125th Anniversary of Bethany Baptist Church
Oak Flat, Nacogdoches County, Texas
By Robert L. Vaughn
On Sunday November 17, 2019, I attended the 125th anniversary of Bethany Baptist Church, Oak Flat, Nacogdoches County, Texas. Bethany was organized in 1894 by Elder S. F. Baucom, with 10 charter members.[i] In 1895, E. D. Blankinship was pastor. [ii] The current pastor is Dale Weir.[iii]
It was the first time in their 125 years and my 60-something years that I have ever been there, though it is about 15 miles drive through the country from my home. The folks were nice and welcoming, and I enjoyed the visit. Songs were sung and prayers were made, but the focus of the afternoon was the history of the church. Jack Whitaker directed the service. Representatives of the Shelby-Doches Baptist Association and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention made brief talks. Ed Williamson, a former pastor and local resident, presented the history of the church.
Though I have never been to Bethany Church, our family has some intriguing connections to this community, church, and school. Coincidental in terms of topography and titles, we live in Oak Flat also, though in Rusk County. [iv] In 1896, our church, Smyrna Baptist Church in Rusk County, called J. R. Carmichael, “a young, unordained preacher from Bethany Church, Nacogdoches County... Bethany Church was requested to ordain Bro. Carmichael. Meantime, following the scruples of the time, the minutes explicitly stated that Bro. Carmichael was called ‘as supply until he has been ordained and then as our pastor for the next year.’”[v] Brother Carmichael’s wife was Ida Whitaker, who I believe is a relative of Jack Whitaker of Bethany Church, the person in charge of the anniversary program. After Brother Carmichael moved to the Smyrna area, his wife joined Smyrna Church upon an experience of grace for baptism. J. R. Carmichael was a distant relative of the Vaughns and Parkers of Smyrna Church, all being descendants of the large Parker family of Greene and Taliaferro counties in Georgia, who came to East Texas in the 1850s.[vi]
During the pastorate of young J. R. Carmichael (b. 1871), an older cousin, Marshall Lewis Vaughn (my great-grandfather, b. 1858), surrendered to the gospel ministry. He was licensed to preach during this time. When the Sulphur Springs Church called for his ordination, Smyrna ordained him October 17, 1897.[vii] Elders J. R. Carmichael and M. F. Spivey formed the presbytery, perhaps assisted by others whose names are no longer known.[viii]
According to Nacogdoches Baptist Association minutes, in 1906 Vincent Thornton Vaughn, Marshall’s older brother, pastored Bethany Church. In 1910, Marshall Vaughn pastored Bethany Church. When Marshall pastored the church, Robert P. Goldsberry was Bethany’s church clerk. R. P. Goldsberry in 1873 was a charter member of the Smyrna Church in Rusk County, and was a member of the earlier Mt. Carmel Church.[ix]
In the 1911-12 school year, Benjamin Lewis Vaughn, Marshall’s son, taught at the Oak Flat School in Nacogdoches County, which, according to the history presented by Ed Williamson, met in the same building as Bethany Church. As far as I know, this is the only place Uncle Ben taught school. After that school year, he died of typhoid fever on August 21, 1912. Two of his pupils, siblings Ruth and Glen Pearce, wrote a memorial for their teacher - which was published in a newspaper. [x] Sadly, 16-year old Glen died only a month after his teacher. Ruth (Mary Ruth Pearce Davis) died in 1977.
There is something fascinating about peering into the history of people, places, and institutions.
[i] According to the program, Bethany was organized at New Harmony and then later moved to Oak Flat. I do not know this first location, other than assuming it was apparently in the Cushing/Linn Flat vicinity.
[ii] “Texas Baptist Statistics - 1895,” East Texas Family Records, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1982, p. 9. E. D. Blankinship pastored Smyrna Baptist Church from 1899 to 1901.
[iii] “Bethany Baptist marks 125 years,” The Daily Sentinel, November 14, 2019.
[iv] Apparently, at some time a map-maker or other official dubbed this community “Oak Flats.” Those of us who live here call is Oak Flat, singular. We ought to know. It is our community.
[v] Centennial + 5: History of Smyrna Baptist Church, of Rusk County, Texas, 1873-1978, James Wyatt Griffith, Henderson, TX: Printing, 1978, p. 13.
[vi] J. R. Carmichael was the son of William M. Carmichael and Sarah Ann Brandon, and the grandson of Reuben Carmichael and Sydney Frances Parker.
[vii] Ibid, p. 15. Sulphur Springs is about halfway between Bethany and Smyrna.
[viii] Milton F. Spivey was the son of Harvey Reddick Milton Spivey and Lucinda Catherine Heaslet. The parents are buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery at Wonders, near Garrison. M. F. Spivey died in 1903, but I do not know where he was buried.
[ix] He was Elder S. F. Baucom’s father-in-law, though by 1910 Goldsberry’s daughter had died and Baucom had remarried. S. F. Baucom was the son of FNU and Francis Baucom. After her husband’s death, Francis Baucom married Edward T. Parker.
[x] Perry Rawlinson of Cushing gave me the clipping that I have. A Cushing or Nacogdoches newspaper probably printed it.
============[From R. L. Vaughn's Blog. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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