Friday, October 13, 2006

Mt. Carmel Church - Black members, demise, legacy

Black members of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church
According to the Mt. Zion Baptist Association minutes, Mt. Carmel church had 8 black members in 1866. In 1868 the “colored members” and the church as a whole agreed to have separate preaching services for them on the first Sunday of each month.

Some hard-to-identify persons in the “Mt. Carmel Connections” section may be some of the black members. Also some black members could be identified incorrectly as white members. Some southern Rusk County black and white families share the same last name.

According to William Montgomery, after the Civil War membership in biracial churches rapidly declined while independent black church membership soared. One Georgia minister said that blacks were not forced out of white-controlled churches, but that the blacks preferred “to have them to themselves”.
29 By 1890, sixty percent of black churchgoers in Texas were Baptist.30

The Demise of Mt. Carmel Church
At this late date it will probably never be determined what led to the disbanding of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. A disciplinary battle that entangled several church families certainly would not have been helpful. An unfulfilled search for a permanent location probably led to some instability. Withdrawal of the black families would have decreased the membership. Perhaps all of these, as well as other unknown factors, combined to end the history of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in southern Rusk County. Nevertheless, she “being dead yet speaketh”. The influence of Mt. Carmel Church and her people continues through the legacy she left behind.

Mt. Carmel Legacy
Some existing Rusk County churches appear to be indebted to Mt. Carmel – the Smyrna Missionary Baptist Church and the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church more directly, and Glenfawn Missionary Baptist Church less so.

Several Mt. Carmel members went into the organization of Smyrna a little less than two years after Mt. Carmel disbanded, and other former members joined Smyrna shortly after its organization. See Appendix B on page 20. This number who joined Smyrna is roughly equivalent to half of the members that were left when Mt. Carmel disbanded. John Sparkman was the first pastor of Smyrna.

According to their corner stone, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, located on County Road 3223 in southern Rusk County, was founded in 1870.
31 It is in the general area where Mt. Carmel met, and might have been founded by former members of Mt. Carmel.32 It is noted in the March 1868 minutes that the church began holding separate preaching services for the black members. Some former members of Mt. Carmel asked the Mt. Zion Association for help in organizing a church. "The regular order of business was then suspended in order to receive a communication from certain colored brethren and sisters, formerly belonging to the Mt. Carmel Church, asking the Association to constitute them into a church and ordain them a minister, which letter was received and regular order of business resumed, and the following resolution adopted: Resolved, That the Association has no power to constitute white or colored churches, or ordain ministers, but advise the colored brethren to summon a Presbytery, whose duty it is to constitute them into a church, if they are qualified; and recommend our ministers to ordain and constitute them as such; and instruct them religiously in every way required." Mt. Zion minutes, 1870, pp. 3-4 (Meeting at Shiloh, Rusk County, beginning Sept. 16, 1870)

The Glenfawn Baptist Church was organized in 1892 in the same general area as Mt. Carmel. This church has several family names in common with Mt. Carmel – Blair, Buckner, Harmon, Risinger, Wells – and former Mt. Carmel member Michael T. Wells was a charter member of Glenfawn.

An earlier Glen Fawn Baptist Church,
33 organized circa 1878, may have been an attempt to revive the Mt. Carmel Church. This church of 13 members petitioned for membership in the Mt. Zion Association in 1878, with W. W. Albritton, the last known pastor of Mt. Carmel, as pastor and J. W. Carlile as messenger. The next year Albritton was still pastor, and J. Brandon, former Mt. Carmel member, was one of the messengers to the Association. This Glen Fawn church only represented two years in the association.

In addition to these, about ten Mt. Carmel members joined the Zion Hill Church near Minden – the John Sparkman family in 1870, C. E. Sparkman in 1874, Olivia Wells in 1871 and Charlcy Holley in 1879.
34 John Sparkman was the first pastor of Zion Hill.

Preachers through Mt. Carmel’s membership: John Sparkman, W. M. Sparkman, Thornton Vaughn. Preachers from the descendants of members: Sterling F. Baucom (son-in-law of R. P. Goldsberry), John Weldon Bailey, (grandson-in-law of Joel Elam), J. R. Carmichael (grandson of Reuben Carmichael and Joseph Brandon), Amos Dempsey Sparkman (son of John Sparkman), Richard Valentine Holleman (son of Clinton Marion Holleman)

Teachers – W. M. Sparkman, A. P. Goldsberry (father of R. P. Goldsberry)

Doctors – A. P. Galloway, A. H. Galloway, F. O. Galloway, Julius Jarrell, H. J. Jarrell

29 This may not be universally true, but is generally so.
30 Black Churches in Texas: a Guide to Historic Congregations, Clyde McQueen, College Station, TX: Texas A & M University Press, pp. 12, 16
31 Mt. Zion is one of the oldest black churches in Rusk County. In Black Churches in Texas, though he doesn’t mention Mt. Zion, McQueen identified none older within Rusk County. For his book, an historic church is "a body of Christian believers that has been organized for at least one hundred years" and "had to be active at the time the church was catalogued." p. xvii
32 At present, sufficient information has not been found to prove the connection, but this theory represents a definite possibility.
33 Also spelled “Glen Fon” and “Glend Fond” in the 1878 Mt. Zion minutes.
34 A History of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, Mary Frank Dunn, pp. 36,28, 29, 52
35 It is not known whether Alfred P. Goldsberry was ever a member of Mt. Carmel, only that some of his family was.

© August 2006


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