First Baptist Church of Crowville will celebrate their 150th anniversary of serving the Lord. Festivities and a service will commemorate the event June 5 and 6.
On June 5, the church will host an event at the Gulledge-Richardson Community Center at 157 Football Field Road in Crowville from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.
The event will feature gospel singing from area groups and Crowville First Baptist. Kids can enjoy crafts, inflatables and games. They will also have fish plates available for 5 p.m. until 6 p.m.
The activities will be outdoors with some areas covered in tents and tables set up for eating. Participates are asked to bring lawn chairs to sit back and enjoy their time together.
There will also be a Sunday morning service with dinner on the grounds.
Pastor Wade Coker of First Baptist Crowville said Dr. Steve Horn will be the special speaker for the service which starts at 10:30 a.m. Horn is executive director of Louisiana Baptist Convention.
“All are welcome and come with worship with us as we look back at God’s faithfulness over these 150 years,” Coker said. “We will look back to all the witnesses and the faithful saints that are no longer alive that were faithful in the church. We will also look forward seeing what God is going to continue to do.”
Missionary Baptist Church of Christ of Hurricane
First Baptist Church of Crowville had humble beginnings in 1871. The church started not in Crowville but the small community of Hurricane.
On January 23, 1871, William J. Wright sold 80 acres of land for $500 to the church, and the hearty group of worshipers started serving the Lord. John Holloway and Ashley A. Sanders were commissioned by church members to purchase the land.
On July 13, 1872, Ashley A. Sanders, Francis M. Long, John Holloway, Tyre Davidson, Gabriel House, John Terrell and William Carter, formed a charter for the church with notary public Alexander R. Hendry.
Missionary Baptist Church of Christ of Hurricane, a.k.a., First Baptist Church of Crowville was officially born.
Baptist Church of Christ of Crowville
Trustees of the church were elected on February, 9, 1889. Trustees were A.A. Sanders, W.D. Sturdivant, John Terrell, G.W. Horse and S.T. Jessop. The group soon amended the church’s original act of incorporation to move from Hurricane to Crowville and changed its name to Baptist Church of Christ of Crowville.
On May 10, 1889, land fronting Delhi-Harrisonburg Road (La Hwy 578) near Crowville was purchased for $25 from Sara Russell of Weatherford, Texas.
Soon after on May 23, 1889, a contract between the church, the Methodist and Presbyterian was written granting the right for the other denominations to worship second and fourth Sundays each month.
Representing the Baptist church was A.A. Sanders. Representing the Methodist and Presbyterians were W.J. Cordill, W.S. Sisson, T.W. Harris and J.S. Copeland.
In this time period, parishioners worshiped in a one-room building located where Crowville High School now stands. The building was used for educational purposes during the week and churches services on the weekend.
Circuit rider preachers
In the 1800s, Franklin Parish and surrounding areas were sparsely population. There were many Spanish speaking people and Native Americans along with rugged American pioneers who settled and lived on the land.
Just as adventurous and rugged were the preachers of the day. Men of God who ministered to the people were called “Circuit Riders.” They would establish preaching places, and the preaching was often done in homes.
It is doubtful ministers would have been available more than once a month, as travel by boat or horse was most difficult.
Protestant missionary work began in Franklin Parish as early as 1806, according to 1983 Sesquicentennial History of Boeuf Prairie Methodist Church in Fort Necessity.
For many years, the Crowville Church had only “half time preaching” and did not become a full-time church until 1953.
Bro. H.M. Cooper, of Crowville, was the first pastor of the church. He held the position from 1890 until 1893.
In 1896, a Bro. Tharpe, of Rayville, was pastor. He would preach two services a month, and his salary was $1.50 per Sunday.
He traveled from Rayville to Crowville by horse and buggy and was invited to stay in a member’s home for the weekend. Most of the time he stayed in the house of G.W. Hodge.
During his pastorate, he and a Bro. Snyder organized the church as Crowville Baptist Church. The church was re-incorporated in February 1958 as First Baptist Church of Crowville, Inc.
In 1917, the 1889 church building was sold to George W. Collier and torn down. On the same site, a new building was constructed in conjunction with the Crowville Masonic Lodge. For this two-story building, the Masonic Lodge and church contributed $200 each. James Raleigh Dotson Sr. was in charge of construction.
The church portion of the building was sold to the Lodge in 1938, was torn down by the Masons in 1969, and replaced with their current one story brick building.
In 1938, the church purchased the current site from A.A. Bush and built a white frame wooden building that was an auditorium only. A baptistry was built into the floor where the pulpit set. Expansions were built in 1941 for the growing congregation. In 1946, a two-story educational building was added to the back side.
In 1958, the existing brick south wing section was constructed. This contains the nursery, kitchen and fellowship area. Arthur Prestridge was engaged to do the construction.
In April 1968, construction was completed by Arnold Wade and members held their first service where they worship today.
Growing a church
Crowville First Baptist have put missionary work and children’s ministry on the forefront of ministry goals for many years.
Since 1938, 7,971 children have been through the church’s Vacation Bible School.
Judy Franklin, who has been a church member for 45 years, taught in the pre-school department.
“The children are going to be the future of the church,” Franklin said. “I never had any children of my own, so I feel like every child I taught that I had a part of their upbringing in the church. It made me feel really fulfilled. I love kids.”
Lynn Clement, who was “born in the church” and is 88 years old, remembers going to Sunday School at a young age.
“I looked forward to going to church and grew up in Bible school,” Clement said. “It meant a lot as a young person to be apart of the church.
Clement remembers Sunday School classes were small and boys and girls were separated at the age of 10 years old. He also remembers working on his father’s farm and Sunday was the only day for interaction with other kids.
“We had some wonderful teachers,” Clement said. “Some were school teachers. It was almost like a social event, yet it was church. We also had very dynamic preachers at that time. They made it very clear we didn’t want to go to Hell.”
Since 1927, First Baptist Church has baptized 2,079, gave $1,025,800 to missions and invested $9,380,712 in God’s kingdom.
Additionally, they have given $1,281,924 in the Cooperative Program (CP). CP is how Southern Baptists attempt to accomplish what Jesus instructed them to do - “go unto all the world and make disciples.”
Each church decided what portion of their undesignated receipt they desire to commit towards CP. These gifts are forwarded to that state and then to Southern Baptist Convention for distribution. Forty-two percent go to state missions. Thirty-seven percent go to the Southern Baptist Convention, and 21 percent go to the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
“This church is not about any individual,” said Coker. “It is not about any certain pastor, but it is about God’s faithfulness. A lot of churches come and go and don’t survive that long, it is just great to see how God has been faithful.”