A History of Hazel Baptist Church

By Mark Savell

Hazel Baptist Church, located about four miles north of Lake, Mississippi, was organized on October 10, 1906. Through a study of minutes and interviews with early members we conclude that the first meeting took place in a country store owned by Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Rush which was located just south and across Highway 489 from the church’s current location.

According to Mrs. Rachel Sorey, her mother, Mrs. H.. C. (Agnes) Rush and others were discussing the potential name of the new church when her mother noticed a bottle of witch hazel on the shelf, then said to those in attendance, “Let’s name the church ‘Hazel’”.

The Rush store served as a gathering place where mail could be picked up (having been brought by horseback or buggy from the Lake post office), general community information was available, and where many necessary supplies for the home and farm could be purchased. Nearby was a cotton gin. As years passed, the entire community became known as Hazel, a name that perseveres today.

The Presbytery for the organizational meeting consisted of Rev. W .B. Sansing, Moderator, Rev. Marion May, and Rev. W. M. Yarbrough. Ten members united with the church at the first meeting, namely, J. L. Walton, A. N. Morgan, Mrs. Bettie Walton, Miss Jewel Walton, Mrs. Carrie Morgan, Miss Trudie Morgan, Mrs. Agnes Rush, Miss Hattie Cooper, Mrs. Emma Gardner, and Mrs. Nannie Evans.

Rev. W. B. Sansing served as the first minister, from October 10, 1906 through May 1909. Other ministers who have served in the life of the church include N. A. Edmonds (1909), W. E. Hathorn (1910), R. E. Breland (1911-1912), R. L. Breland (1913-1920), F. M. Breland (1921), F. L. Breland (1922), W. B. Mott  (1924-1925), S. A. Murphy (1926), J. S. Laird (1927), E. Breland (1929), E. A. Breland (1932-1933), J. W. Kitchens (1934), W. H. Wood (1935-1936), H. C. Bufkin (1937), Rev. Barrett (1938), Truly Reynolds (1939), Alton Gatewood (1940), Raymond Herrington (1941-1943), O. V. Swearingen (1948-1951), H. C. Bufkin (1952), N. B. Nicholson (1954), Elton Winstead (1955), Clifton Gibbs (1956-1957), Dan Shaffer (1958), James Savell (1958-1959), Cecil Laird (1960-1962), Raymond Smith (1963-1969), and Dr. Leon Everett (1970-1979).

Hazel Baptist Church on a snowy day
Hazel Baptist Church on a Snowy Day

By the year 1907 the church had grown in membership to a total of 26 members, including 10 baptisms for that year. In 1908 there were 49 members with 20 baptisms.

Church minutes for February 16, 1916 indicate that Mr. H. C. Rush, Mr. M. E. Tillman, Mr. J. R. Gibbs, Mrs. R. H. Morgan, Mr. E. W. Gibbs, Mr. E. D. Pace, and Mr. L. M. Pace were appointed as a committee to decide the location for building a house of worship and gather funds, materials, and supervise construction of the building. A site was selected on the H. C. Rush land and the entire community was requested to supply labor, cash, and materials. This building continued to be used for services until June 16, 1929.

A new church was built in 1929 with the assistance of J. R. (Doc) Gibbs who set up a sawmill and cut lumber on site, and Mr. and Mrs. E. D. Pace and Mrs. Agnes Rush who also donated property for the construction of the building. This new church was first used on June 16, 1929, and in that year the church reported 96 members, 10 baptisms, and church property valued at $1500.

In 1937 the membership included 100 resident and 8 non-resident members. By the year 1972 the membership had grown to 181, including 17 who were added by baptism.

In 1972 the church entered into a building program that would last 16 years. A new educational building was constructed, then in 1973, a new sanctuary was approved to be completed two years later. A new fellowship hall was dedicated in 1979, the same year the church agreed to build a parsonage. Since that date the church as also built additional Sunday school rooms, a church library, and an expanded pastor’s study. In 1980, a church bus was purchased.

For more than a century now the Hazel Baptist Church has enjoyed God’s rich blessings and has stood as a beacon on the hill that could not be hid. For this we are indeed thankful to our forefathers.

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