916, replacing Rev. Parker.

 

Rev. D. R. Parker was born on July 9, 1887, at Thomasville, Alabama. He was ordained at Leroy, Alabama in 1907, and died in Munson, Florida on October 20, 1918.

 

1917 - J. P. Doster became Sunday School Superintendent; T. A. Goodwin began as clerk of the church. April 3, 1917 1st Baptist Church of Florala was incorporated under the Laws and Statures of the State of Alabama with H. T. Hughes, J. W. Hart, J. H. Evans, W. H. Hurston and G. W. Reeves being elected for a five year term as trustees. (Pg 36, Corporations Book. 2, Covington Co., AL Probate Records 5/5/1917) May 21, 1917, J. E. Hughes gave the church a deed for business property at Fifth Street and Fifth Avenue in Florala. Rev. A. E. Page replaced Rev. Shoemaker 1918 as Rev. Shoemaker resigned to enter the U. S. Army as a Chaplain.

 

Rev. T. V. Shoemaker was born at Mount Hope, Alabama on February 8, 1876. He served churches in Birmingham, Dadeville, Camp Hill, and Hamilton in Alabama, and at several places in Georgia. During WW I he served as Army Chaplain in France. He died near West Point, Georgia on November 7, 1939.

 

1918 - Zion Association meeting was cancelled due to the nationwide Flu Epidemic that year.

 

1920 - In October Dr. N. Patterson replaced Rev. Page as pastor. T. A. Goodwin was clerk and treasurer, and Walter H. Hurston was Superintendent of Sunday School. Pastor's salary was established at $3,000 per year. Dr. Patterson was also an able architect. He designed and drew the plans for the First Baptist Church of Florala.

 

Rev. A. E. Page born November 9, 1879, educated at Howard College and Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY. During his 50 years of service to the ministry he served churches in Texas & Alabama. He came to this church from Nicholsonville Baptist Church (Alabama). While serving as pastor of some of the churches in Alabama he also taught school. He taught at Covington County High School while he was pastor of the new Florala First Baptist Church.

 

A Building Committee consisting of Dr. Patterson as chairman, J. W. LeMasitre as vice-chairman, J. T. Hughes as treasurer, T. S. Goodwin as secretary, and E. P. Rodwell, Sr., Mrs. Walter Brown, Mrs. D. A. McPhail, and Mrs. Laura Hughes as members. The old building was torn down and the new building was constructed in 1921. The Sunday School membership was 251. (Info taken from the Zion Association minutes) December 11, 1921 J. T. Hughes and G. W. Reeves were elected deacons. A committee consisting of G. W. Reeves, B. H. Meadows and T. A. Goodwin was appointed to confer with the official board of the Lockhart Baptist Church to discuss the consolidation of the two churches due to the complete loss of the Lockhart Church by fire. December 25, 1921. The church conference elected officers to serve during 1922. These were: J. E. Hendley, J. E. "Daddie" Hughes, J. T. Hughes, H. A. Hughes, T. A. Goodwin, W. A. Matthews and G. W. Reeves, deacons; B. H. Meadows, treasurer; T. A. Goodwin, Clerk; and Miss Birdie Hughes, organist.

 

January 22, 1922 the dedication of the new church building was held. Following is the:

 

"ORDER OF SERVICE"

 

Sunday, January 22, 11:00 A. M.

 

Pipe Organ Prelude. Miss Birdie Hughes, presiding.

Opening Song, 272. Congregation Standing

Invocation. Rev. J. F. Price.

Anthem, "On Our Way Rejoicing." Lerman.

Scripture Lesson. Read by Rev. A. B. Carlton

Solo, by Miss Ruth Hughes. "The Almighty King"

Prayer, by Rev. C. C. Wilkerson.

Solo, by Mrs. E. F. Goldsmigh, of Atmore, Alabama

Church Notices.

Offering.

Hymn 309. Congregation Standing

Sermon, by Rev. C. Ross Baker, D.D., of Dothan, Alabama

Dedication Ceremony, conducted by the Pastor.

Doxology.

Invocation

.

 

Dr. N. O. Patterson was talked into coming from Tuscumbia, Alabama and taking up God's work in Florala.

The church hosted the annual meeting of the Zion Association On October 11 and 12. J. E. Hendley was the clerk for this meeting. An intermediate B.Y.P.U. with Lorraine Griffin as president was reported. Y. W. A. was reported with Mrs. Claude P. Cawthon as counselor. G.A., R.A., and Sunbeams were not listed in the report from the Florala Baptist Church.

 

December 1923 the following officers were elected to serve for the year: J. E. Hendley, J. T. Hughes, T. A. Goodwin, G. W. Reeves, and J. A. Stokes (Clear Springs Mission), deacons; T. A. Goodwin, clerk and Sunday School superintendent; C. W. Garrett, treasurer; and Miss Birdie Hughes, organist, J. E. Hughes was elected deacon emeritus for life. C. D. Matthews and W. H. Hurston were elected for ordination as deacons.

1924 Miss Kate Johnson was elected treasurer for that year. No minutes have been available for 1925-26. In 1927 C. M. Neal was elected for ordination as deacon. Reverend Ellis was moderator and J. E Henley was clerk for the Zion Association meeting in 1928 and 1929.

 

1930 Mrs. G. E. Ellis helped organize the first Royal Ambassador Chapter. Mrs. L. D. Clepper(Verna Mae Evans) was the first leader. Charter members of the R.A.'s include Victor Rudd, Talmadge Chamblis, Billy Wilson, Jack Wilson, Jack Rudd, Eugene Stewart, Jack Morgan, Doyle Turner, James Kinsaul, Leroy Mickler, J. Cox and J. Warren.

 

The decade of the Great Depression began in 1930. It reached the lowest point in 1932-33, and then gradually became normal again. The church suffered greatly during this time without funds to operate. During this time, work with the young people's programs increased. Training Union was started and Mr. J. E. Hughes pasted away. Rev. Ellis resigned in the fall of 1932 and the church called Rev. Robert T. McLeod.

 

Rev. George E. Ellis was born October 28, 1881, and died August 30, 1951. He graduated from Jacksonville Baptist College, Jacksonville, Texas in 1911 and received a degree from the Baptist Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky in 1915. He held pastorates in New Mexico and Texas prior to coming to Florala. After Leaving Florala, he was pastor of a church in Gladewater, Texas for several years. Later he became vice president of Marshall Baptist College and a professor of Bible. He received honorary degrees from Bob Jones University and Howard Payne College.

 

 

Note:

This may be continued when the census for 1940 are published. I feel much of the balance of information is in regard to the living, therefore, I will stop at this point.



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