|Goodwill Baptist Church|
Researched by Verna Bonner,
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", Vol. XXI 1988
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society
Religion played an integral role in the lives of the
inhabitants of Birdston
Valley. Among the residents of the area, there existed a very
strong community structure which united them. It is believed
that religious meetings were being conducted in the vicinity as
early as 1876. A Black Baptist Association was organized at
this time called Missionary Baptist Friendship Association.
This Association was very active in missionary endeavors in the
counties of Navarro, Ellis, Freestone, Kaufman, Hill, Henderson,
Limestone, and Van Zandt. Prominent Baptist leaders in
the Corsicana, Navarro County, region were Rev. Z. T. Pardee and
Rev. W. W. Hay.
While members believe religious meetings were conducted
in the late 1870's in Birdston Valley, the first documented
evidence can be located in the Missionary Baptist Association
minutes for 1884. The Friendship Association met in August
of 1884 in Hill County, Texas. Goodwill Baptist Church of
Navarro County, Birdston Post Office, is included in the
Statistical Table. J. Collins is listed as pastor.
There is no listing for the name of the church clerk or
church messenger. Total church membership is given as 60 in
Goodwill is not listed among the new churches in the
1884 report. Normally, a new church would petition the
Association for membership. Therefore it is reasonable
to conclude that the church was organized between the years of
1876 and 1883. The J. Collins listed as pastor is, in fact,
Isom J. Collins, resident of Birdston Valley and husband of Cheney
Burleson. Brother Collins, exerted great influence and
leadership in the community until his death in 1920.
He led in organizing the Masonic Lodge and also operated a gin on
All historical research points to the fact that the
Goodwill Baptist Church was the first organized institution
established in Birdston Valley. The cemetery had been in use
for many years prior to this time, but the school and Masonic
Lodge were organized much later than the church.
In 1884, also, the Friendship Association, of which
Goodwill is a member, belonged to the Baptist Missionary
Convention of Texas. Friendship Association is also included
in the same organization in 1889.
A look at the 1891 minutes of the Friendship
Association provides one with an in-depth view of Goodwill Baptist
Church at perhaps its most active and prosperous time.
The Church reports a total membership of 108, with I. Collins as
pastor and J. W. Evans as Church Clerk. There were 19
members received by baptism, 21 exclusions (about 13 were
restored). There were only two items in the paid out section
of the report, $9.25 paid to traveling preachers and $7.00 paid
for charitable purposes. Evidently the pastor, Isom
Collins, was serving the congregation without pay. In
this particular report the women of the church were active also.
There was a listed membership in this area of work of 17.
Donations to the various phases of the Women's Work were: 75 cents
sent to State Missions Work, 75 cents sent to Women's Mission
Work, and $9.09 to Association Mission Work.
There have been two church structures located on the
Birdston Valley site of Goodwill Baptist Church. No exact
date for assembling that first structure is known, but an analysis
of church records reveal that it was probably between 1884 and
1891 according to property value notes on the Statistical Tables.
A 1901 Navarro County Soil Map indicates that a church and
graveyard were located at the site at that time.
Nearby was the gin owned and operated by the Rev. Isom Collins.
This first structure served as the church and school
facility until the Masonic Lodge was organized in 1907.
After that date, a two-story lodge and school was built by
As a result of a violent windstorm in the year 1939,
the original Goodwill Baptist Church structure was damaged beyond
repair. It was necessary for the congregation to replace the
building. The Freemasons also built this new Church
structure. Archeologist, David H. Jurney, describes the new
"It is a gable, frame structure with two small
lateral towers, and a central entry way. A chancel adjoins
The oldest living member of the church is Mr. Isaiah
Kelly, and the current pastor is Rev. Charles Kelly of Richland.
Secretary of the church is Ira Jean James; Treasurer is Mary
Frances Robinson; Elder Deacon is Robert Sanford; Chairman of the
Building Committee is Booker T. Washington.
In present day, the membership is 20, with an average
attendance of 15. The Church meets once monthly on the
fourth Sunday of each month. In addition to this, there are
several special occasions when services are held - Memorial Day
and the Birdston Valley Cemetery and Goodwill Baptist Church