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article number 481
article date 09-01-2015
copyright 2015 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Growth & Philosophical Variety of Alabama’s Baptists, 1820 - 1950
by Marie Bankhead Owen, LL. D.


* * *

Baptists—A religious denomination, of various branches, tracing its American origin from the coming of Roger Williams in 1639, as the “apostle of religious liberty,” and to whom must be ascribed the honor of founding the first Baptist church society in the United States.

Even at that early day, among believers, there developed differences, some holding to the Particular, or Calvinistic doctrines, as distinguished from the General or Arminian Branch. The Calvinistic view came to be generally accepted, but later, in the bodies known as Free and Free Will Baptists, the Arminian doctrines again found expression.

Differences had so far developed that in 1906 the United States Bureau of Census found it necessary to distinguish 14 Baptist bodies in the presentation of their statistics. Before sectional and doctrinal differences had differentiated Baptists into these groups, there was more or less general unity.

In 1814 was formed the General Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions. In the development of that body, however, foreign missionary work was but a small part of its activities. It undertook some home missions also, besides other work, including the tract society, which in 1840 was reorganized as the American Baptist Publishing Society.

The Baptists in Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky and Tennessee, from whom those in Alabama have been largely drawn, took a leading part in early Baptist extension and growth, as well as in the work of the general convention.

To that body in its early history, Alabama Baptists generally held allegiance individually, through their churches, associations and conventions. The further history of the denomination in the State, since the divisions early came about, is given under separate branches.

Early History—Baptists came with the first pioneers into the territory now included in the State of Alabama. Their names are unknown but their number included many of the best men and women who sought homes in the new land. While the names of individual Baptists who located here after the territory was thrown open for settlement are unknown, the names of the early church organizations are preserved.

The first church of the Baptist faith and order in the State was founded, October 2, 1808, on Flint River, a few miles northeast of the city of Huntsville, and was given the name of the stream on which it was located. It was constituted in the private home of James Deaton, and numbered twelve persons.

To Rev. John Nicholson is to be given the honor of constituting this, the earliest known Baptist church in the limits of the State. Among his associates were Rev. John Canterbury and Rev. Zadock Baker, both preachers. This church is the lineal predecessor of the first Baptist church of Huntsville.

The second was Bassett’s Creek church, near the present Choctaw Corner in Clarke County, and dates from March 31, 1810. It was constituted by Elder James Courtney. The third was organized in the same year, but a little later within the present limits of Sumter County near the Mississippi line, and was called Oaktuppa.

With the increase of population others were rapidly formed, and by 1820 there were at least 50 Baptist churches in the State. By the end of 1821 there were 70 churches, and 2,500 members; in 1825, there were 6 associations, 128 churches, 70 ministers, and about 5,000 members.

Elder Hosea Holcombe, the fine old Alabama Baptist historian, declares that “this increase is without parallel in the United States, and perhaps in the known world, especially in modern times.”

The Flint River Association was constituted on September 26, 1814, the first in the State. It had 17 churches, with 1,021 members but some of the churches were located in Tennessee. With the passing years other many other associations were formed.


Baptists. (Southern Convention)—The principal branch of the great religious body of Baptists in Alabama. The denomination traces its history through conflicting struggles to the original founding of the church of that name. in America it has its beginning with Roger Williams at Providence, Rhode Island, in 1639, and Dr. John Clarke at Newport a year or two later.

With denominational growth came denominational differences, and the breaking up into general branches, known by varying names, but by far the larger part are still known merely as Baptists.

In 1844 a division came about due chiefly to sectional controversies, which resulted in 1845 in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention, the northern body remaining as formerly, until within recent years, when its various general societies came together as the Northern Baptist Convention.

The term “Missionary” sometimes employed in reference to this branch is descriptive merely, and its adoption is illustrative of the long struggle over doctrinal differences, particularly in mission activity, education of ministers, general education, Sunday schools and other forms of church work.

The Missionary Baptists in Alabama are in harmony with all Baptists on the fundamentals of doctrine, more or less Calvinistic in terms, as will appear from the statement hereinafter; and in many features of polity they are in general accord with them, notably in the local autonomy or independence of the churches.

There are no doctrinal or practical differences between them, organized as the Southern Baptist Convention, and the churches of the Northern Baptist Convention. They are not different denominations, but simply one denomination, working through different agencies, and generally in different parts of the world.

However, it may be said that generally they are more strictly Calvinistic, and the Philadelphia or New Hampshire confession of faith is more firmly held than in the Northern churches.

The cardinal principle of Alabama Baptists is implicit obedience to the plain teachings of the Word. Briefly summarized, they hold that:
- the churches are independent in their local affairs;
- that there should be entire separation of church and State;
- that religious liberty or freedom in matters of religion is an inherent right of the human soul;
- that a church is a body of regenerated people who have been baptized on profession of personal faith in Christ, and who have associated themselves in the fellowship of the Gospel;
- that infant baptism is not only not taught in the Scriptures, but is fatal to the spirituality of the church;
- that from the meaning of the words used in the Greek text of the Scripture, the symbolism of the ordinance, and the practice of the early church, immersion in water is the only proper mode of baptism;
- that the scriptural officers of the church are pastors and deacons;
- and that the Lord’s Supper is an ordinance of the church observed in commemoration of the sufferings and death of Christ.

In 1823 the state convention was constituted, missionaries were placed in the field, and aggressive steps toward extension were projected.

Within ten years the wise and consecrated leaders of the denomination had laid the foundation for the superstructure of Christian activities, which have so successfully engaged the church in Alabama during its whole history. These included missions, ministerial education, general education, benevolences, Sunday schools, the support of Bible and tract societies, and education and religious training of slaves and many others.

Southern Baptist Convention—On the organization of the Southern Baptist Convention at Augusta, Georgia, May 8, 1845, the Baptists of Alabama were represented by a number of messengers. They entered with enthusiasm in the plans for reorganization and throughout the entire history of the convention have earnestly and liberally supported its policies.

The missionary activities of the Convention were committed to a foreign board at Richmond, Virginia, and a domestic or home mission board in Marion, Alabama, but now maintained at Atlanta, Georgia. After the location of the domestic board at Marion the state convention discontinued evangelization within its bounds, and gave its support loyally to the larger body in all of its great enterprises.

An item of interest here is the fact that, while it was in Alabama that the movement started which led to the withdrawal of Southern Baptists from their Northern Brethren in 1844 and the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in the following year, it was a delegate from Alabama, Dr. Charles A. Stakely, that wrote out and offered the resolution at the Kansas City Convention which committed Southern Baptists to a part with their Northern Brethren in the formation of The General Convention of the Baptists of North America, a triennial body which represents the unity of all American Baptists.


State Convention

State Convention—This body known as “The Alabama Baptist State Convention,” is made up of a fixed number of messengers from associations and churches.

The history of the Convention is of great interest. With the growth of the State the necessity of a central body to bring together representatives of churches for purposes of mutual helpfulness, became more and more apparent, although varying doctrinal views held by churches and leaders made progress difficult.

One of the leaders of the movement for organization was Rev. J. A. Ranaldson, then of Louisiana, but later of Alabama. Through the medium of correspondence, he requested a meeting at Salem Church near Greensboro, of those favoring a State Convention. The delegates met in October 1823, representing “seven Missionary Societies.” Other delegates were appointed, but they failed to attend.

The volume of business was not large, and yet it was far reaching. Missionaries were appointed, ministerial education projected, and plans adopted for closer union. An excellent summary of the early years and struggles of the Convention, representing the organized efforts of Missionary Baptists in the State, is given by Cathcart, Baptist Encyclopedia, p.15.

“For ten years the Convention devoted its energies to the cause of missionary work within the State, with occasional contributions of money to other objects. State missions and ministerial education were the first objects of this Convention.

"For the first fifteen years it was not very successful, and had to contend against the most serious hindrances that an extensive and fierce anti-missionary spirit could engender; a number of the strongest of our early ministers taking that side of the great questions then in controversy, they hindered the cause very much; the great majority of the ministers who claimed to be missionary Baptists were entirely neutral on these matters.

"But there were giants in those days,—noble spirits who were every way worthy of their high calling; men who confronted the enemies of missons and ever other enemy. and laid the foundations of our State enterprises deep down on solid rock. Such were Hosea Holcombe, Alexander Travis, J. McLemore, D. Winbourne, S. Blythe, C. Crow, A. G. McGraw, J. Ryan, and a number of others who might be mentioned here.

"It is worthy of remark that in those early times in Alabama, both in our associations and in the convention, decided union and sympathy of feeling were manifested toward ‘the Baptist General Convention of the United States,’ and handsome sums were contributed for foreign missions, and especially for Dr. Judson’s Burmese Bible. The benevolent operations of the Convention were then largely carried forward by efficient agents who were appointed by the body.”

The Association holds an annual session. Its proceedings, with official reports of boards, institutions, etc., and associational and church statistics, are regularly published. In practical operation its activities are numerous.

Support of missions, foreign and home, are fundamental in the thinking and practices of Missionary Baptists. In behalf of mission activities they have been aggressive and militant.

It was largely because of their determination to aid in carrying the Gospel standard to the heathen and to the waste places of the State that many of their brethren parted company with them, and fierce and uncompromising controversies had sprung up to the embarrassment of the faithful.

In no single field have their courage and consecration been more signally displayed. They have contributed thousands of dollars, they have sent devoted missionaries to the field, and they have grown in spiritual grace and power as a people because of their vision and sacrifice.

The early Baptists of Alabama were strongly missionary. This was reflected in the organization meeting of their State Convention in 1823. That body had as its officers leaders of the missionary movement, its constitution declared for the support of foreign and home missions.


The State was divided into three missionary districts, and five preachers each were appointed to do six weeks active missionary labor during the year at “one dollar a day (exclusive of traveling expense ).”

The entrance of these men in the field, while contributing to the extension of the church, served to arouse into bitter opposition the hitherto latent anti-missionary feeling.

In 1836 after continuous and uncompromising conflict for more than 15 years, a division took place, the missionary element continuing its work under the State Convention, and the non-progressive becoming what is now known as the "Primitive" or "Old School Baptists."

Of the division, Riley, History of Alabama Baptists, p. 110, says:

“The scenes attendant upon this severance were, in many instances, most exciting. The movement involved the separation of parents and children, brothers and sisters, in their church relations.

"Every part of the State in which these colliding elements in the Baptist ranks existed, there came this final division. It is known throughout the State today proverbially as ‘the big split’.”

A special phase or episode in the mission and anti-mission struggle should here be noticed. The conflict took various forms. In the Alabama Association, Rev. William Jones espoused the anti-mission side. He was a gifted preacher and an aggressive leader.

Mr. Jones took the position of the Kehukle Association of North Carolina, which in 1827 had made the first public announcement of opposition to the “anti-mission movement.” Under the appeals of Mr. Jones about 40 members of different churches joined him in organizing what they called “The Apostolic Baptist Church.” This church had only a fitful existence of a few years.

Until 1845 mission work was conducted under the State Convention and the General Convention. In that year the organization of the Southern Baptist Convention gave a new impetus to missions. The home mission board was located at Marion, Alabama, a choice which challenged the denominational pride of the church in the State.


Education—The educational enterprises of the Baptists of Alabama, supported under the direction of the State convention, are Howard College and Judson College. These institutions are locally managed by boards of trustees, appointed by the convention.

No chapter in the history of Alabama Baptists is more creditable than that devoted to the support of education in all forms. At the first convention in 1823 they declared in favor of “the education of pious and intelligent young men called to the ministry.”

Collections were taken toward the endowment of “the Alabama scholarship in the theological seminary,” and “a professorship of mathematics and natural philosophy in Columbia College, Washington, D. C.

Ten years later, at the convention of 1833, the larger foundations for denominational educational activity were projected, in the adoption of a report providing for “a seminary of learning, on the manual labor plan.” This institution was located within a mile of Greensboro, and entered upon an auspicious career in 1835, but the financial crash of 1837, coupled with inefficiency on the part of some of the teachers, abruptly defeated the enterprise, much to the sorrow of the leaders.

However, the failure did not retard further and immediate effort.

In 1836 the Alabama Athenaeum was founded at Tuscaloosa by Baptist influences.

In 1836 the Marion Female Seminary was opened, largely through local Baptist cooperation, but from which they later withdrew. This was followed by the establishment of the Judson Female Institute opened in 1839, and tendered to the convention in 1842.

The failure of the Manual Labor Institute did not at all discourage the leaders, and in January, 1842, Howard College was opened in Marion.


The educational horizon in 1850 had widened, and the Convention that year endorsed the efforts of the Liberty Association to establish a girls’ school of high grade at Lafayette, and the Tuskegee Association at Tuskegee.

Other experiences are found in the official records, and in 1892 an unsuccessful effort was made to embark the convention upon the support of a system of denominational high schools. At different periods many educational institutions have been under the control of the Baptists of the State.

Sunday Schools

Sunday Schools—The earliest record of an official utterance of the state convention on the subject of Sunday schools was in a resolution at the session of 1829 wherein it was declared “that Bible societies, tract societies, Sabbath Schools, and all such institutions are eminently suited to advance the Redeemer’s kingdom among men.

Ten years later, at the session of 1839, the following strong statement was adopted:

“Resolved, That we regard the Sabbath school as one of the most important institutions of the day.

“Resolved, That we recommend to every minister in Alabama, to use his influence in the establishment of a Sabbath school in his congregation. and in convenient neighborhoods.”

In 1845 the convention found an increasing interest in such schools. it was further found that “recent previous revivals of Religion in many parts of the State have demonstrated the importance and utility of Sabbath shools—in the fact that a majority of those who have professed a change of heart, and been added to the churches, were from among the young—and many of them had enjoyed the advantages of Sabbath school instruction.”

The growth of Sunday schools during the whole of the early and much of the later history of the church in Alabama was left to the individual pastor and to the consecrated men and women to whom the vision of their large usefulness had come.

In 1871 as noted elsewhere herein, it became apparent that the work could be greatly advanced by a central supervising and promotion agency, and the State Sunday School Board was created with headquarters at Talladega.

Through organized supervision thus begun the work has greatly prospered. With a reorganization of the scope and activities of the board and change of the name to the State Board of Missions, Sunday schools have been supervised as a department of the board.


Temperance—(Alabama instituted prohibition in 1915, 5 years before national prohibition.)

No denomination has been more active in an organized way than the Baptists. in the support of all temperance reform movements. Their attitude is set forth in the report of the temperance committee at the convention of 1916, unanimously adopted:

“The work of eradicating the saloon from civic life and its influence from political life has commanded the attention of Christian people for more than a generation. and no denomination has been more zealous for such reform than the Baptists.

"As a denomination all have been in the forefront of the battle and many of our leaders have been leaders in prohibition reform. We thank God that He has been able to use so many of our people in eradicating this great curse from our fair state.”

Their position in the matter of law enforcement in Connection with the whisky traffic is thus stated in the same report:

“The illegal sale of liquor must be eradicated from every nook and corner of the State, and every ‘blind tiger’ and ‘speak easy’ must be closed, and every criminal indulging in violation of the law punished or driven from the State before our efforts shall cease.”


The recommendations pledge the support of Baptists to the Alabama Anti-Saloon League, and “hail with joy the return to Alabama of the incomparable Brooks Lawrence;” protest against the use of the mails “to flood prohibition territory with liquor advertisements;” urge Congress to submit an amendment for “nation-wide prohibition;” and urge legislation by Congress for prohibition in the District of Columbia.

From the beginning of their work in the State, the Convention has given its support to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and to the Alabama Anti-Saloon League; and representatives of these organizations have been accorded a warm welcome at the sessions. The convention of 1904 sent five fraternal messengers to the meeting of the American Anti-Saloon League in Columbus, Ohio, in November of that year.

On more than one occasion the declaration has been made that prohibition was “the most important political question of the day,” and candidates for office have been called upon to declare themselves on the subject.

The historic position of the Baptists of Alabama is in accord with the foregoing. Strong declarations are to be found in the sermons of preachers, in the minutes of associations. and in the proceedings of early conventions. Then as now the active temperance movements in the State had the support of this denomination.

At the session of the convention in 1839 resolutions were adopted appointing delegates to a temperance convention in Tuscaloosa in December of that year, and urging delegates to “use all prudent means to induce their respective churches to become auxiliary.”

The convention of 1853 directed the appointment of delegates to a temperance convention held that year in Montgomery; and at the same time petitioned the legislature then in session “to enact a law giving precincts or counties the right of deciding by popular vote or otherwise, whether licenses shall be granted in their respective bounds.”

Woman’s Work

Woman’s Work—Organized work among women is the special province of the Woman’s Missionary Union. Its operations are a part of the work in the state mission field, under the direction of the executive board. The union is referred to in the Report of the Board, 1917, as “a most highly valued auxiliary,” and that “as an educational and collecting agency this organization of our sisters stands unexcelled among all our forces.”

The specific functions of the union are declared in its constitution to be the stimulation of “the missionary spirit and the grace of giving among the women and young people of the churches, and aiding in collecting funds for missionary purposes, to be disbursed by the State Mission Board and the Boards of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

In the development of the activities of the unions, various local or subsidiary organizations have been projected, including young women’s auxiliaries, missionary circles, intermediate girls’ and boys’ societies, and sunbeam bands.

A special Manual of Methods has been compiled as a reference book for missionary organizations. Also, a young people’s leader and field worker is regularly engaged.

Women’s societies had existed in the churches from their first entrance into the State. At first they were called missionary societies, through which collections were taken and contributions to the cause of missions, fostered by the General Convention.

Later they came to be called "ladies aid societies," an honored name through all the years of Baptist church history in the State. These societies were the faithful coadjutors of the pastors, and they had more than their share in every good work.

The influence of women in the growth of the Baptist church in Alabama runs like a powerful stream through its entire history.

At the organization of the Baptist State Convention in 1823, of the twenty delegates, one half were sent as representatives of seven missionary societies founded and operated by Baptist Christian women. An extract is preserved sent by the Ladies Aid Society of Jonesboro to the Convention. Among other things, it appeals to be allowed “sonic humble part in so glorious a work.” During the same year one zealous member gave her watch and chain to the missionary cause, and the member of another contributed two pairs of socks, knit with her own hands.


During the years of dissention and indifference and spiritual hardship. the Baptist women never lost heart, but were the courageous and sympathetic ministers to their faithful pastors.

In recognition of the indebtedness of the churches to the women, at the organization of the Baptist church in Mobile, 1835, their by-laws contained this provision: “In the choice of pastor, or of ministerial supply, or of deacons, the reception of members, and all cases of discipline or fellowship, the sisters are entitled to vote.

At the Convention of 1877. Rev. O. F. Gregory presented the first of a series of resolutions urging the formation of societies “to aid, not only in the work of foreign missions, but also in that of home missions and education, for none can do this so well as women.”

Until 1893 the forms of organization varied. Delegates had for some years been regularly in attendance upon the sessions of the state convention and conferences had naturally followed. A central committee on woman s work appears as one of the important committees of the convention, created at the session of 1889.

Without charter other than was implied in the title and the fact of appointment, the committee brought about the cooperation of pastors, local church workers, and mission and aid societies and sunbeam bands, and at the same time its extension activities resulted in organizing several new societies.

Baptist Young People’s Union—(The name was changed in 1943 to Baptist Training Union (B.T.U.) in order to widen its service and include adult Unions.) Organized work among the young people of the adolescent period is carried on through local unions in the several churches, and are one of the state mission activities of the executive board. These come together in a state convention annually for conference and fraternal intercourse.

In the progress of the spirit of training for efficiency the unions have taken a permanent place in church life, both in town and country. The executive board says of their position in church economy that their functions are "mainly to develope the devotional, the practical, the doctrinal and the missionary life of our young people, all in loyalty to the church Life.”

A training week at Mentone is provided for the special preparation of young people for their religious activities.

Alabama Baptist Children’s Home—This institution represents the organized effort of the denomination in the State for the relief of widows and orphans. Prior to its establishment, individual Baptists, local churches, Sunday schools and women’s societies had met the call for this form of benevolence.

After agitation and discussion through 1891, 1892 and 1893, acting under instructions of the convention in 1892, the trustees selected Evergreen as the location of the home. It was formally opened March 8, 1893. On February 8, 1895, the legislature amended the charter, and, among other things, restated the purposes of the home, viz.:

“That the object of this corporation shall he to procure the control of orphans, destitute widows and such other children as the board of trustees may think proper to receive for the purpose of supporting and educating them in the home established for that purpose in Evergreen. Conecuh County, or to secure a suitable home for any such children outside of said institution when practicable.”

The institution originally bore the maiden name of Mrs. Marie L. B. Woodson, of Selma. Through her generous donation of property valued at $20,000 she was accorded the honor of the name. Mrs. Woodson in 1909 became an inmate of the home she was partly instrumental in building, and after enjoying its sheltering care for about two years, on May 26, 1911, she passed away aged 84 years.



Colportage—The dissemination of religious literature has in various form engaged the attention of both the state convention and the association. About 1880 definite steps were taken for the organization of the work as one of the regular activities of the convention.

In 1881 five colporters were in the field, but the difficulties were many, and funds were lacking. A plan for “Permanent Funds,” of one hundred dollars each was adopted, in order to furnish working capital. The first of these funds was given by the Sunday school of the First Baptist Church at Montgomery. In 1883 fifteen funds were reported as subscribed.

In 1884 about 9,000 books were reported as sold.

In the Minutes for 1915, p. 12, will be found a brief sketch of colportage in the State.

The Alabama Bible Society was formed November 13, 1836, auxiliary to the American and Foreign Bible Society. Local societies were organized in many of the churches.

In 1853, depositories were established in Montgomery, Selma and Gainesville. On February 8, 1858, the legislature incorporated “The Alabama Baptist Bible and Colporteur Society,” whose purpose was to sell or gratuitously distribute Bibles, religions books and tracts.

The society was given the right to locate a depository in Selma. Its capital was not to exceed $50,000. The society entered vigorously upon its work, but in 1861, December 6, the legislature authorized the transfer of all of its properties to the convention.

At the sessions of that body during the War Between the States, the Bible board reported that their efforts were largely taken up in sending the Bible and good books to soldiers in camp.

For many years, and long prior to present methods, through agents and colporteurs, large numbers of Bibles, Testaments, tracts and other religious books were scattered over the State. Many of these are to be met with today in the more retired and unchanged sections.

At the Convention of 1844 resolutions were adopted cx pressing approval of the “design and claims” of the American Tract Society for Alabama, and recommending its publications to both ministers and laity.

Work for Negroes

Work for Negroes—While there is no prohibition in the constitution of the convention or in the local regulations of churches, Negroes are not now carried on the rolls of the churches.

The position of the Southern Baptist Convention, which controls the denomination in this state is one of sympathy and cooperation with the National Baptist Convention and other Baptist organizations among Negroes. Messengers from these are received by that convention, as well as by the state convention.

Both conventions have earnestly encouraged educational institutions for the training of Negro preachers.

However, according to the 1917 report of the executive board of the state convention, the present activities of the church in reference to work among the Negroes, while of tremendous responsibility, “is wholly unorganized and cannot be counted.”

Attention is called to the cooperation of the Baptists of Alabama with the work of the home mission board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The state convention pays two hundred dollars annually toward the support of the teacher of the Bible in Selma University.

The record of the Baptists of Alabama in relation to the Negro, whether as a slave or as a citizen is altogether creditable. On the rolls of the churches the names of slaves are to be found from their earliest organization in the state.

Slaves in Baptist homes received religious instruction, and masters were enjoined generally to sympathetic treatment.


The position of the early Baptists may be inferred from resolutions adopted at a meeting of the state convention in November, 1844, at which it was declared that the Baptists recognized the “duty of using all practicable and legal methods for communicating religious instruction, so far as may be in their power.”

With the consent of masters, preachers were urged to “assemble the colored people, in no very great numbers at one time or place, on the plantations or at the churches, as may be convenient, and adapt discourses especially to them; that they pray and sing with them, and endeavor to guide them into the way of Heaven.”

Members of churches were urged to erect suitable houses of worship on the plantations or in convenient situations, with the proviso. “not to produce annoyance to the neighbors, or lead into temptation by the assemblage of large numbers of them together, or far from their homes.”

The opinion was expressed that masters would find that sound religious instruction would be the truest economy as well as the most efficient policy, facts which would lead them to cooperate in meeting the expenses incident to the maintenence of churches and ministers for the slaves.

This friendly attitude continued, but because of sectional agitation, not only the Baptists, but all of the churches and other institutional agencies acted with caution in their attitude toward the slaves.

Alabama Baptists were unwavering in their support of Southern institutions, and at no time did they falter in their allegiance to the State and to the Confederacy in the great struggle beginning in 1861.

Nevertheless, they maintained the same lofty and wholesome attitude toward the religious instruction of “colored people’’ a subject which they characterized as of ‘‘paramount importance to our churches, and of vital interest to our country.

The end to be sought the leaders conceived to be the development of Christian character, through which the slaves would be happy and contented. Masters were again urged to cooperate, and they were charged with being just and equitable in their treatment.

The presence in Alabama of Dr. Booker T. Washington was in part due to George W. Campbell, a member of the Tuskegee Baptist Church; and for a number of years W. W. Campbell and C. W. Ware, of Tuskegee (both Baptists), have been members of the board of trustees of Tuskegee Institute, of which Dr. Washington was the virtual founder and long the head.


Miscellaneous—The Baptists have always held the Sabbath in high reverence. Their work in the Sunday Schools, as illustrating one of the proper means of employing the sacred day, is discussed elsewhere.

At the convention in July, 1880, strong resolutions were adopted deploring the desecration of the Sabbath, protesting against the running of passenger, freight and excursion trains on that day, and providing for the appointment of a committee to memorialize the legislature to pass laws prohibiting Sunday trains.

The utilization of laymen for larger church activities, which had taken shape as the laymen’s missionary movement in 1908, found a ready response on the part of the state convention, and a stronger committee was named, with Hon. H. S. D. Mallory as chairman. Vigorous reports and resolutions were adopted, and, apart from the spiritual value of the workers, much material help was given to the various departments of denominational work.



Summary—Dr. Charles A, Stakely, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Montgomery, thus summarizes the work of the denomination in the State:

“In Alabama as everywhere else the Baptists have stood openly for the rights of the individual conscience and the equality of all consciences before God. Practicing a pure democracy in the government of their own churches, they have been ardent supporters of the principles of the same in the political and civil order of the State.

"Fighting the battle for education and Christian missions with non-progressive elements in their own ranks they have come out victorious and taken a conspicuous hand in forwarding these great interests at home and abroad. And in these lines they have produced their share of the State’s most distinguished men and most brilliant women.

"In addition to a persistent evangelism, the Baptists have been leaders in everything that has made for the good of the family and the community, everything in the line of private and public morality and happiness, more particularly of late in the movements for temperance reform and the growing rights of women. And they have grown from strong to stronger with the years.”

The United States Bureau of the Census, 1936, Religious Bodies, reports for Alabama:

Number of Churches in Alabama 1,267
Number of Members 212,855
Number of Church Edifices 1,157
Value of Church Edifices $7,435,569

Literature—The miscellaneous literature of the Baptist church in Alabama is not extensive. The first book of importance to be noted is the History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Alabama, by Rev. Hosea Holcombe, published in Philadelphia in 1840. It is a well made book, and in editorial care, typographical excellence, and mechanical details, it is far better than the books of today. It is not only the first distinctively historical work published in the State, it is also of the very highest value as source material. (A List of many other sources is then given in the article.)


Baptist Branches

BAPTISTS, CHURCH OF CHRIST—A branch of the general religious body of Baptists, made up of a membership located in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, and grouped in seven associations in 1906. This Baptist sect holds essentially the same general doctrines as the Separate Baptists, but local conditions appear to have prevented union. They are Calvinistic, though liberal; and they hold that baptism of believers by immersion, the Lord’s Supper, and foot-washing are gospel institutions.

In polity they accord in practice with other Baptists. The churches are organized into associations, which “are purely for purposes of fellowship.” They have no distinctive missionary societies or benevolent organizations, but they are not classed as “anti-missionary.”

“Since they occupy mountainous sections chiefly, and represent the less wealthy communities, their missionary spirit finds expression in local evangelistic work. As they have come in contact more and more with other churches, their sense of fellowship has broadened, and with this has been apparent a desire to share in the wider work of the general church.”

Number of Churches in Alabama, 1936 - 31
Number of Members in 1936 - 2,844.
Number of Church Edifices - 26
Value of Church Edifices - $13,950

BAPTISTS, FREE—A branch of the general body of Baptists, having its origin in New England in the latter part of the eighteenth century. It grew out of a dissatisfaction on the part of numbers of Baptists in that section, which declined to accept the Calvinistic theology in its most rigid form.

They were sometimes called “New Lights,” or “Randallites,” so named because the “first congregation was organized by Benjamin Randall. They are sometimes called Free Will Baptists, but the particular branch immediately under review is not to be confused with the Baptists of that name, which is also represented in Alabama.

The term Free Baptists has been finally adopted as more nearly descriptive of their adherence, not only to the doctrine of free will, but also to free grace and free communion. In polity they are congregational, but for purposes of fellowship, associations are formed, ordinarily called quarterly conferences.

The claim is made by the Free Baptists that they were the first religious body to pronounce against slavery, their general conference of 1835 making a vigorous declaration on the subject.

The statistics of 1906 show:

Number of Organizations in Alabama - 21
Number of Members - 1,200.
Number of Church Edifices - 13
Value of Church Edifices - $4,750
Also: 12 Sunday schools with 39 officers and teachers and 273 pupils.

In 1926, the Free Baptists of the 1916 report became a part of the Baptists (Northern Convention).

BAPTISTS, FREE WILL—A branch of the general body of Baptists, sometimes confused with Free Baptists, but more properly known as Free Will Baptists. They accept the five points of Arminianism as opposed to the five points of Calvinism.

Immersion is considered the only correct form of baptism, but no distinction is made in the invitation to the Lord’s Supper, and they uniformly practice open communion. They further believe in foot-washing and annointing the sick with oil.

While in doctrine and polity they are similar to the Free Baptists, they have a different origin, and are traced to local Baptist differences in Pennsylvania about the middle of the eighteenth century.

In the South their position on slavery was at variance with the position of the Free Baptists of the North. The Free Will Baptists are congregational in government, hold quarterly conferences, state conferences or associations and an annual conference representing the entire denomination.

Number of Churches in Alabama, 1936 - 108
Number of Members in 1936 - 10,508
Number of Church Edifices - 90
Value of Church Edifices - $81,547

Baptist Orphanage.

BAPTISTS, SEVENTH-DAY—A branch of the general religious body of Baptists, evangelical in doctrine, and distinguished from the regular Calvinistic group only by their observance of the seventh day instead of the first day as the Sabbath.

It is said of them that “They are in no sense ‘Judaizers’ or ‘Legulizers,’ but believe in salvation through faith alone, and insist upon the observance of the Sabbath, not as a basis of salvation, but as evidence of obedience and conformity to the teachings of Christ.”

They were originally “restricted communionists,” but now no limitations are imposed. Immersion is a necessary condition to church membership. In church government they are independent Congregationalists.

Number of Churches in Alabama, 1936 - 1
Number of Members in - 14
Number of Church Edifices - 0

BAPTISTS, PRIMITIVE—A branch of the general religious body of Baptists, dating from differences developed early in the nineteenth century in reference to missionary societies, Sunday schools, education of preachers, and similar liberal ideas and practices.

They are also known as "Old School," "Regulars," "Anti-mission," and "Hard Shell."

With the growth of population and complexity in social organization, the religious leaders among the Baptists began the development of planes looking to the unification of their forces, for extension, internal development, etc. These liberal ideas aroused opposition on the part of many churches and in the first quarter century of the history of the Baptists in Alabama, there was a fierce conflict. The denomination was divided into two camps known as missionary and anti-missionary, resulting finally in a permanent division in 1836, in many cases reaching to both churches and associations.

In doctrine the denomination is Calvinistic. Usually their abstracts of principles or articles of faith are eleven in number. The full verbal inspiration of the Old and New Testament scriptures, immersion of believers as the only form of baptism, and as a prerequisite to the taking of the Lord’s Supper, and the practice of foot washing are adhered to rigidly.

As a church they stand for honesty in public and private dealing, the prompt payment of debts, and the perfect independence of individual action within the law. While not opposing an educated ministry, they are opposed to the maintenance of educational institutions by the church. They are without Sunday schools, but are not opposed to the religious training and instruction of their children.

Number of Churches in Alabama, 1936 - 165
Number of members - 6,515
Number of Church Edifices - 135
Value of Church Edifices in 1936 $126,992

BAPTISTS, TWO-SEED-IN-THE SPIRIT-PREDESTINARIAN—A branch of the general religious body of Baptists, organized early in the nineteenth century as a protest of the more rigid Calvinist teachings against a general laxity of doctrine and looseness of church discipline, consequent upon the alleged prevalence of Arminian doctrines of Methodists.

Its churches are to be found in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas. They resemble the Primitive Baptists in some respects and are sometimes popularly confused with that body, but they are far more extreme in their intensely Calvinistic doctrines and equally independent polity.

The title phrase, “Two Seed,” indicates one seed of good and one of evil, operating on the generations of mankind. Associations of churches are formed, “but for spirit and fellowship rather than for church management.” Sunday schools and church societies are not recognized.

The state of this denomination in 1890 as compared with its condition in 1906 shows a notable decrease. In Alabama in 1906 there were 2 congregations with a total of 32 members, 16 men and 16 women; and 2 churches, valued at $450.

Number of Churches in Alabama, 1936 - 1
Number of Members - 57
Number of Church Edifices - 1
Value of Church Edifices - Not given

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