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FIRST BEREAN MISSIONARY
BAPTIST CHURCH

"The Little Church on the Prairie" 
1897? - 2002

Hawkinsville Road
28°54'37.81"N       95°46'21.63"W

Berean Community

Written by Mrs. Carroll Evans
 


The Vann Settlement, also known as Van, African, and King Vann African Settlement, was a rural community on Buckner's Prairie near what is now FM 521 and Hawkinsville Road . It is located 17.6 miles south of Bay City in eastern Matagorda County . To reach First Berean, leave the Bay City city limits traveling east on FM 457. At the crossroads of FM 457 and FM 521, turn right on FM 521 and travel west. Continue to Hawkinsville Road and turn right at the First Berean Church sign. The red and white brick church is on the right.

Vann Settlement is situated on Buckner's Prairie in the William Rabb League #46. By at least 1894, Vann Settlement had a school. The school was held in a little white church building.

Cleveland Fletcher of Cedar Lake recalled when he left Hawkinsville, he crossed Caney Creek and went northeast to Coulterville. Passing Coulterville, he traveled across Buckner's Prairie on the old road that connected with Matagorda. Buckner's Prairie had at least two settlements. One was known as Sugar Land where a post office and general store were located. They stood near where the present Berean Baptist Church is now. Another settlement was located back in the woods to the northeast called the King Van African Settlement.

The name Buckner Prairie came from Aylett C. "Strap" Buckner. He was the son of Judge Aylett and Elizabeth Lewis Buckner of Louisa County , Virginia . Stephen F. Austin granted Buckner title to a league and two labors of land in the eastern portion of Matagorda County in 1824. The area became known know as Buckner's Prairie.

In 1824, Austin appointed Buckner a captain in the militia to fight the Indians. The census of 1826 listed Buckner as being single and having four servants and one slave.

In May 1864, John Matthews of Caney recorded the number of calves branded in the Buckner's Prairie area.

The 1894-1895 Matagorda County School Census listed the following families as having children of school age attending the Vann School : Scott Glascow, William Green, Sam Norris, Catherine Stanford, Watt Edison, Joe Sorrell, Rose Gatson, King Vann, Ransom Edison, Sr., Jack Edison, Hester Washington and Charles Gatson. The school had a total of thirty-nine students in 1904. Berean Baptist Church , which was organized at Vann by members of Shiloh Baptist Church of Cedar Lane , held its first meeting in the school.

A few of the teachers at Vann were Feebe Allen, who was from the Vann area, but lived in Bay City; Professor Harper from Yoakum; Rosa Brown, who taught for one year and also taught at the Cedar Lake School; and Professor Newton.

In 1937, the school called Van was part of the Cedar Lane district and had one teacher who taught Black students in seven grades. By the late 1940's, the Cedar Lane district had consolidated with the Van Vleck Independent School District. As late as 1952, a number of farms were still concentrated along an unpaved road at Vann, the Berean Baptist Church and the cemetery.

The Berean Church is still shown on the 1989 county highway map. The church’s address is P.O. Box 65, Cedar Lane , TX 77415 .

Cedar Lane is situated in east-central Matagorda County on Caney Creek and in the area where FM 521 intersects with FM 457.

In the early 1900's, Cedar Lane was on the route of the Texas and New Orleans Railroad (T&NO - Southern Pacific Spur) from Van Vleck to Hawkinsville. The area to the north of Caney Creek was called Bowieville. It was the site of the Bowie Plantation, the Bowie Store and the plantation commissary in earlier days.

Ratliff operated a general merchandise store about a half mile south of Caney Creek at the railroad. The road led to the ranches and farms on Buckner's Prairie, the Live Oak Community and Coulterville.

When the trails became roads and the railroads followed the roads, transportation provided a means of bringing the resources of the larger communities to the settlement. Transportation also brought the farm products and cattle to the larger communities thus expanding the center of trade and industry.

Many of the past generations of the families now living in the eastern half of Matagorda County were brought to this area by the people who developed the plantations and farms along Caney and Linnville Creeks. After the Civil War, the people grouped together with their children and their families.

The first families of the settlements in the eastern half of the county struggled to provide for their children. They tried to give their children an education and a religious home life. The churches became the centers of interest in the small settlement.

During the tenure of the late Rev. Anthony Martin, the church was named Berean Missionary Baptist Church . The first church, situated in the woods, had wood benches for pews. A wood stove heated the building and lanterns were hung on the walls to provide light. Bro. Roosevelt Green's job was to light the lanterns. Ceasar Van, the uncle of Rebecca Moore Cooper, was the church bell ringer.

The word Berean comes from the word Berea , a city visited by Paul and Silas on Paul's second missionary journey (Acts 17:10 ). Berean means to preach the word and search the scriptures daily. The named was changed to First Berean to differentiate from another church with the same name. The deacons were: Odo Van, Charlie Gatson and Joe Sorrell. C. R. Van was the first convert. A few years later, in 1896, the congregation decided to erect a building. Deacon Odo and his wife's sister, Fantoma Van, deeded one-half acre of land for the church site. The members erected a church house and other deacons were added namely, King Van, George Washington and Jobe Edison.

Later, Rev. Joe A. Wrenn was elected pastor. Willis Page, Green Hawkins, Author Jones, Harrison Sorrell, Amos Franklin and Andrew Edison were added to the deacon board. In 1934, Rev. Joe Wrenn resigned because of failing health.

The next pastor was Rev. Amber White who was followed by James Harrison. Tom Hawkins, Phillip Edison and John Moore were added to the deacon board. Rev. White resigned after five years.

On February 6, 1943 , Rev. J. B. Brown was called. Rev. Brown pastored until he was called from labor to reward on November 11, 1948 .

On August 14, 1949 , Rev. R. A. Banks was called, and he answered the call on August 24, 1949 . Under his leadership the church purchased one acre of land from the late Deacon J. D. Collins for a church site. J. B. Sorrell and Wash Franklin were added to the deacon board.

In 1951, the building was torn down and a new church was erected. New pews, a piano, gas heaters, electrical lights and pulpit furniture were purchased. The congregation first worshipped in the new building on August 16, 1953 , and Rev. S. L. Rugeley preached the entrance sermon.

The cornerstone was laid July 18, 1954 by the Gulf Coast Lodge #272 of Bay City , Texas . Bro. Ikley Roberts was the Worshipful Master, Bro. W. W. Woods served as secretary, and Rev. C. H. Brown, Sr. delivered the sermon.

The Rev. Rudolph Martin was called as pastor April 5, 1972 and answered the call April 18, 1972 . The installation service was held June 4, 1972 . The Rev. L. R. James delivered the installation sermon. During Rev. Martin's time as pastor, the church purchased an organ, an air conditioner, a piano and a communion table. Rev. Martin resigned January 6, 1974 .

The Rev. Alexander Sykes, who traveled from Houston twice a month, was called on May 19, 1974 and installed on December 1, 1974 . During his time as pastor, Wilbert Edison and William Franklin were added as deacons and Harriet Spencer served as secretary. A new cafeteria was built. Rev. Sykes continued as pastor for twelve years and the congregation numbered 104 people.

Harriet Spencer, who had lived on the prairie most of her life, located three cemeteries that dated back over 100 years. They are still being used today by families living in the Buckner's Prairie area.

Edison Cemetery No. 3 is across the road where the old Van Settlement School was located. The King Vann Cemetery is just north of Edison Cemetery No. 3. Another Edison Cemetery is located southeast of the Spencer home and this is where her father, grandparents and a brother are buried. This cemetery is also known as the Williams, Lewis, Edison Cemetery .

Ms. Spencer recalled that an old man named Joe Sorrell who was 103 years old when he died was buried in the Edison Cemetery (now Edison Cemetery No. 3) across from the old school yard. He died when she was a child. He was her sister's father-in-law.

On January 7, 1987, Rev. Murry Griggs, Sr. was called as pastor and he answered the call on January 18, 1988. Ida Mae Emanuel became the church pianist and four deacons, Anthony Edison, J. D. Gatson, Nathaniel Brinkley, and Ronald Scott, were added to the deacon board.

Mary Lou Hawkins and Sarah Lee Brinkley were secretaries and associate ministers were Rev. Larry Griggs, Rev. M. L. Boone and Rev. Gilbert Franklin.

On Sunday, May 26, 1996 , the new church was dedicated. The church purchased carpet, ceiling fans, central air and heat, new speakers, padded pews, parking space, cement walks, a septic system and a water well. The church also purchased one acre of land. The building is 3,192 square feet. There is an anteroom at the front entrance, a sanctuary, pulpit area, baptistery, restrooms for men and women, an office and the pastor's study. The pulpit area consists of a communion and offering table, announcing stand, piano, pastor seating, choir gallery and baptistry.

Presently, Berean has the following officers under the leadership of Rev. Murry Griggs, Sr.

Associate Ministers:
Rev. Gilbert Franklin, Rev. M. L. Boone, and Rev. Rodney Griggs who was called to pastor another church.

Secretaries:
Carroll Evans, Recording Secretary; Celita Wright, Finance Secretary; Millie Wright, Announcement Clerk; and Wilma Carrel, Program Committee Chairperson.

Deacon Board Of Trustees:
William Franklin, Anthony Edison, J. D. Gatson, Nathaniel Brinkley, and John Wright (ordained
December 21, 1997 ).

Superintendent Of Sunday School:
Anthony Edison

Vacation Bible School Director:
Loretha Edison

Mission Society Officers:
Eliza Franklin, president; Dorothy Parks, vice-president; Lueretta Woodard, treasurer; and Loretha Edison, secretary.

Brotherhood Officers:
Johnie Sidney, president; J. D. Gatson, secretary; Ronald Evans, treasurer; and John Roberson, assistant treasurer.

Usher Board President:
Annie Moore

Ushers:
Lawrence Moore, Percy Moore, Johnie Sidney, Eugene Sorrell, Roosevelt Green, Clarence Parks, Michael Parks, Nathaniel Brinkley, LeDerrick Brinkley, Trevin Franklin and Jerimiah Evans.

Music Department:
Ida Mae Emanuel, pianist; Ronald Evans, choir director; Seretha Young, Mass Choir president; Ronald Evans, and Men's Choir president.

Youth Matrons:
Loretha Edison, Delores Brinkley, Seretha Young and Pamela Young.

Oldest Living Members:
Mary Lou Hawkins, 88; Louella Hawkins, 91; and Roosevelt Green, 84.

Ministers:
Rev. Anthony Martin; Rev. Joe A. Wrenn, resigned 1934; Rev. Amber White; Rev. James Harrison, served five years and resigned; Rev. J. B. Brown, February 6, 1943 - November 16, 1948 (died); Rev. R. A. Banks, called August 24, 1949; Rev. Rudolph Martin, June 4, 1972 - Jan. 6, 1974; Rev. Alexander Sykes, December 1, 1974 for 12 years; and Rev. Murry Griggs, Sr., January 18, 1988 to present (2002)

Recently, the church purchased a new marquee and land for a new cemetery near the church. The Gulf Coast Masonic Lodge #272 laid the new cornerstone on November 21, 1999 .

All in all, the church has served as a school for the community, a meeting place and a place for community communications. Years ago, County Extension Agent Cleo Washington taught canning, food preservation and mattress making.

The First Berean Baptist Church , the red and white brick church on Hawkinsville Road continues to save souls and provide spiritual food for who so ever will come through its Sunday School, Morning Worship, Mission , and Brotherhood services. It also provides spiritual uplifting through its music ministries The church is associated with the Lincoln Southern District Association.

Through the 105 years since its inception, First Berean Missionary Baptist Church continues to demonstrate Christ's love for others; introduce people to Jesus; encourage joyful obedience; consistent spiritual growth and exemplification of faith, hope, trust, belief and Love of God.

The marker wording for the First Berean Missionary Baptist Church is included here.

FIRST BEREAN MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH

 

  THE CONGREGATION OF THE FIRST BEREAN MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH BEGAN FORMALLY MEETING AFTER EMANCIPATION IN 1865. MEMBERS HELD WORSHIP SERVICES IN HOMES, UNDER TREES AND IN A LOCAL SCHOOL BEFORE BUILDING THEIR FIRST HOUSE OF WORSHIP.

  THE CHURCH GREW AROUND THE COMMUNITY KNOWN AS VAN, AFRICAN, KING VANN AND VANN SETTLEMENT, LOCATED IN BUCKNER'S PRAIRIE, WHICH WAS NAMED FOR AYLETT C. "STRAP" BUCKNER (D. 1832), AN OLD THREE HUNDRED COLONIST AND TEXAS FOLKLORE HERO. CHURCH MEMBERS ALSO CAME FROM THE NEARBY SUGAR LAND COMMUNITY ON BUCKNER'S PRAIRIE.

  THE CONGREGATION BUILT ITS FIRST SANCTUARY IN 1896 ON LAND SOLD FOR FIVE DOLLARS BY ODO AND FATUMA VAN (VANN), BOTH BORN IN AFRICA BEFORE BEING CAPTURED AND SOLD INTO SLAVERY. THE CHURCH'S FIRST PASTOR WAS THE REV. ANTHONY MARTIN. AT THIS SAME TIME, CONGREGATIONAL MEMBERS NAMED THEMSELVES BEREAN MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH FOR A MISSION SITE IN GREECE.

  AFTER PURCHASING AN ACRE OF LAND FOR A NEW SANCTUARY IN 1951, THE BEREAN BAPTIST CHURCH , AS IT WAS OFTEN KNOWN, HELD ITS FIRST SERVICE IN THE NEW STRUCTURE IN 1953. THE CONGREGATION INCORPORATED IN 1993 AS THE FIRST BEREAN MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH .

FOR MORE THAN 100 YEARS, THE CHURCH HAS PROVIDED THE AREA WITH AN ASSEMBLY SITE, A SCHOOL AND A PLACE FOR COMMUNITY COMMUNICATIONS. AT THE TURN OF THE 20TH CENTURY, THE CONGREGATION HAD NEW FACILITIES AND CONTINUED ITS MISSION THROUGH ITS OUTREACH, EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS AND MUSIC MINISTRIES.                                        (2002)
 

 


 


Marker photo courtesy of Jerrilyn Capers

 

 

Copyright 2004 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Jan. 14, 2005
Updated
Sep. 26, 2011
   

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