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(Highlights in the History of Antioch Baptist Church)

We are grateful for information from the following people:

Dorice Baker - Brief history compiled in 1941
Bennie and Gail Portwood - Booklet compiled in 1976
Louise Coulter - Church Clerk for 29 years
Loye Point - Compiled history for this newspaper article

Because of lack of records we can but scan briefly the early history of Antioch Baptist Church as, unfortunately, the early records were destroyed by fire and those who make the history of our first church have long since passed on to their reward.

There are two schools of thought concerning the date of the founding of Antioch Baptist Church. For years Antioch has been listed in the Smith County Baptist Association minutes as having been organized in the year, 1851. However, it is believed the church was actually founded in the year, 1832.

If it was organized in 1832 - that colorful, exciting year that ushered in Andrew Jackson's turbulent second term as President of the United States, as well as the year of General Sam Houston's first visit to Texas - it makes Antioch one of the oldest, if not the oldest, church in Texas, being 152 year old.

The first pastor and the Names of the charter members are unknown and are lost. The faithful, God-fearing people pioneering for Texas Baptists banded themselves together as a worshiping unit, met and organized and christened their church "Antioch." Members traveled by horseback and ox-drawn wagons. During the first years of Antioch's organization, there were no church buildings, but members took turns holding services in homes of the members. Later on, they used a crude little school building as a place of worship.

Finally, in 1857, a plot of land was given to the church by the Estate of Mr. Frost Thorn, as he had expressed this wish to be carried out before his death. This deed was made to the church and signed by H. H. Edwards and James H. Starr, administrators of the Frost Thorn Estate. Trustees of the church at that time were William Buckett and Tarlton Bond, who had to travel horseback to Nacogdoches, Texas, to have the deed drawn and recorded, as there was no county courthouse in Tyler at the time. Nacogdoches was to local settlers at that time what New York would be to some of us today.

Soon after acquiring this tract of land, the members banded together, cut and dressed their timber and secured two reliable men of the community to construct the building. These two men, Mr. Lewis Todd and Mr. Billy Jarman, thus had the honor ob building Antioch's first house of worship.

Among the earlier pastors who preached or pastored Antioch Church after the Rev. William Ray were Rev. Bledsoe, Rev. Calahan, Rev. Carter, Rev. Hendrix, Caperton and Rev. Bob Clay. All these ministers traveled by horseback, taking their Bibles and clothing with them in their saddle pockets.

The earliest records show that the Carrol, Hitt, Lavender, Clay, Thorn, Preddy, Skiles, Randolph and Miller families were among the outstanding church workers during that period.

Many years passed of which we have little or no record. However, the community began to grow and many new citizens moved in. It was soon apparent that a new church building was needed. The members lost no time in tearing down the old building and erecting a new clap-board church building which served the Antioch Baptists for almost half a century.

Rev. J. J. Jones pastored Antioch pastored Antioch from 1885 to 1888. He was followed by Rev. W. H. Parker, who pastored for two years until 1890.

Among the leading families who were pillars of the church and community during that period and who built the church from a "one-horse" affair to the outstanding rural church in Smith County were: Milton Matthews, E. T. Brown, Ben Owen, Tom Beal, Sr. and Jr., J. S. Hitt, Rather, Joe Baker, Wiley Brothers, Dr. T. W. Thompson and W. D. Wilbanks families.

Pastors from around 1890 through 1906 were Rev. Willie Kembell, Rev. Cary Youngblood, Duke, Colthorp, Camel, Waller, Carr and Wadworth.

Around 1910 through 1920 another group of people had grown to take their place in the church or had moved in from other communities. Among them were: Jake Pitt, Dave Flowers, Claude Baker, Albert Jones, Jim Hardwick, Jim McMillian, Aus Hunt, Oscar Thomas, Tom Fortner, Herbert Shifflett, Ben Crook, Ralph Wade, Earl Dozier, Baine Thompson, Cecil Thompson, Ira Christian, Sr., Milton and Ira B. Christian, Jr., Jeff Coulter, Will Thomas, Essman, Floyd Brown, Willie and Ralph Wiley, Amos and Alvin Pitt, Roy Pitt, C. R. Thomas, Fred Moore, Hoyle Hitt, Matthews, Nep Hughes and M. N. Hynds families.

Later on the J. B. McKenzie, Jr., Joe Hawkins and Blackman families came, and still later, the J. G. Dykes family.

Pastors who served and guided the church during the years from 1906 to 1926 were: Rev. J. H. Roberts, Rev. W. W. Alfred, 1907; Rev. L. W. Duke, 1907 - 1916; Rev. J. L. Morrison, 1916 - 1919; Rev. J. R. Rozelle, 1919 - 1921; Rev. Z. T. Sullivan, 1921 - 1922 and Rev. Louis Kimberley, 1923 - 1926.

Mr. Jake Pitt, Sunday School Superintendent, faithfully held the Sunday School together during this period. Mr. Bert Baker, long-time church organist, followed Miss Nan Beal at the organ. Virgie Flowers Hart was church pianist and B.Y.P.U. Director.

The Baptist Young People Union (later B.T.U.) was organized during the pastorate of Rev. J. R. Rozelle. Since preaching days were only once a month, the Sunday School and B.Y.P.U. programs each Sunday maintained the church attendance. Mrs. Dollie Wade, B.Y.P.U. President, and Mr. John Hynds kept the union going. It was one of the most outstanding unions in East Texas.

From 1926 to 1933 Rev. E. B. Brooks, T. M. Dean, Raymond Fortner, Webb Hart and J.M.P. Morrow pastored the church. Also, Rev. C. J. Youngblood, former County Missionary, served as interim for quite a long time.

Following Rev. Morrow, Rev. W. M. Barber was called by the church as pastor in November, 1934. He served until 1941. Bro. Barber came to Sand Flat right in the middle of a spiritual and economical depression and faced a big task of pulling the church back on its feet with preaching once a month. But by constant spiritual nourishment and prayer, the church began to strengthen. In 1936, the pastor was recalled for half-time service, which was a big step forward for Antioch. In the summer of 1938, Bro. Barber voiced the church's need of a new building which coincided with the Cemetery Association's complaint that more room must be made for the cemetery. As always, in any worth-while undertaking, there were a few pessimists who promptly threw cold water on the idea of building a new church. They said we could not pay the preacher - much less build a new church building. But, at no time during the construction of the building did the building have to be stopped because of lack of funds. Funds were always ready and on hand as the bills arose.

With undaunted faith, Bro. Barber called a conference September 25, 1938, and announced that Antioch was going to build a new church building and appointed a Finance Committee composed of: Mr. Jeff Coulter, Mr. Floyd Brown, Mr. Fred Moore, Mr. Florence Wiley, Mr. Ralph Wade, Mr. Silas Rather, Mr. Sol Hitt, Mrs. J. B. McKenzie, Jr., Miss Dorice Baker, Mrs. Marcia Thomas, Mrs. Maxine Wiley, Mrs. Ruby Hawkins, Mr. Jim Coulter, Mr. Dick Coulter and Mr. Albert Jones.

The Building and Planning Committee was composed of: Mrs. Claude Baker, Mrs. Dollie Wade, Mrs. Pearl Flowers, Mrs. Cecil Thompson, Mr. Alvin Pitt, Mr. Claude Baker and Mr. Dick Land.

Since the cemetery was compelled to enlarge its grounds, the church voted to move the church building south across the road, which was done.

Antioch was ready to move forward. Thus was launched the biggest program in Antioch's history. Through the splendid help of scores of friends of the church and community, and through the constant faith and work of its pastor, the Antioch Baptist Church achieved its greatest dream - a new church free of all debt.

In the summer of 1939, even before the completion of the new building, a revival was held with Rev. E. B. Coon preaching. This was the first revival held in the new building and was the greatest that Sand Flat had ever witnessed. Thirty additions were made to the church.

From 1941, the next forty-three years in the history of Antioch Baptist Church involved approximately seventeen pastors and many changes in the church facilities.

Rev. R. R. Davidge came as pastor in November, 1941, and served until December, 1942. During his service, the church voted to adopt the Six Point Record System in Sunday School and to contribute to the Minister's Retirement Fund.

Rev. J. Stanley was called as pastor in February, 1943, and served until the fall of 1945. The old church bell was erected in the church yard during this time. The church voted to have business meetings each month following the Sunday Morning Services, to buy War Savings Bonds, to give two percent of the church offerings to Associational Missions and four percent to the Cooperative Program, and to buy fifty songbooks.

Rev. Elbert Wright served from December, 1945, until the fall of 1946, when Rev. W. E. Hill was called as pastor. In February, 1947, the church ordained Alvit Pitt, Audrey Gibson and Claude Baker as deacons. The church also purchased new chairs for the Sunday School rooms, bought fifty more songbooks and a butane system for the church building.

Rev. Arthur Howard served during 1950 and 1951, during which time the church had a Centennial Celebration to mark the church's 100th birthday. He was a student at Southwestern Theological Seminary and commuted between his home in Sand Flat and the Seminary.

In 1952 and 1953, Rev. Albert Dusek was pastor. Once again the church decided to build. Before a new Education Annex could be built, however, the church purchased an old barracks from Camp Fannin near Owentown and moved it next to the building to be used for classroom space. It was during this time that Training Union was at a peak. They averaged some months as high as 52. Soon, an Educational Annex with a kitchen was completed and ready for use. In addition, the church had a Young Peoples and Family Night every other Friday night beginning with the first Friday in March, 1952, accepted A. P. Zerr as a deacon, began an offering for the B.S.U. at Tyler Jr. College and the American Bible Society, and purchased a public address system and buzzer to be used in dismissing the classes.

Rev. Warren McAllister was called as pastor in March, 1954, and served until 1956. He and his wife moved into a house on the Rather property until plans could be completed to purchase or build a parsonage. A house was purchased and moved to the property adjacent to the church building and was ready for the McAllister to move in to in 1955.

In march, 1957, Rev. Francis Allen accepted the call as pastor. In the summer of 1960, the following men were ordained as deacons: James Coulter, J. B. McKenzie and Weaver Johnson.

Rev. Dennis Barnes came as interim pastor in December, 1960. In March of 1961, the church put down a new wooden floor in the sanctuary. Later, that same year, new wool carpet was installed.

Rev. Albert Dusek was called a second time as pastor in September, 1961, and served until the summer of 1962. During this time, the Baptist Standard became a part of the church budget and was mailed to each family. A new piano and choir chairs were purchased. The J. B. McKenzie family donated a new pulpit, altar table, platform chairs and pew cushions.

From September, 1963, to May, 1964, Rev. William Craig served as pastor. He was followed by Rev. Bolin of Hawkins, Texas, who was interim pastor until Rev. Norman Davis came in July, 1964. During these years, central heat and air-conditioning was installed in the sanctuary and later in the Educational Annex. Shortly after Bro. Davis was called as pastor, the carport on the parsonage was enclosed to make two new rooms. In 1968, John Hass was accepted as a deacon, having been ordained in another church.

Rev. F. R. Sudduth was pastor in 1969 and 1970. The church built a new baptistery in the sanctuary and an enclosed walkway between the main church building and the Educational Annex and installed new carpet.

In September 1971, Rev. Bennie Portwood was called as interim pastor and in December of the same year, he was called as pastor. During this five year period Sand Flat Community grew and the church grew with it. A new youth organization was formed in 1973, and in 1974 the youth choir had forty members. In 1975, Bro. Alvin Pitt was honored for having served as the chairman of the deacon body for twenty-five years. Antioch installed stained glass windows in the sanctuary, new floor covering the kitchen and nursery area, and new equipment throughout the building. Lecil Chandler and Jo Ben Turner were accepted as deacons, having been ordained in other churches before coming to Antioch. Jo Ben Turner became Ministry of Music in the fall of 1974. A graded choir program was developed. On July 4, 1976, Antioch celebrated its 125th birthday and the 200th birthday of our nation.

Bro Morman served as interim pastor from December 8, 1986 until January, 1977.

David Shephard, Jr. was pastor from January 16, 1977 to May 20, 1979. Bro. F. R. Sudduth was interim pastor from August 8, 1979 through January, 1980.

Rev. Craig Little became pastor February 3, 1980. He served until July 12, 1984. During his ministry, Phil Point became Minister of Music on September 20, 1981 and Mike Young served as Youth Director from December 4, 1983 to October 21, 1984. Mr. Harmon Phillips and Mr. Leon Neely were accepted as deacons, having been ordained in other churches before coming to Antioch. A new Prayer Room was constructed in 1982, choir robes were donated that summer, and the first church van was purchased in September, 1983. Also, in 1983, the sidewalk from the sanctuary to the Educational Annex was constructed and the parking lot was enlarged twice. The church sponsored a radio ministry on KMOO, Mineola. Recently, Mr. Barbara Chandler was presented a plaque for her 5 1/2 years of faithful service as our church treasurer.

The current church membership is 264 - 114 resident and 150 non-resident. the church financial status at this time is very good and the Lord continues to bless each month in this area.

Currently serving on the Church Staff are:

Dr. R. S. Crawford, Interim Pastor - Came in October, 1984
Phil Point, Minister of Music
Loye Point, Pianist and Custodian
Marguerite Point - Organist
Velma Akers - Nursery Worker
Sharon Volk - Church Treasurer

Currently serving as Officers, Trustees and Deacons are as follows:

OFFICERS: Louis Burleson - Sunday School Director
Leon Neely - Sunday School Secretary
Margaret Burleson - Assistant Sunday School Secretary
Louise Coulter - Church Clerk
Lila Coulter - Flower Chairman

TRUSTEES: Audrey Gibson and J. B. McKenzie

DEACONS: James Coulter (Chairman)
Audrey Gibson (Vice-Chairman)
L. A. Chandler (Secretary)
J. B. McKenzie
Leon Neely
John Hass

It is the New Year's wish of the membership of Antioch Baptist Church that this fellowship will continue to be a beacon of light in the Sand Flat Community.

Contributed by Jeff L. Bott - sandflat@gmail.com - 15 Jun 2000

Permission to publish on the internet granted by Antioch Baptist Church


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