The History of the Valdosta Church of Christ in Tuscumbia, AL
Efforts to establish a congregation of the Church of Christ in Valdosta date back to the 20’s. In the later part of the 1920’s a few members of the church who lived in the area started to meet in homes for worship. Irvin and Rudell Sherrod (family) and R.C. and Vera Brown (family) are the earliest that is known to have worshipped regularly. In addition to worship in homes there were open air meetings conducted in various places. Among those known to have preached in meetings was John Harvey Morris. Regular services were then discontinued for a time.
In 1933 other attempts were made to establish regular worship services. Jack Meyer, who preached regularly for the Tuscumbia church offered his assistance. A number of young men were used in the earlier days under the guidance of Jack Meyer from the Tuscumbia church. The Valdosta Elementary school (Now Hope Haven) was secured for a meeting place. On the second Sunday in August 1933 the first services were conducted in the school house at this time there were approximately 12 members of the church assisted by others who helped from the Tuscumbia church. There were only 2 Bible classes during much of this time. Later some begin to worship regularly with Valdosta who had previously worshipped at Tuscumbia. Through the years others moved in. It was about 1941 when Archie Hester and his family began worshipping with the church.
The following is a list of other who worshipped at the school house: Mr and Mrs Buford Mills, Mr and Mrs. Dee Inman, Mr and Mrs. Sam Miller, Mrs Carroll, Beulah Hand, Mr and Mrs. Moss, Mrs. Claude Waddell, Mr and Mrs. Lee Black, Mrs, Dora Jackson, Mr and Mrs. J.B. Walker, Mr and Mrs. Roy Jones, Raymond Miller, Mr and Mrs. Coy Hodges, Maybelle Crittenden, Mr and Mrs. Crawford Barnes, as well as Mr and Mrs. Rayford Henry. Among those who lead singing were Roy Jones, J.P. Black, Archie Hester, and others. As late as 1944 There was no regular preacher for the church. They were using different preachers for there services. Among the preachers at the school we are able to only recount a few: Claude Smith, George McCorkle, Sim Nagles, Oscar Boggle, and Rayford Henry. The years spent in the school were not easy because most of the men were young. It was a real struggle for all who desired to faithfully worship God. Growth was slow for some time but a building was in the mind of the small group thus a fund was started for the purpose of erecting a meeting house.
In Aug. 1942 lots were purchased on which a building was to be erected. The cost of the original land was $550.00. However some 3 years would pass before actual construction would begin. The lots were filled with pine trees but had to be cut and the stumps dynamited. One particular pine tree stood until 1977 under which an open air (Pine Arbor) meeting was conducted by V.P. Black (early in the 40’s.) We know that meetings were held on the property before the building was constructed. Several individuals and congregations of the area assisted by contributing to the building fund. Mrs. Blanche Lewey have the first $25.00 to the building fund. The list of contributors for the work was quite long. WHAT A BLESSING! SO MANY DID HELP.
In Apr. 1945 the footing form were made ready. on Apr. 24 the concrete was poured and on the 30th the first blocks were laid which had been on hand since Oct. 1944. One of the real helps in building came from Joe Walker who provided not only money but lumber (at a very reasonable cost) and a truck. Without so many sacrificing this dream might have not materialized. Some of the ones who labored on the construction of the first building are still worshipping at Valdosta (at the time of the original writing).
The first service was conducted in the building on Wed. Apr. 3, 1946. There were 47 present. J.P. Black lead (Give me the Bible), J.B. Walker made a brief talk, Rayford Henry worded the first prayer and Buford Mills dismissed with prayer.
The first Sunday worship service was conducted Apr. 7, 1946. There were 88 present with a contribution of $40.47. J.B. Walker lead the singing, Rayford Henry (The first regular preacher) did the preaching (Subject: “His Glory Filled the Temple”), the opening prayer was by J.R. Jones and the closing prayer by Archie Hester. During this service came the first public response (Blanche Lewey who was Restored). The first gospel meeting was conducted June 30- July 9 with Chester Estes as the speaker.
The first confession (and desire for baptism) was on July 14, 1946 (Miss Jean Walker). At the evening service 4 others responded to the Gospel call (Mary Hobbs, Ocie Hobbs, Sally Dobbs, and Joyce Hester). They were baptized at the Tuscumbia building. The first to be baptized in the new baptistry at Valdosta was Betty Rose (Waddell) Garner on July 10, 1947.
The following names appear regularly in business meetings dating from Mar. 16, 1948: Buford Mills, Sam Miller, J.U. Walker, J.B. Walker, Raymond Miller, Archie Hester, T.M. Willingham, Lige Moss, Walter Campbell, Fred Black, Roy Jones, Charley Jones, Bennie Richardson, Rayford Henry, Ermon Bain, Howard McCormack, Boyd Fleming, and Obey Taylor.
The congregation may have had the earliest bus ministry in the area. As of Feb. 7, 1949 Fred Black drove the Bus to pick up people for worship. The cost for the bus was .25/Mile. Later cars were used for the same purpose.
The preacher’s home: completed about the end of 1949. As of June 27, 1949 all bills could not be paid so it was decided to pay them as they could. On July 1, 1949 Ermon Bain became the 2nd regular preacher with these to follow: Blanton Swindle, Albert Hill, Gilbert Kretzer, Ralph Stout, Charles Burns, Joe David Neely, Lee Rogers, Tom Scott, A.R. Hill Sr., Jack Hazelbaker, Gilbert Kertzer, Gary Puryear, Ed White, and Adam Evans. The congregation has had few elders in it’s history. At present the flock is shepherded by Wallace Handley, Kenny Nunley, Bennie Hale, and James Wilson.
As rapid growth took place on the community as the church need arose, 2 additional classrooms were added in 1952 and then 2 more in 1956. The present auditorium was built in 1960, with classrooms built in 2012.
There is no way to ever know the work that all have done to make this church possible. Above all lets give God the glory and respect those who so bravely worked in face of many hardships to prove for us this place of meeting.
MAY GOD BLESS! AMEN.