Negro Community's Activities Center in 100-Year-Old Church
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever."
Regardless of the profundity of the great theologians, this simple truth is central in a small Negro Baptist church which celebrated its 100th birthday in 1970 in the Mulberry Community.
And the walls of that small church still ring with the fervor of repeated "amens" to the Biblical interpretations of the ministers in their solemn proclamations of hope as well as doom for believers and non-believers. And it is not too uncommon for a few of the devout members to go into shouts of praises for having been created and redeemed by a Lord who cared so much for them.
"But what a glorious feeling we have after such a meeting." they all say.
Siloam Baptist church had a humble beginning, as humble a beginning, almost, as the manager in which their Lord was born. A few colored families gathered together back in 1870 and organized the church. They erected a one-room log building and decided they would rather have their own church services there, with the Rev. L. Borns as the pastor and organizer, assisted by J. W. Abernathy and Steve Shoulders, as deacons.
A centennial bulletin on the church gives some of the known history since that time:
"The Siloam church grew spiritually and prospered with a large membership, which saw a new church built in 1892. This edifice was completed and dedicated in May, 1894.
"The site of the new building was half a mile east of the original and a great many glorious events occurred within those walls."
BY the year 1950 the entire county had lost population, and the Negro churches were affected, with small over-worked congregations, trying to continue with a full program at Siloam and a neighboring Negro Baptist church, the Bellfountain. In order to survive, the 2 churches began the procedure to unite in 1954, and continue services in the Siloam church. They changed the name to the "Union Baptist Church."
The Rev. D. Berry was the minister, and the board of deacons was made up of R. V. Hill, Chester and Charles Hill, Jim Dehorney and Melvin Harvey.
Providing ministers has always been a problem for the church. When Rev. Berry left, there was much prayer for a new leader. The Rev. W. H. Saunders accepted the leadership of the church and as the centennial bulletin record shows: "Rev. Saunders built the church spiritually and during the next five years the membership increased, a junior church to train the youth was active, three classrooms and a study for the minister were added, the sanctuary was remodeled, and the members built a parsonage on part of the church property."
The small church was led into adopting a "Lord's Acre" plan, with a tight budget, in order to give the members a part of the world-wide movement to "Christianize all nations."
The Union church is a participating in the Independent Baptist district Sunday School and Training Union Congress.
Charlie Hill's father, Robert Hill, was Sunday School superintendent for 40 years before he died, and Charlie has been serving as superintendent for 15 or 20 years. Jim Dehorney is chairman of the board of directors. The other deacons are Sammy Smith, Odell Brown, Joe Choice. Dennis White is church custodian.
The membership is made up of long-time residents, mostly second generation church and community families. Most of them own their own small acreage of from 20 to 50 acres and most have modern homes with electric pumped in water and appliances.
A unique feature of this community is the fact that most of them inherited their land from their parents, who bought the land during the depression, and have held on to it, thought it has more than tripled in value. Most of the men work in Bonham and raise small grains, peanuts, and have some livestock on their acreage. Several have increased their acreage holdings.
A little information on each family was founded up huriedly. They include the following families, many of whose children have grown up and moved away, but always return frequently to visit and attend church services. Most of their children attended and graduated from Washington school.
Charlie and Lois Hill own their farm and he works in Bonham. Two children attended college, one still attends and one is in Bonham high school. His mother, Mrs. Reeda Hill, has her own farm and is very active in the church. Her daughters, who still belong to the church and live in the community, are Ompsted and Otha White who own their own farm. Marsh White, the football player, is their grandson and lived with them; Roy and Velma White own their farm home; Odell and Annie Brown own their farm home.
Odell Brown is a Bonham and area carpenter, and built new cabinets in the church kitchen. Their six children, except one still in school, are high school graduates and two attend college.
Jim and Dorothy Dehorney own their farm home and he works for Mrs. W. T. May; Joe and Mittie Choice, children scattered, own their farm home and work in Bonham; Lenville and Eva Brown own their farm home; Willie and Melissia Jackson, own home in Bonham, live on Dallas-owned ranch in the community; Kermit and Willie Dorsey own their farm, retired; Dennis and Tommie white own their farm home, eh works in Bonham, three children all graduates of Washington high school.
Jack and Irene Gentry own home, one son at home; Roy and Elma White, own farm home; Clifton and Lillian Hill, live on farm owned by his father; Grady and Martha Harvey, live on his mother's inherited farm and has farm home.
Sam and Marie Smith, own over 100 acres and live in their farm home, children scattered; Mrs. Tressie Espy, owns her farm home, grown son lives with her. The The Omstep Whites, Kermit Dorseys and Grady Harveys have yet to bring the water into their far homes, all others have modernized.
Charlie Hill, S. S. Superintendent, worries about the young people, but was reassured when he attended the Billy Graham Crusade in Dallas this week . . . "It was wonderful to see so many young people. Billy Graham explains so they can understand it . . he say what they want to hear, which is more about Jesus Christ and what he can do to change lives."
Odell Brown and his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Dennis White say the church centered community has a wonderful time together. It means everything to them, strength and faith, and an opportunity to share their witness with anyone who would like to worship with them.
"Just as our fathers and mothers labored and suffered for Siloam and we have entered into their labors and sufferings in the Union church, even so by faithful service to "Union" are we to bless those who shall come after us. Five years of heroic Union history look down on this hour and ask Union children to carry forward the aims and ideals of Union church's beginning." their anniversary speaker said.
The photo above and the article transcribed below are from the Bonham Daily Favorite, September 25, 1971.
Union members: Back row: Charley Hill, Lois Hill, Joe Choice, Loretta (Jackson) Gray
Front row: Maude Childress, Dorothy DeHorney; Lydia Sauners, Pastor w. H. Saunders, Jime DeHorney
Belfountain Baptist Church
P. D. Davis - M. A. Shepard
W. P. Parker Off. Board
F. D. Johnson, D.D, Pastor
Mrs. L. L. Brown, Clerk
These two cornerstones at the Union Baptist Church honor its history.
Photo from the Union Baptist Church Bulletin, November 27, 1960
Brief History of Siloam Baptist Church
Transcribed from the May 9, 1959 bulletin of the Union Baptist Church
Siloam Baptist Church was organized in the year 1870, at Ravenna, Texas, in Mulberry school, District No. 7, one and one-half miles from the present site of Union Baptist Church, in a one-room log building, Rev. L. Borns, as Pastor and organizer, Board of Deacons: Bro. J. W. Abernathy, and Bro. Steve Shoulders.
It grew spiritually and prospered with a large membership, which caused the decision to build a new church in 1892. This edifice was completed and dedicated in May, 1894.
The site of the new building was one half mile east of the original. A great many glorious events occurred within those consecrated walls, over the many years Siloam occupied them for services. Incidentally, that building is now the auditorium of the present Union Baptist Church.
Over the years, the population diminished. and in 1950, a very small over-worked congregation were found in distress. Meanwhile Belfountain, the neighbor church, as also in distress; without a minister, and few in number. So, the decision was made (by the two churches) to unit, in order to survive. Hence the Proverb: "Together we stand, divided we fall", was in every Christian's heart at that time. So it was very expedient that the two churches put all their resources, both spiritual and material, together for the one purpose; to maintain a christian standard in this community for our off-spring, or future generation.
In 1954, the churches started the procedure, Rev. D. Berry, the minister. Board of Deacons: Bros. R. F. Hill, Chester Hill, Charles Hill, Jim Dehorney, Melvin Harvey. Meanwhile, Rev. Berry resigned the pastorate, leaving the people in a very grave situation, nevertheless, the people were determined to accomplish their purpose, and by the providence of God, leadership was provided in 1954. On April 12 of that year, Rev. W. H. Saunders accepted the leadership of Union Baptist Church.
After remodeling and repairing it spiritually, he began the task of making Union an active church. Union has enjoyed prosperity through five years, under the leadership of Rev. Saunders. Its accomplishments are numerous. To name a few - the church has added to its membership yearly; has established a Junior Church to impress and train the young members, which has shown outstanding results; Also, have added three classrooms, and a study for the Minister; remodeled the auditorium, and built a parsonage on part of the church property; has adopted a Lord's Acre Plan for the church, and a very rigid budget; and are expanding to world-wide Christina movements, in an attempt to christianize all nations.
Furthermore; Union's close association with outstanding organizations, named here, have enabled her to accomplish this purposes, viz; - Northwestern Association; District Sunday School and baptist Training Union Congress; Community Chest; and others.
Union has a substantial maintenance system, with an excellent clerical force who keep financial and record in order.
And now, we turn our faces to Union's future, and with uncovered heads and thrilling hearts, we say: "Greater Glories Of The Future, We Salute You"!! Our debt to the past also lays upon us a debt to the future.
Just as our fathers and mothers laboured and suffered for Siloam, and we have entered into their labours and sufferings, even so by faithful service to Union, are we to bless those who shall come after us.
If Union's greatest days are yet to be, we must magnify as never before the Superior Purpose of Christian Education.
Her conviction is: That the sure Foundation of Churches are laid in knowledge, not in ignorance.
Five years of heroic Union history look down on this hour, and with solemn voices they ask that Union children today may faithfully defend and carry forward the aims and ideals of Union's historic past.
The Union Baptist Church, located north of Ravenna, Texas, was organized in 1954 by combining two older churches, Siloam Baptist Church and Belfountain Baptist Church.
The Siloam Baptist Church had been organized in 1870 and the Belfountain Baptist Church had been organized in 1882.
The deacons of Union, as shown on the attached plaque, were:
See the 1994 Union Baptist Souvenir Book.
See pages from Sunday school books beginning in 1906.