History of First Baptist Church of Campbellton, Florida
By Dr. Jerry Lee--1990
On March 12th, 1825 the following nineteen persons became charter members of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church located in Campbellton, Florida:
John Beasley Clark Jackson
Sarah Beasley Susannah Jackson
Miller Brady Robert Louckston
Sextus Camp Martha Parker
James Chason Martha Peacock
Lucy Chason W. Peacock
Elizabeth Chambers Nancy Philips
Ephriam Chambers Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Daniel Sarah Williams
Some “firsts” for First Baptist Campbellton
The first service after being constituted a church: March 13, 1825
First Pastor: Rev. E.W. Callaway
First Deacons: James Chason; Clark Jackson
First Church Clerk: Miller Brady
First Funds sent to Association: $6.67 for minutes and other expenses
First Mission: November 12, 1825 at Chattahoochee
First Female Missionary Society in Florida: October 15, 1848
First name change: October 8, 1859 to Campbellton First Church
First full-time services: 1953(question on date)
On March 12, 1825 twenty hardy souls met at Campbellton, Florida to establish the First Baptist Church of Campbellton. In January of that year John Quincy Adams had begun to serve as the sixth President of the United States. Four Years earlier Florida had become an American Territory. Andrew Jackson, hero of the battle of New Orleans in 1812, was active in helping to bring the Florida Territory under the control of the United States. he sought to nullify the threat of Indian uprisings. It would yet be 20 years before Florida would become the 27th state.
Those early members truly lived on the edge of the frontier in the Florida Territory. A year earlier a log house was built at Tallahassee to serve as a meeting house for Florida’s third legislative council. The entire territory was separated into two counties divided by the Suwannee River with county seats at Pensacola and St. Augustine. This was the setting for the establishment of Florida’s oldest Baptist Church.
Beginning with its inception and constitution as a fellowship of baptized believers in the Baptist faith, this church has taken seriously the Biblical mandate to preach the gospel. In its ministry of proclamation, it has been faithful to Christ’s commission to preach to every person. This is verified by the large numbers coming into the church on “experience” and baptism. Into its membership has come those moving from East to West. They were here for just a short period and then moved off.
Land owners, slaves, and the poor all were in fellowship of the church. Often the minutes of the church conference reflected members whose lives fell far short of the decorum set by the church. Some drank to excess, some were profane, some were thieves (hog steeling), some were guilty of adultery, some sold liquor, and some at times engaged in fist fights.
The church exercised strong discipline over its members. Wrong doers were reprimanded and excluded from church membership. Those faulty in attendance had to give account.
The decorum contained strict requirements that members be present for all services and church conferences. Errant members were required to come before the church and make acknowledgment of sins and absences from meetings, otherwise they would be excluded from the church.
Members were required to report to the church on those members known to be guilty of some sin. Numerous entries stated that a certain brother brought particular charges against another member. Committees were then appointed to investigate the charges and bring back a report to the church. Sometimes patience was exercised toward the offending member, in that his or her case was continued until the next meeting giving time for the person to make amends.
To be excluded from the church was enough to put fear in the heart of the wayward member. It was usually a redemptive act on the part of the church, because the member would come back to the church, acknowledge the wrong, and promise to do right in the future.
From the church’s earliest days the minutes indicate the church’s interest in cooperating with other churches and the Association. For a while this church participated with the S. E. Alabama Association. Delegates were even sent to represent the church at meetings in Daleville, Rehobeth, and Bethlehem Baptist Church, North of Louisville, Alabama, 75 miles to the North.
On March 12th when the church constituted and after approving the Constitution, Covenant, and Decorum, the church then elected two men as deacons and called for their ordination. The next day Brother Callaway was called to serve as the first pastor.
On May 17, 1825 the church appointed Brother Camp and his wife to preserve such articles as is necessary for the use of the church in administering the ordinance. They then licensed Brother Benjamin Fascue and Brother M. Brady to preach the gospel. After the first three months, on June 11, 1825 the church resolved to put off washing of feet at the communion service.
On November 12, 1825 the church ordered that a committee be appointed to help establish a church on the bluff of the Appalachicola River. It was agreed to dismiss those who would go there and help constitute the church. Sextus Camp, one of the founders here, left to go with the group, but by the next year he was back at Campbellton, being placed on the committees again.
In 1826 Brethren Camp and Callaway were appointed to select a site for the meeting house. They reported back that they had selected a spot on the North side of the creek. It was not until 1852 the church finally got the deed for the property. They paid the sum of $50.00. The deed also provided a place for a public school on the property.
In 1844 Rev. A. J. Mercer became the pastor. His brother founded Mercer College at Macon, Georgia. It is still in existence.
In 1845 the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in Augusta, Georgia. In November 1847, the Campbellton Church hosted the local churches in the constitution of the West Florida Association. The Church faithfully elected representatives to the Association Conferences.
On July 19, 1849 Brother Wily Stewart was charged with using disrespectful and unbecoming language about his wife in public company. Brother Miller was charged with using profane language by Brother E. Vinning. Both Stewart and Miller were excluded form the church. Sister Ayer in 1851 was excluded from the church for adultery.
The first meeting house was made of logs. The congregation was segregated by gender with men on one side and women on the other. They even entered by separated doors. A place also was provided for slaves.
In 1850 efforts were made to secure the land on which the building was located. They raised $50.00. On June 21, 1832 the church purchased 10 acres of land for a meeting house site and for a public school. In 1858 the present building was constructed.
As early as April 21, 1832 the church received slaves into its fellowship. On April 21, 1855 the church requested Brother Davis to preach to the colored people on Sabbath evenings of the monthly meetings. He agreed to do so.
On January 8, 1858 the church determined to organize a Sunday School at this place. Brother J.A. Collier was appointed superintendent pro tem. Sister Hall was requested to act as collector of funds to purchase a library. Collection was then taken up. Pledges and cash taken totaled $13.00.
On April 22, 1866 the Baptist church of colored members met in conference. They opened the door for membership. Amos was received as a member.
On November 20, 1869 the Association requested that each church organize itself into an auxiliary society for the Campbellton Church gladly did so.
Interesting Excerpts From Church Minutes
One person who had a tough time maintaining the decorum was L. Gilstrap. Gilstrap could not stay away from liquor. In one conference he would be charged and in the next he would be excluded. This went on for some time. Then one day he was appointed to visit a wayward member.
Perhaps one of the most unusual entries is the case of James Colton. James was disciplined for getting drunk in May, 1875 and in April he was dismissed from the church roll. In June, 1882 he was restored to the church. In April, 1885 James died. A resolution in the church minutes reads: “the church has sustained a great loss in Brother Colton’s death. He was unassuming in character, ever ready for every word and work. Although called suddenly to the bright world of spirits, he was in order and he waited for the call to come up higher.” Consolation was extended to the family.
In reading the minutes of this church in its early days, you immediately sense the gravity in which the meeting were conducted. There was never any sense of humor, although many of the things done may seem humorous today. One entry which is humorous to us is that the church conference had no other business but the pastor’s salary. They adjourned the meeting.
On one occasion the church voted to pay the pastor $180.00 for the next year. The minutes show that they could not even pay him the $150.00 promised for the previous year.
Those early members like so many of us today found it very difficult to serve the Lord without wavering in the faith. Human weaknesses are a part of the record, just like our faults are today before God.
The following are the Campbellton Baptist Church membership requirements as adopted by the deacons on January 27th, 1849
It shall be the duty of all male members to attend all conferences and meetings and failure to do so, the shall state the cause of absence to the next conference. Females are expected to attend punctually where possible to do so.
Members who know of some evil of another member are to report it to the church at the first opportunity.
It shall be the duty of the female members to bear some part in all the necessary expenses of the church.
It shall be the duty of all the males when at the sanctuary in the absence of ministers to conduct the worship of god by singing, praying, exhortations (preaching) as they may feel at liberty.
It shall be the duty of the church to hold communion quarterly and the duty of all members to be present and seated in order on these occasions.
First Baptist Campbellton Pastors
E. W. Callaway 1825 Joe White 1936
Joshua Mercer 1844-1853 John E. Pelham 1942
W. B. Lacey 1859-1864 Oswald 1942-1944
W. W. Howell 1864-1868 P.M. Yeargan 1945
J. M. Poiner 1869-1871 R. E. Upton 1946
T. E. Langley 1872-1888 E. E. Henry 1949
J. J. White 1888-1892 E. H. S. Beall 3 times
Roscol Hall 1952 E. I. Scruggs 1976
Stanley J. Britton 1955-1957 Julian Fleming 1976-1982
J. R. Morrow 1957-1959 J. W. Lee 1982-1983
Milton S. Overly 1960-1962 Jack Smith 1983-1984
J. Eugene Hodges 1962-1963 Thomas R. Steward 1984-1986
A. E. Lightfoot 1963 Lewis A. Curtis 1986-88(Int.)
W. Gordon Longshore 1964-1966 Ronald Malott 1988-1990
Luford O. Pope 1967-1969 H. W. Lee 1990-91(Int.)
E. L. Scruggs 1969-1970 (Interim) Michael C. Hildebrandt 1991-1993
R. C. Belcher 1970-1971 Lewis A. Curtis 1993-95(Int.)
W. D. Draughon 1971-1972 (Interim) Jamie Archer 1995-1998
H. Edward Richardson 1972-1973 Jerry Oswalt 1998 (Interim)
Lewis A. Curtis 1973-1974 (Interim) Rob Lightsey 1998
Buddy Nowell 1974 Luther Pumphrey 1999-
Bill Catlett 1974 (interim)
Thomas R. Steward 1974-1976
Betty James Smith
15 March 2000