Though it would be hard to account for every move of God in the church that now exists, these are a few of the highlights along the years that trace God’s faithfulness to this church and community. We believe you will notice the following themes:
- God’s Providence
- A Commitment to Discipleship
- Faithfulness to Great Commission
- Perseverance in Spite of Opposition
Baptist work in this area began with the arrival of the first settlers in the 1840’s. Services were held in the homes of settlers until a house of worship could be built.
The First Baptist Church that was constructed in what is now Cabool, was organized in 1859 under the leadership of Reverend Posey Freeman. The log church house was located near the railroad crossing on Cedar Street, just east of the old Fiasco Depot. The church was constituted under the name United Baptist Church of Cedar Bluff.
Soon after the church was built, the dark clouds of the Civil War descended upon the Cedar Bluff settlement. During this period, bands of bushwhackers roamed the countryside burning and looting many of the buildings and farms, including the little church at Cedar Bluff. Discouraged and scattered, the church soon disbanded.
In 1868, the church reorganized and rebuilt on the bluff on the east bank of the Piney River. Some of the ancestors of today’s First Baptist Church members are buried in the old Cedar Bluff Cemetery.
While the evangelistic efforts of the church helped the church to prosper, there existed within the membership an anti-missionary element that threatened its continued existence. Eventually the pro-missionary group prevailed and the church began making more disciples.
The coming of the railroad in 1881-1882 would bring many changes to the church and the Cedar Bluff community. By the time the first train arrived on December 1,1882 the town of Cabool was laid out and incorporated.
In 1881 Daniel J. Bean and family moved to the community and joined the Cedar Bluff Baptist Church .Mr. Bean and his wife worked for the advancement of their town. When the need for a Baptist Church became apparent, Mr. Bean began the process. All records of the earliest days of the church have been lost and no date exists as to the exact time the church was organized. Land records show however, that on February 16,1891, Ralph and Fanny J. Walker, founders of Cabool, sold John E. Stoy, Daniel J. Bean, and William M. Stoy, trustees of the Cabool Baptist Church, Lot 6 in Block 7 in the town of Cabool. The cost was $40.00. It is fair to assume that the organization of the church took place a short time before the land was acquired for building.
Jeremiah Crittenden Harper, a farmer and preacher, lead in the organization of Cabool Baptist Church. He was the last of the Texas County Pioneer Baptist preachers.
The Building & Discipleship
The first building was of white-frame construction. It was a small one-room building with the pulpit in the West end, the belfry and entrance being located in the East and near the sidewalk. A large post in the center of the church supported the chimney. For many years the church had no ceiling. The church was built by donations with Daniel Bean, a wagon maker, serving as head carpenter.
In 1894 the church began its first Sunday School under the leadership of Mrs. Darby, which would eventually lead to the need for more educational space. During the early years of 1900, most of the active membership were women and children.
It was Mr. Bean’s perseverance and generous spirit that kept the church afloat during financially trying days. During the 1890’s the church struggled financially, receiving aid from the state mission fund. This struggle would remain for 34 years.
During the First World War, 1918, an addition was added to the existing church. This addition almost doubled the auditorium space. Folding doors were placed between the old and new units, providing needed Sunday School space. The sanctuary was also remodeled and rearranged at this time. The entire building was heated by 3 wood-burning stoves, located strategically throughout the church.
During this period the church began to focus on missionary enterprises. the Women’s Missionary Society was organized in 1917. In 1924 the Young Women’s Association was begun. Vacation Bible School first took form in 1925 despite opposition from many members. 1927 proved to be a vital year in the church’s mission efforts. During a business session the church authorized the organization of the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU), along with the Baptist Young People’s Union. Since its inception the WMU has championed the the mission causes of the church.
The 1920’s were a pivotal decade in the formation of the church, as the church began to see clearly the vision that began in 1891. In 1924 they called their first full-time pastor. In 1925 the failing finances were relieved and they adopted their first budget. A second addition was added in 1925. This wing consisted of a basement and four classrooms to the south side of the original building. Members of the church thought they were fixed for rooms for a long time, but in less than five years they were wondering where they were going to get more room. And these blessing would continue for the next decade.
What had begun as a group of people with a vision, though some saw clearer than other, now was a congregation of single purpose: Go, Teach, Disciple.
December 1st, 1931 E.F. Maness, the longest tenured pastor, was called to First Baptist Church of Cabool. Little did he know that he would lead them through one of the most trying times. On February 18th, 1936, while the young adults were having a party in the basement, a clogged flu caused the wallpaper to catch fire. The building burnt to the ground.
Devastated, the church met on Wednesday night to pray. Under the leadership of pastor Maness, the church voted to rebuild. The weight of this endeavor was compounded by The Great Depression. The cost of the building was $10,000 (~$171,000 in today’s currency). The church was rebuilt without borrowing any money and during this rebuilding project the church would hold services in Ellis’ Store on Main Street. On August 6,1936, a mere 8 months, the beautiful new building would be complete.
Maness would continue to pastor until June 21st, 1942. Following the rebuilding of the church he would lose his wife in 1939. However, he would continue to be used by God to establish the Texas County Baptist Camp with F.G. Simmons and 5 other Baptist leaders. He also lead the church to establish its ministry to youth by calling its first youth leader.
In 1945 pastor Orville Haines was called as pastor and he leads the church to buy a school bus for the purpose of providing a means of transportation to Sunday School and worship. In 1946 the new parsonage was built and the old parsonage became the Sunday School Department building. During his time as pastor he would start the Pea Ridge Mission which will latter build a church in 1951.
In 1950 Edward Burks would be called as pastor and the Sunday School department would continue to out grow its space, which lead to the addition of an educational wing on the south side of the church in 1953. This project was a massive undertaking at $75,000 (~$664,500 in 2015). It was completed in October of that year and had 300 in attendance on its opening day. At the same time the church starts a mission to the Pine Flat Area south of Cabool. And in 1955 Pastor Burks would resign and accept a call to the mission field of Nigeria. Following him would be Verdaine Gibson who would three years later become a missionary as Chaplain in the U.S. Air Force.
Throughout these years the church would thrive in its missionary endeavors both at home and abroad as it continued to grow in number through discipleship at home. In 1964, the church moved the old parsonage to the north side of town to start the Sunset Mission. This mission would later become Maness Memorial Baptist Church. This church continues to be a blessing to our community today.
Leading up to this time the attendance had dwindled and the original building was deteriorating. So, in the winter of 1976, an extensive remodeling project was undertaken on the auditorium of the original building. The walls, floors, windows, pews, choir and pupil area, electrical wiring and fixtures, baptistry, and adjoining halls and rooms were completely redone. This was completed as they welcomed their new pastor, Dr. Dick Wakefield. Dr. Wakefield was here for almost 11 years and comes in a close second for longest tenured pastors. During his time here he left a legacy of missions and discipleship. With discipleship in mind, 1983 lead to the restoration and dedication of the Madge Law Memorial library, which today holds over 3,000 volumes. Dr. Wakefield, lead regular winter Bible Studies and Bible conferences, raised the cooperative program giving to 20% of the budget, and saw the church regain its growth in disciples. This eventually lead to the remodeling of the entire education wing in July of 1986, which was completed on March 1987. This included all new heating and cooling, new electrical work, two new restrooms, new drinking fountains, a new kitchen and fellowship hall, new entrances, and many more needs.
During these two decades the church has gone through a number of changes. Decisions about the future lead to a fracture in the church. Though all the parties desired to continue in faithfulness to God, opinions differed on how to accomplish it. Though the church struggled through this period of time, it continued to be faithful to God in knowing Him, growing disciples, and reaching the lost.
It began serving as an Operation Christmas Child relay station in 2005 and annually builds 100 boxes. It has been faithful in its support to the local Baptist Association. The people of the church continued to serve the local community through various needs.
One effort to serve the community was the building of the Family Life Center, in 2005-2007. This multipurpose facility has been used to serve the teachers meals, students meals, host various fundraisers for local needs, and a host of other ministry needs.
Over these years we have gone through some changes with the calling of a new pastor, Benjamin Leonard, and the ordination of our associate pastor, Aaron Miller. However, the truth remains that we hold fast to God and His Word, seek to be unified in our discipleship, and desire to reach the lost at home and abroad.
To date we have reorganized the children’s ministry under the title of First Kids and the student ministry under title of Tread. This was done in an effort to unify and be more intentional with each ministry. As a result we have seen a growth in our Wednesday activities from 30 to 110 people.
We have also sought to be more intentional with our Life Groups on Sunday evenings. We have added a group and are training leaders to create more groups. Our desire is that these groups would continue to grow and start new groups.
We have made several improvements to the main building. In 2015 we replaced the roof, which was 30 years old, and all the heating and cool units, many of which were over 30 years old.
In 2014 we created this website for the first time and pray that it will provide many resources in the future. Only the future will tell how the rest of this chapter is recorded.