(West End Baptist Church, circa 2012)
This is the origin story of West End Baptist Church based on records and memory as Bro. C. W. Bolen, first Pastor of the church, recalls it.
West End Baptist church was established as an outgrowth of a mission activity by the college Street Baptist Church late in 1959. a planning committee established by the college Street Baptist Church in October of 1959, had brought a recommendation to the church in February of 1960, that the church consider either relocation or the establishment of mission activity as a matter of prayer and consideration.
By April of 1960, Sunday School attendance at College Street Baptist Church had reached 160, and decision time had come.
At the business meeting in April of 1960, the College Street Baptist church voted to seek a place of relocation and erect its new building. But new additions to the church by the name of Stockstills were talking mission work and among the new converts in the church were the Earl Gills. After several months of prayer and open discussion, all of which was done in love at a July, meeting of 1960, College Street Baptist church was presented with a written secret ballot on which members could express their desires regarding relocation or building at the sight on which the church was then located or the sponsoring of a mission work. The overwhelming ballot was to build on the present sight and to encourage mission work on the part of the families that were interested.
Several families were interested in the establishment of a mission board on Monday, July 18, they met and designated various people with responsibility without having any definite plans or any place to meet. On July 31, of 1960, the group met together for the first time at the home of Walter Shell on East Lane. They had 30 in Sunday School and 31 in Training Union attendance of 35.
The Pastor of College Street Baptist church preached for the new group during the Sunday School hour and during the Training Union hour.
The present sight of Wet End Baptist church was secured on a rental basis and two army tents were pitched and every one was rejoicing.
Bad news soon came. It was learned that the owner of the land, although willing to rent for the pitching of the tents, would not consent to sell any part of the eight acre tract. either it was to buy the entire eight acres, which was impossible for the group, or to have no land at all. It was time to pray. While they prayed, they went about the Lord's work, and on December 11, 1960, the West End Baptist Church was organized as a Cooperative Southern Baptist Church in one of the tents on the rented property.
Several churches of the Southeast Texas Baptist Association sent representatives to the organization. Brother Don Covington, Texas Baptist District 3 Mission Secretary served as the moderator of the meeting.
In the early part of 1961, at a prayer meeting it was decided that another contact should be made with the owner of the land in an effort to make the purchase. Someone had reported that the owner of the land would be favorable in selling only four acres; a committee was name.
God in His mercy gave the first of several miracles to West End Baptist Church. The owner of the land was agreeable to sell just four acres and applied all the money that had been paid for rent as a down payment, leaving the payment of only $75.00 a month on the land and provided all the legal work to close the deal for free.
By March 1961, the Master Plan for building had been adopted, and believe it or not, construction was about to be underway on the first building.
The next step for the new church was the appointment of a Mission Committee to investigate the possibility of a Mission Vacation Bible School or the establishment of a nearby preaching point; this resulted in a Bible School being conducted in the Meeker Community, and this was the forerunner of what is today the Meeker Baptist church which was later sponsored by the First Baptist of China.
By April 2, of 1960, the fledgling new church had experienced a high attendance of 69 in Sunday School, and was involved in the preparation of a foundation for its new building though it had no idea how in the world it could ever raise the money to pour the concrete; but we had our tent full, and was having a glorious time. We purchased chairs and hymnals, and we waited on the Lord to provide a way. The way was made; the forms were poured and work and prayer began to have the building ready to be used in time for Vacation Bible School in the summer of 1961. On May 38, 1961, we had our first meeting in the new building though it was not yet completed. God's matchless grace had provided, and He crowned the day by giving us tow grown men to come to Him in believing faith.
Our first Vacation Bible School in the new building had an enrollment in excess of 100, with 97 in average attendance. On August 6, 1961, the church had a new Sunday School record of 88, and on the same day 7 grown people were baptized into the fellowship of the church. It was also in August, 1961, that Brother Dalton Short, who had surrendered to preach at West End Baptist church, received word that he had been accepted as a student at the Golden Gate Seminary in California.
Many of you will remember that at the close of his seminary work, just a short few months later the Lord in His grace and wisdom called Dalton home.
It was in September 1961, that the church was to receive a gift from the Litt Olden Church Foundation in Houston, for $1000.00 As the news began to spread, all the people who knew about it agreed that there ought to be a time of prayer and praise people who knew about it agreed that there ought to be a time of prayer and praise. Everyone was not notified, but those who knew were all excite and met at the building and kneeled in honor and humility and gratitude to God. On October 22, 1961, a new record Sunday School attendance of 92 with 63 in Training Union.
During September, 1961, Ultima Hardin had provided the church without cost the use of the old Hamshire Depot Building paying the expenses of moving the building on to the property allowing the church to use it as long as it wished or until she decided to use it further in her antique business. It was a tremendous help to the Sunday School attendance.
With the help of the depot building and our own building nearly finished, one of the tents was moved close by to help out for the extra department in Sunday School. We managed on December 7, 1961, to attain a new high attendance of 141 in Sunday School.
By February, 1962, with the help of a friendly Scotchman all the way from the Old Country, the brick went up on the building. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT! The Scottish Brick Layer is a story all of its own; but it is reflected in a news clipping with a picture of the building and showing the Hamshire depot building in the back an article that is available in the church records. The work of the Scottish Brick Layer also made the newspapers; and though we failed to secure any for our records and did not keep the letters; several letters were received by the Church from People in Scotland, among them active Baptists who wanted to correspond with members of the church regarding the Scottish Brick Layer coming all the way to our country to lay the brick.
Plans were approved for the erection of the second building in March, 1962. The second building, of course, is the second educational building which is now in use by the church.
By April, 1962, the average attendance in Sunday School was in excess of 120.
By May, 1962, Brother L. A. McCoy was another man who surrendered to preach at West End Baptist Church, and who made plans to enter Southwestern Seminary and announced his plans to begin in the Fall term. Brother McCoy is presently pastoring in a church in Central Texas.
It seems well at this point to remind those who are listening that Brother Earl Gill was another preaching product of West End Baptist Church. He gave freely tremendously of his life. God called him home at an early age, after he had done a wonderful job of pastoring a small church, West Lucas in Beaumont, Texas.
We were away from Beaumont, from the Summer of 1962, until 1964, and those intervening months are beyond our ability to give an account.
The devil side-tracked the movement of the church for a while, but by early 1965, things were on the move again. It was not until February of 1965, that the church place tile over the concrete floor in the first educational building which at that time was being used for an auditorium.
Though the church had experienced some hard time, the attendance was now back on the up-swing and into the eighties, and with the putting of the tile on the floor in the auditorium, we increased attendance and worship service, a new spirit was born. Talk was being revived of beginning plans for a second building and revival for April, of 1965.
One of many miracles occurred in April, 1965. A young man named Tilman Hargraves, who had been seriously injured in an automobile wreck and told that he could never walk again without the aid of crutches, came at the close of the eservice with out any mention of anything about the nature of healing or any other word regarding that, said that the putting away of his crutches has been a matter of prayer; he scared the preacher half to death. He laid his crutches down on the altar and turned around and walked out the aisle. He's living in the area today and to our knowledge, since that day he has never used a crutch for walking
By May, 1965, the attendance was back over 100 in Sunday School. There was great anticipation and sense of need concerning the construction of the new building which had been delayed for two years; so on May 10, 1965, it was announced in the bulletin that on the Wednesday night previous a building committee had been nominated after a secret ballot taken showed unanimous approval of starting a second building at once. The marvelous spirit of cooperation prevailed,; the foundation for the new building was poured by the latter part of May, in 1965. That would be the second building. Some people gave tremendous gifts; one man furnished all the 2 x 4's necessary to frame the building after the foundation was poured.
The bulletin for July 4, 1965, reported a tremendous outpouring of love on the part of the people of West End Baptist Church. Two gifts of $250.00 each plus a combined gift for the church of $200.00 plus a special gift from the Hamilton Lumber company of materials worth about $300.00, plus $300.00 from one man to put the decking on the roof caused the church to receive in one week gifts in excess of $1000.00 plus the gift of material from the lumber company.
The second building at West End Baptist was ready for use on October 3, 1965.
The brick were not up yet, but this time God had provided a member of the church, Claude Wheat, who was a brick layer; and so now our brick problem was not as acute as on the first building.
We suspect there are several folks capable of picking up the history of the Church beginning in 1965, on the completion of the second building and going forward. There were days of tremendous excitement in the erection of the third building, which serves as the present meeting place for worship.
This building is the only building that was built with borrowed money.
Both of the first and second buildings were built with funds raised as we went, and caused great excitement. Now though sometimes it slowed us down.
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