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. Bethel Baptist Church was constituted on Feb. 7, 1841, as a congregation of the Pilgrim Church of Regular Baptist Faith and Order. At that time a frame meetinghouse was built. Bethel broke off its fellowship with the Pilgrim Order in 1849, joining the Central Missionary Baptist Association. The name “Bethel” was changed about 1870 to “New Hope.” 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