Sixth part of a transcribed serial article published in the Southern Star, Ozark, Ala., beginning May 10, 1899.
EARLY HISTORY OF SOUTHEAST ALABAMA
By W. L. Andrewsi
THE SOUTHERN STAR JULY 11, 1899
August 23, 1848, a Baptist church was instituted by Rev. U. Parker at the residence of William Andrews two miles east of Ozark. A constitution with twelve articles of faith was subscribed to by the following members: William Andrews, J. M. Andrews, Wm. H. Andrews, Thomas B. Andrews, J. H. Martin, B. W. Martin, Z. Chambliss, John Chambliss, Frances Andrews, Mary A. L. Andrews, Sarah A. Martin, Caroline Chambliss, and Lucy Chambliss. Thomas B. Andrews was elected clerk and Z. Chambliss ordained deacon. This was the beginning of what is now Union church as we shall presently see.
Parker continued as pastor until Sept. 1, 1849, when the church called L. R. Sims to serve the next year and elected William Andrews its first delegate to the association. Rules of decorum were necessary and at their meeting Nov. 24, 1849, the church appointed W. M. Andrews, Louis Mullins and Wm. Andrews a committee for this purpose. Their report was received and adopted Dec. 15 following. But these rules were soon “changed for others” as the record has it.
Foot washing occurred twice a year
Meetings were held regularly for the transaction of church business and preaching and in August 1850, a series of services were held which resulted in several additions to the Church, among whom were William Cox, Elisha Andrews and Bennett Whitman. Believing foot washing to be enjoined by the scripture, the church resolved March 13, 1852, to observe it twice a year, the ceremony to take place on Saturday night before celebrating the Eucharist on Sunday.
Thomas Andrews having resigned, Moses G. Matthews was elected clerk in April, 1852. June 12th he was elected to deacon’s order and ordained to that office by L. R. Sims and P. B. Lacy, July 10, 1852. The church was not strong numerically but seemed to have life enough to deal with refractory members as the law directs. Committees were appointed and offenders brought to the bar of the church and when they refused to give satisfaction, were turned out. The church was doing fairly well under all the circumstances but they little thought what good things were in store for them only a short time ahead.
Author of Sacred Harp visited
During the spring, Rev. Reuben. E. Brown, his son Reuben Brown, Jr., and D. P. White, author of the Sacred Harp, appeared in this county, coming from the state of Georgia. The elder Brown was a man of genius as well as a preacher of ability and many interesting stories are told of him at the present day. Among other accomplishments, he was a noted vocalist. He had a splendid voice, full, rounded, rich and he had trained it well, and by his good singing as well as preaching he always attracted large crowds wherever he appeared. He made the acquaintance of Moses Matthews, a wealthy planter in the neighborhood and it was proposed to hold a meeting at the spring near Gordon’s Tannery.
Brush arbor meeting
Mr. Matthews took his Negroes and an arbor was built and seated ready for the service which was to begin early in August. Crowds gathered and the services began being held under the arbor during the day and at Moses Matthews residence at night. The results were gratifying. Mr. Matthews and several members of his family were converted and were among the seventeen applicants for membership.
At the close of the meeting little Claybank was dammed up just above the old ford and below the bridge now (1899) on the Haw Rigge road where Brown baptised the new members. He gave them letters to the church at Andrews and they presented them to that church Sept. 11, 1852. This was a most important meeting. They were received and the name changed from Andrews to Union church. This was done with the understanding that the Andrews church property be sold and that a new house of worship be built at the arbor where Brown had held his meeting.
Moses Matthews was thoroughly enlisted in the movement and gave two acres of land for church purposes, for he owned all this part of the country then, and took his Negroes to the woods and got out the timbers and shingles. In the meantime, he set teams to hauling lumber from Andrews mill this side of Newton and all hands pulling together the building was soon completed, and on Nov. 13, the first meeting was held in it.
This was the dawning of a new era of prosperity in the history of Union. The fourteen charter members at Andrews church in 1848 had grown to more than forty and was still increasing. Sims was a successful pastor and continued the work until August 12, 1854, when he was succeeded by Daniel Cumbie, a noble, good man, who loved to sing and preach as good as ever Reuben E. Brown did, though he might not do it so well.
Change of ministers and new members
In the spring Darien church recommended Zacharias Harris to Union Church for ordination and he was set apart for the ministry April 30, 1854. L. R. Sims and Daniel Cumbie constituted the presbytery. Daniel Cumbie after three years, decided to give up the pastorate and the church called Rev. C. Smith, Sept. 27, 1857. He refused and they called again for the services of L. R. Sims, but he .likewise refused. In November T. S. Due accepted the call and served two years, when Rev. C. Smith was again called but refused.
Due continued to serve until he removed to Florida and his place taken by Rev. W. H. Howell, of Daleville, March 3, 1860. The following September Howell was called for another year and on November 3, was paid $18 for his years salary. He resigned the pastorate and was succeeded by Rev. C. Smith, March 16, 18.61. During these intervals in the pastorate, Rev. Z. Harris and others rendered services for the brethren. In May, Rev, C. Smith and family placed their membership at Union.
During the spring and summer several male members had enlisted in the cause of their country and in September the church rolls showed only 18 males. There were 57 females. It is understood these members were made up of both white and colored. The church kept up regular services as the months rolled by, but without any special feature more than the annual protracted services. On June 20, 1863, M. G. Matthews resigned as clerk and deacon, to enter the army, and James Martin was elected to succeed him as clerk Sept. 19, 1863.
Members lose interest during war
The pastor was discouraged but did not give up as he saw the church gradually losing interest. So many had gone to the war and yet the south was losing ground every day. Her currency was depreciated and those at home could almost feel the keen blade of abolition as it cut away their slaves. The hour was gloomy and despair would have overtaken many but for that “hope which springs eternal in the human breast”. In spite of these things, Rev. C. S. Smith decided to attempt a protracted meeting and invited Rev. Ransom Deal to assist him, and on Saturday, July 16, 1864, he began the series by preaching an able sermon to the faithful few. The meeting continued for several days with fair results and then closed.
Shortly after this the people of this section began to feel the real horrors of war and church institutions now more keenly than ever felt the demoralizing influences of civil strife. The minutes of Sept. 17, 1864, were full but that was the last church conference held by Union until after the conflict was over. Fountain was killed, Lieut. Spears assassinated, and Alex Speller shot, Prim, Myers and Sketo hung, Hope Mizell, Spencer Edwards wounded, Sanders crowd were raiding and the whole country was in a constant state of dreadful turmoil But at last the dogs of war were called off and the white winged messenger of peace once more plumed itself under the genial sunshine of southern skies and hope revived. Though care worn and disheartened, those who had survived returned home and joined their families and all cast about to see what should first be done under the new conditions by which they were confronted. The church sent out committees to look after the members fortunate enough to get home and many returned to the fold of their first love.
Church conference held after war
The first church conference held by Union after the war, was June 17, 1865, when M. G. Matthews resumed his duty as deacon, but James Martin continued as clerk. July 15, 1865, W. F. Cox was elected to deacon’s orders and was ordained August 19 following. The church had been depleted by the war but Rev. C. Smith and the church resolved to make a bold fight for the right. To aid them Rev. Z. Harris was called to preach for the church, so services could be held twice a month To further extend the good work, Rev. Daniel Cumbie was authorized to baptize and give letters anywhere in the bounds of the Union congregation. December 19 following, Rev. Z. Harris and family asked for letters and soon removed to Conecuh county.
So far as the old church records show the first effort to raise missionary money at Union was on Sept. 14, 1867 when $36 was subscribed for domestic missions. Two years had now passed since the close of the war and with good crops and health, prosperity was again beginning to hover over our glorious land. Glorious, yes, as glorious in defeat as in victory for though crushed by superior force, the spirit of the proud southerner was never conquered. He still lifted his proud head up to heaven and with drawn sword stood ready to strike for God, home and country. In this mood he assumed an attitude of unity and brotherly love towards the world at large and “brethren of the same faith and order” in particular. Union sent James Martin and J. W. Martin (as correspondents to Ebenezer in March 1868;) Louis Mullins to Pleasant Hill and at other times sent correspondents to Newton, Antioch, Darien and other churches. June 20, 1868, J. C. Matthews, B, B. Martin and N. Byrd came to Union as correspondents from Darien, also G. B. Clark of Ebenezer and T. Glenn of Antioch, appeared. They were heartily received and entertained by the brethren of Union.
Changes to Union after war
After serving the church two years longer during which the same spirit of Christian zeal and charity were shown, Rev. C. Smith having sold his property here, decided to remove to Haw Ridge. The county seat had been moved to Ozark and the new town laid off. On June 15, 1870, he resigned a pastorate that had covered a period of nine years and Rev. Pitt M. Galloway was called to succeed him. Mr. Galloway was a man of distinguished lineage and marked ability. Under his pastorate the church continued to prosper and some changes were made which signalled (sic) an epoch in its history He served during that year and on Oct. 22, 1870, was called for another year.
In January the church roll of membership was straightened out, and the rules of decorum revised. February 18, 1871, Judge L. B. Brown and family placed their letters in the church. The rules of decorum were ordered to be read quarterly, and Seaborn Hughes was elected the first regular sexton in the church’s history. Prior to that time the house had been looked after by the members, mostly by the deacons. Another question of importance was brought up at this meeting. From its foundation, the church at Union had retained fellowship with colored members.
When the war closed and the slaves freed the church made no change in its attitude toward colored church fellowship. But at this meeting Mr. Galloway suggested that the colored people set up house for themselves and the subject was discussed with the result that the conference held July 15, 1871, was by whites alone, the colored conferences being held the next day, but under the regular moderator. Bryant Flowers put his letter in at this conference and was received into fellowship. Twenty-three colored members asked for letters at the conference held August 20, 1871, but it was deferred until next meeting. Afterwards their applications were withdrawn and they continued. James Martin having resigned as clerk, L. B. Brown was elected to that position July 16, 1871, and he wrote the constitution and rules of decorum adopted by the colored church at its organization June 29, 1872. Williams presided over the conference then but was soon succeeded by Cull Shivers as pastor. Bryant Flowers and Harrison Miller were ordained deacons and Bright Matthews elected clerk. At the meeting Richard Blackmail, Simon Whatley and Bryant Flowers were appointed to confer with a like committee from the mother church concerning their financial interest in the Union church property.
That fall Galloway was succeed by James M, Poyner as pastor—a wise, conservative man, He served the church fourteen years consecutively and was successful. In 1881-2 a handsome new church building was erected under his administration north and a little west of the old building. He was succeeded by Ransom Deal and he by Rev. P. L. Moseley Then came Rev. H. C. Hurley who was succeeded by Rev. J. W. Dickinson. Then the church called Rev. R. Deal, who still is serving very acceptably as pastor.
During this period of 27 years many revivals have been had, the most important of which occured (sic) during the administration of Hurley. That summer Rev. H L. Martin, a brilliant zealous man held a series of meetings which were distinguished by a sweeping revival power. –
i Lacking biographical material concerning Mr. W. L. Andrews, author of a series of articles published in the Southern Star, Ozark, Alabama, in May and June, 1899, the Editor of this publication is reproducing a clipping from the Alabama Historical Society Collections, Volume 1. The Collections were edited by the late Thomas M. Owens, to whom Mr. Andrews had written as follows: “In 1885 I set out to write a history of this county (Dale), and since then have gathered complete information of its history from DeSoto’s landing at Tampa Bay, 1539. Of course, nothing much of importance attaches to this section prior to the territorial period of the State, except the settlement between foreign powers of the questions of jurisdiction, and finally the settlement of disputes which placed this section under the jurisdiction of Georgia. Up to this time, however, the facts are all of public record. Since that time none of its history has been published in book form. While my work has been directed more especially towards getting out a history of Dale County, that could not be done without involving the history of Henry, Geneva, Coffee, Pike and Barbour, because the first three, together with Dale, were organized in 1824 as “Henry County.” “Last summer (1899) I traveled all over these counties by private conveyance to gather such authentic information as I might find in the hands of the people. Of this I found much in the form of letters, documents, various records, and statements of persons who either took part in the events, or whose parents had. In this way I secured a complete list of all the county officers from 1824, the organization of the militia and its history, the first settlements, customs of the people, material development, Church and temperance history^ Indian war, Indian Massacres, with names of persons and particulars of their barbarities, capture of Indians, their disposal, Jackson’s march through the county, where he crossed the streams, first settler, and settlers, first house and houses, first mill, who raised first cotton: War period, — Invasion by the enemy, battles with them, people murdered by deserters, killing of Lieut. Spears, and the whole detail — Days of reconstruction and their horrors. Rise of the Populites, especially with reference to the fight of 1892 — subsequent history to date. Burning of court house, fights over county seats, questions affecting the early settlers on the subject. And much more.”