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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Deacon William Sparks

Earlier this month the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution set a marker in the Old North Cemetery for William Sparks. Sparks served in the Revolutionary War. He is the only known Revolutionary War veteran buried in Nacogdoches County.[i]

William Sparks was son of Matthew Sparks and Sarah Thompson. He was born on April 3, 1761, in Rowan County, North Carolina.[ii] He removed to Georgia, Mississippi Territory, and finally to Texas. He died in 1848.

In Mississippi William Sparks was first a member of the Silver Creek Baptist Church. With William Stamps, he represented “Silver Creek, east of Pearl” at the Mississippi Baptist Association.[iii] In 1819, Sparks and his wife Polly became constituting members the Bethany Church at White Sandy Creek, Lawrence County, Mississippi. Two acres of their land “were deeded to the Bethany Baptist Church as a gift on May 17, 1823.” On November 21, 1830, the Bethany Church conference minutes states, “Brother William Sparks, beloved deacon, and his wife applied for a letter of demission.”[iv] It is not clear (to me) where William Sparks next became a member, since he did not move to Texas until 1836.

The dismission from Bethany Baptist Church cites William Sparks as a “beloved deacon.” Stephen F. Sparks wrote of his grandfather, “As far back as I remember he served as a deacon in the Baptist Church…”[v]

In Texas Sparks apparently served as deacon of two Baptist churches – first the Hopewell Baptist Church at Cook Settlement in the Douglass area of Nacogdoches County. The Hopewell Church was constituted September of 1837 under the authority of Daniel Parker’s Pilgrim Church, and was the sight of the organization of the Union Baptist Association in 1840. It is at the least a reasonable conclusion that this is the same William Sparks. His son-in-law James Simmons seems to have continued affiliation with the Predestinarian Baptists.[vi]
Saturday September 30th 1837 The Church met and in order proseded to business.
1st. Elder Daniel Parker, Reported, That on the Seventeenth day of September 1837, He exercised the authority vested in him by this Church In Constituting a Church. Said Church is Constituted on the East side of the Angeleney river in Brother Cook.s settlement. On Eight members five mailes and three feemails, one Deacon Wm. Sparks and on the same articals of Faith that this Church is constituted, acknowledging her relationship to and with said Pilgrim Church of Regular Predistinaran Baptist.[vii]
Later Deacon Sparks was a member of the Union Baptist Church, organized in the Sparks Settlement by Isaac Reed and Robert G. Gibson in May of 1836. The Union Church was the sight of the organization of the Sabine Baptist Association in November of 1843. Sparks served there in that capacity until Saturday before the first Lord’s day in April 1844, when the church met in conference and “Brother Wm. Sparks petitioned the Church to release him from the duties of deacon, as he was too old and infirm to attend to them any longer, Granted.”

Deacon William Sparks’s church affiliations in Mississippi provide an intriguing sidelight to A. J. Holt’s concern that New Yorker David Lewis introduced feet washing into the Union Baptist Church. In 1810 the Mississippi Association decided in its favor. “This query, ‘Is the washing of the saints’ feet a Christian duty or not?’ was answered in the affirmative.”[viii] To make a finer point, the Bethany Church in Lawrence County practiced feet washing during Sparks’s tenure there.
Saturday the 18th of January, 1823
The subject of washing of feet was taken up and agreed to comply with the ordinance annually...
Saturday before the 3rd Sunday in June, 1830
Resolved that this Church furnish herself with the vessels, towels, and etc., necessary for the washing the saints’ feet, and appointed Brother George Granberry to procure them with instructions to procure pewter basins, if possible, and if not, then tin basins.[ix]
“William Sparks was undoubtedly a deeply religious man.” His faith may be somewhat traced through his church connections in Mississippi and Texas. The Daughters of the American Revolution recognized him for his service in the American Revolution. May Texas Baptists recognize him for his service in the Lord’s army.


[ii] In answering regarding his pension application for Revolutionary War service, Sparks said he “was born within one mile of the town of Salsbury…”
[iii] Some writers have mistaken this for the present Mississippi Baptist Convention, which was not formed until 1836. The Mississippi Baptist Association was organized in 1807. See Abstract History of the Mississippi Baptist Association for One Hundred Years, by T. C. Schilling and A Complete History of Mississippi Baptists, by Leavell & Bailey. William Sparks probably knew my wife’s ancestor, Elder Jesse Crawford.
[iv] In his pension application, William Sparks swore that he lived near Athens, Georgia “till the year 1811 when he removed to Laurence County, Mississippi, thence to Holmes County in that State where he lived till March 1836, when he removed to this County and vicinity [Nacogdoches County, Texas] where he has ever since resided.” One Sparks family genealogist wrote, “Since Holmes County was not formed until 1833, he probably went to that portion of Yazoo County which became Holmes County.” (The Sparks Quarterly, Vol. XXXIII, No. 2 (Whole No. 130a), June 1985).
[vi] “James and Edith Simmons moved to Collin County in 1859 settling near Forest Gove where they helped to organize the Old Orchard Gap Primitive Baptist Church and James Simmons was its first minister.” From a book titled Collin County: Pioneering in North Texas. On the other hand, Newman’s History of the Primitive Baptists in Texas, Oklahoma and Indian Territory does not mention James Simmons relative to organizing this church.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Elder Henry Hunt, Tennessee

Elder Henry Hunt, long time moderator of the Mount Zion Association of Separate Baptists, passed from the walks of this life November 19, 1852. He lived in Franklin County, Tennessee.


The Tennessee Baptist, Saturday, September 17, 1853, page 4

[Note: I am interested in locating where the body of Henry Hunt is interred. Also his wife, Darcus Giles Hunt, whom he married in 1806.]

Obadiah Dodson

Obituary of Elder Obadiah Dodson

Whereas, The afflicting hand of Providence has visited us during the past associational year, bereaving us of our well beloved and highly esteemed Brother, Elder Obadiah Dodson, therefore

Be it Resolved, That this Association deeply sympathize with the bereaved family of our dear, departed Brother, and feel that the whole Association suffers in common with the family of the deceased an irreparable loss.

Bro: Dodson was a faithful soldier of Jesus; and although his last illness was short, and he was not sensible of the approach of death, yet we feel confident that he has fallen asleep in Christ.

He lived the life of the righteous and his last days were like His.

Minutes of the Grand Cane (La.) Baptist Association, 1854, page 6

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

New Hope-Bethel, Sabine County


Historical Marker at New Hope-Bethel Baptist Church, erected in 1974.[i]
In the early 19th century, Bethel Baptist Mission was established one mile east of this marker, on a lane that is now Farm Road 276. About 1818, Elder William Cook (d. 1829), having emigrated from North Carolina to southwestern Louisiana, began preaching both east and west of the Sabine. A log cabin under a catawba tree on property of Henry Chambers and his son, Allen, was site of Bethel Mission services. Elder Cook’s work here and elsewhere is described by heirs of the pioneers and by a 1910 Louisiana history, “Footsteps of the Flock,” by Ivan M. Wise.[1] Bethel Baptist Church was constituted on Feb. 7, 1841, as a congregation of the Pilgrim Church of Regular Baptist Faith and Order.[2] At that time a frame meetinghouse was built. Bethel broke off its fellowship with the Pilgrim Order in 1849,[3] joining the Central Missionary Baptist Association.[4] The name “Bethel” was changed about 1870 to “New Hope.”[5] This church joined the Southern Baptist Convention in 1927. It also belongs to the Sabine Valley Baptist Association. W. T. Love has been pastor since 1937. New Hope-Bethel Church stands on land which was donated by J. G. Mason. The present brick sanctuary was erected in 1970.
As I have studied the history of the Sabine Baptist Association and related matters, I have found original documents that call some of the matter on this historical marker into question.
1. I will pass over the work of Elder Cook, since this does not intersect with the work of the Sabine Association.[ii]
2. This is confirmed in the minutes of Pilgrim Church, when Daniel Parker and William Brittain “did at the hou[s]e of Brother Theo. Harris in Sabine County Republic of Texas on the 7th day of this month [February, 1841, rlv], Constitute and Organise a Church of the Regular Baptist faith and order upon the artical of faith upon which this Church stands constituted...”
3. In September of 1841, Pilgrim refers to her as “our sister the Bethel Church.” At least by November 1843 Bethel Church had “broke off its fellowship” with Pilgrim, when Bethel joined with four other churches in forming the Sabine Baptist Association – rather than joining the Union Association of which Pilgrim was a member. Pilgrim Church noted this situation regarding the Bethel Church in her August 17, 1844 minutes, stating that the “Bethel Church has united in an associated compact with churches with whoom we have no fellowship.”
4. There was no “Central Missionary Baptist Association” in 1849. Some churches that had been in the Sabine Association formed the Eastern Texas Association of United Baptists in 1849/50. The Eastern Texas Association changed its name to Central Baptist Association in 1852, and is currently known as the Central Missionary Baptist Association.
5. There may be other information that needs to be understood about the name change – e.g. the name might have been changed back and forth. However, according to B. F. Burroughs, after the Bethel Church fell into the disorder of open communion and apostasy, 19 former members organized the New Hope Baptist Church in April 1853.[iii] The church is “New Hope” in the 1850s in the Central Baptist Association minutes.


[i] Located north of Milam. Take SH 87 about 4.5 miles north, then west on New Hope Baptist Church Road.
[ii] Though Cook was not connected to the (Texas) Sabine Baptist Association, he has at least a tentative connection to the Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association. R. T. Gibson of Bethel, where Cook was supposed to have preached, was in the organization of it. Benjamin Garlington, also in the organization of this association, followed William Cook as pastor of the Zion Hill Church on Negreet Bayou in Sabine Parish, Louisiana. In Footsteps of the Flock, Ivan M. Wise claims that William Cook “organized a church in Sabine County, Texas.” Even if so, the Bethel Church was a distinct church organized under the authority of the old Pilgrim Church.
[iii] The Tennessee Baptist, October 29, 1853, page 4.

The Tennessee Baptist, Saturday, October 29, 1853, p. 4

Monday, October 28, 2019

Isaac Reed and East Texas Churches

Several years ago I posted some information about Isaac Reed on a Panola County Texas research site. It is possible that this may still be accessible, though I do not know and do not know how to find it. However, my ongoing research has discovered differences in some of the dates that certain churches were organized. I am posting below to correct the dates that were wrong, and have tweaked the post a bit.

In 1838, Isaac Reed and R. G. Green organized the Union Baptist Church (now called Old North Baptist Church), which met and meets about four miles north of Nacogdoches, Texas. Union/Old North in the oldest existing Missionary Baptist church in the state of Texas. Some churches were organized earlier, including Pilgrim Predestinarian (now called Primitive) Baptist Church (org. 1833) and a Missionary Baptist Church at Washington-on-the-Brazos (org. 1837). The Old Pilgrim Church was organized in Crawford County, Illinois and they arrived in Texas in January 1834. Pilgrim still exists, and so is the oldest Baptist Church in Texas, even though it was not organized in Texas. It is Primitive Baptist. The Missionary Baptist Church at Washington-on-the-Brazos did not live a long time, leaving the Union/Old North Church as the oldest Missionary Baptist Church in Texas (it was not called “Missionary Baptist” until a number of years after it was organized).

Isaac Reed organized several early Baptist churches in East Texas

  • Union at Sparks Settlement in Nacogdoches County (1838)
  • Buena Vista at Buena Vista in Shelby County (1839)[i]
  • Bethel, Reed Settlement near Clayton, Panola County (1843)[ii]
  • Border near Jonesville/Marshall, Harrison County (1843)
  • Mount Olive (now called Old Palestine) near Alto, Cherokee County (1844)
  • Macedonia near Carthage, Panola County (1845)
  • Eight Mile (now Friendship) near Marshall, Harrison County (1845)[iii]
Isaac Reed’s daughter Margaret and her husband, William Roark, were charter members of Mount Olive Church. Isaac Reed might have possibly had a part in organizing the Shiloh Church, Rusk County – not too far down the road from Reed Settlement or Clayton – in the 1840s.[iv] Enon near Mt. Enterprise – in the Sabine Association by 1845 – is another probable church organized by Reed. He was pastor there at the time of his death.


[i] This seems to be a traditional date. I am uncertain what documents support it. In the Timpson & Tenaha News, (Thursday, May 20, 2004, p. 6) they re-ran a news item stating the Buena Vista Church celebrated its 100th anniversary Sunday, September 4, 1938 – suggesting an 1838 organization rather than 1839. The article also states “After inactivity for some time the church was revived some 41 years ago” (circa 1897).
[ii] Reed organized several churches with the assistance of Lemuel Herrin (and vice versa), including Bethel, Border, Eight Mile, and Macedonia. Bethel and Macedonia were in Harrison County, before the creation of Panola County.
[iii] Various sources give 1843, 1844, and 1845, but 1845 is the preferred date, barring organization minutes or other reliable primary sources that give an earlier date. Z. N. Morrell wrote, “The Eight-mile church was organized in 1845, in Harrison County, by Elder Lemuel Herrin, with five members.” (Flowers and Fruits, page 263). This church first appears in the Sabine Baptist Association in 1845. Morrell does not specifically mention Reed in connection with this organization, probably indicating Herrin was the prime mover in this organization. In the Marshall News Messenger in 1990 we find, “Other records indicate a Friendship Baptist Church was reorganized 12 miles south of Marshall on July 14, 1869.” (Marshall News Messenger, Sunday, May 20, 1990, p. 2) Relocating twelve miles away rather than being at the original eight miles might have prompted the name change.
[iv] This seems reasonable, but I have not seen Shiloh Church in Rusk County in connection with other Reed-related churches. Later records (after Isaac’s death) show Reed family members at Shiloh. Josiah Johnson conveyed a six-acre tract of land to the Shiloh Baptist Church in 1857, but it is believed that the church was in existence before that time.

To feel lost, and to feel found

I have been pained to see some of our brethren, in the reception of members, cross examine and elaborate with rigid scrutiny, outside of Scriptural authority, candidates for baptism, when they had told the Church that they felt themselves to be lost and depraved sinners, unable to do any thing to recover themselves, but that God for Christ’s sake had pardoned their sins, and that love to him and his people was the result, and a determination to follow him in his ordinances. I have thought, to feel lost, and after to feel found, is evidence enough on which to approve for baptism.
Zachariah Rose, in The Tennessee Baptist (Nashville, Tennessee), Saturday, February 5, 1859, page 3

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Prayer for a Blessing

“Prayer for a Blessing,” by John Newton, the first of 13 hymns for singing “Before Annual Sermons to Young People, on New Years’ Evenings” (Olney Hymns, Book ii., No. 7, 1779).

1. Now, gracious Lord, thine arm reveal,
And make thy glory known;
Now let us all thy presence feel,
And soften hearts of stone!

2. Help us to venture near thy throne,
And plead a Savior’s name;
For all that we can call our own,
Is vanity and shame.

3. From all the guilt of former sin
May mercy set us free;
And let the year we now begin,
Begin and end with thee.

4. Send down thy spirit from above,
That saints may love thee more;
And sinners now may learn to love
Who never loved before.

5. And when before thee we appear
In our eternal home;
May growing numbers worship here,
And praise thee in our room.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Next words

The next set of words and their definitions.
  • brass-necked, adjective. Of a manufactured item: that has a neck made of or covered in brass.
  • briche, adjective. Useful, helpful, or beneficial.
  • brickscape, noun. A view or prospect dominated by brick structures, as in a town or city; an urban landscape.
  • bubbleable, adjective. Of a person: gullible; easy to cheat or dupe.
  • butteraceous, adjective. Of the nature or consistency of butter; buttery.
  • dildock, noun. A liquid used for rubbing on the body to relieve pain; a liniment, an embrocation. Cf. opodeldoc.
  • gamify, verb, transitive. To make (something) into or like a game; spec. to apply elements of game playing, such as point scoring, competition with others, etc., to (an activity), typically to encourage engagement with a product or service.
  • gloopy, adjective. Glutinous, viscous; gluey or sticky; sloppy or gooey.
  • hand-me-down, adjective and noun. Originally and chiefly of clothing: that has been handed down or passed on. Occasionally also: ready made, as opposed to tailored; off-the-peg.
  • infatuation, noun. The state of being infatuated; foolish or all-absorbing passion or an instance of this. Cf. limerance.
  • limerance, noun. The state of being love-stricken. Cf. Infatuation.
  • mafted, adjective. In predicative use: oppressed or stifled, esp. by the heat; exhausted from heat, crowds, or exertion.
  • opodeldoc, noun. A medical liniment made by mixing soap, alcohol, and essential oils. Cf. dildock.
  • powhead, noun. A tadpole. Also figurative.
  • quid pro quo, noun. Something that is given or received in return for something else.
  • riot, noun. Waywardness; contrariness. Obsolete. rare.
  • spuggy, noun. The house sparrow.
  • schmendrick, n. A foolish, immature, or naive person; (also) an obnoxious person.

Yes, Beto, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The History of Texas Baptists

The history of Texas Baptists is one of the great loves of my life. I do not remember exactly when it happened, but it is an ongoing affair of at least forty years. In recent months, I have focused on the Sabine Baptist Association, the earliest Baptist association in our area (organized 1843). I found a treasure trove of information at Baylor University’s archives (oh, sure, I wish for more).[i] As I began to understand what is there, a sad wonderment struck my mind. How long has this information lain dormant there? How many historians who mention the Sabine Baptist Association ever bothered to check these primary documents? I would love to see a new history of Texas Baptists refocused on primary documents that have previously been undiscovered ignored. Perhaps we have long had the big picture, but the devil is in the details.

Previous histories are too partisan in outlook. What is labeled “a history of Texas Baptists” is most often “a history of my Texas Baptists.” Don’t get me wrong. There is a place and need for denominational histories. The Free Will Baptists write theirs, Missionary Baptists write theirs, Primitive Baptists write theirs, Southern Baptists write theirs, and so on.[ii] The plus side includes access to records not easily obtained, and that they offer their own unique perspective and understanding of themselves, things frequently missed by “outsiders.” The minus side is that they often fail to assimilate their story into the whole of the history of Texas Baptists (and miss the insight of “outsiders”). Even the large tomes of Carroll and McBeth, in my opinion, only make meager mention of the existence of other Baptists after they move on from the earliest years.

Previous histories are too narrow in research. Hand in hand with the partisanship in history writing is its narrowness.  For example, to many historians, Daniel Parker is a wart on the nose of Texas Baptists. Mention him we must, but let’s move on. Quickly![iii] However, those who bother to check might find that Asa Wright labored in the west in the late 1830s with “missionary” Z. N. Morrell and in the east in the early 1840s with “anti-missionary” Daniel Parker – then later hooked up with “missionary” Lemuel Herrin and “anti-missionary” Isaac Reed to form the Sabine Baptist Association. Or, that Thomas Hanks was a member of the “Separate” Union Baptist Church near Nacogdoches before he was a member (and later pastor) of the “Regular” Pilgrim Baptist Church of near Elkhart.[iv] Through this narrowness, historians fails to branch out and learn all they might about the vagaries of even their own partisans.

Previous histories are too predictable in narration. Too often the same sources are used repetitively without seeking for other available and overlooked primary sources. I know one person will never find them all. Nevertheless, Ican’t express how mind-numbing it has been to see the same story about the Sabine Baptist Association repeated over and over, when the writers kept checking the same old source, apparently never bothering to check the Sabine’s own sources – their minutes. This must be true. Had they checked their minutes and reported honestly, they would not have repeated the same old sad story.[v] McBeth writes, “Any history of Texas Baptists must begin with Z. N. ‘Wildcat’ Morrell…”[vi] I have no particular quarrel with that. Morrell’s book is a wonderful record of one who lived the early history of Texas Baptists, from when he arrived in December 1835. On the other hand, Morrell is the source of the some of the errors on the Sabine Baptist Association. I find no evidence that he ever attended its sessions.[vii] His information is second-hand. Should not those who attended and recorded their sessions receive some priority of testimony?

What to do? Southern Baptists have written the majority of the history of the Baptists of Texas. I don’t fault them. They are the majority of Baptists in Texas. They may have the “training and necessary leisure.” However, they have frequently been sectarian while at the same time blaming sectarianism on their foes. Future writers could learn a lesson from Albert W. Wardin in his Tennessee Baptists: A Comprehensive History, 1779-1999. The bulk of the book is about the majority party, but Wardin clearly takes an interest in all the Baptists of Tennessee. Smaller denominations then rebut with their own clannishness, and ultimately we fail to read the whole story. Further, the main (if not only) Baptist historical society (if it even still exists) is connected to and funded by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Even though they don’t/didn’t restrict their membership to BGCT folks, others often feel restricted by the integral connection. Creating an historical society not connected to or dependent upon an association, conference or convention might reflect the greater diversity of Baptists in the state, create greater buy-in of Baptists across the state, and promote the kind of research that sees the connectivity of early Texas Baptists of various “stripes.” Such a society would allow historical corroboration without compromising denominational connections. I have no problems wrestling with you over faith and practice while uniting with you to better understand our history. What about you?

Maybe one day we will have an integrated account of all Texas Baptists.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


[i] The Texas Collection “is Baylor University’s oldest special collections library.”
[ii] Some Texas Baptist denominational histories include A History of Texas Baptists: Comprising a Detailed Account of Their Activities, Their Progress and Their Achievements, James Milton Carroll, Dallas, TX: Baptist Standard Publishing Co., 1923; A History of the Primitive Baptists of Texas, Oklahoma and Indian Territories, Joseph Sylvester Newman, Tioga, TX: Baptist Trumpet, 1906; From the Red to the Rio Grande: a History of the Free Will Baptist in Texas, 1876 to 2014, Thurmon Murphy, Columbus, OH: FWB Publications, 2017; History of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas, William Henry Parks, Cleburne, TX: [n.d., before 1916], Missionary Baptists in Texas, 1820-1998, Oran Heaton Griffith, Henderson, TX: History & Archives Committee of the Missionary Baptist Association of Texas, 1999; Texas Baptists: a Sesquicentennial History, Harry Leon McBeth, Dallas, TX: Baptistway Press, 1998.
[iii] As does Baker in The Blossoming Desert, p. 26.
[iv] And Deacon William Sparks was a member of the “Regular” Hopewell Baptist Church in Cooks Settlement (Nacogdoches County) before he was a member of the “Separate” Union Baptist Church.
[v] This is not to say that they got it all wrong, but that the minutes would have correctly what they did have wrong.
[vi] Texas Baptists: a Sesquicentennial History, p. 495
[vii] Morrell does not say he did, neither is he mentioned in any of the existing minutes.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Elder Levi A. Durham

Levi Allen Durham 

Levi Allen Durham was born February 27, 1792 in Montgomery County, North Carolina, to Thomas Durham and Rebecca Allen. His father Thomas was pastor at Jersey Settlement, Rowan, North Carolina in 1803, but was pastoring in Tennessee by 1808.[i] Levi married Elizabeth Harwick (or Hardwick) circa 1820, and they had at least nine children.[ii] He was ordained by the Brush Creek Church, Smith County, Tennessee, in 1827, moved to Mississippi in 1835, and arrived in Texas by around 1838. Levi A. Durham died in Texas (probably Jasper County) on October 7, 1846. As Grime wrote in 1902, “where his dust sleeps, we do not know.” Sometime after his death, Elizabeth married widower Hilliard Durdin. She is buried at the Tidwell Cemetery near Thornton in Limestone County, Texas.

The subject of this sketch was the son of the lamented Elder Thomas Durham.
As to the date of his birth and early life, we have no means of knowing, further than that he was brought up on a farm situated at the southern limits of the present town of Hickman [Hickman Co., Tennessee, rlv], the home of his father during his stay in Tennessee. After entering into life for himself he became a member of Brush Creek Church, and it was under her watch-care that he began the ministry. He was ordained to the ministry by this church in June 1827, by the following Presbytery, viz.: Elders John Jones, Cantrel Bethel, Presley Lester, H. W. Pickett, Miles West and Thomas Hooker. Though young in years, he was soon reckoned among the leading ministers of his time and section. Such was his fame that people would come for a score of miles to wait on his ministry. Soon after his ordination he was called to the care of Round Lick and Hickman’s Creek Churches, and probably others. In doctrine he was a strong Calvinist, emphasizing the doctrine of God’s sovereign electing grace. He was an important factor in the work of the Association as long as he remained in the State, once preaching the introductory sermon and once acting as moderator.
In the spring of 1835 he resigned his charges and moved to the State of Mississippi, where the curtain falls, and his name is lost. Where he fell and where his dust sleeps, we do not know. But in the morning of the resurrection, when God shall gather his elect from the four winds, we shall see this noble saint of the Lord and hear him tell with a new tongue the victories of the cross.
In 1844, a convention was called by the regular Predestinarian Baptists of the East, which met with the Antioch church, in Jasper County, on the eighth day of November. Five churches were represented in this convention, viz.: — Antioch, Louisiana; and Salem, Antioch, Harmony and Mount Olive, Texas. This convention appointed, the same day, a committee to report articles of faith and a constitution, which report was read and adopted on the morning of the ninth. The caption of the report read as follows: — “The Articles of Faith of the Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association.”
Elder Levi A. Durham was their first moderator. He was a man of great originality; thought strictly for himself on all questions of theology, and boldly preached what he believed. I have met but few men in life so well versed in the Scriptures. He was a man full of zeal in advocating his views, and during my intercourse with him, I was favorably impressed with his personal piety. In 1845, about a year after the organization just alluded to, I met him at Owensville, in Robinson County, during the session of the court, brother R.E.B. Baylor presiding as judge. We preached alternately for several nights, and in these sermons discussed fully those points of doctrine relative to which we differed. The judge and the bar manifested much interest in this discussion, giving us their regular and earnest attention. Elder Durham opposed, with all his might, all secret organizations, benevolent societies, and missionary boards, giving his special attention to Baptist organizations that granted membership upon a moneyed basis. While he thus opposed the plans upon which we proposed to send missionaries into destitute fields, in the very midst of his opposition he would occasionally manifest as earnest a missionary spirit as those who clamored loudly for boards and money. He was not opposed to spreading the gospel, but the plan upon which we proposed to do it. That the association over which he presided should oppose missionary organizations, we would naturally expect. The eleventh article of its constitution reads as follows: — “Having for years past viewed the distress that the following institutions or societies have brought upon the churches, that is to say, Missionary Effort Societies, Bible, Baptist State Conventions, Temperance, Sunday-school Unions, Tract, Ministerial, Education Societies, and, in a word, all the human combinations and societies of the day, set up in order to advance the Redeemer’s kingdom, as inimical to the peace of Zion, and calculated in their nature to cause schism; we therefore declare non-fellowship with all such.”
The sixth annual meeting of this body makes a showing upon its minutes of only six churches, with a total membership of seventy-three; Elder B. Garlington, moderator. The minutes of its tenth session, held with Salem church, Tyler County, show the same number of churches, and a smaller membership; Elder R. F. Gibson, moderator. It is painful thus to witness the decline of churches, over which good and true men have the oversight. But as Christ when on earth was led by a mission spirit, and infused the same into his early followers, we should ever be impressed with the great truth that the Christian spirit is aggressive and consequently missionary.
After his ordination in 1827,[iii] Levi A. Durham pastored Round Lick Church near Watertown, twelve miles east of Lebanon, Wilson County, Tennessee, 1827-1835.[iv] He pastored Hickman’s Creek at Hickman, Smith County, Tennessee, during this period, but the exact dates are unknown.[v] He probably pastored other churches. He preached at and served as moderator of the Salem Association. In 1835, he moved to Mississippi.[vi] Currently we have no record of his service there, and his stay there must have been brief. If the accuracy of the 1850 Jasper County, Texas census can be trusted, his daughter Joicy was born Texas about 1838 – indicating the Durham family had arrived in Texas by that time.

Laboring in Texas, Levi A. Durham sided with the so-called “anti-missions” movement. In his record, Morrell admits that Durham “was not opposed to spreading the gospel, but the plan upon which we proposed to do it.” He led in and was the first moderator of the Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association. On March 11, 1846, Elder Durham penned an intriguing letter to the editors of The Primitive Baptist. In it he says there “are two little Associations of the Regular Predestinarian Primitive Baptists, in this country” (Union, the other) and that there “are but two preachers of that faith and order” in the bounds of the Louisiana and Texas Association (Durham and R. T. Gibson) “and they live a hundred miles apart.”[vii] At the time of his death, Levi A. Durham pastored both Antioch churches in this association – one in Louisiana and one in Texas.[viii]

His labours ended his trials past; he has reached his home at last.


[i] The Baptist (Nashville, Tennessee) Saturday February 13, 1847, page 11/395. Thomas Durham baptized John Wiseman, of whom Grime wrote, “Perhaps the name of no man is more cherished by the Baptists of Middle Tennessee than that of John Wiseman.”
[ii] Levi was appointed postmaster of New Durham, Smith, Tennessee, January 10, 1834.
[iii] Durham was ordained by the Brush Creek Church, by a presbytery consisting of John Jones, Cantrel Bethel, Presley Lester, H. W. Pickett, Miles West and Thomas Hooker.
[vi] The 1850 census gives the birth of daughter America as Tennessee about 1836. However, the 1860 census says she was born in Mississippi, which corresponds with Grime’s account.
[vii] The Primitive Baptist, Volume 11, No. 6, Saturday, June 6, 1846, pp. 83-86.
[viii] Letter (dated Aug. 7, 1847) from Alfred Lyons to the editors of The Primitive Baptist, Volume 11, No. 22, Saturday, October 2, 1847 pp. 350-351. Lyons mentions Durham “died in a few days after” the meeting of the Association in 1846.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

More Louisiana and Texas Predestinarian History

At the beginning of this month I wrote about the Sabine Baptist Association, and three associations that derived from it – Eastern Texas Missionary, Eastern Texas United, and Freewill Missionary Baptist.

Though I did not include it, the beginning of another association – The Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association – is often attributed to dissension in the Sabine Association. For example, in The (Rusk, Texas) Cherokeean, Thursday, October 4, 1973, Samuel B. Hesler listed three associations that came out of the old Sabine Baptist Association: 1. The Eastern Texas Missionary Baptist Association; 2. The Free Will Missionary Baptist Association; and 3. The Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association.[i]
The Cherokeean (Rusk, Tex.), Thursday, October 4, 1973, page 2

Confusion by and/or misinterpretation of Z. N. Morrell’s assessment of the dissolution of the Sabine Association has led to this. In his book Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness, Morrell wrote, “…the brethren east of the Trinity were suffering sorely in consequence of the anti-missionary element. One extreme, if pressed persistently, usually begets another, and this furnished no exception to the rule. Antinomianism, founded on predestination and election, pressing the eternal purposes of God, without the proper consideration of the means leading to the end, drove some brethren to the opposite extreme, who, under the influence of Arminianism, waged a relentless war against their ‘iron jacket’ brethren.  These opposing elements, both alike at war with truth, finally resulted in the dissolution of the Sabine Association, at its sixth or seventh session, held with Mount Olivet church, Cherokee County. The anti-missionary and free-will elements, went off into small and separate organizations. The mission element rallied under the auspices of the Soda Lake Association…”[ii] Immediately after mentioning the “mission element,” Morrell writes of a convention in 1844 that “was called by the regular Predestinarian Baptists of the East, which met with the Antioch church, in Jasper County” – making it seem that this is directly related to the troubles in the Sabine Association. He then turns to the “extreme measures adopted by these brethren in their opposition to all mission organizations” that “drove other brethren off to the other extreme, even into fanaticism, under the name of ‘Free Will Baptists’.”[iii] All this makes it seem that the association formed at Antioch in Jasper County – the Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association – was a result of the trouble in the Sabine Association. I believe that Morrell only intended the give examples of what he thought were the extremes. Nevertheless, the way he wrote this makes it seem that this Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association was formed as a direct result of the trouble in the Sabine Baptist Association.

However, the churches that formed the Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association never affiliated with or connected themselves to the Sabine Baptist Association. One preacher had a former connection with both the Union Regular Predestinarian Association and the Bethel Church in Sabine County, but appears to have had no connection with or participation in the Sabine Baptist Association. The minutes of the Pilgrim Church describe R. T. Gibson as appearing “to have been the only member of that church who seems to have regarded with attention the faith and order of the authority that constituted that church...”[iv]

The five churches named in the organization of the Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association are: Antioch church, Louisiana; Salem, Wolf Creek, Texas; Antioch, Texas; Harmony, Texas; and Mt. Olive, Texas.[v] I have attempted to identify these churches.

Antioch (Louisiana) is apparently the Antioch Church, near Big Woods, in Calcasieu Parish, which was first in the Louisiana Baptist Association. Antioch in Louisiana is described as originally located in St. Landry Parish – “This church was situated on the Calcasieu, in the Parish of St. Landry” – but later Calcasieu Parish. The state created Calcasieu Parish in 1840, from the parish of St. Landry. Antioch was organized in 1828 (or at least joined the Louisiana Baptist Association that fall),[vi] and withdrew from the Louisiana Association in 1844.[vii]

Antioch (Texas) is in Jasper County, Texas. Antioch near Buna in Jasper County still exists today. It was organized 1841 in the home of John and Mary Richardson. According to the historical marker, Elders Levi A. Durham, Edward Parsons, and Josiah Wheat acted as the presbytery.[viii] The present meeting house of Antioch is located about four miles northwest of the town of Buna on County Road 701.

Harmony was in Jasper County, Texas. Alfred Lyons’ November 1844 letter to The Primitive Baptist says the association in 1845 would be held at Harmony Church, Jasper County. Writing in August of 1847, Lyons (then of Newton, Texas) stated “we have a small church about twelve miles from my house.” Thos. Baty is probably Thomas Beaty, who was born in South Carolina and came to Texas from Mississippi before 1850. Beaty was in Jasper County in 1850 and Tyler County in 1860. R. E. Powell is probably Richard Ealie Powell (1812-1880). He was in Jasper County by 1850 and is buried at the Indian Creek Cemetery in Jasper County.

Mt. Olive may have been in Sabine County, San Augustine County, or Tyler County, Texas. R. T. Gibson apparently lived in Sabine County in the early 1840s, but was in Tyler County in the 1850 census. He later moved to Polk County (see 1860 and 1870 censuses). I was unable to positively identify “J. Whitmire” but found several of the surname Whitmire in the 1850 San Augustine County census – including a John Whitmire who would have been old enough to serve as a delegate to the convention in Jasper County.

Salem, Texas was in Tyler County, Texas. Z. N. Morrell wrote that the tenth session of the association was held with Salem church, Tyler County. The church is connected to “Wolf Creek” and may have met somewhere near it. There is a Wolf Creek in Tyler County. The 1850 Federal Census locates delegates E. T. Fulgham and Edmond Parsons in Tyler County that year.

Elder Levi Allen Durham (1792-1846) was a leading figure in this association. He was the son of Rebecca Allen and Elder Thomas Durham, a prominent preacher in Tennessee. Z. N. Morrell differed with Durham, but writes,

Elder Levi A. Durham…was a man of great originality; thought strictly for himself on all questions of theology, and boldly preached what he believed. I have met but few men in life so well versed in the Scriptures. He was a man full of zeal in advocating his views, and during my intercourse with him, I was favorably impressed with his personal piety...Elder Durham opposed, with all his might, all secret organizations, benevolent societies, and missionary boards, giving his special attention to Baptist organizations that granted membership upon a moneyed basis. While he thus opposed the plans upon which we proposed to send missionaries into destitute fields, in the very midst of his opposition he would occasionally manifest as earnest a missionary spirit as those who clamored loudly for boards and money. He was not opposed to spreading the gospel, but the plan upon which we proposed to do it.[ix]
In History of Middle Tennessee Baptists, J. H. Grime tells us,
The subject of this sketch…was brought up on a farm situated at the southern limits of the present town of Hickman [Hickman Co., Tennessee)…he became a member of Brush Creek Church, and it was under her watch-care that he began the ministry. He was ordained to the ministry by this church in June 1827, by the following Presbytery, viz.: Elders John Jones, Cantrel Bethel, Presley Lester, H. W. Pickett, Miles West and Thomas Hooker. Though young in years, he was soon reckoned among the leading ministers of his time and section…In doctrine he was a strong Calvinist, emphasizing the doctrine of God’s sovereign electing grace…In the spring of 1835 he resigned his charges and moved to the State of Mississippi, where the curtain falls, and his name is lost. Where he fell and where his dust sleeps, we do not know. But in the morning of the resurrection, when God shall gather his elect from the four winds, we shall see this noble saint of the Lord and hear him tell with a new tongue the victories of the cross.[x]
Apparently Durham ventured from Mississippi through Louisiana and into Texas, where he entered on his final work leading the formation of the Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association

The Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association may not have derived from the Sabine Baptist Association, but by my count, it is the third Baptist Association organized by churches in East Texas, following Union and Sabine.
  • Union Association of the Regular Baptist Faith and Order, organized October 17, 1840, at Hopewell Church in Nacogdoches County, by four churches
  • Sabine Baptist Association, organized November 11, 1843, at Union Church in Nacogdoches County, by five churches
  • Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association, organized November 8, 1844, at Antioch Church in Jasper County, by five churches (4 in East Texas)[xi]


[i] In his writing, Hesler states that the Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association “later became South Eastern Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association in 1847.” This must be in error, since the Briscoe Center for American History (UT Austin) has the Minutes of the Twenty-fourth Annual Session of the Louisiana and Texas Regular Predestinarian Baptist Association for the year 1869. Perhaps South Eastern is another association formed out of it.
[iii] Ibid, p 192.
[v] The Primitive Baptist, p. 15. “Antioch church, Louisiana, Leroy G. McGaughey, Levi A. Durham,* Alfred Lyons, messengers. Salem, Wolf Creek, Texas, E. T. Fulgham, Edmond Parsons. Antioch, Texas, Jas. Richardson, Jer. Day, Benj. Richardson. Harmony, Texas, R. E. Powell, Thos. Baty. Mt. Olive, Texas, R. T. Gipson,* J. Whitmire. The stars represent ministers of the gospel.”
[viii] Antioch Church Historical Marker. However, it is not clear that the other two men were preachers. Josiah Wheat lived in Tyler County, and is listed as an M. D. in the 1850 census. Edward Parsons probably should be Edmond Parsons.
[xi] The fourth association in East Texas was a split from Sabine – Eastern Missionary Baptist Association, organized December 3, 1847 at Border Church in Harrison County, by four churches (later renamed Soda Lake). The fifth was in the northeast – Red River Baptist Association, organized October 30, 1848, at Honey Grove Church in Fannin County, by eight churches. (Flowers and Fruits, pp. 277, 287-289).