CHURCH IN THE WILDWOOD

History of Old Harmony Baptist Church

Autauga County, Alabama


By Larry E. Caver, Jr.


There are many long forgotten churches that once thrived in the early days of Autauga County's history; churches which existed in the wildwoods adjacent to newly developing farms and communities. One such church was the Old Harmony Baptist Church located out from the old town of Independence near the present-day communities of Winslow and Evergreen. Today the only surviving evidence for the existence of this church is the old Harmony Cemetery where many early Autauga County settlers from South Carolina are buried, and the recently discovered church minutes covering the church's history from 1847 to 1859. These old church minutes now shed some light into the history of this long forgotten church.

It is assumed that Old Harmony Church started in the 1840's. The earliest recorded minutes start in January 1847. At that time the church had a total membership of 138. What may seem surprising to many, Old Harmony Church had a membership made up of both Caucasian and black (slave) members who attended the same services together for several years. The church maintained separate membership rolls by races. On the slave membership roll, slave owners were listed next to each member. Among the list of black members we find two people listed as "Ned D. & Leah G." who appear to be listed as "free".

Members were listed in the church minutes equally without any regard to race, whether it was a positive event in the person's life such as conversion or joining the church, or whether it was an event of being publicly rebuked for "profanity" or "intoxication". The Minutes contain many accounts for whites and blacks for "Un-Christian" behavior.

The church held meetings on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, most likely as a result of sharing a pastor with a church in another community. All members (including slaves) were required to attend the scheduled services and if not present, a "committee" would be promptly appointed to visit the absent member to inquire if the person had "just cause" for missing services. If "just cause" (illness, etc) was not determined the member would be "excluded" from the church within the following month or so.

The church had a pastor who was called or appointed by the congregation to serve for a term of one year. Each year the congregation either invited the current pastor to continue on or chose a new pastor. Most often the pastors at Harmony would be asked to continue on. The pastor at Harmony was usually "bi-vocational". The church also had a church clerk and one or more deacons.

Bro. J.D. Moodie was pastor of the church from at least 1847 until May 1851 when he resigned because of conflict with his career as a physician. In May 1851, Bro. A. Andrews was called as pastor. He served until October 1853 when the congregation decided to call Bro. W. L. Cochran as pastor. However, Bro. Cochran declined the "call" to Harmony. In February 1854, Bro. B.B. Smith was called as pastor. He served until January 1856. The same month Bro. Isaac Wilkes was called as pastor and continued on until at least 1859 when the church minutes end. A "Rev. William Pressley" is listed on the 1859 church membership roll. It would appear that at some point in the church's history this "Rev. Presley" served as pastor. There are alsoseparate entries on the 1859 church roll for two different members named "Rev. I.W. Wilkes" and "Rev. Washington Wilkes". It is assumed that these entries are for the same Isaac Wilkes who served as pastor.

The church had at least two deacons. In June 1852, W.C. Adair was appointed as a deacon of the church. In June 1854, Thomas Adair was also appointed as a deacon. The church also had three members serve as clerk from 1847-1859: James Lamar, John A. Stone and E.G. Wagner.

The early church membership at Harmony was made up of several old Autauga County families. The list of surnames include: Adair, Apperson, Bishop, Griffis, Chamblis, Lamar, Nunn, Overstreet, Parker, Sherrer, Stone, Wagner, Wiggins, and Williams.

On the Sundays when Harmony did not hold services, members would join fellow Baptist Churches for services. A couple of the mentioned "Sister Churches" were Shady Grove Baptist Church and Bethesda Baptist Church.

In its early days Harmony Church was using some type of temporary structure for a house of worship. Most likely the structure was a log cabin. In August 1849 a committee consisting of J. Lamar, J.D. Moodie and J. Overstreet (James) was appointed to meet with the Protestant Methodist Church (also referred to as "Caver's Church") to discuss the proposition of a joint effort by both congregations to build a new house of worship. Apparently the two denominations intended to use the building on alternating Sundays. The joint effort was initially agreed upon by both congregations but by April 1850 Caver's Protestant Methodist Church dissolved its participation in the effort. Harmony went ahead with the building project, but it appeared many obstacles postponed the new building from being complete until 1858.

In September 1855 neighboring Bethesda Baptist Church in Independence proposed to the congregation at Harmony that both churches should join together as one Baptist congregation and locate the sanctuary somewhere between Independence and the Harmony Community. Harmony Church was receptive to the idea of joining together with Bethesda but insisted that Bethesda join them at their present location. Obviously Harmony had already spent five hard years trying to finish the new sanctuary and had no intentions of giving up the effort. Bethesda Church was not inclined to the counter-offer so the whole effort was dissolved. From this point on the relationship between the two sister churches became strained.

In January 1859 a committee from Harmony was appointed to meet with Bethesda Church to insist that they change their meetings to different Sundays. Apparently Bethesda had started holding services on the same Sundays as Harmony. This move prevented members from both congregations from visiting the "Sister church" on their "off" Sundays. By this time the membership at Harmony had dropped from 138 members in 1847 to 104 members. It may have been too that members from Harmony were leaving to join Bethesda. Whatever the case, Bethesda didn't budge on the issue and continued to hold services on the same day.

Another "schism" had developed at Harmony sometime during the mid-1850's. The reasons are not clearly known but in April 1858 the white members of Harmony decided that the slave members should no longer attend joint services with the white population. It was insisted though that slaves should attend a separate service following the services for the white members. This "separation" of the races was probably the first step in the establishment of a nearby black congregation later known as the New Harmony Baptist Church.

Harmony Church survived the Civil War era but apparently existed only with a handful of church members. In the mid 1880's many of the members left to join the newly organized Evergreen Baptist Church just a few miles away. Tradition has it that the Harmony Church disbanded around the turn of the 20th century. Descendants of the charter members of Harmony Church would return yearly to "clean the cemetery" where their ancestors were buried. The old Harmony Church building was left standing vacant for several years. In April 1925 the old church building accidentally burnt.

Address:

Larry E. Caver, Jr.

P.O. Box 680052

Prattville, AL 36068

Email: LECAVERJR@AOL.COM



** On the following pages are the lists of members in 1847 and in 1859.

The first section are the white members followed by the slave section.

These records contain marks on them presumed to have been made after 1847 such as "dead". It would be assumed that someone listed as "dead" on the 1847 listing probably died between 1847 and the 1859, or later than this. Some members have other descriptions next to their names such as "Dismissed" or "Excluded". Dismissed meant that the member had moved to another church and that Harmony granted a "clear" letter of transfer to the new church. Excluded meant the member had been accused of wrong doing (drunkenness, profanity, neglecting church services, etc) and either refused to "admit wrong" or ignored the church's effort to reconciling the member.




HARMONY CHURCH MEMBERS, 1847:

Males: Females:
 John Lamar "dead"  Mary Lamar "dead" 
  Jacob Griffis  Mary Apperson 
 William Adair  Nancy Adair "dead" 
 Joseph Adair   Mary Bishop "dead" 
 Elija Sherrer  Jane Griffis 
 Henry Chamblis  Nancy Wiggins 
 Wiley Wiggins  Sarah C. Nunn "Dismissed" 
 James Apperson  Elizabeth Garratt 
 James Overstreet   Sarah Sherrer 
 Warner (Warren?) Hurst   Bethany Parker 
 James Lamar "Dismissed"   Rebecker Baker "Dismissed" 
 John Adair    Amanda Dortch  
 Crawford Nunn   Ann Adair 
 James Adair   Mary J. Lassiter 
 Elija W. Sherrer   Mary E. Lamar 
 John A. Stone    Susan Apperson  
 Francis Shields "Dismissed"    Mary Overstreet  
 John Bishop "Excluded"  Sarah Apperson 
 Christopher N. Williams  Hester(Sister?) Smith "Dismissed" 
 George W. Apperson  July Hamock "Dismissed" 
 Thomas Adair  Alice Griffis "Dismissed" 
 Richard Adair  Sister Grant "Dismissed" 
 Henry M. Oates  Martha S. Sherrer 
 M.D. Adair    Lucretia Rodgers  
 L.B. Parker    Elizabeth Shields  
 Daniel Apperson    Jane Shields  
 E.G. Wagner    Eliza Clark  
 (-) not readible   (-) not readible 
     Mary E. Jones "Dismissed" 
   Margaret C. Nunn "Dismissed" 
  Jane Lassister 
  Elizabeth Adair 
  Mary E. Edwards (Golsan written beside this) 
  Mary J. Griffis 
  M.M.E. Lesage 
  Sarah Apperson 
  Louisa Adair 
  Mary Sims 
  Mary A. Apperson 
  Elizabeth M. Adair 
  Martha A. Lamar 
  Roxana Sanders 
  M. Caroline Nunn 
  Sarah Mitchell 
  Julia Adair 
  Mary M.E. Limbrick 
  Lizzie Adair 
  Nancy Lassiter 
  Boneta M. Parker 
  E.A. Whetstone 
  Lucy J. Wagner 


Colored Members of Harmony Church (1847)


Males: Owners: Females: Owners:
 Ned G.    "Free" ?    Jerdy    John Apperson  
 Jack G.    (-)Lassiter    Leah G.    "free ne??" 
 Daniel G.   (-)Lassister    Easter    Mrs. Lanear 
 Henry G.   Wiley Wiggins   Milley    Mrs. Lanear 
 Jack D.    N. Clarck    Roda G.    G. Goodwin 
 Mansor J.   L.B. Parker   Puna G.    G. Goodwin 
 Hilliard C.G.   Lanear   Rose    Mrs. Lanear 
 Elick D. Mrs. Lanear    Ann    Dr. Houston 
 Frank "dead"    J. Lamar    (-)    B. Underwood 
 Peter   B. Underwood    Milley    C.G. Lanear 
 (-)   Major (-)   Hulda G.    A. Braodnax 
 Bas G.   T. Dunaway    Gincy    R.H. Gaston 
 Jim D.   W.G. Love    Monie    L.B. Parker 
 John   D. Kirkland    Juda G.    T. Goodwin 
 Abram G.   W.Wiggins    Dina    C.G. Lanear 
 Anda   T. Griffis    Nelly    B. Underwood 
 (-)   C.G. Lanear   Mary    C.G. Lanier 
 (-)   C.G. Lanear    Nancy    L.B. Parker 
 Peter G.   Mrs. Baker   Daphny    L.B. Parker 
 Henry G.   George Body's    Clarissa    (-)*not Parker 
 Tom   B. Underwood   Dinny    L.B. Parker 
 Bill   C.G. Lanier   Fanny    L.B. Parker 
 Isaac    Chas.M. Holston   Caroline G.    Moton 
 (-)   (-)    (-)    (-) 
 (-)G.    (-) 
 August    (-) 


HARMONY CHURCH MEMBERS, April,1859:


Males: Females:
 William Adair    Mary Lamar "dead" 
J.J. Lamar "Dismissed"   Nancy Motley 
G.W. Apperson "Excommunicated"   Nancy Wiggins 
Richard E. Adair   Mary E. Lamar Wilkes 
M.D. Adair   Mary Overstreet 
L.B. Parker   Eliza Clark 
Daniel Apperson   Rodusea Chambliss "Dismissed" 
E.G. Wagner   Elizabeth V. Adair "Dismissed" 
Rev. William Pressley   Mary E. Golsan 
T.J. Law "Dismissed"   Sarah Apperson 
Rev. I.W. Wilkes   Elizabeth W. Adair 
Rev. Washington Wilkes   Martha A. Lamar 
John L. Golsan   M. Caroline Nunn 
William G. Ivey   Sarah Mitchell "dead" 
Wilford Goodwin   Nancy Lassister 
Galaspie Wallace   Boneta M. Parker 
Walter M. Wagner  E.A. Whetstone 
Edmund Bishop   Lucy J. Wagner 
John D. Ivey   Jane Wilkes 
Wiley D. Lassister   Frances A. Adiar 
William Overstreet   Martha C. Wiggins 
James M. Bishop   Sarah Nunn 
John Bishop   Harriette Overstreet 
Richard Chambliss   Mary A. Goodwin 
Joshua R. Tyus   Nancy A. Ivey 
William Clark   Mary A. Wallace 
John Taylor   Mary A. Nunn 
John Fendleyson   Georgiana Garner 
John Garner   Martha A. Fendleyson 
L.C. Garner  

Colored Members of Harmony Church (1859)


Males: Owners: Females: Owners:
Hilliard   (-)    Easter    Mary Lanier 
(-)   (-)    Ann    (-) Houston 
(-)   DeBardelaben   Milly  (-) Lanier 
(-)   (-)    Marry   (-)  Lanier 
(-)   Griffis    (-)   L.B. Parker 
(-)   Howard    Annie   L.B. Parker 
(-)   Wagner    Nancy   L.B. Parker 
(-)    Wagner    Daphny   L.B. Parker 
(-)   C.G. Lanier    (-)  L.B. Parker 
(-)   C.G. Lanier   Jinney   L.B. Parker 
(-)   W. Hall   Fanny   L.B. Parker 
August   Lassister    (-)   B. Underwood 
(-)   W.Hall   Clarissa   R. Underwood 
William   L.B. Parker   Letty   D. Caver 
Jack   Estate Wm. Nunn   Nancy   Estate Wm. Nunn 
Charles   L.B. Parker   Harriette   L.B. Parker 
Elisha    L.B. Parker   Nancy   L.B. Parker 
Jobe    L.B. Parker   Martha   L.B. Parker 
Antony   Nancy Lassister   Lucy   L.B. Parker 
Cash   M. Lanier   Sarah Estate Wm. Nunn 
Oliver   Estate Houston   Martha W. Wilkes 
(-)   L.B. Parker   Martha Nancy Lassister 
Jacob   L.B. Parker   Sarah Wilford Goodwin 
Green   L.B. Parker