(note: divisions in the text are as they appear in the written history as given to me. Webmeister)
|I. 1839-1945||II. 1872-1945||
A History of Mt. Arnon Baptist Church 1839-1945
In 1835 there was a steadily drifting tide of wealthy slave owners toward the unoccupied but fertile lands not far from the Savannah River. There were then no paved roads. Churches were few and far between. Their travel was limited to horse drawn vehicles over roads of deep sand and across unbridged streams. As always the forces of evil flourish more readily than those of good. Among the ministers of those early days who felt impelled by zeal for religion were the Reverends John Brooker, then the Pastor of Columbia Church located at Patterson Mill and James J. Lawton, Pastor of Smyrna Church. These felt called of God to counteract the sinfulness of the community by preaching under a brush arbor at the mill seat of Mr. Jesse Miller. Services were continued here for about two years. After which a similar brush arbor served the community at or near the location of the present church. This brush arbor was situated below the present lot of Mr. W. F. Stevenson. While various ministers assisted in these services, Rev. Joseph J. Lawton who at the time had reached a ripe old age felt that the chief responsibility was his. Brush arbors afforded so little protection from inclement weather, it was felt best to organize a church and erect a building to house it, which was situated down the hill from the present sanctuary site. So on the first Sabbath in June, 1839, a presbytery was organized consisting of the following Brethren: John Brooker, Elliott Estes, Elisha Robert, Isaac Nichols, Jacob Bowers and a visiting brother, William Dunn. The names of the constituting members were: Joseph J. Lawton, from Smyrna church; Joseph A. Lawton, from the Lawtonville Church; Sisters Phoebe Lawton and Louisa J. Lawton from the Robertville Church; Martha S. Lawton, from the Beaufort church; Mary Long from Smyrna; Brothers and Sisters Jesse Miller and Sarah A. Miller from the Columbia Church; William N. Edenfield, Rebecca Jackson and Mary Brook from Great Salkehatchie Church. To this number were added Sisters Hester Foy and Katherine Williams, who were that day baptized and became charter members. To these charter members must be added the following persons from the Great Salkehatchie Church: David Williams, Nancy Edenfield and Sarah Edenfield. Some of their descendants still walk in the footsteps of their fathers in serving this church.
Baptists of that day strongly believed in the distinctive principles of Baptists and each individual was examined in them before being admitted to membership in the church. Those of their members who later joined churches of other faith and order did not have their names erased from the church roll, but were excommunicated as unworthy of Baptist principles. After the organization in June 1839, Rev. Joseph A. Lawton was called as its first Pastor. He also presented the church with the first Bible for the Pulpit, and Brethren Jesse Miller and William N. Edenfield were selected as deacons while David Williams was chosen as clerk. The church in October 1839, sought membership in the Savannah River Association. Joseph A. Lawton and David Williams were named as messengers. With them the church set up $30.00 for benevolent purposes. In the December conference of the same year, the church informed that it had been received as a constituent member of that body. The Barnwell Association was not organized until December, 1856, when twelve churches were regularly dismissed from the Savannah River body to organize the Barnwell Association. The wisdom of organizing Mt. Arnon is seen in that in every church conference members were added to the church either by letter or baptism. In 1840, at the invitation of the Barnwell Church, Mt. Arnon sent messengers to cooperate in the forming of a District Foreign and Domestic Bible Society. Already were at work the forces which five years later would result in the organization of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The church record affords valuable sidelights on the spiritual life in this early church. At a called conference on December 9, 1849, the church met to express their deep appreciation of their Pastor, Joseph A. Lawton and as a united church prayed for him the blessings of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A church praying for its Pastor and a Pastor relying on the prayers of his church is truly an ideal relation.
Ownership of human blood and flesh, with all of the hardships slaves sometimes suffered at the hands of cruel masters, is an institution that has passed without regret. It is worthy of note that in this church the relation of master and slave was based strictly on New Testament teachings. In September, 1844, is a record of two women identified as the property of one of its members, yet they were received into the church as "our Sisters". There is also a record of a slave named Abram who brought with him from Virginia a certificate of his church membership who after examination was received in the church as a member. They saw in their slaves, fellow pilgrims to the Celestial City and squarely faced up to their responsibility before God for them. Slaves were buried at the lower part of the cemetery.
Another insight into the spiritual standards of the church is found in a record under date of April 25, 1856, when a date set for the election of deacons found present only a part of its membership. It was decided to postpone the election till their next regular conference and "that the day of election be set apart as a day of prayer and fasting for the guidance of God in their selection of a member to the so sacred an office as a deacon". With this spiritual backing, R. N. Mil1er and J. N. Walker entered into the office of deacon. In the record of August 26, 1856, is a copy of a license issued to Benjamin J. Miller "to exercise his gifts in preaching the gospel, but expressly forbidding him the full exercise of the ministry until he was duly ordained". In 1857, a committee of five were appointed to look into the advisability of building a new church and securing a lot for the same. Ministers in those days had more money than now, for the Pastor, Rev. James F. Lawton agreed to pay one fifth of the debt on the balance of $485.00 due on the building if the membership would assume the other four fifth.
The stress of the Civil War finds no echo in the minutes covering that period, the same is true of the Reconstruction period of Radical rule which lasted for 10 yrs.
From the minutes it seems to have been the will of the church to have full time preaching, even if it was necessary to have a joint pastorate of two ministers to secure this end. There is no evidence of friction at any time between the two ministers. A careful reading of the church record reveals the high ideals and spiritual standards of the leadership in this church. In the cases of erring members, every opportunity was given them to see the error of their ways and to reinstate themselves in the full fellowship of the church. In the cases of the impenitent, the church maintained the high New Testament standards of church membership and separated themselves from the disorderly.
I can find neither the date nor the cause of the withdrawal of Mt. Arnon from the Savannah River Association and joining the Barnwell body. From references of delegates chosen to the association and the churches where held its withdrawal took place during the pastorate of Rev. G. N. Askew of Blackville, during 1881 to 1891.
The following ministers have served the church as Pastors: Reverends Joseph A. Lawton, E. Estes, Joseph J. Lawton, Joseph J. Furze, G. W. Hicks, C. A. Barnard, W.B. Wells, J. F. Marl, W. A. Pearson, F. C. Hickson, George N. Askew, Dr. W. D. Rice, Dr. R. W. Sanders, J. H. Oliver, M. M. Benson, T. G. Philips, J. C. Cullom (original spells Collom), J. R. Cullom (original spells Collom), J. Guy Martin, C. K. Turner, J W. Bradley, 0. J. Frier, who died on April 21, 1931, while pastor of this church, R. H. McKinnon and T. B. Altman. A reading of the minutes under these Pastors, some of whom were the giants of the ministry of their day, reveals the tremendous molding influence of a Pastor of the church he serves. Whatever may be the ideals of a Pastor, the church will rise no higher than the standards he sets before them. The records of the church, which are remarkably continuous, show "like priest, like people."
The deceased deacons who have faithfully served this church are: Brethren Jesse Miller, William N. Edenfield, R. N. Miller, J. N. Walker, Charles H. Coding, J.C.D. Miller, D. C. Bradley, Robert Harley, C. M. Edenfield, Alfred Johnson, J. O. Walker, J. B. Armstrong, J. F. Ferguson, J. H. Strange, H. M. Rice, M. Hill, W. I. Johns, J. W. Walker, Sr., S Ferguson, J. P. Guess, CS. Fermion, F. W. Cross, S.C. Walker, B. F. Previews, W. W. Moody, L. S. Williams and O. M. Padgett.
The last record of the church under date of August 19, 1945, shows that in regular conference the church voted to withdraw from the Barnwell Association and to seek membership in the Savannah River Association at their next meeting. This was done because we have the same Pastor and thought it would be easier on him to have all of his work in one association.
In 1937, under the supervision of the Federal Writers Project, this history was gotten to be stored in the fireproof vault in the University of South Carolina Library in Columbia, South Carolina.
W. M. Jones, Historian
In 1872, Mrs. J. F. Marl organized the first W. M. U., which is still in existence today.
In later years a second Bible was secured which was used until November 22, 1903 when Mrs. Dora Dee Walker presented the church with the third and present Bible.
From the minutes of February 27, 1921, we find that a called business meeting was held with the most important item of business being the members were asked for their decision as to whether they should call a Pastor or disband the church for a while. Several members said they would rather call a Pastor. So Brother J. W. Walker suggested that they call a Pastor to preach March 10, 1921 and take the matter up again that day. From the minutes of April 10, 1921, we find that a field was formed consisting of the following churches: Mt. Olivet, Allens Chapel and Mt. Arnon. This field called Rev. Guy Martin on April 24, 1921 with Mt. Arnon' s share of the salary being $390.00 for the balance of the year 1921.
It is noted that in January 1923, the church began having two services each month.
On February 22, 1925, the church met in a special conference with about fifty members present. This conference was called to decide whether or not under prevailing circumstances Mt. Arnon would continue as a place of worship or disband and move our membership to churches of same faith and order. Motion was made and carried to postpone action of disbanding.
No written minutes are recorded from February 22, 1925 until December 18, 1927.
It is noted that on February 19, 1939, a Pastor accepted a call to the church at a salary of $10.50 per Sunday.
The records indicate that during the forties the church gave $100.00 per year in cash to the Connie Maxwell Children's Home, plus produce loaded in the car from the association.
The first record of the church being insured was in 1943.
As noted in the history, it was noted that the church withdrew from the Savannah River Association and joined the Barnwell Association. Again on August 19, 1945, the church voted to sever its connection with the Barnwell Association and enter the Savannah River Association, as our Pastor was from the Allendale Church.
Compiled by Robert Edenfield Cullom (original spells Collom, probably a WPA error -FOC)
Mt. Arnon Baptist Church
1945 - 1974
In August 1950, it was decided to use the space in the rear of the church to build much needed Sunday School rooms, upstairs and downstairs. A committee consisting of J. W. Walker, W. D. Stevenson, Mrs. A. W. Manuel, Miss Mary Stevenson and Mrs. Tom Googe was appointed to secure funds for the building of these rooms. In March 1951, a contract was given to Mr. Harry L. Jackson to erect these Sunday School rooms at cost plus 10%. The total amount spent was $1,282.89.
In January 1952, the cemetery being very crowded and many graves being on the property of Mrs. Ira E. Cullom (original spells Collom), Mrs. Cullom (original spells Collom) made the church the following offer which was accepted by the church, that she would give to the church a certain piece of land which would bring the church property to Highway #3. On September 7, 1952, a deed was given to the church by Mrs. Ira E. Cullom (original spells Collom) for 1.58 acres of land for additional cemetery lots.
The first mention of daily Vacation Bible School being held was the last week of June, 1952. Principals listed are as follows: 1952 - Mrs. J. C. Weathers; 1953 - Miss Vester Price; 1954-56-57-58 - Mrs. Winnie Stevenson; 1959 - Rev. J. R. Pratt; no record is found for 1960-61-62; 1963 - Mrs. G. A. Henderson; 1964 - no record; 1965 - Mrs. Winnie Stevenson; 1966-1971 - Mrs. Winnie Stevenson; 1972 - Rev. James Easterlin; 1973 -Rev. Mike Catoe. Be it noted that Mrs. Winnie Stevenson was a very capable principal for eleven years.
On December 21, 1952, the Board of Deacons recommended that preaching service be held every Sunday afternoon. This recommendation was adopted and Rev. R. C. Johnson began holding services as stated. In April 1953, the Pastor's salary was increased to $25.00 each Sunday.
On October 25, 1953, the church voted to build additional Sunday School rooms upstairs.
On May 29, 1955, the church voted to have services each Sunday morning and night.
On June 5, 1955, Mt. Arnon and Lower Three Runs formed a field with the Pastor preaching at Mt. Arnon twice each Sunday and once each Sunday at Lower Three Runs. On July 17, 1955, this church field called Rev. W. T. Red as Pastor.
On October 23, 1955, the church unanimously agreed to purchase two acres of land from Mr. John Myrick, on which to erect a Pastorium. On November 10, 1955, Mrs. Bertha Oglesby Stanley very graciously presented to the church a deed for land bought from Mr. Myrick for the Pastorium.
On March 11, 1956, the Pastorium building committee was appointed. This committee consisted of Mr. W. D. Stevenson, Chairman; Mr. J. W. Walker, Mr. R. E. Cullom (original spells Collom); Mrs. Bertha 0. Stanley and Mrs. Laurie Cox. The church being in conference on April 29, 1956, Mrs. Ogreta Googe was appointed to the committee to replace Mrs. Cox who had moved from the community. Construction of the Pastorium was approved by the church on April 1, 1956. The Pastorium being completed, open house was held Sunday afternoon, September 30, 1956. The total cost of the Pastorium, well, pump, etc. was $12,830.96.
Whereas, subsequently thereto, and on or about the 8th day of August 1956, said church was incorporated under the same name of Mt. Arnon Baptist Church as A religious or eleemosynary corporation under the laws of South Carolina and it was desired that the title to said parcel of land be transferred to and vested in the Mt. Arnon Baptist Church Corporation.
In August of 1964, the present furniture consisting of four chairs, Pulpit and table were given to the church in memory of Walter T. and Belle Bradley Calhoun by their children.
Sunday, August 31, 1969, Mr. W. D. Stevenson presented to the church the title to the lot of land in front of the church, located between church property and Highway 278. This land purchased from Mrs. Bertha B. Allen by a group of members was presented to the church as a gift.
On Sunday night June 14, 1979, our present Fellowship Hall was dedicated. The materials for this building were donated by Mr. & Mrs. R. E. Cullom (original spells Collom). The only cost to the church being the cementing of the floor, as it was constructed by members of the church.
The Pulpit Bible now in use was presented to Mt. Arnon Baptist Church on August 16, 1970 by the Bill Hartsell family and the J. W. Carpenter family of Albermarle, North Carolina, in memory of Mrs. Hattie Mae Priester Davis and Mr. Donnie McQuinn Davis, Sr. The members present in the morning service accepted the Bible with grateful appreciation.
In the minutes of September 12, 1971, the church approved the recommendation of the Board of Deacons, that no graves be placed on plot of land in front of the church, recently acquired for the church.
In August, 1972, the children of James L. Bradley, Nonie C. Bradley and Bessie F. Bradley made donations to Mt. Arnon Baptist Church in memory of their parents, who were buried in the Mt. Arnon cemetery. These donations were to be used in the church building fund. The daughter of Kate Reid Walker made a donation to Mt. Arnon Baptist Church in memory of her mother, who was buried in the Mt. Arnon cemetery. This donation was to be used in the church building fund.
It was noted that no record was made in the minutes of the church of the property bought from Mr. John Myrick, adjacent to the Pastorium. The deed in the courthouse shows that it was recorded on November 7, 1964.
The records indicate that the rotation of deacons was established in October, 1959. Discontinued in August of 1970 and re-established in September of 1972.
At a business meeting on May 27, 1973, the building committee made the following recommendations, (1) that two additional members, Mr. Gerard Stevenson and Mrs. Esther Hilton be added to the building committee, (2) the date for voting on the building program be postponed until this new committee could pursue the ideas further and compile all possible data, (3) as soon as committee was prepared it would come back with report and recommendation to the church on a Sunday morning. The committee also recommended that a two-phase building program be adopted and if approved by the church, construction could begin immediately. Phase one of this building program being the construction of an educational building adjacent to our present sanctuary. Phase two of the building program would be the remodeling of our present sanctuary or the building of a new sanctuary. The decision on phase two to be made upon the completion of phase one. After discussion and explanations, it was unanimously voted to begin the two-phase building program. Phase one is the immediate erection of an educational building.
Sunday, June 10, 1973, marked one of the highlights in the history of Mt. Arnon Baptist Church It was on this day that the members celebrated the ground breaking for the new educational building. Mrs. Leila Mae Stevenson, the oldest member present, and Jeff Ferguson, the youngest member, together turned the soil. The Rev. Ben J. McIver brought the message of the hour. Actual construction of the educational building began in July, 1973. The building committee of this project consisted of: S. Wade Ferguson, B. G. Stevenson, Don J. Stevenson, James Knopf, Mrs. Esther Hilton and R. E. Collom.
As of December 31, 1973, there had been spent for materials $12,333.97, labor $4,150.45, making total in cash of $16,484.42. There had been approximately $3,500.00 "In Kind" labor used on this project as of this date. The total cost of the building will be reported on completion in early 1974.
Ministers serving this church from 1945-1974 are as follows: R. K. Corder, 1942-1950; J. C. Weathers, 1950-1952; R. C. Johnson, 1952-1955; W. T. Red, 1955-1957; J. R. Pratt, 1958-1962; G. A. Henderson, 1962-1966; W. T. Reid, 1967-1971; James Easterlin, 1972-1972; Mike Catoe, l973-present.
During the existence of this church it has had 34 Pastors, not including interim Pastors. Interim Pastor serving the longest period was Rev. Ben J. McIver.
Deacons now members or deceased serving this church from 1945 until 1974 are as follows: Ralph Gill, C. L. Hiers, S. Wade Ferguson, Cory Hair, G. W. C. McGraw, R.C. Myers, James Knopf, H. W. Duncan, Don J. Stevenson, John Ferguson, J. K. Benton, R.E. Cullom (original spells Collom), Billy Bishop, Victor Googe, Eddie Morris, W. D. Stevenson, J. W. Walker. The history from 1839 - 1945 is stored in the fireproof vault in the University of South Carolina Library in Columbia, South Carolina.
I would suggest the clerk make arrangements to file the 1945 - 1974 with this original history.
Compiled by: R. E. Cullom (original spells Collom) Typed by: Dottie Fennell
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