Bethel  Baptist Church

By Myrtis Simmons Craft 

Bethel Baptist ChurchOn January 27th, 1839, Newton County was three years old. The  population doubled between 1836 and 1840, according to the census records  transcribed by Mrs. Oliver H. Hopkins and Richard S. Lackey, and published  in 1968. There were about 800 whites in the county in 1836 and the total  whites was 1,980 in 1840. 

The pioneers had built their shelter, had grown some food and were ready to  take care of their spiritual life.

The following citizens in the southwest section of the county met to form a  Baptist Church to be known as Bethel: Ralph and Elvy Simmons, William and  Alsey West, Everett and Martha C. Lewis, Abel Randal, Thomas Hodges, and  Gemina Walker. The Presbytery consisted of Rev. John P. Martin, Rev. Edward  Terrell and Isham Hodges.

On the 3rd Saturday in February 1839, Rev. J. P. Martin was  chosen as preacher and William West and Thomas Hodges were chosen as  deacons, with Ralph Simmons serving as clerk. The church was off to a good  start with the addition of Leah Price, Charity West, Lucy McDaniel and Beedy  Davis received as new members at this meeting. Also received was a slave  owned by Bird Safford.

In May 1839 a committee was appointed to look for a suitable place for a  meetinghouse. Appointed were Archelas Wells, William Price, Thomas Hoges,  William West and Ralph Simmons. George Mason states in his brief history of  Bethel Church published in Newton County Mississippi A Pictorial History,that the church has had three buildings in its 163 years of existence.  The first building was located .4 of a mile north of the present church.

In the 160+ years the church has had 29 different regular pastors. Pastor L.  P. Murrell served four different times over a period of 36 years. Pastor J.  E. Chapman served over 42 years consecutively, Pastor H. H. Bethune served  over 10 years and his son, J. H. Bethune, served over 23 years. A list of  the pastors follows.

J. P. Martin

1839 - 1841

Allison Phillips

1841 - 1843

W. R. Holland


R. T. Gatewood

1844 - 1847

L. P. Murrell

1847 - 1862

John Williams

1862 - 1864

L. P. Murrell


Shelby King

1866 - 1872

L. P. Murrell

1873 - 1874

W. D. McQuirk

1875 - 1878

L. P. Murrell

1879 - 1883

J. E. Chapman

1883 - 1926

W. R. Allmon

1926 - 1931

H. H. Bethune

1932 - 1942

J. L. Boyd

1942 - 1943

J. D. Allen

1943 - 1944

Martin V. McKinster

1944 - 1945

Charles Phipps

1945 - 1946

Raymond Herrington

1946 - 1949

James T. Chapman

1950 - 1951

S. S. Kelly

1951 - 1952

Marcus Smith

1942 - 1953

Tulon Anglin

1953 - 1954

Chas. L. Everitt

1954 - 1955

A. G. Smith

1956 - 1960

G. S. Martin

1960 - 1963

E. F. Paderewski

1963 - 1966

Woodie Burt

1966 - 1967

John H. Bethune

1967 - 1990

Gary Smith

1991 - 1994

Eddie Ruddick, Bob Sanders
et al

1994 - 2003

Paul Oglesbee

1998 - 2002

Jerry Jones

2003 -

After ten years the membership of the church was 16 males, 25 females and 11  blacks. At the end of 30 years the membership was 32 males, 56 females and 66  blacks. The following is a list of the membership for August 1869. The names are  typed as written in the minutes.

MALE MEMBERS (August 1869)

Hardy Nichols, Deacon

J. M. Kelley, Deacon

D. T. Chapman, Deacon

E. E. Harelson, Deacon

E. E. Chapman, Treasurer

P. S. McCormick, Deacon

H. C. Simmons

A. J. McDaniel

B. Stone

J. C. Harelson

George Thompson

John Cheek

R. R. Dukes

A. T. Chapman

J. E. Chapman

R. E. Chapman

John Simmons

J. L. Stone

D. Phillupps

Wm. Skinner

L. F. Shotts

E. Kelley

Thos. McDaniel

James Simmons

Henry McDaniel

Henry Walker

Jehu Pannell

A. T. Woodham

H. M. Peebels

W. L. Kelley

Wm. Pierce

James Kelley

R. Well

FEMALE MEMBERS (August 1869)

E. C. Nichols

Sousan S. Nichols

Elizabeth Eavens

Martha Woodham

Sintha Asbel

Sallie Laird

Charity Harelson

C. McDaniel

E. C. Chapman

S. E. Tipet

Sarah Chapman

Sarah Stone

E. C. Wells

Martha Stringer

Jane Kelley

Nancy Laird

Elizabeth McDaniel

Adaline Chapman

Lucy McDaniel

Hariate Cheek

Sarah McDaniel

Jane Thompson

Hester Woodham

Martha Simmons

Matilda Gilbert

Delaney Walker

Annie Deering

Margret Cheek

Gracy Wyatt

Martha Pannell, Sr.

Mary Gilcreece

Hariate Pannell

Lucinda Stringer

Louise Stringer

M. J. McCormick

C. D. Phillupps

M. T. Harelson

C. L. Chapman

Dicy Fare

Nancy Simmons

Sension McDaniel

N. T. Harelson

Mrs. James Simmons

Lusinda Stringer

Lucy Janes

Sarah Davis

Nancy Flanigan

E. E. Currie

S. E. McCain

Lucy Stone

Elizabeth Walker

Lucy Western

M. J. McDaniel

BLACK MEMBERS (August 1869)

Moses Wells

Sallie Moore

Henry Stringer

Hale West

Zeak Currie

Fannie Arington

Zack Chapman

Mary Watkins

Dick Chapman

Celer Chapman, Sr.

Randle Harelson

Eliza Watson

Cary Nichols

Hariate Arington

Hardy Walker

Elizabeth Arington

Berry Arington

Mary Currie

Charles Arinton

Pheby Currie

Isaac McAlpin

Linda Nichols

Andrew Chapman


Thos. Watson

Hanner Arrington

Berry Thompson

Polley Thompson

George Currie

Harriate Nichols

Peter Eavens

Caroline Thompson

Luke Thompson

Molley Eavens

Plesant Eavens

Mariah Walker

Wm Bingham

Celer Chapman, Jr.

Alin Nichols

Sena Thompson

Albert Arrington

Eada Arrington

Jessey Walker

Mary Chapman

Mattie Walker

Martha Walker

Sam Simmons

Delcy Eavens

Caroline McInnis

Riney Eavens

Kisey Eavens

Charlott Harelson

Adaline Walker

Charity Chapman

Mary Bingham

Linda Thompson

Jane Nichols

Fannie Chapman

Liddia McDaniel

Tamen Deering

Hanner Currie

Mariah Walker

Kisiah Asbel

Ann Chapman

Steven Arington

Joseph Rogers

In  July 1869 the minutes read as follows: Brother George Currie and Jack Simmons  was excluded for contempt to the church by motion hereafter the colored  Brethren are to have a conference immediately after ours closes. From that date  forward a separate conference was held for the colored membership. This minute  book stops with August 1870 and the next book or books are missing until about  the turn of the century. Mrs. Elizabeth Walker, wife of Y. Z. Walker, stated  that the black members first banded together in the Walker community for church  services after leaving Bethel. She states that the members left Bethel in the  late 1800's and in 1927 built a church that they named St. Johns Missionary  Baptist Church. The pastor at the time of the building was Robert Reed. The  current pastor is Anthony Robinson.

No  mention is made in the minutes of the church about the civil war. You would  think that some notice would be made of the men from the church that died in the  conflict. Do you think this is just another example of separation of Church and  State? 

At  the present time the membership of Bethel is 62.


Further information can be found at USM.  See Bethel Baptist Church Minutes, 1839-1945 (M 342). These are minutes and membership lists of Newton County, Mississippi church.


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