MT. PILGRIM
MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH
&
CEMETERY


 

Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church
FM 457 on Caney Creek



DIRECTIONS


MOUNT PILGRIM MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH

TRADITION HOLDS THAT SLAVES FROM NEARBY PLANTATIONS ONCE GATHERED TOGETHER IN WORSHIP IN THE LOWER CANEY CREEK AREA. THESE MEN AND WOMEN CONTINUED THEIR SERVICES AFTER THE CLOSE OF THE CIVIL WAR AND BY 1885 ACQUIRED LAND AT THIS SITE. UNDER THE REV. ANTHONY MORTON (MARTIN), CHURCH MEMBERS BUILT A SANCTUARY HERE. FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL DECADES, THE BUILDING SERVED AS A PLACE OF WORSHIP, AS WELL AS A COMMUNITY SCHOOL UNTIL CIRCA 1930. ALTHOUGH AREA POPULATION DECLINED DURING THE 20TH CENTURY, THE CONGREGATION REMAINS A SYMBOL OF THE COMMUNITY’S RELIGIOUS HISTORY. ITS SANCTUARY AND CEMETERY ARE VISIBLE LINKS TO GENERATIONS OF AREA FAMILIES.

Inscription typed by Faye Cunningham
 




 


Rugeley, Andrew, Deacon, Dec. 3, 1897 - November 21, 1990

Griggs, Wesley, 1900 - 1966

Taylor, Arthur, Pvt, United States Army, World War I, 1889 - 1979

Taylor , Texana Dillingham, Nov. 28, 1894 - June 21, 1983 , My Trust is in God

Johnson, Dorcas Dillingham, 1905 - 1995

Green, Sophie Hannah, Oct. 3, 1909 - July 7, 2001 , In Loving Memory From Your Family

Rugeley, Collis, Rev. Aug. 12, 1934 - Nov., 1999

Rugeley, Roosevelt,  Rev. 1902 - 2000

Dillingham, Phyllis Royster, Mar. 31, 1872 - Dec. 20, 1962
 



Mary Belle Ingram
 

Rev. James Roberson - Mt. Pilgrim Homecoming
 

MOUNT PILGRIM - Handbook of Texas

1894 Mount Pilgrim School Census

1895 Mount Pilgrim School Census
 

 


MOUNT PILGRIM MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH

By Vera Rugeley King & Mary Belle Ingram

 

The story of the Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church membership began prior to the earliest recorded history–on the bank of Caney Creek, during a journey through slavery. During the earliest period slaves who could, gathered to worship in their quarters or under trees. In addition, homecomers have contended that prior to 1885, a log cabin was used for church. The founding fathers of Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church had a zest for living. The Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church’s founding fathers or their ancestors were residence of the plantations along Lower Caney. Slaves came from far and near, to include from the Hudgins Settlement through the Lynville Community, the Buckner’s Prairie area and the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church area.

           
December 3, 1885, Annie Warren Rugeley and her husband Edward Rugeley sold the one-tract to Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. It is situated on County Road 151, about eleven miles from Bay City, Texas and about one mile off County Road 457. The property is part of the William Rabb League, which was part of the Warren Plantation, on approximately 4,500 acres of land on Caney granted by the Mexican government. Maria L. Warren, Annie Warren’s ancestor, initially acquired 275 acres of the Caney Plantation and subsequently acquired other acreage because of crop mortgages and sales of real and human properties by other plantation owners.

           
The Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church was built in 1885, under the leadership of Reverend Anthony Morton/Martin (1825 -  ?) and rebuilt, by Lark Boone, in 1909. Later improvements of the structure included being elevated by blocks, then plates under the blocks. During and subsequent to this time deacons included: Farris Morton (Martin), Josh Morton (Martin), Mack Dillingham, Johnny Morton (Martin), Jon Robins and James Harrison while Deacon Josh Martin and Elizabeth Wren-Griggs were secretaries.

           
Some founding or earlier members were: Mack Dillingham (born in 1865), John Johnson, Spencer Robins, Deacon Bill Wiley, Deacon Farris Morton (Martin), Jim Harkless, Josh Morton (Martin), Dec. Johnny Morton (Martin), Dec. Isaac Rugeley, Ed Baldridge, Wonder Farris, Maddie Hudgins, Green Farris (born in 1842) and Francis Sidney. Also earlier members, included: Millie Crawford-Wiley, Lucy Crawford, Emma Robins, Erma Martin, Jon Robins?, Willie Thompson, Charlotte Gray, Mr. Benton Thomas Richardson and Mrs. Delia Anne Boney-Richardson, Naomi Richardson-Bouldin, Linnie McHenry-Roberts ( ____ - 1956) , Mr. and Mrs. (Bud) Edison (Claritha), Samuel Johnson, Melinda Morton (Martin), Idella Boone, Rev. J. A;. (Butler) Wren, Victoria Webb-Rugeley, Vonnie McCall, Al Sidney, Sam Peters, Mitchell Hanks, Roberta and Spencer Power, Vance Harkless, Gertrude Derrick, Olivia Boone, Samuel L. Rugeley, Andrew Rugeley, Beatrice Rugeley-Woods, Roosevelt Rugeley, Rose Lee Rugeley-Boone, Daisy Bell Scott-Rugeley, Arthur Taylor, Texana Dillingham-Taylor, Elizabeth Wren-Griggs, Sophie Farris-Green, Wesley Griggs, Robert Green, …, and Eddie Jones.

           
During the era 1885-1950: (1) the missionary founder, Sister Melinda Morton (Martin) led the missionary sisters in obtaining resources to dig a water well; (2) the Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church also served as a school; (3) at the age of 12, in 1899, Samuel L. Rugeley, confessed Christ, preached his first sermon, was ordained a minister by Reverends John Henry, J. A. Wren and Ed Baldridge; subsequently he received the title B.th, D.D. and was later named pastor of the Live Oak Baptist Church in Galveston, Texas; (4) the Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church became a member of the South Texas District Association, in early 1920; (5) Roosevelt Rugeley and Daisy Bell Scott united in holy matrimony, December 1932; and (6) the church was the site used for the funeral service for Thomas Hudgins, descendent of Ino and Tom Hudgins. Following the homegoing of Reverend Anthony Morton (Martin), successive pastors included Reverends: John Henry, born in 1852; J. A. (Butler) Wren (passed in 1955/1956); Ed Baldridge; and G. L. Stewart, who served as pastor until about November 1949.

           
Memories passed through generations and recounted on numerous homecoming celebrations, to include October 21, 1983, told of the Christian fellowship at Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church among slaves, former slaves and descendants, some of whom had traveled long distances, by walking or riding in wagons. In spite of the distance traveled, when within hearing distance of the voices of their Christian brothers and sisters, they would hasten their pace. Individuals came to church early and spent the day. During revival days and nights the building and grounds were filled with both those had had confessed Christ as well as those who had not.

           
According to Mrs. Cody Crawford-Harkless, the church too was used as a school. She attended the Mount Pilgrim Church School through the fourth school day of the 1922-23 school year. Teachers of the church school, from 1905-1922 were: Mrs. Benton Thomas Richardson and Mrs. Delia Anne Boney-Richardson, Mrs. Lydia (Linnie) McHenry-Roberts, and Mrs. Mary McHenry-Duncan. That the Mount Pilgrim Church’s building was used as a school is also evident by information given to me, Vera C. Rugeley, (October 21, 1983, the 98th Homecoming Celebration), by Mrs. Naomi Bouldin, the daughter of one of its earlier teachers. She contended that Mrs. B. T. Richardson was the church school’s first teacher. Mrs. Naomi Richardson-Bouldin, a teacher in Matagorda County, indicates that she attended “a small school on Caney, Mount Pilgrim, that was taught by her mother until the family moved to Bay City in July of 1909.” Mrs. Mod Boone, mother of Erma Boone-Stevens, taught at Mount Pilgrim Church School. The document, “Matagorda County School Census 1894 and 1895 State of Texas” lists the names of 87 students who attended the Mount Pilgrim Community Church School during this time period.

           
According to Rachel Jenkins, in 1904, a one-teacher Mount Pilgrim school served forty-nine black students, and in 1917 Mount Pilgrim was one of at least nine black schools, all teaching four grades, in what was then school district number one, known as the Sexton district. Though the districting changed, the Mount Pilgrim school still existed in 1927, when it had seven grades. By 1937 records were no longer available for the Mount Pilgrim School, which may have been consolidated with that of Van Vleck. A 1952 map shows the Mount Pilgrim Church, a Williams Cemetery located a third of a mile to the southeast, and widely dispersed dwellings, most of them abandoned. The Mount Pilgrim Church was labeled on the 1989 county highway map.

           
The continued decline in area residence and the growth of area communities resulted in the decline in the church membership. Reverend G. (Guy) L. Stewart announced, November 1949, to the congregation that God had called him to pastor another church and thus his last sermon at Mount Pilgrim Church. He then accepted the pastoralship of a Baptist Church in Freeport.

           
The second era in the spiritual life of the Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church followed the departure of Reverend G. L. Stewart. For the next nearly twelve months, the deacons: Andrew Rugeley, Arthur Taylor and Roosevelt Rugeley, with the assistance of the South Texas District Association, sought a new pastor. An invitation was extended to Reverend A. D. Davis of Houston, Texas, to conduct services. There was a temporary split in the membership between those who desired Reverend Davis as pastor and those who did not.

           
Three key events that happened during this period were: (1) the church remained active in the South Texas District Association, organized August 1893; (2) Sister A. D. Davis united as a member of the church; and (3) Wesley Griggs was voted deacon of the church. Elizabeth Wren-Griggs remained the church secretary.

           
During the third era, October 15, 1950 through June 29, 1978, Reverend Willie S. Volbaum entered the history of the Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, in response to a letter he received from Rev. J. B. Brown of Sweeny, Texas. This letter stated that the church desired him to come the third Sunday, November 1950, to conduct the church services. Rev. Volbaum answered the call and carried out the teaching and preaching during November and December 1950. He later received a letter stating that he had been called as pastor. He was described as a Christian gentleman, a preacher by calling of God, a son by adoption, and a Christian by regeneration. He stood boldly and told everyone that there is a reality in serving a true and living God, that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun; and that Christ Jesus lives today.

           
The Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church continued to do charity work at home and in adjacent communities. The two ordinances were observed. Twenty souls were called and baptized.  The dead were buried, couples married, and the sick consoled–both physically and spiritually, as well as monetarily.

           
Brother Collis Rugeley, the first candidate for baptism, was baptized, May 20, 1951, was called to the ministry, made his acknowledgement, and preached his first sermon, July 3, 1966. Brother Roosevelt Rugeley, as ordained deacon, September 16, 1956; and played a leadership role in the acquisition of the half-acre cemetery tract, February 1967. In addition, the church organized its first choir under the leadership of M. L. Rockeymore, from Houston, Texas. Following his death, Ethel Dawson was the pianist for a short period. Subsequently, Luvina Rugeley-Bone served as pianist and led the group, the Rugeley Singers.

           
With the services of a contractor, L. B. Litzler, in 1970, the church’s structure was enhanced to include a choir room, pastor’s study and restrooms for women and men. The church made other improvements to include: furnishing for the pastor’s study, a chair stand, a piano, a new pulpit, pulpit chairs, and carpet runner on the floor. Through the leadership of brothers Roosevelt and Collis Rugeley, gas heaters replaced the wood heater, electric lights replaced gas kerosene lanterns, and additions were made, to include: windows and window screens, cement steps, an electric pump, a speaker’s stand and a non-attached room for serving prepared food.

           
The membership was creative when dramatizing biblical stories and celebrating religious holidays, Christmas and Easter. The oldest relics include: seven glasses used to take Communion, three ribbons, a wick that was used in one of three lanterns and a handmade cross. Also a First Quarter 1955 Sunday School Class Roll of Attendance, lists the following names: Adult Class – Elizabeth Wren-Griggs, Wesley Griggs, Collis Rugeley, Daisy Bell Scott-Rugeley (Superintendent), Roosevelt Rugeley, Wallace Rugeley, Arthur Tayor (teacher) and Texana Taylor; Intermediate Class – Lauretta C. Volbaum (teacher), Vera Clarissa Rugeley, Clifford Lee Rugeley; Junior Class – Wilma Jean Clay and Eddie Marie Fields; Primary Class – Lurtha Ann Holmes, Veree Tone and Clyde Lee Mayberry; Beginners Class – Davis Gene Clay, Tone Thomas and Juanita ________.

           
Sister Lauretta Coleman-Volbaum was founder of the Baptist Young People Union (BYPU), in 1951/1952, and was named President of the Women Mission from the early 1950 until being named President of Women Mission One of the South Texas District Association in ______. Sis. Texana Taylor was then named president of the Mount Pilgrim Women Mission. Sister Daisy Bell Scott-Rugeley was named Superintendent of the Sunday School in the late 1940s. Following the tenure of Deacon Arthur Taylor, Dec. Andrew Rugeley, Sis. Texana Taylor and Sis. L. C. Volbaum served in succession as Adult Sunday School teachers during this era. The Benevolent Funds Treasurers were: Deacon Andrew Rugeley, Sis. Texana Taylor and Sis. Vera C. Rugeley. The church treasurer was Deacon Roosevelt Rugeley.

           
During the fourth era of the Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church the pastor was Collis Rugeley (11/19/78 – 11/26/99) and Roosevelt Rugeley served as Assistant Pastor (11/26/99 – 7/27/00). Sunday School teachers were Sis. L. C. Volbaum, Deacon Samuel Thomas and Deacon Clifford L. Rugeley, also church treasurer. Sunday School Superintendent was Sis. Daisy B. Scott-Rugeley. Sisters L. C. Volbaum, Vera C. King and Johnnie Mae Thomas were treasuerers of the Benevolent Funds, while church treasurers were Deacon Roosevelt Rugeley and Vera C. King. The Deacons were: Samuel Thomas, Clifford L. Rugeley and Andrew Rugeley.

           
Special events included: (1) the laying of the Corner Stone, September 19, 1976, by Lodge #206, Felton Hayes, with special services by the late Reverend L. E. Brown, Pastor of First Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Houston, Texas; (2) annual week long revivals; and (3) designation of special days (Church Homecoming, Women Day–Fifth Sundays, Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Children Day). Sisters Lauretta Coleman-Volbaum and Johnnie Mae Thomas spearheaded these initiatives. The 100th year Anniversary and Homecoming celebration, November 10, 1985, lists the names of descendants of former members. Also, the Constitution and Religious Tax Exempt Status was filed May 2, 1989; and Edward and Vera King named God parents, June 6, 1991, for Lauren Chantelle Johnson. In addition, the church featured artifacts in the August 25 through September 20, 1992 Matagorda County Museum – “Africa in the Americas: Black Slaves in Spanish and Portuguese Realms of the New World” & “Black Church History in Matagorda County”, Anne W. Goda, Director.

           
The Matagorda County African American Historical Society (MCAAHS) cleaned and held its August 3, 2002, meeting at The Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church; and on August 31, 2002, the group indexed the cemetery. It was one of seven churches visited on Heritage Day Pilgrimage, Tour Along Caney Creek, Saturday, April 26, 2003, by the Matagorda County Historical Commission, Deean Griffith, Chairman. February 22, 2003 the church was presented a Certificate in Recognition as a Life Member of MCAAHS, Blanche Johnson, Secretary and Thelma D. Smith, President. The Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church was part of a featured article “The Bells”, by Mary Belle Ingram in the Tribune, January 25, 2004. Historically, the ringing of the bell was symbolic of the beginning of service or the death of a church member or resident. The church’s cemetery, 1-276A, has been rated “High” on the “Cemeteries Listed on Survey” in Precinct #1.

           
Much of the church’s history is the result of information passed through generations. The church records by known secretaries: Josh Martin, Elizabeth Wren-Griggs and Texana Dillingham-Taylor are not available. The documentation of information in this document includes transcriptions from handwritten notes of records kept, to include information gathered from statements made by homecomers during Homecoming Celebrations. In addition, information was given to me, Vera C. King, by: Sister Irene Green, Sister Noami Bolden and Sister Daisy Rugeley, and have been used in updating the church history over time.

           
The recorded church history, subsequent to 1950, includes the translations from the records of Sister Lauretta C. Volbaum and secretary, Deacon Clifford Lee Rugeley, as well as programs for such occasions as anniversaries, funerals and special programs. In addition, I interviewed: Mrs. Cody Davis/Crawford-Harkless, Roosevelt Green, Roosevelt Hudgins, Josie Scott-Green and obtained relational information from Noami Johnson-William about her sister, Helen, and grandfather, Joe Johnson.

           
That I, Vera C. Rugeley-King, used interviews to validate information maintained over time and to find missing information. The persons interviewed were (1) Sister Cody-Crawford (Davis)-Harkless, August 23, 2002, and verified for accuracy August 17, 2003. Mrs. Harkless, born January 10, 1910, is a descendent of both a late member and an area plantation resident. She too recalls a near by Slave Cemetery and that slave houses stood until about 1920. (2) Roosevelt Hudgins, interviewed November 30, 2003, provided possible contacts and interments. (3) Josie Scott-Green, interviewed, November 30, 2003, provided relational information about former members. (4) Roosevelt (Buddy) Green, interviewed, December 5, 2003, provided an oral independent list of earlier members that are consistent with information obtained during the interview with Mrs. Harkless and with existing church records. Brother Robert (Buddy) Green, born in 1916, recalled persons that left Buckner Prairie to attend the Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. He contended that the Mount Pilgrim was the older of the area churches.

           
The church structure, a water well, a storage building, and beautiful trees are on the one-acre tract that is adjacent, on the northwest, to the half-acre cemetery plot. Both tracts are bounded on the northeast by Caney Creek. The church currently [2004] maintains its original architecture, its bell and its distinctive bell tower.

 

Burial Plots/Cemetery’s Blueprint

 

______________________Caney

 

1)                     2)         3)

 

                                                Church

                                                            16) 17) 18)

 

 

                                                13) 14) 15)

 

R1                   R2        R3

                        8)         12)

                        7)         11)

                        6)         10)

4)                     5)         9)

 

1)   Phyllis Royster-Dillingham  31 Mar 1872 - 20 Dec 1962

2)   Unknown

3)   Unknown

4)   Sophie H. Farris-Green  03 Oct 1909 - 07 Jul 2001

5)   Wesley Griggs   1900 – 1966

6)   Darcus Dillingham    05 Aug 1905 - 08 Nov 1995

7)   Texana Dillingham-Taylor   28 Nov 1894 - 21 Jun 1983

8)   Arthur Taylor 1889 – 1979

9)   Andrew Rugeley  03 Dec 1897 - 21 Nov 1990

10) Daisy Bell Scott-Rugeley  12 Aug 1912 - 11 Mar 1998

11) Roosevelt Rugeley  12 Sep 1902 - 26 Jul 2000

12) Collis Rugeley  12 Aug 1934 - 26 Nov 1999

13) – 18) Unknown

       Edward King Rugeley  01 Sep 1936 - 07 Jan 2011

 


Photos courtesy of Luvina Rugeley

 

According to Velma Tatum, 8/31/02:  Velma Taylor-Tatum’s great maternal aunt, Priscilla Royster-Robinson, died in the 30s or 40s (age 12 in the 1870 census).


The dedication of the Official Texas Historical Marker for Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church was held February 19, 2005.  The church and cemetery is located between Bay City and Cedar Lane, Texas, on County Road 152, about one mile off FM 457.

 


 

Copyright 2004 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

This page was created
Dec. 2, 2004
This page was updated
Mar. 5, 2009
   

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