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History of the Graham Baptist Church
From the
Forty-Fourth Anniversary of the
Madison Baptist Association
Held at
Bethel Church in Ripley Co.,
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, September 6th, 7th and 8th, 1876

    The Graham Baptist Church was organized the second Saturday in August, 1829, at the residence of Elder Lawson Stephenson, where the meeting were held monthly until the fourth Saturday in February 1830, and the church was known to this date as the Baptist Church of Liberty. At this meeting the name of church was changed to "Graham Church;" also, beginning at this date, the meetings were held alternately at the residences of Elder Lawson Stephenson, on Little Graham creek, and Vardaman Hughes, on Big Graham creek.

    This church was organized with nine members, to-wit; Benjamin Merrel and Lucy Merrel, his wife; Jane Merrel, his daughter. Lawson Stephenson and his wife, Elizabeth Stephenson; John Stepehenson and Mary Stephenson, his wife; Azariah Merrel and his wife, Elizabeth Merrel. At the organization, Azariah Merrel was chosen church Clerk and one Joseph Clarke presided over the meeting as Moderator.

    At the third session of the Coffee Creek association, in the fall of 1829, Br's Benjamin Merrel and Lawson Stephenson were chosen to bear a letter to that body asking admission with instructions, if admitted, to sit in council with them. The church was afterward transferred to the Madison Association in 1832.

    The church continued to meet at the private residences above named until their July meeting in 1848, at which time the Trustees were instructed to superintend the building of our present house of worship.

    From the time of the organization of the church until the third Saturday in March 1831, a space of two years, the church was without a pastor; Bro. James Alexander preaching occasionally. After a meeting Bro. Lawson Stephenson was ordained to the ministry. This council was composed of members from the following churches, to-wit: Vernon, Freedom, Concord, Bethel, Hebron, Versailles and Middle Fork. Bro. Lawson Stephenson served as both Pastor and Moderator until the time of his death, being August 25th 1835, without receiving any compensation for his labors. After the death of Bro. Stephenson, had no regular preacher until the first in April 1840, when Bro. Taylor Stott preached at that meeting, and continued to labor for the church until the first Saturday in July 1845, when he was called to the pastoral care of the church. The church at the same time called Bro. J. M. Cox to preach on the third Saturday in each month for one year. During the same year the time of meeting was changed from the first to the third Saturday. Bro. Stott being released from the call and Bro. J. M. Cox was called as pastor.

    Here ended the labors of Bro. Stott as pastor of the church, he having served the church, five years, for which labor he received as a consideration for his services a suit of blue jeans clothes, made and presented to him by the sisters who composed the church at its organization.

    During the year of 1844, Bro. Ashael Neal was called to preach for the church for one year in conjunction with Bro. Stott.

    Bro. J. M. Cox served as pastor until 1867. On the third Saturday in April he resigned his postion as pastor, having served the church twenty-two years, not receiving any compensation for his labors. By a call of the church, Bro. John Stott, on the first Saturday in July 1867 took the pastoral care of the church and served as pastor until the first Saturday in July 1869, when Bro. T. D. George accepted a call from the church as its pastor, he only attending two meeting when he was taken sick, which sickness resulted in his death.

    On the second Saturday in August 1870, Elder N. Johnson accepted a call as pastor, serving the church until the second Saturday in January 1874.

    Bro. John Chambers, by a call of the church, took the pastoral care the fourth Saturday in March 1874, he only having charge of the church until the second Saturday in September of the same year, when his health failed him to such an extent that he could not attend the church any longer. On the second Saturday in November 1874, Elder N. Johnson was again called as pastor, he serving us up to, and being pastor at, the present time.

    The second Saturday in August 1829, Azariah Merrel was elected church clerk and served as such until the third Saturday in April 1832, when James Spaulding was elected serving until the third Saturday in September 1835. John Merrel was then elected, serving until the third Saturday in November in 1853, when W. T. Merrel was elected, serving until the third Saturday in April 1857, when W. T. Stribling was elected, serving until the second Saturday in January 1875, when B. F. Wildman was elected, was still serving in that capacity.

    Azariah Merrel was the first deacon, chosen second Saturday in October 1829, serving until the third Saturday in June 1853, when Lankston Johnson was elected deacon, he serving until the third Saturday in April 1854, when Barnet P. Johnson was chosen and served until his death. Bro. Jacob Wildman was also chosen deacon the third Saturday in August 1855, the church then having two deacons. Bro. Wildman is still serving as deacon at the present time. On the third Saturday in March 1876, Bro. John H. Cox was chosen as deacon to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Bro. Barnett Johnson, he being deacon at the present time.

    The statistics of the church are as follows. Received to membership since the organization three hundred and twenty dismissed by letter one hundred and twenty-one; excluded seventy-six; died thirty-nine, leaving our present number eighty-four.

    P.S. Sister Elizabeth Stephenson is the only one living who composed the organization of this church and is a member in good standing with us to-day.

A Later History of the Church
1829 - 1999

       Licensed to preach by Bethel in 1828, Lawson Stephenson was ordained in 1831 and become both pastor and moderator, without compensation, until his death in 1835.
   The church started meeting alternately at Vardamon Hughes; which was a mile or so west of the present church on Big Graham Creek, and the Stephenson home. In 1839, the name of the church was changed to Graham, and it was decided to build a meeting house more centrally located. After many changes of sites, it was agreed to build a 36 by 40 brick meeting house on land donated by James and Jane Hughes and John and Martha Hicklin. The members worked several years preparing the lumber and materials. The bricks were burned on the site. In May, 1848, Brother Read claimed there was enough brick to build the house by, "dispensing with the chimneys".  Construction started in July, 1848, and many of the men and boys had a part. Rev. Jacob Cox's nine year old son blistered his hands so badly, working with the brick, that he carried the scars the rest of his life. (It was built by a labor of love.)
   A major remodeling was done 1898, when the roof was raised and the building built higher and a belfry and bell added.  When this was completed the church looked much the same as it does today, one hundred plus years later!
   Graham has had good times and bad times, but the worst of all was the time it was advised by the State Baptist Officials to close the doors and merge with Dupont. This was during the great depression, and it was hard to get a pastor and even harder to pay one. But with prayers and plenty of faith, the fifteen loyal souls kept the doors open and services continued. In fact, Graham has now completed 170 years of continuous service for the Lord!
   In 1940, when the U.S. Government took land for the Jefferson Proving Ground, Bethel Baptist Church was included. Several of the Bethel members joined the fellowship at Graham. They bought with them $700.00 from Bethel and that became the start of a building fund for Sunday School rooms. The first Sunday School/dining/recreation room was built on the back of the church in 1947. Electric lights were installed and a cistern made at this time. In 1956 there was need for more rooms so a basement was dug, the rooms added, along with central heating and bathroom facilities. Through the years many changes and improvements have been made for the needs and comforts of the members. Recently new windows, new siding, new central air, and heat have been installed and the parking lot paved. When a faithful member was called home in 1996, her husband and friends donated the beautiful stained glass windows above the front doors.
   There have been forty some pastors at Graham, the longest who served was Rev. Jacob Cox, who labored twenty-two years without pay. In recent years, many have come as students at the seminary in Louisville, so do not remain long. The church thanks the Lord for each one, as each has brought their different talents and abilities, as they serve.
   Graham is proud of the little church in the valley, but does not lose sight of its reason for being. It is to welcome any and all who will come and worship, as it has called others, through the years. Graham is the only Baptist Church that has ever been established in Bigger Township, and she has a long and glorious history of serving the community for 170 years.

James Alexander (preached occasionally)    1829-31      No Pastor    1929-32  
Lawson Stephenson    1831-35 C.E. Hughes    1921
No regular preacher    1835-40 Alfred Hankins    1933
Wm. Taylor Stott    1840-45 Isom Ferris    1934
Ashael Neal    1845 Brainard Lee    1935-38
Jacob M. Cox    1845-67 __________    1939
John Stott    1867-69 G.E. Stillwagon    1940-41
T.D. George    1869 O.D. More    1941-44
Nelson Johnson    1870-73 Lawrence Bradley    1944
John Chambers    1874 James Stertz    1945-46
Nelson Johnson    1874-76 Denton Coker    1947-49
John McCoy    1877 A. Kilpatrick    1950
Nelson Johnson    1878-80 Henry Durham    1951-54
John McCoy    1881-85 Thomas Steele    1954-56
Nicholas Smith    1885-98 Alton McEachen    1956-57
E.E. Connelly    1898-1900 Bobby Dollar    1957-60
J.C. Nicholson,(supply)    1900 Thomas Hearne    1961-62
Frank Klotche,(supply)    1900 Arthur Burcham    1962-64
Nicholas Smith    1900-01 Wm. Mocherman    1964-67
Franck Klotche    1901-05 Larry Highland    1967-69
R.M. Priest    1905-07 George Sears    1970-71
Elvin Hughes    1908-09 Emory Hall    1971-73
W.T. Seburn    1910 Victor Sheilds    1973-75
Thomas Schwab    1911-13 Otis Bentley    1975-77
A.O. Rhodes     1913-16 David McMahon    1978-82
F.E. Hammel    1916 F. Carson Riley, III    1982-84
G,C, Mangum    1919-20 Larry Simpson    1984-86
C.E. Pascal    1920-21 Michael Day,(Interim)    1986-87
J.W. Snelson    1921 Larry Tomlin    1987-89
Elvin Hughes    1922-24 Ray Coleman    1990-94
H.J. Reamy    1925-27 Arthur Myers    1994-98
Robert Marlett    1927-29 Reed Shepherd    1998-1999
Ordained deacons that have served Graham
    Azariah Merrill, Robert Armstrong, Lankston Johnson, Barnett Johnson, Jacob Wildman, John H. Cox, F.M. Cox, Smith Williams, B.F. Wildman, Daniel Marsh, Wm. Fall, James Custer, A.S. Johnson, John Losey, George Visnon, Chas. Sawyer, Walter Beach, Logan Vinson, Herbert Holmes, Wm., Hayden, Virgil Mills, Vernon Brooks, Chester Buck, Marion Vinson, Harry Pettit, George Horstman, *Ronald Wahlman, Andrew Johnson, *Joe Lee, Raymond Perkins, *Thomas Welch, *Ralph Petit, *Sam Pettit, *Vernon Ingram, and *Robert Hoyt. *Presently serving as deacons, (in 1999).

Deaths in the same booklet
Burdett Fewell, died October 5th, 1875
Barnet P. Johnson, died December 9th, 1875
Lyda C. Fall, died December 30th, aged twenty years.

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