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Antebellum Greenwood - The Baptist Church

The marker tells of the beginning. The picture is of the present building.

It appears the founders were good students of the Bible and were very positive in practing their belief. They took their responsibilities seriously in spreading the gospel, holding to the truth and exercising discipline on unrepentant sinners.
Union Academy was a school located on the east side of present Hwy 71 just north of Mt. Tabor Road.

The following are excerpts taken from Jackson County, Florida – A History written by Jerrell Shofner, Professor of History at the University of Central Florida. It was published in 1985 by the Jackson County Heritage Association. It is a available at the Chamber of Commerce in Marianna.

The records of the Union Academy Church, which became Greenwood Baptist in 1855, have frequent references to its black membership, including punishments meted out for misbehavior on the plantation. Blacks were admitted to membership as soon as the church was organized in 1845. Winnie, belonging to Richard Long was the first slave to join the church. During the next nine years, however, at least 22 other blacks became members. Typical of them were Mary, the servant of Elijah Bryan, Charles, the servant of Nicholas Long, Austin, servant of Martha Pittman, and Sarah, the servant of Ethelred Philips, all of whom were "received by experience." Apparently the blacks simply joined the whites in their Sunday worship until July, 1854. Then, M.T. Embry, "with as many white males as present, was authorized to hold conferences regularly for the benefit of the black members." The blacks had church on the third Sunday of each month after that. Whether they were still allowed to attend other services is not clear, but the third Sundays were reserved for them with the supervision of Embry and the other "white males." New members were still received at the regular services, however. On May 18, 1856, the pastor "opened the door for reception of blacks and received George," slave of W. L. Martin, Tom, belonging to "Sister" Gammon, and Nathan who was John Bryan's slave. Baptisms were held at Bellamy's Bridge and they were apparently segregated. In May, 1858, the minutes refer to the "colored members baptized at Bellamy's Bridge." Regardless of color all members were obliged to obey the same rules of behavior. In April, 1850, the deacons heard the case of Mary, the slave of J. Harvey, and "she was restored to full fellowship." Four years later, charges were brought against Nelson, the slave of D. Grey, for "fighting and falsehood." In 1857, A.J. Sims preferred charges against Tom and Mary, "colored members belonging to Mrs. Elijah Bryan." The charges were found to be true but the errant members were "penitent." Penitence notwithstanding, they were excluded. On the same day Stephen and Lizze (property of Thomas Barnes) admitted the charges against them and they were also excluded. Ellick, belonging to William Jennings, was excluded for striking J. Bevis in March, 1862.
At times there were almost as many slaves belonging as there were whites, but they sat in segregated places during the early years and later met on different days. Experiencing difficulty in retaining ministers, Union Academy frequently sent large delegations to the association meetings which were often held at Bethlehem and Sardis, and it postponed services once in 1852 "on account of the Methodist Quarterly meeting" at Greenwood. In 1853, a committee composed of Thomas Barnes, W. Hartsfield, Adam McNealy, James Drummond, William Sorey and C.H. Hartsfield was appointed for the "purpose of a new house of worship." Elijah Bryan sold them a site for one dollar. The new building was finished and furniture was purchased in 1855. At that time it became Greenwood Baptist Church. In the same year the congregation voted to "extend an arm of this church to the Marianna conference to be held when occasions may require." Perhaps it was in recognition of its recent accomplishments that Greenwood Baptist Church was selected as the site of the 1855 state convention. A.J. Sims, W. Hartsfield, as the committee on accommodations, had the responsibility of finding enough private dwellings in which to house the visiting delegates. It was probably not a difficult chore, since communities usually welcomed these festive occasions with their mixtures of religious services and social affairs.
A serious incident occurred in late 1854 when a committee was appointed to "investigate certain doctrinal opinions of Adam McNealy." Perhaps with reluctance the committee reported that "McNealy does not believe in the Eternal punishment" and was unanimously excluded from membership. Apparently the organization of the Sons of temperance in Marianna in the 1840s had been with good reason, but it had not been wholly successful. In the late 1855 the Greenwood Baptist congregation declared that "any member who in anyway aids in the sale of intoxicating liquor shall be guilty of unchristian conduct." T.M. Stribling disregarded the caveat and was charged in 1857 for being intoxicated. When he admitted his guilt and begged for forgiveness, his merciful brethren dismissed the case. Mercy was also shown to Judson Hollingsworth who was involved in "an affray and swore." When he was penitent he was forgiven. But there were limits. "Brother Ducker" denied charges of stealing but unfortunately for him he had been found guilty in a court of law and was excluded. L.W. Connor was equally unfortunate. Found guilty of "grossly immoral conduct" – "lewdness, swearing, and drunkenness" – he was ousted.
The Greenwood church extended an arm to the people near Minchin's school in 1870 and did the same at Marianna in 1877. The latter was in response to "Brother Asherst [who] requested an extension of an arm of the church at Marianna with powers to exercise all the privileges of an ordained minister." In 1881, M.L. Dekle and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Daniel, Mrs. Allie Richardson, Mrs. W.W. McKay, and Rev. R.C.B. Lawrence met at the Dekle home and organized the First Baptist Church of Marianna. [Insertion by Claude Reese: The Dekle home is still located on the northwest corner of Green and Broad Street.] Lawrence was the first pastor, although Rev. T.E. Langley, who was pastor at Greenwood, and other churches of the West Florida Baptist Association, preached at Marianna several times under the auspices of the Greenwood church. Baptist services were held in the courthouse or in the Presbyterian Church until the Baptists erected their own house of worship. Dekle donated land and the congregation raised $1,600 to build a wooden structure which was finally dedicated in late 1890. Rev. J.P. Smith was the minister from 1891 through 1894.The Rev. S.B. Rogers served from 1896 until 1903. The church had some 42 members during the 1890s and, like its Greenwood neighbor, was occasionally obliged to dismiss a member for unacceptable conduct. The Greenwood church also extended its arm to the Baptists at Bascom in the early 1890s. A meeting was held there in September, 1894, with a view to establishing a church. The work was perfected in 1898 when Bascom Baptist Church was organized. Founding members were W.W. Bevis, Sue Bevis, A.N. Bevis, C.A. Boone, Mattie Lou Boone, Ada Parramore, Thomas L. Bevis, Lon Bevis, Harmon Stewart, and Martha Stewart. In 1899 a similar gesture was responsible for the organization of a church at Wolf Pond. When Rev. S.L. Loudermilk had received 14 members of the church at that place, they organized their church.

After the war was over the blacks began to leave. The Mt. Tabor Church on Popular Springs Road began at that time and is a large thriving church today. It has an extensive cemetery where many of that exodus are buried.


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