INTRODUCTION WITH SLAVES LEADING THE WAY
Pleasant Hill, the first Black Missionary Baptist Church in Robeson County, was organized in 1869 by 62 former slaves, who once worshipped from the balcony of the Ashpole Baptist Church, now First Baptist, South Main Street, Fairmont, North Carolina (formerly named Ashpole, North Carolina). In 1864, there were 134 Blacks still members of the Ashpole Church and as late as 1879, 91 remained members.
Jack Walters, an unskilled laborer who served as a leader in the formation of the church, and Carrie Walters, a laundry woman, were slaves owned by William Walters in Ashpole, North Carolina until we were freed in 1865. They were members of the white First Baptist Church and sat in the balcony for slaves during services.
B. J. Williamson, a sharecropper in Columbus County before moving to Robeson County to farm who along with my wife, Tena Williamson, a sharecropper were freed shortly before 1865. W. M. Williamson, the son of Tena and B. J. Williamson born in 1886, attended Thompson Institute where I studied under W. H. Knuckles and graduated in 1912. During that year, he was also ordained by Lumber River Association. W. M. Williamson and Carrie G. Whitted married in 1913. During that year, W. M. Williamson served as Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church before moving to South Carolina.
Henry Flowers, a sharecropper and carpenter, and his wife, Nancy Flowers, were members of the white First Baptist Church and sat in the balcony for slaves during services. They were slaves owned by the Flowers family until they were freed in 1865. They had eleven children and one of their daughters, Tena Flowers, married B. J. Williamson who was a founder of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.
Edmond Powell and his wife, Harriett Ashley Powell, were unskilled farmers on various farms and served as leaders in the formation and membership growth of the church. They were slaves owned by the Ashley family near Atkinson’s Mill until they were freed in 1865. They were members of the white First Baptist Church and sat in the balcony for slaves during services when services were not held for slaves on the Ashley Plantation.
Rev. Franklin Pierce Powell, a slave preacher, unskilled farmer and blacksmith and his wife, Susie, were members of the white First Baptist Church and sat in the balcony for slaves during services when services were not held for slaves on the Ashley Plantation were he occasionally preached. They were slaves owned by the Ashley family near Atkinson’s Mill until we were freed in 1865. Working closely with Rev. A. A. Thompson of Lumberton and Rev. Denis Powell, later a pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, to secure land to build additional churches for blacks in Robeson County. Together, they founded First Baptist Church, Lumberton; Greenville Baptist Church; Hilly Branch Baptist Church; and Sandy Grove Baptist Church. Latta Hillard Powell, one of Franklin and Susie Powell’s sons, was born in 1886. He graduated from the Thompson Institute in 1906 and Shaw University in 1912. He served as Principal of the Burgaw Normal and Industrial School and pastured the following churches: Mt. Level Baptist Church, Durham, NC; First Baptist Church, Lumberton; St. Mary’s Baptist Church, Evergreen, NC; and Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Mt. Olive, NC.
THE EARLY YEARS
The very first worshipping place was a Brush Arbor, a shelter made of limbs, vines, and branches, located on Iona Street, was very small and quite dilapidated. The first pastor was Rev. Church L. Reeves.
After constructing the first worshipping place, it was not long before bitter racial strife occurred over the location of the Negro church on Iona Street. The members of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church were forced to move from Iona Street to the second site “across the branch”, near Marietta, North Carolina. There, the members built and worshipped until the early 1900’s.
Then, the present location on North Main Street was purchased from Sandy Thompson, a white male. (Note: The street in front of the present church is named after him, Sandy Street). In the early 1900’s, under the pastorate of Rev. J. D. Harrell, the third wooden church was erected where the church parsonage is today, along with the help of the deacons who were masons of the former Stanley Lodge No. 146 of the Old Field Community which merged with the present Gaza Lodge No. 427. Those deacons were the following: Henry Floyd, J. C. Inman, Joseph Worley, Quincy Stephens, Charley Jones, and N.W. Floyd, W.M. All whose names are engraved on the first cornerstone on the front left side of the church today. Of course, whites tried to buy this property, but the membership refused to sell.
THE INFLUENCE OF PLEASANT HILL BAPTIST CHURCH ON EDUCATION FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS IN ROBESON COUNTY
The Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Fairmont, North Carolina has had a long historical influence on the education of African Americans in Robeson County. The first school for African Americans in Robeson County was the Whitin School, founded in 1876 by a young African American teacher, David P. Allen. The Whitin School was located on what is now the Fairmont Road in Lumberton and was named after James Whitin of Boston, Massachusetts, a wealthy white benefactor who funded the school’s first building. The Hon. George Henry White was one of the first graduates of the Whitin School. George White, 1851-1901, served in the United States Congressman from 1897-1901 and one of the last African Americans in Congress before the Jim Crow Era. President Barack Obama referenced George Henry White as one of his role models during his inauguration speech. The Whitin School faculty held classes during the summer in Fairmont, Maxton and St. Pauls from 1889-1894. Some of these classes were held in Pleasant Hill to African Americans, regardless of age to learn to read and write. During the same time, from 1896-1898, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church and St. John Methodist Church held meetings educating and training African Americans after a race riot occurred downtown Fairmont in early 1896. The riot occurred when Rev. W. C. Pope and David P. Allen tried to put their names on the ballot for the Board of Education. Even though African Americans did not have the right to vote at the time, in 1898, an African American farmer and teacher, William Cobb was added to the ballot and served on the Board of Education; however he was only allowed to vote on issues that dealt with African Americans. As a result, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church made political and educational history by negotiating with local white politicians to gain a seat on the Board of Education.
On March 14, 1914 and December 13, 1915, The Colored Teacher’s Association held its meeting at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. According to the March 19, 1915 edition of the Robesonian, “Both the town courthouse and the local library in Fairmont banned citizens of the colored race from meeting in their facilities.” Both meetings were led by Prof. David P. Allen, founder of the Whitin School and Prof. J. H. Isley, member of Pleasant Hill and teacher at the Fairmont Training School. During the latter meeting, Prof. Isley addressed the audience of 54 African American teachers from around Robeson County on the topic of, “The Teacher’s Estimation of the Association.”
The Whitin School remained open until the Dunbar School opens in 1918 in Lumberton led by principal, Rev. W. C. Pope, one of the first Moderators of the Lumber River Baptist Association. When the Dunbar School burned down on August 26, 1935, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, along with Sandy Grove Baptist Church donated money and furniture for the school to continue classes in temporary quarters. Always to assist, Pleasant Hill raised money to help Redstone Academy, a parochial Presbyterian School for African Americans after a fire in 1912 destroyed its original buildings. Redstone Academy was founded in 1903 as a mission school by Dr. John Henry Hayswood who changed the name to the Bethany School in 1906. It was later renamed Redstone Academy in 1911 by a northern white Presbyterian Women’s Group who began funding the school. In 1949, Redstone Academy was closed and replaced by the newly built J.H. Hayswood High School. The 1912 Presbyterian Women’s Bulletin “Honors the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church for its Christian work in helping our brethren at Redstone.”
From its inception, Pleasant Hill has help to fund the formation and preservation of schools for African Americans. Thompson Institute, a boarding school that offered a teaching certificate in Lumberton, N. C., took its name from the oldest minister of the Lumber River Association at the time of its establishment, Rev. A. H. Thompson. Pleasant Hill contributed an annual amount of $95.00 to help fund Thompson Institute from 1900-1918 and still provided increased amounts thereafter. In addition, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church covered expenses for two church members to attend Thompson Institute. Rev. Church L. Reaves and Rev. J.D. Harrell also served on the school’s trustee board and were partly responsible for bringing Prof. W. H. Knuckles, from the Theological Department of Shaw University to succeed Rev. D. J. Avera as Principal. Rev. Knuckles's increased the size of the campus from one building to three buildings, a faculty of five and a student enrollment of over 70. As early as 1905 most of the teachers from the three surrounding counties, Robeson, Bladen and Columbus, were supplied from Thompson Institute, and with the preparation were able to do splendid work in the public schools.
In addition, Rev. J. D. Harrell, Moderator of the Lumber River Association, served as Financial Agent of the Thompson Institute. The 1908 Baptist Recorder stated that, “This school is another monument to the thrift and energy of the Negro Baptists of North Carolina. Thompson Institute was of the greatest necessity in the section in which it was located. In the April 15, 1920 edition of the Robesonian, both Rev. J.D. Harrell and Dr. W.C. Pope were instrumental as serving as the first chairmen of the first Colored Fair held in Lumberton. Along with committee members, J.H. Hayswood of Lumber and Richard Bradshaw of Fairmont, also a member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, a colored fair was funded for the children of Robeson County that not only included amusement rides and games but educational programs in agriculture, spelling and history.
By 1912, a need for a formal school for African Americans in Fairmont had grown in Fairmont. That same year, Prof. Isley began to offer small classes in reading, mathematics and music in the sanctuary of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. A year later in 1913, funding was made available through the generosity of the church and local African American citizens to purchase four acres of land from the Beaufort Lumber Company. In 1914, the Fairmont Training School opened and consisted of several wood buildings on the current Rosenwald site. The school offered traditional classes in reading, writing, mathematics, history and music but also over some vocational training in agriculture for boys and home domestics for girls.
Originally called the Fairmont Training School, in 1927, Julius Rosenwald of the Rosenwald Fund pledged $1,700.00 towards the total school cost of $16,600.00. This pledge was made with the understanding that the school would be renamed the Rosenwald School and a picture of Julius Rosenwald would be hung in the school’s library. The town of Fairmont raised $13,900 and Pleasant Hill Baptist Church contributed $1,000.00, raised during the years of 1925-1927. Pleasant Hill Baptist Church also contributed an additional $120.00 in 1928 to cover the expenses of buying books for the library. Consisting of eight classrooms, a library and principal’s office, the all brick structure was the largest school for African Americans in the southeast North Carolina region. During the 1927-1928 school years, chairs from the First Baptist Church had to be used at school during classes until furniture could be purchased. Since there was no available place for the event, the Rosenwald Class of 1935 held its Commencement at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church on Sunday, May 12, 1935 at 3:00pm. The speaker was Dr. Miles Mark Fisher, pastor of the White Rock Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. Rosenwald School’s Principal J. D. Cunningham presided over the program.
In 1948, Rosenwald was remodeled to accommodate a growing student population. To assist in subsidizing state and county funding, First Baptist Church (along with Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church) donated funds to assist in the growth of the school that they help to build over two decades earlier. In addition, Pleasant Hills’ Pastor, Dr. J.J. Johnson served as speaker for the 1952 Baccalaureate Services at Rosenwald.
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church has continued the tradition of supporting the educational efforts of schools both inside and beyond the borders of its community. Over the past century, the Church has provided support to three historically black colleges and universities affiliated with the Baptist Church: Shaw University, Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia and Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina.
THE EARLY PASTORS
(Rev. William Calvin Pope)
The early pastors were Reverends Church L. Reeves, Frez Hall, Alexander Moore, Dennis Powell, Bartley Williams, J. D. Harrell (pastored 1896-1926) and W. C. Pope (pastored 1926-1929). Their dedicated efforts and committed service is evident in the strong foundation of faith on which this church is built.
In March 1922, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church was almost a year behind on her monthly note. However, a young member of the church named Thomas Killens who was just starting out with raising a family presented to the church a plan for restoring the mortgage. His plan was accepted because two months later, May 1, 1922, several officers and members led by Killens set out to visit every Black family in Fairmont and its surrounding areas, both members and non-members alike, explaining the meaning of tithing and man’s responsibility to God, church, family, and neighbors. Although times were hard, members began paying their pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters each Sunday. They never failed or missed a payment. Not only were all the back payments brought up-to-date, but the note was paid in full as Thomas Killens reminded the membership, “Those who tithed and followed God’s Word will prosper spiritually, physically, and materially”.
THE REV. J. D. McCRAE YEARS
On the Wednesday before Christmas in 1928, the Rev. J. D. McCrae, of Wilmington, North Carolina, became pastor. His first text was taken from Matthew 16:13 using as his topic, “Whom Do Men Say That I Am?” In 1929, he led the church in building the fourth place house of worship using handmade concrete blocks, with many of the members helping to make them, with the baptismal pool (located behind the present church parsonage) now on the church ground, for before then, members were baptized at the Ashpole Swamp and the swamp near the present Mill Branch Baptist Community. This white stately building gave the members a great deal of pride and distinction. A second cornerstone can be noted today on the ground at the front left of the church engraved with the year 1929. It was at this time that the name was changed from Pleasant Hill to First Baptist Church.
The Great Depression of the 1930’s made it very difficult to carry on the financial responsibilities of the church. On October 2, 1931, the officers of the church called a business meeting to stop on the building of the church for awhile and catch up on some of the debts; however, through divine intervention, Rev. McCrae organized the Ward system with eleven divisions, in order to reach members who had no transportation to church, could not or did not attend church regularly. The Ward Leaders were the following: Group 1 – E. Z. Crawford and Iseley Inman; Group 2 – O. C. Jones and J. B. Worshaw; Group 3 – Thomas Killens and G. W. Griffin with assistants, Annie Granger and Rainie Pittman; Group 4 - Clared Fulmore and Ida Fulmore; Group 5 – Fannie Waters and D. S. Stackhouse; Group 6 – John H. Floyd; Group 7 – French Floyd and Eddie McCrae; Group 8 – S. M. Davis, D. C. Hill, and Charlie Pugh; Group 9 – George Reaves and Carolina Reaves; Group 10 – D. Bethea, Nellie Haggins, and Wilmer Leggette; and Group 11 – Henry Powell, T. D. Killens, Sr., O. C. Jones, John H. Floyd, Garfield McEachin, Martin Jones, and Iseley Inman. Sunday School was held each Sunday, but worship service only once a month. Sunday Schools were held in community schools, for the members who could not attend regular church worship and Sunday School. At this time, men members were requested to give $0.50 a month and women $0.25. Later, another preaching Sunday was added. Still, many members, especially elderly people, wished to attend church, but could not because of no transportation. For this reason, a committee of five, Gosnold Floyd, Sr., Iseley Inman, T. D. Killens, Sr., Samuel Frison and Dock Hill were appointed to make necessary investigations and arrangements for the purchase of a bus. They were successful and the attendance was improved.
Truly, despite hard trials, members still met their church obligations. One successful, notable conference held November 7, 1937 emphasized the church’s 67th anniversary celebration and the Pastor McRae’s 8th anniversary celebration jointly. The conference decided that each member of the church be asked to pay a penny (one cent) for each of the 67 years of the church and 8 years of service of Pastor McRae which total per person $0.75 to be collected by the Ward Leaders. Additionally, Rev. McRae was so loved that when he reported that he had $1.25 as cash on hand to turn in, the conference decided that he keep the amount as a token of appreciation for his services.
Rev. McCrae was actively involved in the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and supported all its objectives. During his pastorate, First Baptist Church hosted the Convention for the first time. He also led the church to help educate a Haitian student, Maurice Stuppart, at Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina. Rev. J. D. McCrae served in a commendable way for 23 years.
THE DR. JOY J. JOHNSON YEARS
In early 1951, the church suffered a great loss in the death of Rev. J.D. McCrae. Many ministers from various places came and went without the church extending a call. Finally, the deacons called upon the members to join in prayer with them for God to send First Baptist Church a preacher and pastor. Their prayers were answered on the second Sunday in September 1951, when Rev. Joy Joseph Johnson was invited to preach to the congregation. After a few days, he was called to be the ninth pastor of First Baptist Church, North Main Street, Fairmont, North Carolina.
Rev. Johnson was a young, dynamic and energetic minister still in his twenties. He had great faith and determination, a captivating personality, and love for all people. He accepted the challenge as pastor and recommended very early in his pastorate that the church become full-time and a parsonage be constructed. This was accomplished by the end of his first year as pastor.
In 1953, one very strong department was the Sunday School department. The following were the 20 classes and teachers that met each Sunday morning: 1) Beginners A - Mrs. J. T. Thompson, 2) Beginners B - Mrs. Sarah Thompson, 3) Primary A - Mrs. Annie Inman and Mr. E. L. Peterson, 4) Primary B - Mrs. Sallie McCallum and Mrs. Carneal Jones, 5) Primary C – Mr. Ariah Powell and Mr. Wheeler Carmichael, 6) Juniors A – Mrs. Willie Mae Worley and Mrs. Marjorie Watson, 7) Juniors B – Miss Arzando Bethea, 8) Juniors C – Mr. Raymond Pittman and Mr. G. N. Floyd, 9) Intermediate A – Mrs. Marie Cheeks and Mr. Bruce Pittman, 10) Intermediate B – Mrs. Clara Chavis and Mrs. Sophronia McCormick, 11) Intermediate C – Miss Janie Mae Floyd and Mr. O. C. Jones, 12) Intermediate D – Mrs. Eva Peace and Mrs. Mary Pittman, 13) Pioneer of Faith – Mrs. Mattie B. Haggins and Mrs. Rosa McArthur, 14) Young Men – Mrs. Beatrice Howell and Mr. Henry Byrd, 15) Loyal Workers – Mr. Joseph Davis and Mr. Robert Worley, 16) Spiritual Workers – Mrs. Omega F. Johnson and Mary Owens, 17) Beacon Lights – Mrs. Marie Floyd and Mrs. Cora Taylor, 18) Eureka Bible – Mr. Thomas D. Killens and Mr. R. C. Walters, 19) Durka Bible – Mrs. Emma Davis and Mrs. Mary Faulk, and 20) Adult Men – John H. Iseley and Mr. E. Z. Crawford. By 1954, class 21 was added called the New Class taught by Rev. J. J. Johnson and Mr. Fred Worley.
Until the early 1970’s, there was only one Superintendent of the Sunday School at a time. The following are the list of Superintendents in the order in which they served: 1) John Henry Floyd, 2) Walter Inman, 3) Nedward Floyd, 4) John H. Iseley, 5) John H. Floyd, 6) French Blount, 7) Gosnold N. Floyd, Sr., 8) Raymond Thompson, 9) Fred Worley, 10) Samuel B. Peace, and 11) Bobby Moody. Some of the earliest Sunday School secretaries were Miss Larsenia Jones, Estella Mitchell, Elizabeth Bradshaw, and assistant secretary, Elizabeth A. Griffin.
In 1954, the first organ was purchased with the following donors and contributors: Mrs. E. C. Arnette, Mrs. Annie B. Bethea, Miss A. J. Bethea, Mrs. Delia Bradshaw, Mr. Ben Barr, Mr. Henry Byrd, Mr. Wheeler Carmichael, Mrs. L. B. Floyd, Mr. G. N. Floyd, Mr. John and Miss Dorothy Floyd, Mr. Alexander Granger, Mr. Creft Haggins, Mrs. Annie Howell, Mrs. Julia Inzar, Mr. G. W. Griffin, Mrs. Barbara Jones, Mrs. Carneal Jones, Rev. and Mrs. J. J. Johnson, Mr. John Jackson, Mr. Thomas Killens, Mr. Emerson London, Mr. John Little, Mr. Harvy McArthur, Mrs. Chrissie McIntyre and Mr. Haywood Worley, Mrs. Bernice McGhee, Mrs. Susetta Mitchell, Miss Sallie McCallum, Mr. A. D. Nichols, Mrs. Mary Owens, Mrs. Mary Peacock, Mrs. E. Peace and Mr. G. Pittman, Mr. E. L. Peterson, Mr. Ariah Powell, Mr. Andrew Pittman, Mr. Lucius Pittman, Sr., Mr. Alton Powell, Mr. P. E. Shaw, Mr. Willie Stackhouse, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Stephens, Mrs. Mildred T. Thompson, Miss Esteen Taylor, Mrs. Rosa Worley, and Mrs. Willie M. Worley, Mrs. Beatrice Howell, Mrs. Beulah Campbell, Mrs. Emma Davis, Mrs. Emmerline Inman, Mr. Wayne Faulk, Mr. Rosco Fulmore, Mrs. Lucille Walters, Mrs. J. F. Willis, Mrs. “Arch” Worley, Rev. Napoleon Worley, Mr. and Mrs. Malachi McCormick, Mrs. Gladys Williams, and Mrs. B. H. McRae.
During the mid-1950’s, plans were made for extensive renovation and additions to the church. The following is a list of the special gifts donated with their donors: chapel heating system (Delia Bradshaw); Church Sanctuary Lights (Earl Gurst, Annie L. Gurst, P. E. Shaw, Sadie Shaw, Omega F. Johnson, Rev. J. J. Johnson, C. B. Moore, Alma Gause, Rosa McArthur, Louise B. Floyd, E. C. Cunningham, Emerson London, Janice Willis, C. H. Pittman, S. B. Peace, Eva Peace, Mattie B. Haggins, Ethel Gaddy, Alglossie Faulk, Beulah G. Arnette, Harvey McArthur, Sally McCallum, Mary Pittman, A. B. London, Dorothy B. Floyd, Esteen Taylor, and Maggie Johnson; Mother’s Plaque in memory of Andrew Pittman (Mary Pittman); Book of Remembrance (Quessie Nance); Silver Serving Water Set in memory of Quessie Nance (Grady Nance); Secretary Desk (Louise B. Floyd); Flowers (Jones’ sisters and Maggie Johnson); Church Telephone and Sanctuary Clock (Intermediate A Sunday School Class); Tiled Kitchen (Deacon Board); 50 Baptist Standard Hymnals (Church Youth); First $100 on church hut (Sally McCallum Archie); Church Covenant (Ruth Walls in memory of her mother, Mrs. Christine Faulk Pittman); Silverware (Dorothy Mitchell); Communion Table Linen from Damascus (Rev. J. J. Johnson); Stove, Dining Room Tables, Offering Plates (Spiritual Workers Class); Refrigerator, Tiled Dining Room Floor, Communion Linen, Christmas Scenes and Decorations (Deaconess Council); Church Carpet (Ushers and Spiritual Workers’ Class); Parsonage’s Guest Room Suite and Dining Room Suite (Pastor’s Aid); Tithing Box (Burnell Stackhouse); Post Lights (Floyd Children), Bertha Granger, Nedwood and Penny Floyd, and Queene Granger; Windows in the church sanctuary with the donor name preceding the person in memorium (Earl Gurst – Earl and Annie Gurst, Alglossie Faulk – Wayne Faulk, Taylor Family – Esteen Taylor, Mary Pittman – Andrew Pittman, Rev. J. J. Johnson – W. J. and Edith Johnson, L. B. Floyd – Richard and Delia Bradshaw, Bobby Moody – James Moody, Grady Nance – Quessie Nance, Dorothy Mitchell – Josephine A. Jones, Maggie Johnson – Luvenia Jones, William Howell – Velma Howell the Jones’ Children – Charlie and Jennie Jones, Deacon and Deaconess Boards and Spiritual Workers’ Class).
During Dr. Joy J. Johnson’s ministry membership had grown tremendously to over 400 active members and from one tither in 1951 to more than 35% of the membership. The church tithes its income to State, Home and Foreign Missions, Shaw University, Shaw Divinity School, Central Children’s Home, the objectives of the North Carolina State Convention and many others programs and projects.
The following auxiliaries have been organized: Deaconess Council, Laymen League, Usher Board, First-Aides, Celestial, Heralds of Joy, J.J. Johnson, Gospel, Male and Senior-Jubilee Choirs.
Most noteworthy is our A-1 Missionary Department, which had Sis. Venice McEachern as the first president under the pastoral leadership of Rev. J. D. Harrell in the early 1920’s. Sis. Della Stephens and Emma Davis followed as missionary leaders under the pastorates of Rev. J.D. McRae and Dr. Joy J. Johnson. During the term of Sis. Emma Davis, Sis. Marie Floyd organized the Junior Department and was the first Junior Supervisor. She then became president of the Senior Missionary Department and served for many years. In 1962, two-year tenures for officers began. The first person to serve under tenure as President was Sis. Lillian M. Jones. In 1965, the Young Adult Department was organized with Sis. Linda Thompson as the first president. The first Young Adult Director was Sis. Lillian M. Jones, followed by Sis. Minnie T. Baker and Beulah G. Arnette. The Junior Department was later changed to the Youth Department and Sis. Janie Thompson was the second Junior Supervisor who served untiringly for many years. Sis. Brenda Hill served as Junior Supervisor from 1975 to 1979 and Sis. Janie Thompson was again elected as Junior Supervisor. In 1982, Sis. Janice Thompson became Youth Supervisor, along with Sis. Jean Haggins as Associate Supervisor. Other Presidents of the Missionary Circle who have served under tenure were Sis. Burnell Stackhouse, Marie Cheek, Fredonia Little, Marie Floyd, Marie Pittman, Margie Page, Jessie Verene and Shamley Leak.
All renovations that began in 1955 were completed by the fall of 1957, the same year that the General Baptist State Convention met again here at First Baptist Church. The deacons whose names are engraved on the third cornerstone located on the front right side of the church, along with Rev. J. J. Johnson, are the following: E. Crawford, G. N. Floyd, J. H. Floyd, S. J. Frison, G. W. Griffin, D. C. Hill, I. Inman, J. H. Isley, O. C. Jones, T. D. Killens, A. D. Nichols, A. Powell, H. P. Powell, and R. Thompson. In 1961, the church mortgage burning was celebrated.
In the 1960’s, two used school buses were purchased to transport members. One of the first federally-funded head start programs in Robeson County was housed in the church’s basement (which is presently named The Miss Janie Youth Mission Center, dedicated in memory of Mrs. Janie Floyd Thompson, for a lifetime of dedicated service: 1887-1990).
In 1972, a tract of land on North Main Street was purchased from Dr. Rich’s wife (white female). A portion was divided into two lots, where were sold to church members to build homes, while the remaining land was used to construct a paved parking lot and a community swimming pool.
In 1979, a third tract of land, 2.5 acres, on Trinity Street was purchased from the grandson of Sandy Thompson (white male), Paul Thompson, Jr.
In 1980, the following donated tables and chairs to the House of Joy. They were as follows: B. B. Bethea Family, J. H. Floyd Family, Nedwood Floyd Family, S. J. Frison Family, Norman Hill Family, John Little Family, Bobby Moody Family, Andrew Pittman Family, Leroy Thompson Family, Robert Thompson Family, Baker-Worley Families, Inman-Walters Families, Brenda Hood and Children, Alice Mae Isley and Children, Shamley Leak and Children, Elizabeth McBride and Children, Catherine Thompson and Children, Maggie Jane Johnson, Vastie Mitchell, Eureka Bible Class, Spiritual Workers Class, Men’s Professional Club, Church Trustees, and Church Ushers.
In 1981, the House of Joy, a multi-purpose facility was built on this tract. This large structure has two lounges, two restrooms, two large kitchens, two classrooms, and a huge dining room. The dining room walls are decorated with pictures of the former pastors, their wives, elected Fathers and Mothers of the Year and Honorary Mothers of the church. The facility was completely furnished and equipped by donors. The House of Joy was dedicated in honor of Dr. Joy J. Johnson for 30 years of faithful and loyal services from the following church deacons, deaconesses, and trustees on February 22, 1981: G. N. Floyd, J. H. Floyd, Dan Ford, S. J. Frison, E. R. Gause, Lennew Gilchrist, Calvin Haggins, Norman Hill, Percy Hill, Jr., George Jamison, James G. Jones, John D. Jones, Lee A. Jones, Ocia Jones, T. D. Killens, Jr., Bobby Moody, P. E. Shaw, D. S. Stackhouse, Maurice Stackhouse, Willie Stackhouse, Robert Thompson, W. J. Townsend, Cleven Walters, Mamie Blount, Camilla Frison, Marie Floyd, Cora Ford, Alma Gause, Bertha Granger, Nan Hill, Rommie Hill, Mattie B. Haggins, Mildred Haggins, Beatrice Howell, Evelyn Jones, Lillian Jones, Vertie Jones, Maggie J. Johnson, Omega F. Johnson, Dorothy J. Killens, Mary O. Killens, Marzella McCormick, Mildred Moody, Louise Patterson, C. H. Pittman, Mary Pittman, Sophronia Powell, Sadie Shaw, Burnell Stackhouse, Jessie Stackhouse, Valeria Stackhouse, Cora Taylor, Janie F. Thompson, Linda W. Thompson, Pocahontas Thompson, Alma Townsend, Thenitha Walters, B. G. Arnette, Lela Arnette, M. T. Baker, Hal S. Brown, Alglossie Faulk, Huel Faulk, G. N. Floyd, Jr., Mae P. Floyd, Pearl Ford, Ethel Gaddy, Roderick Griffin, Terry Gilchrist, Fred Hill, Brenda Hood, Thelma Humphrey, John R. Jackson, Jr., John Jackson, Deborah Jamison, Alexander Killens, Shamley Leak, Ruby J. Lennon, Lanes McLean, Lena K. McMillian, Ruby Pittman, Dorothy McCormick, Ilar B. McDonald, Pearlie R. Taylor, C. B. Moore, Bailey Pittman, George Pittman, Vernette Rogers, Thurmond Roberts, Percy Shaw, Jr., Roosevelt Strickland, Jr., Eric Thompson, Catherine Thompson, Janice Thompson, Hurbert Thompson, Lee Helen Thompson, Ernest Thompson, Jr., Charles Townsend, Anna D. Worley, and Anthony Worley.
In 1981, the following donated towards the piano in the House of Joy. They were as follows: Mrs. B. G. Arnette, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Baker, Jr., Ms. Nancy and Mr. Roderick Griffin, Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Haggins, Mr. and Mrs. Percy Hill, Jr., Dr. and Mrs. J. J. Johnson, Mrs. Betty Jones, Mr. and Mrs. James C. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. John D. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Albert Jones, Misses Lynette and LaShanda Lennon, Mr. and Mrs. Lee McCoy, Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Moody, Mr. and Mrs. P. E. Shaw, Mr. and Mrs. Fagan Stackhouse, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Thompson, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Eric Thompson, and Mrs. Mary Pittman.
In 1981, the following donated fireplace ornaments in the House of Joy. They were as follows: Mr. and Mrs. Elijah McLean, Mr. and Mrs. Pitt Brown, and Mrs. Ilar B. McDonald.
In 1986, a church van was purchased to transport choirs, and other small groups on pleasure and business trips, as well as pick up children and older adults for Sunday School and worship. Also, The Lord’s Prayer plaque, located in the House of Joy, was donated in memory of Anthony Thompson (January 15, 1948-July 5, 1986).
In the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s, under Dr. Johnson’s leadership, the church was constant in making additions and improvements, not only for esthetic appeal, but also for the safety and comfort of the members and the public. These additions and improvements include the following: padded pews, draperies for baptismal pool, a Conn Organ, an $8,000 Kimball Grand Piano (purchased in 1989 and paid off in 90 days), a three dimensional mural painting of The River Jordan (which encompasses the baptismal pool and donated by Sis. Virginia F. Leonard in memory of her husband, Bro. Hickson Leonard), and a 29 passenger bus.
Additionally, a 100ft. lighted steeple with Maas-Rowe Carillon, Inc. chimes were given by the following in memoriam by donors: Loving Son Darrin Thompson by Mother Connie Canery Thompson (a major contributor) and Devoted Husband Michael, Galloway and Bessie Griffin by Annie Nancy Griffin, Beulah G. Arnette, Raymond and Nina Johnson, Iola Graham by Janice Graham, Calvin C. Haggins by Mildred Haggins and Family, Hickson Leonard by Virginia Leonard, Rev. R. M. Thompson by Sarah Thompson and Paul Baker, Jr. Families, Lee Walters by Eva Walters. Additional donors were Dr. Joy and Omega Johnson, James G. and Lillian Jones, John D. and Vertie Jones, Alexander, Deborah, and Joy Killens, Leroy and Cora Thompson, Robert and Pocahontas Thompson, Deacon Board, Deaconess Council, Nurses’ Aide, Ushers, Faithful Church Members, and Worley Family Reunion.
In 1989 for the 120th anniversary, the following were honorees by donors: Mrs. B. G. Arnette by Wendy, Mr. and Mrs. Dallas O. Ford by LaShawn, Kimberley and Natalie, Mr. and Mrs. Percy Hill, Jr. by Percy III and Frederick, Dr. and Mrs. J. J. Johnson by Deborah, Alex, and Joy A., Mr. and Mrs. John D. Jones by Kimberly and Lisa, Mrs. Earrie Killens by Linette and Lakeisha, Mrs. Charlotte Scott by Frances, Broadus, and Billy, Mrs. Catherine Thompson by Jerri, Sherry, Larry, Perry and Terry, Ms. Annie Griffin by Wendy, Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy L. Johnson by Jimmy II, Mr. and Mrs. James G. Jones by their foster children, Mr. and Mrs. Lee A. Jones by the Ohio group, Mrs. Shamley Leak by Linda and Carol, Mr. and Mrs. P. E. Shaw by Ronald and Percy, Jr., Rev. and Mrs. R. M. Thompson by Minnie, Paul, and Keith. The following were in memoriam by donors: Mr. and Mrs. John H. Floyd by the children, Dr. and Mrs. O. P. Foster by Edith, Omega, and Joy, Mr. Monroe Gerald by Mildred and children, Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Griffin by the children, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Jones by the 1989 family reunion, Mr. and Mrs. James Moody by Bobby and Mildred, Mrs. Sophronia Powell by Ann, Ernestine, and Minnie, Mr. Robert Worley by Mary and children, Mr. Calvin C. Haggins by Mildred, Vernette, Jackie, Gregory, and Sidney, Mrs. Ruth Gaddy, by Annette and Steve, Mr. and Mrs. Lennew Gilchrist by the children, Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Johnson by Joy and Omega, Mr. Perry McLean by Novella and Leo, Mr. and Mrs. Archie Patterson by Frankie, Mr. Vardell Thompson by Mary and children, and Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Worley by Novella and Leo. Additional donors were Eric Prevatte of Prevatte Auto Parts, Inc., James P. Powers of Progressive Savings and Loan, Dr. W. C. Marable of Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Malcolm Andrews of United Carolina Bank, and Elmer Hayes of Village Inn.
During the years of 1991-1993, the only time recorded in the church’s history of Junior Deacons took place. They were the following: Kevin Floyd, Paul Keith Baker, Andrew Grice, Jevonne Gaddy, Jimmy Pittman, Percy Hill, III, Christopher Haggins, Jermal Powell, David Ford, Jr., Emmanuel Thompson, Reco Baker, Terry Gilchrist, Jr., and Frederick Powell. Also, during the time range, Sunday School Co-Superintendents emerged in groups of three as followed: Bobby Moody, Terry Gilchrist, and John Jackson; B. Moody, T. Gilchrist, and Michael Townsend; B. Moody, T. Gilchrist, and Eric Thompson. Presently, they are Terry Gilchrist, Daniel Arnette, and Sherman Moody.
In January 1994, Rev. Ruby P. Lennon was selected as Assistant Pastor of the church. Her duties and responsibilities were many as she worked to assist the pastor and the church family. Christian education, in which a Sunday School drive was done based on weekly attendance and overall monthly attendance; afterwards, banners and certificates were presented. The classes and teachers decided on their own names. Additionally, vacation bible school and children church were a few of the ministries under her supervision. Also, during this time, Rev. Lennon implemented a tape ministry that provided members and shut-ins the opportunity to hear a missed service or program.
Forty (40) ministers have received their calling while a member of this church. They are the following: Henry Inman, Pettiway Mitchell, Frank Byrd, Plummer Stephens, Frank Humphrey, M. Buie, Gilio Stephens, Fred Benton, Guerney Lewis, James Worley, Dan Bethea, Umpson Killens, Barney Bethea, Jr., E. R. Humphrey, Norman Rowdy, T. D. Killens, Sr., Napoleon Worley, Fred Worley, Elliott Jones, Malachi McCormick, Jimmy Gilchrist, C. J. Jones, Raymond Thompson, Wendell Thompson, Charles Townsend, Donald Townsend, J. W. Bristow, Ray Jones, Roland Cunningham, Maurice Stackhouse, Jerry Arnette, Ruby Lennon, W. Brenda Hood, Martine Spencer, Arienne Hood, Ruby Pittman, Mary Gilchrist, Jackie Moody, Peggy Moore, and Pamela Powell.
First Baptist was the first church of the Lumber River Association to accept women ministers and to recommend them to the association, that they be licensed and ordained. Five female members are ordained ministers: Rev. Ruby P. Lennon, Rev. W. Brenda Hood, Rev. Martine J. Spencer, Rev. Ruby Pittman, and Rev. Mary Gilchrist.
For many years, a public service program, entitled, “Black Perspective”, featuring Dr. Joy J. Johnson, was aired over the WFMO Radio Station. Each Sunday, the morning worship service was aired from the sanctuary, but now airs on Saturdays at 11:00am. The tape ministry provides members and shut-ins an opportunity to hear a missed service or program.
In December 1995, Rosie L. Ford donated a plaque which is in the House of Joy in memory of Edna E. Ford.
On December 30, 1996, an untimely death ended the faithful service of Dr. Johnson. At this time, Rev. Ruby P. Lennon was named Interim Pastor of First Baptist Church and served faithfully until June 8, 1997.
THE REV. VERNON C. KING YEARS
On the second Sunday in May 1997, Rev. Vernon C. King of Augusta, Georgia was called as the leader of First Baptist Church. He began his pastorate on June 8, 1997. His installation was historical significance, which drew men and women of all walks of life that included brethren of the clergy, local elected officials, prominent business persons as well as renowned personalities of Martin Luther King, III and Christine Ferris, sister of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and author of a book.
Under his leadership, many ministries developed as followed: The Birth Month Ministry, The Praise Team, and the expansion of the Tape Ministry and the Outreach Ministry. Additionally, the church acquired a Baldwin PS 2500 Digital Organ/Piano equipped with a hard drive and also matching youth pulpit chairs.
In 2000, the following were patrons for tables in the House of Joy: Alford Family, Jean and Huel Faulk, John H. Floyd Family, Fred Hill Family, Dr. and Mrs. Robert Jones, Phelicia Lewis, Mae Ringgold, Sadie Shaw Smith, William Townsend, Emmett and Carolyn Brown, Gosnold Floyd, Jr. Family, Griffin Family, John, Vertie, and Lisa Jones, Dorothy and Thomas D. Killens, Jr., Lanes McLean, Attorneys Kim and Troy Smith, Lee Helen Thompson, W. J. Townsend Family, Anna D. Worley, Helen, Bernadette, Denise, Donna and Sabrina Coleman, The Order of the Eastern Star: Queen of Hope Chapter #522 A-1 (Novella McLean, Worthy Matron, Rita Rogers, Secretary, and Darrell Hyman, Worthy Patron). Additionally, tables were in memory of Lennew and Annie Neal Gilchrist, LaRue Jones, Bobby and Mildred Moody, Calvin Haggins, John and Maggie McMillian, and Lieutenant and Barbara Thompson.
In 2000, the following were patrons for chairs for the House of Joy: Lois Baker, Henry Byrd, Ethel, Eriess, and Cassandra Gaddy, Ervin and Alma Gause, Ilar Granger, Chalmus Hood, Percy and Nan Hill, Annie Mae Jackson, Rev. Vernon C. King, Phelicia Lewis, Lanes McLean, Dorothy Mitchell, Doris Richardson, Catherine Thompson, Lee Helen Thompson, Albert Worley, Emmett and Carolyn Brown, Gloria Campbell, Catherine and Ernest P. Gaddy, Mildred Gerald, Annette and Steve Harper, Rev. Brenda Hood, Hilda Hubbard, Alexander, Deborah, Joy and Jenee’ Killens, William and Mary Lennon, Bennie McCormick, Lena McPherson, Sherman Moody, Eric Thompson Family, Sheila and Richard Thompson, Bobby and Cameron Walters, and Willie Mae Worley. Additionally chairs were in memory of Mae Faulk, Callie Faulk, Wayne Faulk, Wilma Faulk, Willie Floyd, Janet Ford, Robert Lee Ford, Lee Albert Jones, Hettie and Woodrow London, Jeffery Love, Milton Love, Alice Mae McCormick, John and Maggie McMillian, Henry Powell, Sophronia McCormick Powell, Marion Floyd Singleton, Barbara Thompson, and Columbus and Lela Williams.
During King’s pastorate, the church’s vestibule was named in memory of Dr. Joy Johnson (for faithful service from 1951 until 1996) and the church’s chapel was named The Omega Chapel in memory of Mrs. Omega Foster Johnson for 45 years of dedicated services.
THE REV. CHESTER HOPKINS, JR. YEARS
The Rev. Chester Hopkins, Jr., from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, became pastor on February 23, 2002. His installation was held on April 28, 2002. There were local members of the clergy, as well as clergymen from Mississippi and local elected officials.
Under his leadership, the following have begun: established monthly newsletter; revised new members' classes; re-instated Baptist Training Union (BTU); launched children's church; initiated S.W.A.T. (Soul-Winning Action Team) Evangelism Ministry; added six new deacons; approved FBC Inspirational Choir; assigned 4th Sunday for FBC Inspirational Choir to Sing; merged Senior-Jubilee Choir and J. J. Johnson Choir to form Mass Choir; assigned 1st and 5th Sundays for Mass Choir to Sing; began D. A.V. I. D. Praise Dance Ministry; introduced a vision approved for the construction of a new church; commenced Noon-Day Bible Study; established 5:30pm Weekly Youth Bible Study; coordinated Joint-Board Ministry; implemented a CPA (Certified Public Accountant); instituted Monthly Ministry Leaders' Seminars; emphasized Seed Offering; established the Trinity Offering for the youth; stressed a Daily Five-Fold Prayer Focus: 1) Pastor, 2) Church, 3) Ministries, 4) Community, & 5) Spiritual Growth; ascertained Youth End-of-School Year Fun Day; guided Youth Summer Cook-out; supported Pastor's Anniversary Play; increased number of tithers; designated first Monday of every month as Consecrated Hour of Prayer; upgraded Sanctuary Speaker Sound System; expanded church membership; increased souls led to Christ; raised number of ministers that received calling under his leadership; established as church motto: Rooted in a relationship with Jesus Christ ~ Related in fellowship ~ Raised Up to worship and serve the Lord; established welcoming statement: In order to gain a friend, you must show yourself friendly; added a church e-mail address; added pastor's cell phone; established church stewardship statement: Spend wisely ~ Save frequently ~ Sow consistently ~ Sacrifice proportionately; implemented congregational church statement by Bill and Gloria Gaither, I Then Shall Live; managed construction of a new marquis for church announcement at the front of the church yard; upgraded Church Office Technology (Hardware and Software); purchased additional office supplies and equipment; established a Gospel Extravaganza; remodeled Side Door Ramp/Stairwell; provided Children Church Snacks; added Drums to Music Ministry; modified church envelopes; revised communion supplies; adjusted procedures to obtain Communion on the First Sunday; approved new outfits for Men's Choir; applied Pre-Purchased Christmas Poinsettias; implemented Helping Hands Ministry; established Young Adult Outreach Ministry; established a morning church anniversary service; adjusted the order of Sunday morning service to begin ten minutes earlier; co-led a joint effort with Dr. W. C. Marable of Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church for the formation of a church cemetery; and approved the establishment of the Women's Ministry, "Soul to Soul" which includes the sub-group "Heart of Ruth".
Pastor Hopkins’ prophetic perception for First Baptist was that it would be a “word accurate” church, a lighthouse of leadership among churches, a pluralistic and multi-racial, financially flourishing church and a visionary church. He further believed that God is calling for the real church to exemplify her true church.
Under Pastor Hopkins our membership climbed spiritually as we chose to be disciples for Christ. The membership was over 500 and tithing was done by more than 55% of the congregation.
On the fifth Sunday in April, April 29, 2012, Pastor Hopkins announced to the congregation that he would be returning home to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to do the will of God. A farewell celebration week was hosted by the church with Showers of Blessings. His FArewell sermon was preached on Mother's Day, May 13, 2012 from the text:Exodus 16:4 and the topic was "When God Does The Strangest Things to Bless You".
We are marching on toward the mark of the prize of the Higher Calling as the Spirit of the Lord continues to lead us. We are a bible-believing, bible-teaching, bible-practicing Word church. We know that our souls are anchored in the Lord!
THE REV. REX ANDERSON YEARS
Rev. Rex Anderson of Dade City, Florida was called as the pastor of First Baptist Church and began his pastorate on December 1, 2013.
Truly, God has blessed us with an anointed man of God, a man after God’s own heart, a man that knows God, understands God’s purpose and what’s best for His people. In Pastor Anderson, we have found more than just a called man of God, but more importantly, a chosen man of God.
We are marching on toward the mark of the prize of the Higher Calling as the Spirit of the Lord continues to lead us. We are a bible-believing, bible-teaching, bible-practicing Word church. We know that our souls are anchored in the Lord!
God has brought this Old Ship of Zion from 1869 to the present through many storms and much sunshine and He has always been by our side. Now let us rejoice and give praise to God, our Creator for His many blessings and miracles during our long, daring and dangerous journey. We know He did not bring us this far to leave us. To God be the Glory!!!
We give honor, recognition, and appreciation to our twelve (12) spiritual leaders and shepherds and we thank God for each one!
1. Rev. Church L. Reeves
2. Rev. Frez Hall
3. Rev. A. L. Moore
4. Rev. Dennis Powell
5. Rev. Bartley Williams
6. Rev. J. D. Harrell
7. Rev. W. C. Pope
8. Rev. J. D. McRae
9. Dr. Joy J. Johnson
10. Rev. Vernon C. King
11. Rev. Chester Hopkins, Jr.
12. Rev. Rex Anderson
NOTE: Special thanks for historical compilations to the late Sis. Janie Floyd Thompson, to the late Sis. C. B. Moore, to the late Sis. Mattie Haggins, to the late Cora Pittman, to the late Beulah G. Arnette, and for the oral history accounts of the early years by the late Bro. Robert Walters, Sr.; early historical compilations were also done by the late Rev. Wendell Thompson and Sis. Mae Hazel Ringgold; history and educational influences by Dr. Paul Keith Baker; the middle years by Rev. Dr. Ruby P. Lennon; and the current years by the late Deaconess Geraldine Jones, Sis. Rita Rogers, and Dr. Miranda Gilchrist McNair.