As is true of other institutions, churches may disband after living a productive and successful life. This happened to the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church located at Gravel Hill, White County, Arkansas. It had a short, vibrant, and meaningful life, but it is now gone. However, the history and memories of that good church ought neither to be allowed to die nor to be lost. But we must tell you there is a real danger of that happening.
We feel there is a sense of Divine urgency associated with the task of recording and preserving the history of the church. Even now, it is difficult to recover many records that are essential to painting a true picture of Macedonia. We have been able to research the minutes (official records) of only about the first 20 years. And these are incomplete. Witnesses to the earlier years are rapidly being called to higher glories. We do have some financial records from later years that have proven to be helpful, but they do not provide all the information needed. The task of recovery and writing will become more difficult with each passing year. Therefore, we have come to realize that if a history of the church is to be written it must be done now. If we fail to do so the history and memories of the church will be completely lost and we will not have kept the faith of those who started and sustained the church during its life. So, we accept the challenge and begin our task with a sense of purpose and excitement – it will be a labor of love! In keeping with Esther 4:14, we keep wondering if perhaps we have "…come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
Eudell and I are both responsible for the research that has gone into the making of this book. We are most grateful for the information, pictures, and assistance provided by others and we gladly give them credit for the success of our "combined" efforts. It is dangerous to start naming those who have contributed to a project such as this because it is inevitable that some will not be mentioned who ought to be. Nevertheless, I do so because of their major contributions. This book simply could not have been written without their dedicated efforts. I take full blame for neglecting to include others who should have been prominently mentioned. Austin A. Carson, the oldest former member interviewed, has provided information that could not have been found elsewhere. Marie (Worthington) Quattlebaum, Dortha (Worthington) Holland, Norma (Stracener) Stacy, Pauline (Lawson) Burkett, Phil Tucker, Dee Thomas, Velda Ree (Benton) Cook, Ernest L. McCain Jr., and Cora Perry have provided pictures and invaluable information. Our sincere appreciation is extended to these and others. Without their contributions this work would be less interesting and less valuable. To each we say, "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts." Again, I apologize to any that have been inadvertently overlooked.
Eudell has been in charge of the gathering and reproduction of the pictures that have captured the life of the church. Dave and Maureen Haro, KopyKat, and Ernie R. Pascual, Jr., Zoom Developing, have enhanced the work through their professional photograph touches. I have written the text; however, it has the stamp of approval from both.
During our research and writing we have gained a better understanding of and appreciation for those who built a good community in which to live and even better church in which to worship. The congregation may have disbanded and the building decayed; however, the church (people) left us a Godly legacy that will continue until Christ returns and beyond. Really, it will be alive throughout all eternity. I am sure none of them thought they were providing an eternal legacy, but they did. I will write more about their contributions as I complete the text.
Now, let us take a look at the church!
Gravel Hill was home to the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. This community is located about 17 miles west of Searcy (White County seat), Arkansas. It has little to distinguish it from other communities in the area, but to me it will always be very special. The post office at Romance was the mailing address for the church. Yes, folks, there is a real place named Romance. The post office is still alive and doing very well. Each year the postmaster receives thousands of valentines to be hand stamped and forwarded to romantic recipients around the world.
Gravel Hill can be reached by traveling west out of Searcy on Highway 36 (Pleasure Street) through Center Hill to Joy. From Joy go west a couple of miles and then south to the community. Another route for reaching the community begins at Beebe and goes west through Antioch and Floyd (where I graduated from high school) to intersect the road leading to Gravel Hill from the south. A third way to get there is by traveling north on Highway 5 to Romance and then on to the community.
During the life of the church, Gravel Hill was a well populated rural community having four stores ("Preacher" Hays’, Jimmy Stracener’s, Homer Lawson’s, Robert Lawson’s), two churches, Goodman’s Blacksmith Shop and Grist Mill (I can still smell that wonderful fresh corn meal), a cotton gin, a post office (at Everett for the northern part of the community) for a while, a doctor’s office, and a two-room country school for students from grade one through grade eight. The community has vastly changed through the years. One church, Bethel Freewill Baptist, remains. The stores and school plus the other things mentioned have disappeared one at a time until now they are all gone. I should add that some of the masonry walls of the beautiful school building (constructed by the W.P.A. during the Depression) still stand, but are quite unusable. Only the site remains where the Macedonia church proudly stood. Electric service was introduced in 1940. There have been other great community improvements in recent years. The primary road has been upgraded from dirt to gravel to being paved. Water has been piped in and wells are no longer necessary. There is telephone service, garbage disposal, and fire protection. There is even United Parcel Service pickup and delivery. Now that is real progress.
It remains a beautiful farming and ranching area. Tree farming was started a few years ago. During the life of the church, it was basically a cotton farming area; however, not today. In fact, no cotton is grown in the entire county. It is just too labor intensive and other crops are now more suitable. Soybeans, rice, hay, and other such crops have replaced cotton. Mechanical power has replaced the hands of men and for good cause.
My wife, Eudell, the daughter of Raymond D. and Cora (Carson) Coody, is a native of the community. Her mother was the daughter of Joseph "Joe" Washington and Eliza (Quattlebaum) Carson. Her father was the son of James William and Theodosia Victoria "Dessie" (Surratt) Coody. Raymond was a teenager when he moved with his father to Gravel Hill from East Texas. Raymond and Cora were members of the church for about 30 years before moving to Texas in 1949.
I moved with my parents, Golden "Golder" and Gertrude (West) Turpin, to Gravel Hill in 1931 from Granite City, Illinois. My mother, the daughter of Albert Lafayette "Fate" and Izella "Dellie" (Lawson) West, was a native of the community. However, my father was a native of Missouri having moved to Gravel Hill with his parents, John Thomas and Viola (Heath) Turpin, in the second decade of the 1900s. John and Viola were both natives of Kentucky. Golden and Gertrude sold their large farm in 1950 and moved to Searcy.
Our family continues to own the beautiful 40-acre "Coody Farm" inherited from Eudell’s parents. After many years of ranching, it is now a tree farm. It is posted and a haven for all sorts of birds and animals. I counted more than a dozen deer driving just two sides of the farm. We have another family connection with the community. A few years ago our daughter, Susan Jones, and her family bought the "Carson Place" formerly owned by her great grandparents, Joseph and Eliza Carson.
While we have been gone from the community many years, Gravel Hill still has a very special place in our lives. In fact, it is still "home." We just live elsewhere. When possible, we attend the annual community Home Coming held at the Freewill Baptist Church. It is such a joy to renew old acquaintances and meet new friends. However, I must tell you I feel a tinge of nostalgia and sadness when I see the site of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church building. For it was there as a 13-year-old boy that I made my profession of faith and there I preached after becoming a minister.
NEW CHURCH ORGANIZED
According to the records, a group met at the Gravel Hill schoolhouse on the Second Sunday of October 1904. It was only recently that I learned where that school building was located. I had assumed that it was the old two-story white one that preceded the beautiful rock building constructed in the 1930s by the W.P.A. However, that is incorrect. The original school was located off the Romance Road. It was down a lane and north of the home of Sam Wiggs. There it sat on a 10-acre lot.
Very little was written about the formation of the church. A movement had just begun that led Landmark Baptists to establish what would come to be known as the American Baptist Association. Ben M. Bogard, a founder of the denomination, was pastor of the First Baptist Church, Searcy. Whether three was a connection between the movement and the new Gravel Hill church being started is unknown. Regardless of the factors at play in bringing about a new church, we may be sure that those involved felt they were doing the will of God. Furthermore, a community the size of Gravel Hill needed its own Baptist church. The closest ones had been in Romance and Joy.
It would have been wonderful if larger and more complete records had been kept. I would like to know who attended and participated in the meeting, but such information is not presently available – indeed, it probably never existed. I am sure ministers and members of other churches came to participate in the exciting activity and to pray God’s blessing upon the new congregation.
A presbytery (organizing body) was formed with the Rev. C.B. Parsons being elected moderator and B.T. (Benjamin Thomas) West was the clerk. There is no record of the composition of the presbytery with the exception of those just mentioned. A presbytery was/is usually made up of denominational ministers and deacons living within the area. There was a call for the letters of those wishing to become members of the church. The letters (documents that they had previously been members of a Baptist church) were received, read, and examined by the presbytery. Nothing is said about the churches from which the letters were issued. The 10 presenting letters were:
(It is interesting that the ladies, with the exception of "Nelipy" Stracener, were not mentioned in their own right, but rather as wives of joining men. However, we have been able to identify the good ladies. Also, it should be noted that six of the 10 founding members were related. "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum was the brother of "Cindy" Stracener. "Alec" and "Nelipy" were children of "Cindy" Stracener.
The Articles (?) were read and adopted. The name of the new congregation was to be the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. The Rev. C.B. Parsons was elected the church’s first pastor and moderator. J.L. Hays was elected church clerk. Later Hays was to become pastor of the church.
During the service Mary Cato was received as a member of the church. In doing so she became the first non-founding member of the church. It is said that she later disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
At this point, let me say that the founding of the church is very personal for us. Eudell is the great-granddaughter of "Uncle Billy" and Lucetta Quattlebaum. The B.T. West, mentioned as clerk of the presbytery and a founding (charter) member of the church, was the brother of William Hardy West – my great-grandfather. Thus our families were associated with the church during its entire history. I have reason to believe that B.T. West might have been a deacon, but can’t be sure. It was customary, among Association and Landmark Baptists of that day and area, for a forming presbytery to be composed of all Baptist "preachers and deacons" present. If that custom prevailed, he was already an ordained deacon. However, because we can’t be sure, I have not listed him as such in the section on deacons.
This was the beginning of a church that was to last just a bit over half a century. There is no way of knowing the good that was accrued in that time and since. We do know that its influence in the community was considerable and that it still lives on in the lives of those who worshipped in that Christian congregation.
It will be helpful if we know a little about the founding families. The 10 founding members came from three families: Quattlebaum – Stracener (basically one family), West, and Hays. It will be noted that the families either were or became intertwined and interrelated, especially so as the years progressed when the children of one family married children of the others. It finally got to the point that almost everyone was related to someone in the other families. The pattern continues to this day.
QUATTLEBAUM – STRACENER
It will be easily seen this was really one extended family. I say they were one family because a lady of one family (Stracener) was the sister of a man in the other (Quattlebaum). As with the other families, we know little of the Gravel Hill arrival of the Quattlebaums and Straceners.
George Frederick Quattlebaum was the oldest of his family to locate. He was born in Edgefield (District), South Carolina. Many Quattlebaums continue to reside on the Eastern Seashore. He and his first wife, Barbara Polatty, moved to Benton County, Alabama, in 1817, where their daughter Talitha Lucinda "Aunt Cindy" was born in 1848. We have not been able to determine either when or where she and William Louis "Uncle Louis" Stracener were married. Neither do we know when they moved to the western part of White County, Arkansas. They were founding members of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. Her brother, William Benjamin "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum was born in 1854 also in Alabama. He married Lucetta Raye and they lived in White County by 1876 when their oldest child, Janie, was born. Janie married Thomas Cato. William and Lucetta Quattlebaum were founding members of the church.
Two children of William Louis and Lucinda Stracener were founding members of the church. They were Alexander "Alec" and Penelope "Nelipy." "Alec" married Lula Mae Cohorn and "Nelipy" married Ed Crossland. From the above it is seen that six of the 10 founding members came from the Quattlebaum – Stracener family. The members of the extended family made major contributions to both church and community.
It was fitting that Edgar F. Lawson, a grandson of founder William Benjamin "Uncle Billy" and Lucetta Quattlebaum, was to serve as the last pastor of the church before it disbanded. He was also the son of Ada Esther (Quattlebaum) Lawson, an early church clerk. Dee Thomas, a great-grandson of Uncle Billy," was one of the last church clerks.
My mother, Gertrude, was a West before her marriage. As it true of the other founding families, we know little of the West’s arrival in Arkansas. We do know that Massey Washington West was probably the oldest of the family to relocate to the area. He was my great-great-grandfather. Massey was born in Greenville (District), South Carolina, in 1831. He died in 1910 and is buried in the Mt. Hebron Cemetery at Joy, Arkansas.
Massey first moved from South Carolina to Spring Place, Georgia. He married Nancy E. Pate at Bald Ground, Georgia. After Nancy’s death, we do not know either when or where she died, he married Martha Moffit. The son of Massey and Nancy, William Hardy (my great-grandfather) was born in Spring Place in 1852. Another son, Benjamin Thomas, was born there in 1856. Both William Hardy and Benjamin Thomas West moved to Arkansas. We don’t know when they arrived in White County; however, it was sometime prior to 1874 because William Hardy’s oldest son, Albert Lafayette "Fate" (my grandfather), was born there that year. William Hardy, my great-grandfather, and my Grandfather "Fate" are buried in the Gravel Hill Gray Cemetery.
It was Benjamin Thomas West, my great-grandfather’s brother, who was to play a leading role in the founding of the Gravel Hill church. Benjamin Thomas, also referred to by his initials B.T., married Mary Elizabeth Crockett, the daughter of the frontiersman Davy Crockett. We know neither where nor when they met. "B.T." was clerk of the presbytery (founding organization) – which might indicate that he was a deacon. He was to serve as church clerk for several years. He and Mary Elizabeth were instrumental in establishing a church where my mother and I were to both worship as little children and to become members when we were older. "B.T." and "Molly" are buried in the Center Hill Cemetery located near the Baptist Church.
I am thankful that the Wests joined the Quattlebaum – Stracener and Hays families in founding a church that has blessed my life in so many wonderful ways.
We know less about the Hays family than any of the others. However, we have discovered significant information. We really can’t be sure of the time they arrived, but we have determined a time they were already in White County, Arkansas. Julian L. and Julia F. (Crocker) Hays were the senior members of the family. Family members tell us Julian was a native of Louisiana and Julia was a Tennessean by birth.
Julian was born January 20, 1868, and died September 16, 1940. Julia was born September 1, 1868, and died April 27, 1950. Both are buried at the Gravel Hill Gray Cemetery that is adjacent to our family farm on the south side. In addition to being church workers, they were merchants and business people. The Hays Store served the community and surrounding area for many years. Julian was known as an accommodating citizen. He was always willing to make special purchases for people in the community. In a time of little transportation, he would always let people ride in his truck to town as it made regular business runs. In addition to being a store, his place was a sort of social gathering place for the community. It was there people met for Christmas Eve and other such events.
As already stated, we do not know when the Hays family moved to White County. We do know they were already well established by the time Raymond D. Coody, my father-in-law, and his father moved there about 1920 because they purchased a farm on the "flats’ from Frank Hays, the son of Julian and Julia. People who have known the community for many years say they think the Hays family probably moved there in the early 1900s.
Julian and Julia Hays were founding members of the church. On the day the church was started he was "elected church clerk for the ensuing year." Later he was "liberated" by the church to preach and became pastor on several occasions. They played a leading role in the church most of its history.
The Hays’ son, Albert, married Trissie Carson, the granddaughter of "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum. Thus the Quattlebaum – Stracener family and the Hays family were united.
The Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church was housed in at least four buildings during its life. Now, the church needs to be distinguished from the building where it meets. The two are often considered to be synonymous. People refer to the "church" when speaking of either the congregation or the building. Like others, I make the same mistake. Let us first establish a definition of the church. I recognize that yours maybe different from mine and that is O.K. For our purpose here, let me give mine. I define a New Testament church as being a local body of baptized believers who are associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel. This body has two ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) of Christ, commits itself to His teachings, exercises the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His word, and seeks to extend the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The church is an autonomous body, operating through democratic processes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The church usually, but not always, has a "home" or place where it lives somewhat permanently. Most often, we refer to that place as being a "house." Thus, we have a "church house."
According to the records and other reliable sources, the Gravel Hill church had at least four "homes." Plus consideration was given to having another, but that did not work. The church houses were as follows:
I can’t remember a piano in building number three – the one being used when we moved to the community, however, it must have had one for money was collected in May, 1930, for that purpose. All I can remember was the pump organ. In 1938, a beautiful piano was bought for the new building. We could not find the exact date when it was purchased, but we did find an entry that J.D. Pope, a Searcy piano dealer, was paid in full for the musical instrument on November 11, 1939. That was the piano I played for worship services and singing events. As the church was being closed, it was given to the Unity Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Arkansas. That congregation has since changed its name to North Jacksonville Missionary Baptist Church.
It seems the last building and lot was sold to two ladies from Chicago. It was their intention to put a beauty shop in the building. However, a reverting clause was found in the deed and they could not get a clear title to the property. It reverted to the estate of Walter and Minnie (Lawson) Quattlebaum and the title passed on to Vernon Barnett who had purchased the farm.
Most churches keep a roster of its members giving names, dates of joining, and dates of leaving if that has occurred. Some even list the offices held. Also, a running total is kept so a report of membership can be accurately determined at any given rate. It is regrettable that we have not been able to find such a roster for Macedonia. I was clerk in the 1940s, but can’t remember if we had one at that time.
The official minutes mention a few joining the church, but not many. Landmark Baptist churches received members one of three ways: 1) baptism by immersion upon profession of faith, 2) transfer of letter from a church of like faith and order, and 3) statement that one had been a member of a church of like faith and order, but it was impossible to get a letter of transfer. Such was the custom of the Gravel Hill church. Presently, churches give opportunities for membership during a period of "invitation" near the end of worship services. During the years covered by the extant minutes, an opportunity for membership was given during the business meeting. I do not remember that being the custom when I was a member. The only time I remember an "invitation" being given was during a revival. Even then one was not given until the revival had been underway for a few days.
A list of the founding members can be located in the section entitled NEW CHURCH ORGANIZED. They all joined with letters of transfer in hand. Today we would call those 10 Charter Members. During the organizing meeting, Mary Cato, sister of Thomas Cato, joined the church. Thus she became the first non-founding member. There is no information given as to how she joined. Two weeks later M.J. "Martha Jane" (Quattlebaum) Cato joined by transfer of letter. No identification is given to the church from which she transferred. In August 1906, Lula (Cohorn) Stracener, wife of founding member "Alec" Stracener, was baptized and received into full fellowship (membership). "A nine-day protracted meeting" was held in September 1907 resulting in 11 new members. This seems to have been the first time several new members joined at one time. Six came by baptism and five by transfer of letter. I give the spelling of names as I interpret them to have been written. The new members were:
For a number of years no mention was made of others joining the church. I am sure others must have joined during that period; however, there is no record of them doing so.
In June 1912, two presented themselves for membership, but could not be accepted because they had been "excluded" from another church. Macedonia voted to investigate their situation, however, no follow-up report was given. Thus we do not know who they were or whether they were ever received. On Saturday night before the First Sunday in May 1918, Dovie Morgan and Florence (West) Cato became members "by experience of baptism." Florence was my grandfather Albert Lafayette "Fate" West’s half-sister. Fletcher Cato, deacon and her husband, was killed in a cotton gin accident. Later, she married Pink Stracener. Della Lawson was "received and baptized" into the fellowship the following day. She was the daughter of Ada (Quattlebaum) Lawson, who served as church clerk for several years. Della was to become my Grandfather "Fate’s" second wife and thus by step-grandmother. I think she made the finest biscuits I ever ate. She was pleased when I told her that a short time before her death.
In August 1919, Flossie (Stracener) Hays, wife of Ed and daughter-in-law of "Preacher" Hays, a founding member, joined by baptism. She was the daughter of Jimmy and Annie (West) Stracener. At a revival in August 1921, 25 joined the church: 24 by baptism and one by letter. The names of the 25 are not given.
Little additional information related to membership is found. An article about the church published in the April 10, 1939, issue of the Orthodox Baptist Searchlight states that the church was started in 1904 with 10 members. The membership had grown to45 in 1934 when the last building was constructed. Finally, the membership stood at 54 at the time of the article. I really have no idea what the highest total might have been. Membership and support declined to the point that the church was disbanded about 1958.
I do not know either how many were members during the history of the church or how many were blessed by its ministry. However, I do know that it played a significant role in the lives of people living in and near Gravel Hill.
Two types of church officers are prominently mentioned in the New Testament. They are pastors and deacons. Through the years, the church has found it advisable to add other positions and functions in properly carrying out the Great Commission. We will look at the pastors of the church in this section and the deacons in the next.
From the beginning pastors have been the leaders of the church. They were responsible for preaching the Gospel, teaching (directly or indirectly) the Bible, evangelizing, counseling, administering the affairs of the church, and providing overall leadership for the congregation. We have tried every way possible to identify all that served as pastor; however, we are in no way sure our list is complete. As will be stated in several places, the records are incomplete. If others served as pastor, we regret not knowing of their service to God and people. We thank God for their contributions to the Kingdom of God.
It was the custom and practice of the church to call its pastor annually. In other words, he served one year and had to be called again if he was to serve longer. Presently, most churches call their pastor for an "indefinite period." They serve until either church or pastor wishes to make change. Several of those listed below served for more than one year and on more than one occasion.
The information provided us indicates that the following served as pastor:
C.B. PARSONS – He served as moderator of the presbytery as it organized the church and as the first pastor. I know little about him. We do know the Missionary Baptist Church at Salem granted him a letter of transfer. However, there is no address given for the Salem church plus it is neither signed nor dated. However, he made a major contribution by leading the church during its earliest period.
G.H.W. WRIGHT – As is true of others, we know almost nothing of this minister. In August 1906, he is listed as being moderator of the church. He was to be called as pastor in subsequent years.
WILLIAM C. BLANCETT – He was called to be pastor in August 1907. After being charged with "unchristian conduct," the church withdrew fellowship from him and others. Also, there was a request for the return of his ministerial credentials.
JULIAN L. HAYS – He was a resident of the community, merchant, and founder of the church. He was licensed "liberated" to preach on Saturday before the Second Sunday of February 1909. From the records we have, it is impossible to tell when he became pastor. However, he was serving in that capacity by June 1911. He served in that office on several occasions. He was the first pastor I remember.
J.A. WILLIAMS – He is listed as pastor in September 1916. He served until sometime in 1919.
J.M. BALLARD – The June 1919 minutes list him as pastor. After September 1920, he is no longer listed as moderator.
SETH SPEARS – He was elected pastor in September 1922. He was the brother of Labe Spears who was to become pastor. I don’t know Seth very well. His first name is spelled several ways in the minutes.
LABE SPEARS – We found no record of when he served. However, he is fondly remembered by many. He started fast, preached fast, and ended fast. I like that! There was no lost time during the delivery of his sermons. He and Seth, his brother, were faithful servants of God.
JOHN A. PETTUS – He is described as a good "preacher." As I recall, he lived either in or near Searcy.
JOHN L. CAUSEY – I remember him better than most. This is true because he baptized Eudell, Ray Hays, and me in a very cold Des Arc Creek. Also, he was a debater. Furthermore, he could be controversial and divisive. I remember one statement he made that caused a lot of hurt feelings, but I will not repeat it. For if I did it would cause additional problems. Today I prefer peace to problems! He was called in 1936 and served two years.
LEO CAUSEY – He was the brother of John. They both studied at the Missionary Baptist Institute in Little Rock. Several pastors of the church studied at the Bible School sponsored by the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
W.O. EAST – I don’t remember him. The only reference to his ministry I found was in an article published in the April 10, 1939, issue of the Orthodox Baptist Searchlight which said he had been pastor "for the past year."
CHRIS BARHAM – I remember Barham very well for he often stayed in our home. He introduced Ernest L. McCain Sr. to the church and community. Ernest married Elva Hays and for a number of years they made Gravel Hill their home. I believe Barham’s home was in Prescott, Arkansas. He was a good pastor and a very friendly person.
JULIAN POPE – He was pastor in 1943 the year I enlisted for military service in the Army. He and his wife were always well dressed and professional looking. His sermons were well prepared and well delivered. He was one of my favorite pastors. His comforting words of encouragement remained with me until I completed my military duties.
SIDNEY R. CROOK – I remember him as a visiting missionary, but not as pastor of the church. His pastorate took place after I left the community. He was called to preach in 1918 and was ordained by the Russell Missionary Baptist Church, Russell, Arkansas. He also served as a local, state, interstate, and foreign missionary. It has been stated that he helped establish 35 churches in Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri, Texas, and California. Velda Ree Benton, a granddaughter of Founder "Alec" Stracener, married his son, Ben.
WAYNE BRANSON – While he served in the later years of the church, I do not remember him. I have been told he was a widower, his wife having been killed in an automobile accident. He seems to have been a well-liked pastor.
JOHNNY SLOAT – He was pastor during the 1950s. He had a radio program on station K.W.C.B. His daughter, Thelma, was musician for the program. I do remember hearing him preach. My last conversation with him occurred at the Searcy bus station.
LESTER WOODS – He served as next-to-last pastor of the church. He helped us establish the date for the ending of the church. He lives at Floral, Arkansas.
EDGAR F. LAWSON – His grandfather, "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum, was a founder of the church. Edgar was to be the last pastor. He was a native of Gravel Hill. Following his ministry there he helped establish the Pioneer Baptist Church, Joy, Arkansas, and the Douglas Street Missionary Baptist Church, Omak, Washington. This church is either on or near an Indian reservation. His son continues to pastor the church. Edgar, a naval veteran of World War II, died in 1963 and is buried at Bridge Port, Washington.
NOTE – It has been reported to us that Albert Garner served as pastor; however, we have no information on him.
Many ministers preached at the church during the years. Some of them were:
According to the beliefs of most Baptists, the church has two types of officers that are mandated by the New Testament: pastors and deacons. I think most will agree, after a careful study of the New Testament, deacons are to be servants of the church. Their task is to serve with their pastor and workers in performing pastoral ministries such as proclaiming the Gospel to believers and unbelievers, care for church members and others in the community, leading the church to engage in a fellowship of worship, witness, education, ministry, as he administers the church program.
Very little is said about the deacons in the Gravel Hill church. I can’t remember them doing much except assisting when the Lord’s Supper was observed. However, as a kid, I held them in awe thinking they were a "special kind of men." I regret to say I have found some deacons who thought they were supposed to run the church. I can’t assess the attitude of Macedonia’s deacons, but I doubt they thought they were dictators. Church records and information provided by others indicate that at least the following served in that capacity:
"Alec" Stracener, W.F. Cato, and W.R. Quattlebaum were elected in September 1918. Stracener, a founding member of the church, was ordained in March of the following year. Nothing is said about the ordination of the others. There is another entry that indicates that Frank Hays and Fletcher Cato were elected deacons on December 2, 1922. I can’t reconcile the accounts of Fletcher Cato being elected twice, as deacons served for life after being ordained.
I doubt the above list is complete. Others probably served without a record being kept. I suspect B.T. West, another founding member and the brother of my great-grandfather, may have been a deacon. I base that assumption on the fact that he served as clerk of the presbytery when the church was organized. Among Landmark Baptists, it was customary for the organizing body to be composed of pastors (preachers) and deacons. However, I can’t be sure of the makeup of the presbytery.
CLERKS – TREASURERS
The clerks (secretaries) kept the minutes of business meetings and were responsible for recording the official transactions of the church. They were elected annually by the church. When a clerk was absent from a business meeting a clerk Pro Tem (temporary clerk) was either elected or appointed. The treasurers were responsible for receiving and disbursing funds as directed by the church. In the early years nothing was said about a treasurer. I wonder how the funds were administered. They could have had one, but the office was just not mentioned. There was no listing of a treasurer until October 1917 when W.B. "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum was elected to the office. Later the two offices were combined. This was done at least by the time Raymond Coody was elected to the offices about 1930.
As has been stated, we do not have all of the historical records (minutes) and the ones we have are in very poor condition. In the early years, the clerks made no attempt to keep them in consecutive order. They seem to have used whatever space was available wherever it could be found. Many entries are not even dated. Few entries record members joining the church. Thus it is impossible to determine either who or how many persons were members of that church. This is most regrettable for it would provide invaluable community and church information. Evidently, it was either kept elsewhere or thought to be unimportant. I can’t remember if such information was available when I served as clerk. We have some records that can’t be read – even with computer enhancement – because they were written in a school notebook and they have long ago faded. Others either has been erased, scratched through, or defaced in some way. However, what we have is both interesting and valuable.
As was true with the pastors and deacons, we have no way of knowing if we have found the names of all who served as clerk – treasurers. Probably some served, but their names have not been found and thus are not listed. With the help of others, we have done the best we could. We do know the following served.
WORSHIP – SPECIAL ACTIVITIES – ASSOCIATION
While I was a member, worship services were held monthly – always on Saturday night before the first Sunday each month plus the next morning. That was called quarter-time "preaching." Most people in the community went to preaching twice a month. The Bethel Freewill Baptist Church held services on Saturday night before the third Sunday and then on the following morning. Thus the community had "preaching" twice a month – once at each church. In other words, there was half time preaching at Gravel Hill. The churches had a very fine cooperating attitude toward each other. Each church had its Sunday School weekly. Following Bible study, the people assembled at the church where "preaching" was to take place. This might include those who were members of neither church. The churches seemed to be the social gathering places for the community. There were always some on the churchyard that never went inside. They would spit, whittle, discuss the crops and world affairs, and do all sorts of things while "preaching" was going on. Sometimes, especially in the summer when the windows were open (there was no air conditioning), the discussion got so hot and loud as to be heard inside. The boys "inside" often looked forward to growing up so they could stay "outside" and talk. That seemed like it would be more fun than being inside sweating in our Sunday best. And we wore our best – whatever that might be. My mother let me know in very certain terms that I would never be old enough to stay outside. So I went inside and enjoyed the worship services!
There was basically no difference in either the Saturday night or Sunday morning services. They were rather informal. There was no real order of service and no church bulletin. Yet there was a set pattern at the "Rock Church." After considerable and often animated conversation someone would look at a watch and determine that it was time to "start." There would be an extended period of singing. Several might direct "songs" during that period. More than one might play the piano. The directors would usually be Raymond Coody, Frank Hays, Austin Carson, Edral Price and me. During afternoon "singings" others would lead. Mrs. Mertie Worthington, Mary Ann Carson, Lissie Hawk, Eudell Coody, Marie Worthington, Elva Hays, or I would play the piano. I sort of did double duty!
Sometimes we would have "special music" by a quartet composed of Opal (Barnett) West (soprano), Mary Ann (Price) Carson (alto), Austin A. "Kit" Carson (tenor) and Raymond D. Coody (bass). Mrs. Mertie Worthington usually accompanied the quartet. For the most part the songs we sung did not come out of what we could call a hymnbook. Rather, we sang "Gospel" songs published by such firms as the Stamps-Baxter Music Co., Stamps Quartet Music Co, the Vaughan Music Co., and my favorite – the Hartford Music Co. The songs were "real contemporary" because they were published three or four times a year. Now, it should not be thought that we had no "good" music for we did. Certainly most of the songs did not become either "classics" or "masterpieces." However, just as with other genre of music, some did. It was in that small church that I first heard and sang I’ll Fly Away, Jesus, Hold My Hand, I’ll Meet You in the Morning, If We Never Meet Again, I’m Bound for That City, and There’s a Little Log Cabin.
After the congregation became tired of singing, the service was turned over to the "preacher." The music was not selected in keeping with the message to be delivered. Nor was the sermon necessarily in keeping with the music. None of the "preachers" would have been considered highly educated in keeping with present-day standards. A couple (Ben M. Bogard and D.N. Jackson) had doctor’s degrees; however, they were "honorary" and not earned. Some of the ministers either had or were attending Bogard’s Missionary Baptist Institute in Little Rock. That Bible School was held in and sponsored by the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church – Bogard’s congregation. The Institute was of tremendous service. It provided inexpensive Bible and theological instructions to Landmark Baptist ministers. There was either little or no tuition. Most students were pastors of small churches that provided at least some income. Church members happily shared food with their pastor – even during a time of depression.
For the most part, the sermons were Biblically and theologically sound. The messages were probably not homiletical models for sermons. But they were well received and effective. Shouting was not unknown during worship services! I really enjoyed and was blessed by those sermons – except when they were too long. I prefer short sermons! I really didn’t have "anywhere to go" – I just got hungry early. And Sunday "dinner" after morning preaching was something in those days.
Usually no offering was taken. Offerings were given to the clerk – treasurer following the worship services. Invitations for salvation and church membership were extended only during revivals and then only after several services. In the early years of the church opportunities for membership was given at business meetings. I don’t remember this being true when I was a member. Later, new members came into the church during times of revival.
I would describe the worship (preaching) services as being meaningful and a blessing to those who attended. They continue to bear fruit in the lives of those who yet serve in other churches and communities. I have worshipped God in churches around the world; however, none of those services meant more to me than those at the little "Rock Church."
SPECIAL SERVICES / ACTIVITIES
As with most congregations, our church had special services and activities that I remember with a real fondness. Going to "church" was more than just going to church. It was an event plus it provided exercise – not that it was really needed – because many if not most walked. As has been said, much of the community’s social activities centered in the two churches. In addition to providing opportunities for worship and Bible study, the church was the entertainment center; however, I doubt that any would have thought of it as entertainment. But, it really was! Remember, in the 1930s and ‘40s there was no television. In fact, most homes had no radio or musical instrument. One had to travel to either Searcy or Beebe, each 17 miles away, to see a "Moving Picture Show." In the summers there were baseball games, picnics, and fishing trips, but not many. The church provided most opportunities for singles to date. If there had been no church "meetings" I think many would have never married. So we went to church to study the Bible, worship, to socialize, to entertain and be entertained, to date, and for other worthwhile activities.
While the Lord’s Supper was observed in a regular church service, I think of it as a special activity. This was true because of the very nature of the event. It was not observed often –perhaps once a year. To me it was and still is an exciting service. After joining the church, I could hardly wait for my first opportunity to take the Lord’s Supper. It was always the Lord’s Supper – never communion. I learned early that the Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of a church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His Second Coming. I learned that the bread and wine did not really change into the blood and body of Christ, but remained the same. Salvation is not imparted through the Lord’s Supper. That comes through repentance and faith. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, sanctification, and glorification.
I can remember the deacons preparing for and serving the Lord’s supper. In fact, this is the only thing that I can remember the deacons doing. I am sure they did many worthwhile things, but I can’t remember them. The church, as was true of most if not all Landmark Baptist Churches, practiced "Closed Communion." This meant that only the members of that church participated. Others were not invited. In fact, they were prevented from observing. It was considered to be a "church ordinance" to be observed only by members of that church.
In the Bible wine was used in this service to represent the blood of Christ; however, Macedonia used grape juice. Everyone drank from the same cup. This would be neither wise nor acceptable today. There are just too many communicable diseases that could be passed from one to another that way. I remember a heavy emphasis, enough to frighten some, on I Corinthians 11:27 which says, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." For me that was a bit scary until I was taught that unworthily referred to the manner in which it might be taken. No one is really worthy enough to participate in such a sacred service! It remains one of my favorite worship services.
For me, baptism was another very special service of the church. This took place in the very clear and cold Des Arc Creek. This creek ran through the lower part of our farm. I enjoyed playing and fishing in it, but for some reason it always seemed to be colder for baptisms. In later years some baptisms were in our stock pond. As with the Lord’s Supper, I was taught early what the church believed to be the true meaning of baptism. That church said the Bible taught that Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen savior; the believer’s death to sin; the burial of the old life; and, the resurrection to walk in newness of life with Jesus Christ.
Baptism was required for those becoming members of the Baptist church for the first time. It was possible to join another Baptist church by transfer of letter or by stating that one had been a member of a church of like faith and order, but a letter could not be obtained. Eudell, Ray Hays, and I were baptized upon profession of faith in August 1937. That remains a special day for me.
In those days, it was not unusual for Landmark Baptist ministers to "hold" debates with ministers of other denominations. They usually observed rather strict rules of debate. A subject(s) was chosen, seconds (assistants) selected, and positions assigned. Each side debated either for or against the stated question. Dr. Ben M. Bogard was probably the world’s all-time champion religious debater. He began at the age of 36. Just after his 80th birthday he met his 237th and last opponent in public debate. He held just over five debates a year for almost four and one-half decades. I can remember hearing him debate, but nothing that was said.
I remember the Gravel Hill church having two debates. There were probably more, but I don’t remember them. One was between the Macedonia Church and the Bethel Freewill Church. I remember attending the other, but don’t know where it was held. In each instance, John L. Causey was our debater. I have heard it said that he was good at this business. I doubt anything positive was accomplished in either. I know the one held in Gravel Hill caused a lot of division in the community plus a lot of hard feelings. Of course, each side was sure its preacher won the debate and rewarded him with ribbons and gifts of money. I have always thought that there were more positive ways to proclaim the Gospel and the love of God than through debates.
FIFTH SUNDAY MEETINGS
There was another activity that I thought interesting. It was called a "FIFTH SUNDAY MEETING." This quarterly Association affair was an all-day event. It rotated among the churches of the Stevens Creek Association. I really don’t know how the host church was selected, but it must have been on an invitation basis. Our church entertained the meeting every year or so. I remember it was always considered a very special event. Special efforts were made in preparation for the anticipated activity.
All ministers of the denomination residing in the area were invited to attend and speak. We always looked forward to having the "Big Preachers." That meant Bogard, a missionary, or another well-known personality. Subjects to be discussed or "preached on" were selected. Sometimes they were assigned to certain speakers. Other times they were up for grabs. The only subject I remember that brought a lot of heated discussion was what does it mean when Jesus said, "Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead." I don’t remember anything that was said, but all the ministers wanted to participate in the discussion.
Others were interested in who was going to speak and what they would say. I was more interested in the "dinner" to be served under the trees at noon; that is, if the "preachers" would quit speaking on time. I might add they were always long-winded and late. The good ladies of the church were excellent cooks and always did themselves proud for this provided an opportunity to "showcase" their talents. There were always lots of chicken, spaghetti (my favorite), corn on the cob, and desserts of every kind. My mother, Gertrude, usually made caramel pies. She always received a lot of requests for them. Eudell’s mother, Cora, would often bake coconut pies. Of course, each baked a lot of other things. There was always ice tea for the grown-ups and Kool-Aid for the kids. It was a feast!
Such meetings were beneficial as they provided opportunities for our members to hear other ministers, churches to learn what others were doing, and young members to be seen and known. I fondly remember those Fifth Sunday Meetings!
There is another activity I must mention. It was not a direct church activity, but was held in a church and most members participated in them. I refer to "Afternoon Singings" or "Afternoon Singing Conventions." They were more of a community activity than that of a church. In Gravel Hill they rotated between the two churches.
People from other communities were invited. And many came – usually a houseful. Opportunities were provided for anyone who wished to direct a song(s). We sang songs out of books published by Stamps-Baxter, Stamps Quartet, Vaughan, and Hartford Music Companies. They published new books either three or four times each year. Each director selected his or her pianist to accompany the singing. Usually most community musicians plus visitors would play before the afternoon singing was completed. This provided wonderful opportunities for both directors and musicians to gain experience.
In addition to the general singing, there were usually "specials" given by quartets, trios, duets, and soloists. The singing brought blessings to participants and listeners alike. Many memorable hours were spent singing praises to the Lord!
STEVENS CREEK ASSOCIATION
Macedonia was an independent church; however, it chose to associate (work) with others in carrying out the Great Commission. It was affiliated with the Stevens Creek Association, the Arkansas Baptist Association, and the American Baptist Association (A.B.A.). As such it could be said they were Landmark Baptists. Landmark does not designate a denomination. Rather, it is a theological stance.
Churches affiliating with the American Baptist Association believed in and practiced direct missions. That is to say, missionaries were selected and sent directly to the mission field by a church rather than a Board. Sponsoring churches did invite and urge other churches to join them in praying for and supporting those sent. Association Baptists, often called Missionary, were first organized in 1905 –just months after the Gravel Hill church was started. From 1905 until 1924 the Landmarkers worked under the title of General Association of Baptist Churches. In 1924 the name was changed to the American Baptist Association.
Things went somewhat smoothly for the A.B.A. from its beginning in 1905, under the name of The General Association of Baptist Churches, until 1937. A split occurred in 1950 leading to the formation of the North American Baptist Association. It was really a political and personality split between Dr. Ben M. Bogard and Dr. D.N. Jackson that brought the new alignment of churches rather than a theological or ecclesiastical (way of doing business) difference. Today there is basically no difference in the two denominations. I believe the North American Baptist Association has changed its name since being formed.
I well remember the first time I was elected to represent our church at a meeting of the Stevens Creek Association. That was heady stuff for a young teenager. It also laid the foundation for other denominational involvement.
BUSINESS – FINANCES – EXCLUSIONS
The minutes of the business meetings provide much information about the church. Without them we would know almost nothing. The ones we have cover only about 25 years. It is most regrettable that additional minutes are not available. We are hoping that additional ones will be found so that we can complete the history of the church. From the beginning business meetings were significant activities. The moderator (presiding officer) and the clerk (secretary) were the two most prominent personalities at such meetings. It seems, at least for the first 25 years, the pastor was elected to serve as moderator in addition to his preaching responsibilities. C.B. Parsons served s moderator of the founding presbytery as well as the first pastor of the church. B.T. West was clerk of the presbytery and later of the church for several years. J.L. Hays was elected as the first church clerk during the founding meeting. Later he became a minister. In the following years he served as both pastor and clerk on different occasions.
In the earliest years the church started a very interesting practice of "inviting the Brothers and Sisters of other Baptist churches to sit with us in counsel." I find that most unusual; however, I suspect it was a common practice among local Baptist churches in that era. Nothing is recorded if they spoke or voted in the meetings. The sessions were usually held following "preaching by our pastor on Saturday night." Matters both big and small were discussed and acted upon. In September 1918 a committee was elected to "see about selling the wair (wire) around the church building." That doesn’t seem to have been a very big matter. However, in a business meeting held October 1922, they voted "to decide whether or not to buy a 1/3 interest in the Bethel church." A committee was elected to study the matter and bring back a report. Evidently, nothing came of the matter for it seems they were soon working to "fix up" another building. These two serve as examples of business matters both large and small.
There was another interesting statement found in several minutes. It was to the effect that "the church being in/at peace we set in conference." This brings up the questions of what would they have done if there had not been peace. Would they have postponed the meeting? Who determined they were at peace? Also, I find another interesting statement in the minutes of the June 1911 meeting. It says, "There being no business there was several good talks by the brothers." When I first read that it got me to thinking. I wondered if the ladies "made good talks" and they were not reported. Were they given an opportunity to talk? We will never have answers for those questions. In November 1918 "Most business was put off until the December meeting because of illness." That is understandable because it falls within the time frame of the great flu epidemic. Literally thousands died, almost overnight, from the flu.
By the time I became clerk in 1942, the office of treasurer had been combined with it. I always enjoyed participating in the church business conference.
We were most fortunate to come into possession of the financial records of the church covering the years from 1927 through 1940. In addition, we found a summary of expenditures for 1918. The knowledge gained from the records is greater than that related to just receipt and expenditure of funds. From them we were able to find the names of several pastors and visiting ministers. Also, we discovered several activities for which funds were expended. Thus we were able to determine pretty much what was going on in the life of the church. We learned of revivals, evangelists, debates, and all sorts of church activities. Just an entry stating that such an amount was spent on an event lets us know that the event took place. Thus we have historical information that otherwise would not be available.
By today’s standards, the amounts received and expended seem to be awfully small. However, to get a true perspective it is necessary to know the setting of and era covered by the financial records. Gravel Hill was and is a small rural community. Cotton farming on a very limited basis was almost the only source of income. A few raised cattle or were dealers of livestock, but not many. Thus the financial base was very small. As a rule, the education level of the residents was rather low. Furthermore, Christian stewardship was neither taught nor emphasized. I have heard ministers preach that tithing was unscriptural. They said that the statement of "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house …" (Malachi 3:20) was true for the Old Testament period, but not the New Testament period and following. Thus there was no incentive to be charitable in giving. I really do not know where those preachers got such a concept of stewardship. In all my years of Bible study I have never found where the responsibility of tithing has been abrogated (repealed). I must hasten to say that regardless of their limited income and inadequate Biblical instruction they gave sufficient funds to maintain a local ministry and support causes around the world.
The members supported the church and its causes basically three ways: gifts of money, gifts of food (eggs, meat, fruit, vegetables), and raising cotton to be sold on the open market. There was an interesting custom related to the receiving and recording of money gifts. I neither know when it started nor if it ever stopped. There was no general offering taken during the church services. Oh, they would occasionally pass a hat for a special cause, but not often. Following "preaching" on Saturday night and Sunday morning the clerk – treasurer would go to the pulpit. Then members and non-members alike would bring their gifts to the treasurer who would, in each instance, receive the offering while recording the name of the person and the amount presented. The first indication of the recording of gifts was in either September or October 1923 when Trudie Hays was clerk – treasurer. I don’t remember who placed a monetary value on the gifts of food, but we have records to indicate that someone did. If all the records had been kept and were available, they would be a treasure for it would touch the lives of most that lived in the community during that era.
As has been indicated, during my years of service, the church had a treasurer who was also clerk. I don’t know when this dual office was established. During the earliest years there was no mention of a treasurer. The first record of a treasurer being elected dates from October 1917 when "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum came to the office. We don’t know how the finances were handled in prior years. Anyway, the two offices had been combined before 1942 when I was elected to the positions.
As recorded in the records, the church supported the following causes (activities):
Missionary Baptist Institute (college)
I find the following entries related to the gifts of food to be interesting:
Perhaps you would like to know about local expenses. Well, here are a few entries indicated the "cost of doing business" in a small Baptist church:
I will give the expenditures for three representative years:
1931 - 32
I should say a bit about raising funds through cotton farming. This was an excellent means of having additional income. The church would rent land and buy the necessary seed and fertilizer. The members and others in the community would provide the necessary labor. Days were set aside for this activity. The farmers would bring their plows, hoes, and other needed tools. Men, women, and children participated as required. It was sort of a social event. This activity not only provided much income, but brought the people closer together and made it possible for all to share in the church’s ministry. Later, the government started limiting the acreage of cotton grown by setting the number of acres each farmer could plant in cotton. At that point it became more difficult for the church to rent land for agriculture purposes.
We have the original note used in borrowing money to build the Rock Church building in 1934. They borrowed the money from S.M. West and the note was signed by W.F. Hays, R.D. Coody, J.L. Hays, G.W. Hawk, T.J. Cato, H.B. Guier, and J.W. Carson. It was marked "settled in full" and signed by S.M. West. Additional money was borrowed from my father, Golden; however, no note was required.
The amount of money given to and through the church might seem to be small; however, for those people it was a significant amount. The people did the best they could with what they had. For some it was a major sacrifice to give anything.
Macedonia began the practice of excluding members early in the life of the church. Today withdrawing fellowship is a most rare event; however, it still occurs – both with and without cause. There are Biblical bases for such action, but it must be carried out in a spirit of Christian love having reconciliation as its purpose and never to punish. I say this because it can have devastating and adverse effects upon the church as well as the one(s) removed from membership. I have known instances where such action has either destroyed the effectiveness of the church of the church itself.
With one exception, I will not mention the names of the persons involved to preserve the reputations of people I do not know. Also, I do not wish to cause discomfort to surviving relatives.
The first person from whom the church withdrew fellowship was a lady. It occurred November 1906 just about two years after the church was organized. According to the minutes, the stated cause was "contempt." No follow-up action was found. It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the sequence of events leading up to the next exclusion. It seems that W.C. Blancett was called as pastor in August 1907. The October 1907 minutes state that he had accepted the call of the church. Then something happened for the minutes of October 8, 1910, state that fellowship was withdrawn from him and five others (men and women) "for disorderly walk and unchristian conduct." There is no further explanation. The church also called for his "credentials" (ordination papers) and authorized the church clerk to notify Blancett of the church’s actions. WE have no way of knowing the validity of the charges. We simply report the action taken without passing judgment of any kind.
It is interesting to note that on June 9, 1912, two presented themselves for membership; however, they could not be immediately accepted because they had been excluded from a sister church. A committee was appointed to investigate the matter. No further action was reported. In the October 25, 1914, meeting a "…charge was preferred against …" a man. No other information is provided. The church withdrew fellowship from him. Others were excluded for "unchristian walk" and "denial of the faith."
God intended there should be an expansion of that which He created and knows to be good. We read in Genesis 35:11 that our Creator said, " … I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply …" This was intended for all that was and is good; especially, the church His Son established while on earth. In other words, God intended for there to be an expansion of propagation of His work and the church He established. Propagation means to reproduce, multiply, spread or extend. Without propagation or the multiplying of itself no species, idea, or organization can long endure. That is true of the church as well as other things.
As He was preparing to leave the earth, Christ gave His church marching orders or tasks to accomplish while He was gone. He said to His disciples, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 18:19-20). This was to be done by workers He specifically called to perform assigned tasks. In Ephesians 4:11-12 we read what those tasks were and why they were to be performed by the church. Paul says, "And He gave some, apostles, and some, prophets; and some evangelists, some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."
I believe God established the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church and wants her message and ministry to continue through the decades, centuries, and ages until He comes. The good work established has continued, even after the church disbanded, by a Divine call to "sons and grandsons" of the church to take up the mantel of ministry and spread the Gospel around the world. God called and there has been a positive response for out of that church has come pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and Bible teachers who have literally ministered to people around the world.
I am pleased to tell you that starting in February 1909, just four years and four months after the church was founded, and continuing to this date God has called to the ministry those who were either directly or indirectly influenced by the work of that little "Rock Church." The church disbanded in the 1950s, but her work and ministry continues through those who worshipped with her. As stated in other places, I think it was all together fitting and proper that the last pastor would the grandson of founders and the son of an early-day clerk who recorded the history of the church.
JULIAN L. HAYS
I can’t remember Julian L. Hays either being addressed or referred to by any name other than "Preacher." The term was always fondly spoken for he was well liked by the church and community. I remember him as a white-haired, kind, gentle, caring, and helpful merchant and minister. Having served one term in the Arkansas State Assembly, he was a civic leader of the community. He was one of the first persons I met and came to know after we moved to the community in 1931 from Granite City, Illinois – just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. I remember him preaching in the small white building located just across the road from its last home in the "Rock" building. He was pastor either when we moved or shortly afterward.
As I said, he was a merchant. "Hays Store" was one of my – and everyone’s – favorite places. It was stocked with all kinds of wonderful things from candy to "cold drinks," groceries, flour (women made dresses from the beautiful sacks), canning jars, overalls, tobacco, snuff, feed and seed, absolutely everything worthwhile. It was the place where people gathered for Christmas eve and to shoot firecrackers on the Fourth of July. The spit and whittle gang could always be found "sittin’ on nail kegs" telling tall tales.
It has already been noted that Hays and his wife wee founders of the church in which he served as clerk. On the Second Sunday of February 1909, four years and four months after the church was organized, he was "liberated" (licensed) to preach. For the next 31 years, until his death, he was a faithful and effective proclaimer of the Gospel. He was to serve the church as pastor on several occasions. On November 4, 1923, the church voted to "recommend J.L. Hays to the state association as a state missionary." There was no follow-up information on this matter. All the while he kept up his work as a merchant to support his family and make his ministry possible.
From Julian L. Hays’ call in 1909 until today there has been a member of his family in the ministry. He was followed by Missionary Ernest L. McCain Sr., a grand-son-in-law who married Elva Hays, and great-grandson Ernest L. McCain Jr., a Baptist minister who serves as a pastor in California. So, for nine decades there has been a Hays family member in the ministry. I am sure each family member is proud of that remarkable record.
CALVIN C. TURPIN
While not a member of the Gravel Hill Church at the time of his "call" to the ministry, he is to be considered a "preacher son" of the church. He moved to the community, with his parents, while just a young boy. Founding members Benjamin Thomas and Mary Elizabeth "Molly" (Crockett) West were his great-uncle and great-aunt. His mother attended the church as a child and young person. So, his family was associated with the church from its beginning.
Calvin became a member of the church in August 1937 while John L. Causey was pastor. Eudell Coody, Ray Hays, and he – all from founding families – were baptized into the church on the same day. He was serving as church clerk – treasurer in 1943 when he enlisted in the Army during World War II. After returning from military service he studied law at the University of Arkansas and became a member of a church in Fayetteville. Upon being called to the ministry he enrolled in Baylor University, Waco, Texas, to prepare for his new work. He was to study at other educational institutions.
Turpin served as pastor of churches in California, Texas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. However, his principal work has been that of a college and seminary Bible teacher and administrator at various schools. After having taken early retirement due to military disability, he became a volunteer chaplain ministering to thousands in the United States Air Force Auxiliary – Civil Air Patrol and the American Legion. At one time he supervised the work of more than 1,200 volunteer chaplains.
Calvin has preached from countless pulpits all across America and in foreign lands. He is the author of more than 200 published works. In retirement, he continues his ministry of preaching, teaching, and writing. He gives much credit to the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church for anything he may have accomplished. The church provided his early Bible study giving him an excellent theological foundation upon which to build. He is pleased to call Macedonia his "mother" church.
CARL "BUDDY" LAFORCE
I suppose I know Carl "Buddy" LaForce better than the other "Preacher Sons" of the church. Although, I am a bit older than he – I’m closer to his brother’s (Verlon) age – he and I played together as youngsters. So, perhaps he and you will understand if I refer to him as "Buddy." I have a problem of thinking of him in any other terms. Although I have never heard him preach, I have long appreciated his work as a minister.
"Buddy" became related, by marriage, to a founder of the church. He married Wanda Lee Benton, the granddaughter of "Alec" Stracener. He was baptized into the membership of the church by Lester Woods, the second-from-last pastor. He wrote, "I preached my first message November 30, 1958, at the Rock Church." Now, I would have been blessed to have heard him. He was called half time to the Locust Grove Church, near Batesville, 1959. That church ordained him that year. Also, he served half time with Swims Chapel, a church located between Bald Knob and Batesville. Then he moved to Lone Star, east of Bald Knob – for a three-year ministry. He moved to Liberty Valley before returning to Lone Star. In October 1966 the Lord called him to Mt. Pleasant where he ministered for 18 years. For the last 14 years he has served as pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church in Judsonia.
I commend "Buddy" for his two long pastorates: Mt. Pleasant 18 years and Friendship 14. That is much longer than most Baptist ministries. Usually, the best work of a church is done during a sustained pastorate. While on earth, we will never know just how much he has accomplished as a "Preacher Son" of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. Today I am pleased to call him my colleague, fellow minister of the Gospel, and a "choice" friend who blessed my life for many years. He is a veteran of military service during time of war.
ERNEST L. McCAIN SR.
Missionary Ernest L. McCain Sr. was introduced to the church and community by pastor Chris Barham. As I recall, it was about 1940 during a time of a revival. While there, Ernest met and soon married Elva Hays, a granddaughter of founder Julian L. Hays. For several years, Ernest and Elva made Gravel Hill their home.
Ernest was a native of Prescott, Arkansas, where he grew up. He became a Christian at an early age and as a young man accepted his call to the ministry. It has been said, "He always had a desire to preach." He prepared for the ministry while studying at the Missionary Baptist Institute, Little Rock. He was pastor of some churches; however, his greatest work was to be that of a missionary. He was a pastor in Arkansas, Arizona (Riverside Baptist, Phoenix, and Tucson Baptist, Tucson), Texas (Shamrock), and California. He was to serve as a local, state and interstate missionary. He established new churches in Arkansas (Malvern and Booneville), Arizona (Phoenix), and California (Paramount, Napoma, Holtville, Norwalk).
After serving as a missionary in the American Baptist Association for more than 40 years, Ernest Sr. died in November 1976 and is buried at Norwalk, California. AS will be seen, his son follows him in the ministry. Like others, I am sure Ernest L. McCain Sr. would be pleased to be identified as a "Preacher Son" of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.
ERNEST L. McCAIN JR.
Like his father, Ernest L. McCain Jr. was called to be a minister of the Gospel. He was the great-grandson of founder Julian L. Hays. A Gravel Hill native, he lived in the community until his parents moved to a new mission field. At the age of nine, he was baptized by his father in the Ouachita River near Malvern, Arkansas.
While growing up, Ernest Jr. studied at the Gravel Hill "Rock" school, Rose Bud, and Malvern before graduating from high school at Booneville, Arkansas. Then he studied at Arkansas Tech University, Russellville. This was followed by Special Study in Architectural Drawing at the Durham Business College, Phoenix, from which he received a diploma. After being called into military service, he served bravely and with great distinction in Vietnam. While there, he was interviewed by future Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker. That interview was read, with special interest, across the country. In 1969 Ernest Jr. received a Divine call to the ministry. He prepared for his work by studying at the California Missionary Baptist Seminary and Institute from which he earned a B.A. degree. Also, he studied at Cerritos College and Westminister College. He served as an assistant pastor (under his father) in Ridgecrest, California, and as a pastor in Lompoc, California. Presently he is serving a church at Mira Loma in southern California. Bonnie (Clay) Boots, a former Grave Hill resident, is a member of his congregation. In 1974, he married Kathy Sanford. They are the parents of Jeremy and Ashleigh. They are also foster parents to four children.
His great-grandfather, Julian L. Hays, became a minister in 1909. Nine decades later a member of his family continues his work. I am sure Ernest L. McCain Jr. is delighted to be referred to as a "Preacher Grandson" of the "Rock Church." The work of the Kingdome is in good hands as long as young men such as Ernest L. McCain Jr. give a positive response to God’s call to the ministry. I am pleased he is my special friend and colleague in the ministry.
EDGAR F. LAWSON
He was a native of Gravel Hill, but I didn’t know him well. He was eight years older and out of school before I enrolled. I remember him and his brother, Milton, as being among the "big" boys of the community. His younger half-sisters, Pauline and Fayrene, and half-brother, Burldean, were my friends. Both Burldean and Fayrene (twins) are deceased. Pauline provided much valuable information for this book.
Edgar was a grandson of founder "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum. His mother, Ada Esther (Quattlebaum) Lawson, served as an early clerk of the church. He started his ministry later in life – perhaps, in his 30s. According to the information provided us, he served as the last pastor of the Gravel Hill church before it disbanded. If that be true, then a member of the Quattlebaum family was there from the beginning to the ending of the church.
Following his work at the "Rock Church," Edgar worked in the Pioneer Baptist Church at Joy. Later, he moved to the state of Washington to do mission work. There he established the Douglas Street Missionary Baptist Church at Omak. The church is either on or near an Indian reservation. Edgar died earlier than expected and is buried at Bridgeport, Washington. I have been told that his son, Jimmy Carroll Lawson, is carrying on the work started by his father. Thus a "Preacher Grandson of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church" continues the ministry started in 1904.
"PRECIOUS MEMORIES, HOW THEY LINGER"
Memories have a way of lingering long after the ending of a person, thing, or event. Indeed some are so precious and meaningful that they seem to never go away. That is true for those associated with the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. For me, the writing of this book has awakened wonderful memories that have never been far away. For you see a church is a congregation of people. And the people of the "Rock Church" blessed me, shaped me, and helped make me what I am.
I find I am not alone in my memories – others remember, too. Sensing that some might wish to let their memories be known. I have asked them to write of persons, parsons, and a church of long ago. They have responded in such a positive and wonderful way. I have been blessed by their memories and I believe you will be, too. This is what they remember:
DELLA MAE (LAWSON) WEST HUGHES
Della was a native of Gravel Hill and joined our church in May 1918. She was the granddaughter of founder "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum. Her mother, Ada (Quattlebaum) Lawson, was the clerk in the early years of the church. Della was my Grandfather "Fate" West’s second wife and thus my step-grandmother. Before her death she wrote her memories of childhood and younger years. They are so very appropriate for this project.
Della remembered her Grandpa Lawson being a Sunday School superintendent and a very religious man. I was glad to learn of that because he was a distant relative of mine. Her Quattlebaum grandparents, William Benjamin and Lucetta, were also religious people as were her mother, Ada Esther Lawson. She wrote, "We always went to church every Sunday while she (her mother) was living. Dad promised my mom that he would keep us in Sunday School and he did. We lived close enough to the church so we could walk and carry the baby. My Mom always had us to kneel and have family prayer at home."
Her mother sang alto and taught the children to sing shape notes. They learned to sing along with her. Della taught Sunday School for many years. She was the mother of four children. She died in 1986 and is buried in Texas. Her memories add much to this book.
AUSTIN A. "KIT" CARSON
Austin was a native of Gravel Hill. Founder "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum was his grandfather. His parents, Joe and Eliza (Quattlebaum) Carson, were active in the church all their adult years. He was a deacon, music director, sang in a quartet, taught Sunday School, and served in many capacities. He fondly remembers the church. He is the oldest former member of the church we interviewed.
The first church building Austin remembers was located just off of the Romance Road and west of the road, which bisects the community. It was near where the story of Jimmy Stracener was located. This building was constructed during the ministry of pastor Ballard. He remembers the support of several young men. They marched up to the pulpit and placed money on it to show their support for the pastor and the church.
"Kit" still remembers the pews. Across the front of the church they had regular homemade pews. However, at the back of the building people sat on 2x12 planks that had been placed on rocks. Also, he remembers "Grandpa Billy being music director." His daughters were good singers. Janie (Cato) sang soprano and Mandi (Stracener, Harrell) the higher part.
Austin and his wife, Mary Ann (Price) sang in a quartet. She was a fine pianist. They contributed much to the church before moving from the community.
Edral is a fine singer and musician. During our young days, we spent many happy hours singing and enjoying music. He and his family have been blessed with great musical talents. For years, their singing has blessed the lives of hundreds all across their area. Edral brought much comfort to the bereaved by singing at countless funerals. I count him one of my finest friends! He lives in retirement at Beebe. He writes:
"In 1941 we moved to the Gravel Hill community and started attending the church. The pastor came the first weekend of each month and preached Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night. They had Sunday School every Sunday, which I attended, and every second Saturday night they had singing. Most everyone in the community attended the singings for everyone in the community loved to sing.
"The pastors I remember most were Brother Barham, Brother Cook, Brother Wayne Branson, Brother Labe Spears, and the one who made the most impression on my life – Brother Johnny Sloat. Another outstanding thing the church did in my life was to hire me to teach my first singing school. And they even invited me back the next year for another school. The church was a great help in getting me started on the right track in life. It makes me sad to drive by the grown-up grounds where the church once was and remember the things that went on in my life at that time." The contributions of the Price family is greatly appreciated.
ORELL (PRICE) STRACENER HALL
Orell first married Alphus who was the son of founder "Alec" Stracener. After the death of Alphus she married Mr. Hall and continues to live at Floyd. She started attending the church as soon as her family moved to Gravel Hill. She was a good singer and added much to the service by her attendance.
She remembered that Mr. Frank Hays, as Sunday School superintendent, would each time start the service in his quiet way. If need be he would direct the songs. "Mrs. Hays sang and was always pleasant and sweet to everyone. Mrs. Carson was happy and looked so nice in her black dress with matching lace. She and her daughters seemed to think only of good things and were nice to everyone. I remember four wonderful pianists, Mrs. Worthington, Marie Worthington Quattlebaum, Mary Carson, and a young man named Calvin Turpin that was always faithful. I enjoyed Mary and Austin’s singing. Lottie Stracener stood to read the minutes as church clerk and was always so neat. There were so many more wonderful people present – a full house – on what we called Church Day." Orell’s family is fondly remembered!
FAYE (HAYS) BURKETT
Faye, a native of Gravel Hill, was a member of two founding families. She was the granddaughter of Julian and Julia Hays. Also, she was the great-granddaughter of William Benjamin and Lucetta (Raye) Quattlebaum. Faye, the daughter of Albert and Trissie Hays, is married to Dayton Burkett. They live in North Little Rock. She wrote as follows:
"Julian L. Hays was my grandpa. I lived next door to him until his death in 1940. We didn’t know much about his family. He lived in Louisiana. He went to Tennessee when he was young. He joined a circus there. He was a Baptist minister. He was the pastor at the Rock Church at Gravel Hill. I remember him preaching there. Then twice a month we had singings and all enjoyed it. Grandpa was a State Representative for four years in the 1920s."
Redus is the grandson of founders Julian and Julia Hays. Although he moved from the community years ago with his family, I have always thought of him as a very close friend. The Hays family was associated with the church all through its history. I am pleased that he would write his memories. He wrote:
"I appreciate the opportunity to tell some of my memories of the Gravel Hill Church. The church meant a great deal to me and my family. No doubt, it influenced our lives. I’m not sure the date my mother joined the church, but she was a member for many years. It was probably about 1915. She was a member until she moved her membership to Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Judsonia about 1946.
"My Grandfather Hays, pastor of the church, and my Grandmother Hays were charter members. My grandmother, Annie Stracener, and her daughter, Zonia Stracener Clay, were saved and baptized into the church at the same time in 1925. I had several aunts and uncles that were members of the church. I was not a member.
"My favorite parts of the services were the singings, revivals, baptizings, and the big dinners they had. They usually did the baptizing in Des Arc Creek. I have fond memories of some of the older members and leaders of the church."
According to the minutes, his mother joined the church in August 1919.
NORMA (STRACENER) STACY
Norma, a native of Gravel Hill, resides in the community with her husband, Cloy Lee Stacy. She is the daughter of founder A.L. "Alec" Stracener. In addition to being a founder, her father was one of the first deacons of the church. The Stacys made major contributions to this history of the church. She is one of the few living children of the founders who has resided in Gravel Hill most of her life. She writes:
"I went to church from my childhood on up until I married in the year of 1945. I can say my parents were wonderful people. I’m so thankful I had them to bring me up in the church and raise me in a Christian home. Brother Spears was my favorite minister. He did my Dad’s funeral. I also enjoyed Kit, Mary, Dennis Quattlebaum, and Opal West’s quartet. Also, I was baptized by Brother Sidney Cook and joined the church when I was 17. I’ll never forget my Dad’s prayers and shouting all over the church."
CLOY LEE STACY
While not a native of Gravel Hill, he has lived in the community most of his life. He married Norma Stracener, a daughter of founder "Alec" Stracener. I know of no one who has made a greater contribution to the community through the years than he. For the last several years he and Norma have taken a lead in maintaining the cemeteries. They are to be commended for the care they have given. He writes:
"My family moved to Gravel Hill in 1940. I went to church at the Missionary Baptist Church while we lived there. I was 15 years old when we moved there. I enjoyed going to church. We had a good Sunday School class and a special teacher, Mrs. Worthington. We lived there approximately one year and then moved to Rose Bud, Arkansas."
The Stracener family made major contributions to Macedonia from the beginning. We are proud that this son of founder "Alec" is sharing his thoughts and memories with us. He writes:
"I attended the old church as a child. My parents were members as far back as I can remember. I was never a member myself. Mr. Julian Hays was the first preacher I remember clearly.
"When men of the church started building a new rock church I went along with my Dad to help any way I could. The work that stands out most in my mind, I hauled water on a ground sled from Mr. Esker Lawson’s place in large barrels to be used in mixing the cement.
"The pastors and preachers often visited the members’ homes for dinner and many times overnight, especially during revivals. My favorite pastor was Brother Labe Spears. He and Brother Sloat were guests in my home after I married.
"I have many other memories such as the church planting a cotton crop to help support it. Picking it was an all-family thing. We all enjoyed it!" His family was greatly appreciated.
Dee was the great-grandson of founders William Benjamin and Lucetta (Raye) Quattlebaum. He was Sunday School superintendent and a clerk – treasurer of the church. He writes:
"I am sending the pictures you requested. Baptized by Brother L.R. Spears in Mr. Turpin’s stock pond – probably in 1947 or 1948. Ulysses was baptized at the same time."
Author’s note: Ulysses is my late brother. I was there for his conversion, but didn’t attend that baptismal service on our farm. In fact, I don’t remember that the church held baptisms there. I am indebted to Dee for this information.
BETTY (BAILEY) GAEBEL
Betty, a Gravel Hill native, is the great-granddaughter of founder "Uncle Billy" Quattlebaum. She was the daughter of Robert and Ronie Bailey. She and her family were active in the church until they moved from the community. John Gaebel, her husband, was one of the last clerk – treasurers of the church before it disbanded. As one of the last official acts, Macedonia gave its piano to their Jacksonville church. She writes:
"The Rock Church has many good memories for me. I attended there during all my childhood and part of my adult life.
"I was saved in 1947 or 1948. We were baptized in the Turpins’ new stock pond instead of the cold water of Des Arc Creek. Those saved and baptized during the revival were Ulysses Turpin, Dee Wendell Thomas, Harvel Barnett, and Betty Bailey." (She thought there might have been another, but was not sure.) "Brother Johnny Sloat was the minister, I believe.
"My favorite preacher was Brother (Labe) Spears. He would preach a dynamic sermon and quit just like he started. He always said that if you couldn’t say what you had to say in thirty minutes you were wasting your time.
"I remember Uncle Raymond Coody singing and Mrs. Worthington playing the piano. The singing is a pleasant memory of mine because singing praises to the Lord is precious to me. I don’t think Mrs. Worthington was ever a member of the church, but she taught a Sunday School class.
"I was married in 1952 and left for a while, but came back and John and I joined again with him serving as Church Clerk."
EUDELL (COODY) TURPIN
Eudell is co-author of this book. As previously indicated, she is a native of Gravel Hill. She started attending the church at the ripe old age of "three weeks." She was the great-granddaughter of founder "Grandpa Billy" Quattlebaum. She is married to Calvin C. Turpin and the mother of two children. She and her husband live in Edmond, Oklahoma. She writes:
"Some of the memories I have of the church are probably different from the real events. First, on Sunday, we didn’t ask, ‘Are we going to church today?’ We just got up, did what chores the farm and animals required, got dressed, and went to church.
"We almost always walked to church – it was abut 1 ½ miles. Some of the people walked farther than that. I remember that when I had new white Easter shoes, I would wear an old pair of shoes ‘til I got almost to church. Then I would change into my new shoes. I wanted my new shoes to ‘look new’ for everyone to see.
"My Dad (Raymond Coody), Mother (Cora Carson Coody), and I were always at church early. My Dad swept the floor (if it needed it), dusted the benches, picked up the trash outside, got the hymnbooks ready, built a fire (if it was needed) in the iron stove which was located in the center of the building. There are many other good memories. I have only one bad one and it is that we who were members should have saved the church house as a community building where singings, funerals, and homecomings could be held."
ERNEST L. McCAIN JR.
As stated elsewhere, this White County native was the great-grandson of founder Julian L. Hays. Additional information on him is found in the section entitled "PREACHER SONS."
He has fond memories of early childhood days. He recalls the native "rock" house of his grandparents, Frank and Trudie (Cunningham) Hays. He felt the openness, warmth, and security of the community. The "Rock Church" played a significant role in his life. It was there that he took his first music and singing lessons, witnessed his first funeral, attended revivals, and ate "Dinner on the Ground." The piano playing of Mary Carson was instrumental in his wanting to learn to play the musical instrument. He first played the piano on a regular basis during a revival led by Brother Fred Foss. He has continued playing through the years.
Ernest Jr. recalls the wooden seats made from three or four boards, and not solid pews. He said, "I remember the hot summer days and nights when the ‘Air Conditioning’ was from hand fans provided by Daniel Funeral Home." He fondly recalls Raymond Coody heading the singing with a small black director’s "stick." Raymond looked neat and professional.
Ernest Jr. remembers the preaching of Labe Spears who "preached very loud and wiped his head with a handkerchief." This favorite minister’s preaching has been described in various terms by most that heard him. He also remembers Johnny Sloat, Brother Goodson, J.L. Causey, and Lester Woods.
This dedicated minister of the Gospel sums up his memories by saying, "The Lord has blessed me and my life with wonderful grandparents, parents, friends, and neighbors. I have fond memories of my childhood grounded in Christian doctrine for which I will always be thankful."
CHLOIS (QUATTLEBAUM) HONLEY
Chlois was a true child of the church, for all four of her grandparents were founders. They were William Benjamin and Lucetta (Raye) Quattlebaum and Julian and Julia Hays. She fondly remembers the church.
She does not actually remember her Grandfather Hays being pastor. She was impressed with the singing of Raymond Coody, Austin Carson, and "Uncle" Frank Hays. She said, "I can still see Mrs. Worthington sitting on the bench playing the piano." Her favorite pastor was, like many others, Labe Spears. She has always lived in the Gravel Hill community and is much loved!
DORTHA (WORTHINGTON) HOLLAND
I place Dortha’s memories last for a purpose. You see, for me, she just kind of sums up what most of us fondly remember about the "Rock Church." Her mother, Mertie, and sister, Marie, played the piano for worship and singing services. Also, Marie married Carthel Cunningham, a grandson of founder "Billy" Quattlebaum. Dortha is married to the Rev. Merle Holland, a Baptist minister. She and her family contributed much to the Gravel Hill church.
Dortha writes, "I do not remember not attending the Rock Church. Apparently, I was no more than an infant when my parents first took me there. Whether or not we would attend church was never discussed. Regular attendance was as much a part of our schedule as was attending public school. We would count the days from one Sunday to the next so we could go to church once more and learn more about God and worship with our friends.
"The summer revivals were also very important. I remember the long, hard hours of work in the fields and yet we made our way to church each night for a powerful and convicting message. Many lost souls were touched and saved during those two-week revivals. The invitation songs we sang such as Oh, Why Not Tonight, Oh, Prepare to Meet Thy God, and There’s a Great Day Coming spoke to me as well. Also, the Sunday afternoon singings we had once a month were most enjoyable.
"I can hardly imagine a community without a church and yet there are some. I’m so thankful for the church and that I was privileged to be part of it – even though I was never a member! Neither were my parents.
"The Rock Church was surely a lighthouse for me. As the song says, ‘If it wasn’t for the Lighthouse Where Would This Ship Be?’ I dare wonder where the road of life might have taken me without the spiritual training I received and the Christian leaders who were there for me. I shall forever be grateful to God for having chosen the Gravel Hill community to be the place I was to call home for almost 19 years."
At the beginning of this book we sought to portray a deep and abiding love and appreciation for the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. During our research and the writing of this work our love and appreciation for the church has grown beyond all expectations. At the beginning we assumed the church had died when it was disbanded, but that is not true. In fact, it is alive and well! It lives on in the lives and memories of those who worshipped with the great Christians who made up the congregation.
I doubt that the founders thought the ministry of the church would reach far beyond the Gravel Hill community, but it has! I doubt they thought it would live forever, but it will if there is truth to what they professed! For you see, those whose lives were changed by the ministry of the church now minister in places far removed from Gravel Hill. Whether their lives would have been changed without the ministry of the church we do not know, but we know they were changed because of the church.
The "Preacher Sons and Grandsons" and members of the church have extended its ministry literally around the world. They have proclaimed the Gospel from the pews, pulpits, and Christian classrooms to thousands. Many pastors and members of that little "Rock Church" have been called to Higher Glories than this world can know. However, their converts and those influenced by their lives carry on the work of the church. Thousands sat in the pews and at the feet of the "Preacher and Bible Teacher Sons and Grandsons" of the church. Every day of worship around the world finds missionaries, preachers, deacons, and faithful servants of God who are either directly or indirectly "related" to that little "Rock Church." The church is now disbanded and spread, but it is not dead and will never be as long as God lives. It lives because in October 1904 God led 10 faithful Christians to begin the "Rock Church!"
I stated in the PREFACE that the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church left us a Godly legacy that will continue until Christ returns and beyond. I think this would please those faithful servants of God. I am sure you join me in expressing thanks and appreciation to these who brought the church into being. For without their efforts we would have missed great and wonderful blessings. In keeping with a parable spoken by Jesus long ago, I believe God has personally spoken to and perhaps shaken hands with each of the founders and other departed beloved members of the congregations saying, "…Well done, thou good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." (Matthew 25:21).