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).

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