History of Red Bank Baptist Church

(Submitted by Olde Ghote Dr. Bill Burton, 10 July 2000)

Interesting Story of old Northampton Congregation, Written by Miss Irma Dunton. Won McMaster Old Home Prize at Franktown - Nassawadox High School.

In the year 1783 Elijah Baker organized what he chose to call Hungar's or Hungo's Church, named for the creek near which it was located. Later the place of meeting was changed to an estuary of the ocean named Red Bank, and the church was given its present name.

Elijah Baker, the pioneer of the Baptists on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia, in 1742, of humble but respectable parents. He was baptized in 1769, by Elder Samuel Harris. Illiterate as he was, he immediately began to speak in public. While preaching in Gloucester he made the acquaintance of Mr. Thomas Elliott, a former resident of the Eastern Shore, who desired that his brethren in the flesh might be saved. Accordingly, in the spring of 1776 the two set sail and arrived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia on Easter Sunday. They went immediately to an Established Church in which a clergyman was to preach that day. Af ter waiting for some time, and finding [the] minister did not come, Mr. Baker told the people that he would preach for them if they would go down to the road, (We would infer from this that the use of the established church was denied them,) The novelty of the scene excited the people and they went Mr. Baker had no other pulpit than the end of a housing tree which he mounted, and delivered the first sermon preached by a Baptist on the Eastern Shore.

His continued efforts to gain a Baptist beginning against the opposition of the Established Church led to his imprisonment at Drummondtown, in Old Debtor's Prison. Thus it appears that this man of God was for the truth's sake imprisoned from the first of July until the twenty-fifth of August, 1778, a period of fifty-six days, or nearly two months. This took place during the Revolution when our forefathers were nobly battling--for freedom. Such was the Christian hero who was to fight the first battles in behalf of Baptist principles on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Wherever he could find an audience, whether in private houses, in barns, in groves, or by the wayside, he held forth the Word of Life. One of the buildings used by Mr. Baker, as a place of preaching, was later used as a barn by Mr. George Bell on the farm to the rear of the resent church property.

Mr. Baker did not live to be as old as some of his contemporaries; he was only fifty-six years of age at the time of his death, which occurred at the residenceof Dr. Lemon, in Salisbury, Maryland, on the sixth of November, 1789, He was buried at or near the town of Salisbury, but no stone or slab marks his resting place, The precise location of his grave is a matter of conjecture or of vague tradition. From the best information obtainable, the spot is covered by a forest. It is a pity, and almost a shame, that the grave of one whom the Baptists of th e Accomack Association and the State at large would delight, at this day, to honor with a suitable--monument, should be unknown. There has been, however, a monument erected to his memory at Drummondtown Baptist Church.

Red Bank was the third Baptist Church organizedon the shore. Lower Northampton being first in 1778, and Messongo Baptist Church, near the head of Messongo Creek in Accomac County, in the next year, the second, Red Bank Church was hostess to the Accomac Association for the first time in 1832, The Session proved of great value to the church, as the minutes of the year following show that fifty-one members were then received by baptism, At this time Levin Dix was pastor of Lower Northampton and Red Bank, and served these churches faithfully until 1839 when he passed away from his earthly toils to the rest that remaineth for the people of God. It was at this time that the spirit of benevolence and also the missionary spirit were slowly developing.

W. A. Dix was pastor in 1810, followed by Patrick Warren who was the father of Mrs. Lizzie Bell and great-grandfather of one of my classmates, Ruth Warren Ames, who bears his name. Williamson's History speaks of him as a father in Israel, distinguished for his piety and lovely spirit. He was followed some years later by his son, P.T. Warren, of whom it is said, he had no superior among those who werehis contemporaries in the ministry of the Association.

We find in the records at East_ ville the following:

By deed dated December 17, 1856, John H. Powell and wife convey to John Warren, Richard H. Reed, Philip A. Fitzhugh, George Bell, an d John T. Soott, trustees of Red Bank Baptist Church, one-half acre for use as a place of worship. This covers the land where Red Bank Hall now stands.

By deed dated May 13, 1857 George Bell and wife convey to the same

trustees, one acre for use as a place for public worship. This covers the present site of Red Bank Church, which was built in the year 1859.

In 1872 Red Bank enjoyed a precious revival under the ministry of Rev. William Thomas, who passed to his heavenly reward during the spring of that year. He was buried at Red Bank under what is now the recess of the pulpit, this recess having been added since his burial as nearly as possible on the spot where he had stood to preach God's Word.

Robert Williamson to whom we are indebted for, "A Brief History of the Origin and Progess of the Baptists on the Eastern Shore of Virginia," was pastor of Red Bank Church in 1873 and '74.

In the year 1876, Rev. William T. Hundley became pastor. He was a young man, full of zeal and energy, very acceptable to the people, and greatly beloved by the church.

Red Bank Church and Lower Northampton Baptist Church had for many years, with few exceptions, the same pastor. They also worked together to promote the religious work in the county, for the records say, "Lower Northampton and Red Bank Churches have erected a large and beautiful house of worship at E:astville, the county seat of Northampton. This house is furnished with a baptistry and dressing rooms and it is said to be the finest house of worship on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The new church was constituted October 21, 1877, and the building dedicated the same day."

At this time, George and Bailey Bell, J. T. Scott, and J E Nottingham were leading lay members of Red Bank. Mrs. Mary West, "an aged and infirm sister," as Williamson says of her, was among the most prominent and useful female members.

Mr. Andrew Broaddus, Jr ~ came as pastor of the church in 1878, He later married one of Red Bank's daughters, Miss Rena Floyd He did much to aid and encourage the women of the church in their missionary endeavors.

Mr. H. J. Handy followed Mr. Broaddus, It was during his pastorate that Red Bank purchased her first organ and Mrs. Handy was the first organist,

Mr. L. J. Haley was the next pastor. Some of the older members are reminded of an amusing incident in connection with Mr. Haley's sojourn among them, In those days there was always kept a bucket of water and a common drinking cup in the vestibule for the use of the congregation. One Sunday morning, during the service, a small boy climbed upon the bench to get a drink of water and turned the bucket over on himself. He ran screaming up theaisle calling, "Mama, Mama!" When Mr. Haley could make himself heard above the commotion he stroked his head and said, "Will the congregation please be composed?" That little boy is now Mr. John Ben Floyd.

Mr. J. H. Barnes served the church next and was followed by Mr. Pat Purnell, Those were the days when the men set on one side of the church and the women on the other separated by an aisle. At the same time there was a gallery in the back of the church. In former years this had been used by the Negroes. Uncle Jim Perkins, the only Negro member of Red Bank, was baptized by ~ the Rev. J. G. Councill, who served Red Bank from 1855-1859,

Mr. Corbitt was a faithful servant of the church for some years. He advocated and sponsored various ways of raising funds to improve the church property, the most common of these being his Fish Frys, The Hall was built for a school and was used as such for some time, Mrs. Charlie Bell, "Miss Kate" as we like to call her, was a teacher in Mr. Corbitt's school,

Mr. Taylor followed Mr. Corbitt. He was succeeded in turn by the Rev, Mr. Reynolds, a pious and zealous

man. He was willing to make the first move in any enterprise undertaken by the church. A very liberal man, he gave freely of his means.

Mr. V. H. Harrell, the only former living pastor, came to the church when he was a young man and worked diligently to build up and make the Sunday School a growing, live institution. When he went away he left the first graded Sunday School Red Bank had enjoyed.

Dr. Pendleton Jones followed Mr. Harrell. The church celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1933, during his ministry. He served the church for fourteen years, finally giving up the work because of ill health. Dr. Jones was a most capable man and a great leader in civic as well as religious enterprises. He lived a very short time after leaving the Shore. Many greatly mourn his passing.

Rev, Paul G. Watson has faithfully and efficiently served the church since February, 1936. Under his leadership on Easter Sunday of 1938, there was brought to a close a campaign launched in the early part of the year which paid off all the indebtedness of the church. And as we come to the present in the history of Red Bank Church, the following words express our hope for the future:

May the future be as bright

As has been her past;

And may she strive to make it so

As long as time shall last.

Surely there will be a cloud

To mar it now and then,

But the task, if she would grow is, To lead to Christ, and in the end Her plaudit she'll have won;

Enter in faithful servant

Your work has been well done.

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