Tidbits of Shelby County History
History of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church

The history of this historical church was obtained from the Sesquicentennial celebration in Spring of 1989. The Fellowship history had been updated and revised by the Sesquicentennial Program Committee, consisting of Billy R. Williams, Bernice Anderson Pate, Toni McFadden Lambert, Kathy Wallis Baker, Mary Parker Sowell, and Rita Bates Dickerson. Those mentioned in the booklet for compiling recording and preserving the Fellowship story were Ann Taylor Irish Cox, Katie Busbee Horn, Bernice Anderson Pate and Sue Carter.

The beginning of the Fellowship Community in Shelby County, Texas, dates to the Texas immigration period. Immigrants from other states and countries were seeking new home and were urged to come to Texas.

In 1818, fifty-five families left Shelby County, Tennessee, for Texas in covered wagons drawn by oxen and horses. Some in this group were Blankenship, Childress, Lawson, Smotherman, Truitt, Williams, King, and Hanson.

Ferries on the Sabine River, which is a boundary of Fellowship community, served as a source for entering Texas. One of those ferries was about two miles up the river from the present town of Logansport, Louisiana, and is known as Watson’s Ferry. In later years, there was another known as Logan’s Ferry.

This river crossing usually took several hours as there would be multiple wagons of families and their belonging. By the time the river was crossed, it would be time to camp for the night. In and around what is now known as the Brooklyn Cemetery is where the families would camp.

After finding fine springs of water and locating fine time, grass, and plentiful game, many were prompted to make settlements. They usually found a hill to build their homes of logs with usually a spring under the hill which you will near the old home of Fellowship.

Most of the surveys of the Fellowship District were made during the Homestead Act. But not many homes were established until after Texas declared its independence.

After a number of homes were built, a church was considered essential. It is recorded that this one ministered to the spiritual needs in the Republic of Texas era.

The early families of 1836-1860 who established home in and around Fellowship, Jackson, Aston, Lone Cedar, and Willow Grove are the founders of the First Baptist Church of Fellowship. More families moved into this community. Among them were Anderson, Busbee, Burgess, Chevalier, Dickerson, Irish, Swan, Taylor, Strong, and Seago. The Charter Members of Fellowship MBC came from these families and earlier ones. Descendants of most of these families still live in and around Fellowship and Shelby County.

The congregation met in homes for church services until a church was organized in 1839. The traditional date of the founding is July 16, 1839. Fellowship Baptist Church thus originating more than forty years before the Shelby County Missionary Baptist Association – probably being the oldest Texas church now in the membership of the American Baptist Association. It is recorded that this church ministered to spiritual needs during the era of the Republic of Texas.  They named the church Fellowship, honoring loyalties among the pioneer families and because of the love and friendship of the people.

One acre of land was deeded to the church by Mr. Blankenship. The deep was dated August 6, 1883. The first pastor was Rev. Wyatt S. Childress, a brother of George C. Childress, on of the authors of the “Texas Declaration of Independence”. The first church clerk was Dr. John Moses Taylor. The place selected to build the first church was just below the hill of the present building. Beyond the church was a spring used by the present church for 130 years, until 1969, when a deep well was dug.

The church was made of split logs, with split logs seats that had wooden pegs for legs. Wooden shutters without glass with wooden hinges were the only kind of windows known. These hinges had to be oiled often to keep them from squeaking during service. A large door was at one end the house was about 20 feet by 40 feet and was heated by an 8-foot fireplace with a mud chimney. The floor was dirt, and pine torches served as light. Four note or sacred harp songs were used. (This description was given to me by Allen Williams, who remembered the house.)

The congregation assembled by riding many miles, usually in farm wagons, with baskets of food. Here on the log seats with no backs, the pioneers sat for hours, worshipping God ad listening to long sermons. Methodist and Baptist alike worshipped together. They all loved each other, and the women were not ashamed to shout, and the long prayers were heard from the men. They believed in the same faith and had about the same church covenant that we still use in Baptist churches.

This log house was used until the early 1870’s. The Sleet and Styles sawmill was established just beyond the church, near the spring. Here was the opportunity to secure lumber for a better church and homes.

The first plank church was built at the same location as the log structure. Wooden shutters were still used, but the seats were made with backs and it had a wooden floor.

In about 1888, in the process of being torn down, this house fell on Tom and John Taylor, hurting both crippling Tom for life. A group of children playing nearby just did escape being injured. Another house was built. In 1900, the church was moved to its present location, not being as large and facing the opposite direction as the present building.

The old settlers either died or moved and one of the families that came after 1900 was the Rev. J.S. Ellis, a family which meant much to the community. Rev. Ellis was pastor of the church for several years and was looked upon as father of the church and community. Some of the clerks who served with him during his ministry were his nephew, Lee Ellis, his son, Roger Ellis, Joe Smotherman, Brice Truitt, G.W. Burkett, H.S. Emmons, Rev. E.B. Anderson, (who was also a former pastor who meant much to this church and community), H. Seago, and A.F. Swan. Another member who has passed on that meant much to the church, school and community was Bun Gordon. Other families who have come and are still a part of the present church are Owens, Leggett, Bates, Brown, O’Bannion, Guy, and O’Rear. In 1939 the church member had a membership of about 58 active member with 40 more members who lived elsewhere. As other churches were established nearby, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church lost many of its members to them.

The pastor in 1939 was Rev. R.L. Hooper of Tenaha, Texas, and Mrs. Annie Taylor Irish was church clerk. Rev. E.B. Anderson was board member and Dave Williams was the church treasurer. The five deacons were E.T. Burgess, Asa Leggett, Dave Williams, A.P. Swan, and John Seago. The Sunday School Superintendent was E.T. Burgess, and the choir director was C.A. Strong. There is no recorded date to tell us when the first Sunday School convened.

The old log church was also use as the first schoolhouse. Farming had become a very prosperous, modern homes were being built and roads were being improved.

On the third Sunday in July, which was July 16, 1939, the 100th Anniversary of Fellowship was celebrated in Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

In addition to those already mentioned, some of the pastors since 1900 are Rev. W.A. Cockrell, 1921; Rev. Lee Ellis, 1925; Rev. H.H. Melton, 1927; Rev. W.H. Ingram, 1920.

The church house, which was moved to the present location in 1900 and remodeled in 1913, was torn down in 1930, and the present building constructed. The first Sunday school rooms on the northeast side of the building were added in July 1966.

In December 1966, the church purchased a new piano and an organ, which have added much to our worship service.

In July 1967, central heat and air conditioning were added to the church. Bathrooms and nursery were added to the church, 1968, and the baptistry was constructed in this same year. The beautiful scenery behind the baptistry was pained by Wilma L. Jolley. Previous locations for baptismal services that we were able to recall were several places in Styles Creek, Dickerson Pond, Shorty Burgess Pond, Dave Williams Pond, Wallis Pool and Joe Smotherman Pond.

At 2:30pm on Sunday, October 12, 1969, our historical marker was unveiled, designating 130 years of continuous service to the Lord.

The present members of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church are proud of our heritage and the history of this special place in our community.