I love it when an article draws comments from readers because I always get to learn new things!
That’s what happened when Pastor Tommy Roberson responded to a shared post about the 176th birthday of Independence Baptist Church. It seems his church, Little River Baptist, is only 10 (or maybe only 8) years younger!
I love to research, but sometimes you come up with conflicting information. The historical marker at the Little River Baptist Church and Cemetery (near Temple, Texas) says the church was “organized in 1849 with eight members.” However a reference in Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness, an autobiographical account by Baptist evangelist Z. N. Morrell, states (on p. 238) that Morrell organized the Little River church in 1847 with “six white and one colored member.” Either way, the congregation met at first in their own homes for worship, eventually building a small log cabin for their meetings. It was a good thing, too, because a three-day revival in 1855 added 70 new members to their congregation! Morrell, a circuit-riding evangelist, served as the first pastor.
The present building was completed in 1873 on land donated by Mrs. Z. N. Morrell. As in many religious structures of the time, men and women sat on opposite sides of the building, separated by a center aisle. Important members sat in front in what was sometimes referred to as the “Amen Pews” due to the members’ tradition of voicing their hearty approval to the sermons.
By 1895 the Little River Baptist Church had grown to become the largest church in the area, so the structure was enlarged again in 1907 (or 1909).
I was glad to learn a little more about the history of Little River Baptist church, which has served as an important hub of religious and social life for over 166 years!
Footnote: My friend who now serves as pastor tells me that the grandmother of one of the current members was raised by Delia Morrell, the original pastor’s wife, who is buried at the cemetery next to the church. Now THAT’s a legacy! Moms, when you invest your lives into children, you never know how far-reaching the fruit of your influence will be!