Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Red River Baptist Church: 170-Years of History

Red River Baptist Church's new sanctuary (left), old shale block building built 1947 (center), parsonage (right). Bossier Parish Library Collection: 2010.024.017
One hundred and seventy years ago on the “Saturday before the 4th Lord’s day in August 1849...” (August 25, 1849), Red River Baptist Church was organized at the request of thirteen men and women. The charter members were James Engram, J. G. & Caroline Curry, Dudley & Matilda Curry, Peter & Jane Curry, Adline Pouncy, William & Nancy Perrit, Selenor Romby, and Thomas & Louisa Hamilton.

They were led in the organization of the church by Reverend M. S. McDonal and Reverend Allen Winham from the outgrowth of the mission work of Caney Creek Baptist Church. Rev. Winham served as the pastor for the first fifteen and a half years (longest-serving pastor in the history of this church), except for a few months in which Rev. McDonal served as pastor.

During the nineteenth century, the church met only once a month, and on their next meeting, the newly formed church happily welcomed seven new members, including two slaves. In fact, the church minutes reveal that a large portion of the church’s membership was composed of slaves, who later formed a separate church.

It was recorded in the church minutes on the fifth Sunday in June of 1862 that the church met at Gold Point on the plantation of Wm. Pickett. On that day, the largest number of baptisms to occur in one day, in the history of the Red River Baptist Church, took place. According to the church minutes, Rev. Winham gave a sermon and afterward “a door was opened and invitation was given for the reception of members, when 48 presented themselves for baptism who being examined were received and baptized the same evening.” The names of all those baptized were recorded in the minutes as well.

All we know about the original meeting place is what’s described in the minutes of the organization of the church as “the meeting House in the neighborhood of ‘Willow Chute.’” Sometime around 1859 or 1860 the church moved to Wallace Springs or “Old Red River Cemetery,” located on the road to the Linton community. And, in the 1880s, services were held at the Pine Grove Schoolhouse.

It was November of 1901 when a majority vote was given to be built a permanent church house near Linton. A one-room frame building was erected in 1902 at the church’s current location and served as the church house until 1947 when the groundbreaking was announced for the construction of a new shale block building. The shale block building was a one-room structure that featured electric lights, ceiling fans, and butane gas heat.
Groundbreaking for new shale block church house, Linton Rd. 1947
Carol Young Collection: 1998.081.053
The 1950s was a time of rapid expansion for the church starting in 1951 when three Sunday school rooms were added onto the shale block building. Then, in 1952, a committee met to discuss building more Sunday School rooms, which resulted in a new building, that later became the parsonage. In 1955, the building committee agreed to finance the construction of a four-room Sunday School building. Finally, in 1957, the church approved the parsonage to be enlarged.

Ten years later, in the spring of 1967, a committee was formed to investigate the possibility of building a new Church building. But two years went by before plans were approved for a new sanctuary. On September 12, 1971, a dedication service was held for the new sanctuary, which was constructed with brick veneer, all-electric central air and heat, and was fully carpeted. Perhaps more importantly than the dedication service, the Red River Baptist Church celebrated their 122nd anniversary on August 29, 1971, in the new sanctuary.

In the fall of 1970, advertisements were placed in the newspaper for the shale block building to
be sold to someone willing to move the building. For some reason, the building was not sold, and
church records reveal that it was converted into classrooms and an assembly hall. On July 6,
1977, groundbreaking took place on a new educational wing built behind the sanctuary, which
was later added onto in the spring of 2000. On August 1978, the old shale block building was
torn down. A three-hundred seat sanctuary was added on around 2001 or 2002.

There have been two cemeteries established by the Red River Baptist Church, one at the
“Wallace Spring” location and one at Linton. The first cemetery at the “Wallace Spring” location
west of Cypress bayou on the Linton-Vanceville Road has been there for well over a century.
The second cemetery is located adjacent to the current church location and has been in use since
about 1904 and was expanded in 1958 or 1959.

During the last 170 years, Red River Baptist Church has “regularly sent messengers to various
districts states and-southwide [sic] Southern Baptist gatherings, and supported associational
missions, state missions, home missions, foreign missions, orphanages, Christian education and
benevolences of many kinds.”

All are welcome to join the 170th homecoming celebration on August 25, 2019, at 10:45 a.m.
with a fellowship meal afterward. It is located at 3301 E. Linton Road, Benton, La.

To learn more about the history of churches in Bossier Parish, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries
History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

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