According to an Oxford newspaper article, dated April 23, 1891, the Free Will Baptist Church at Dutch Bend was already in existence – that makes our church over 122 years old! Praise the Lord.
In 1986, Dean Walker wrote the following history of our church:
Springdale Free Will Baptist Church began in the 1800’s in Murphy School, above the Bowles home. Then it went to a small church on Forch Jackson’s place, up above where it is now. Some of the first members were: Taylor & Nancy Moore, John & Laura Welch, Henry & Jessie Starnes, and Mrs. Forch Jackson. The church was then moved over to Mr. Henry Starnes place, where Milton Starnes now has his ranch. Some of the deacons at this church were Mack Bowles, Frank McCord, and Mr. Renolds.
In 1935, Mr. Gibb Starnes gave the plot of ground where the church is now, and the members started to raise money to build a new church. In this same year, Willie Bevil gave one acre of ground to the church where the parsonage is now. Then some time within the next year (1936), the first building was built at its present location.
Mr. David Gean, with the help of some of the men did the carpentry work. Many of the people helped collect chickens, eggs, molasses, and other items to help pay for it. Some of the familiar faces collecting items were Preacher Lewis, Zula Sullivan, Cordie Bowles, Ethel Bowles, and Sarah Davis. Mr. Lee Davis gave cypress for shingles, and Lester Dulin, Jody Walker, Dewey McCord, and Lonnie Cobb cut them. Mr. Homer Bevil donated money and loaned the rest to build the church.
In 1952, Mr. Gibb Starnes gave a plot of ground for a cemetery. Then Milton Starnes gave pine posts to put a fence around it, and Mr. Elwood Daniels did the creosoting of the posts. Preacher Lewis was the first person buried in this cemetery.
Then in 1965 Mrs. Lula Starnes and children gave two acres of land to enlarge the cemetery. Rommey Leggitt did the survey and plotting of the ground. Mr. Hubert Sparks was the first one buried in this part of the cemetery.
The Sunday School rooms were built by Uncle Ben Morgan from donations in 1952. Mr. Homer Bevil gave the timber for the foundation, and some of the members cut them. Ken and Nita Walker got singers from Tupelo and New Albany to come sing to raise money for this project. A few years later, Jr. Parker and Roney Weeks built the bath rooms.
In 1976, the church was bricked by Uncle Ben Morgan from donations from members and friends. Also, in 1980, Ken Walker purchased the trailer for our pastor to live in, and the church is paying it out with $128 a month. We only lack about $1000 having it paid for now. Also plans are being discussed to buy or build a parsonage soon.
In 1982, Metee Daniels gave money to purchase a sign for the church. Ken Walker, Dwight Clifton, Ronnie Leggitt, and Quay Daniels made and put this sign up. Also, in 1982, with the help of Charles Daniels, the church members bought material and padded the seats. Another project of 1982, was the dividers for the Sunday School rooms in the fellowship hall. Roland and Dwight Clifton helped the church members with this project. In 1984, the church put central air and heat in the church. Then in 1985, central air and heat were added to the parsonage.
Bro. Haas was the first Pastor and was paid $7.50 for the first month’s salary. Some of the other pastors have been: Fondren, Lee, Fredrick, Guyton, W. O. Knight, See, Yarborough, W. F. Clark, Ouets, Herbert Knight, Paul Smith, Mills, Roy Clark, Eldrige, and Cobb.
As we look back over the years, we can see many familiar faces, like the deacons: Jody Walker, Lester Dulin, Lonnie Cobb, John Bowles, R. V. Henderson, Audie Ferguson, Roger Gaines, Charles Allen Davis, Harold Taylor, and Ken Walker. But most interesting and exciting are the shouters like Grandma Evie Potts, Grandma Susie Starnes, Mrs. Emma Fondern, Mrs. Jim Innmon, Mrs. Forch Jackson, Mrs. Susie Sullivan and Mr. John Welch.
But why look back when there are so many wonderful opportunities ahead of us. So let us all join in unity to make our church the best that it can be.
by Dean Walker 1986