History of the Graham Baptist Church
Forty-Fourth Anniversary of the
Madison Baptist Association
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. 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
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
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
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
|James Alexander (preached
||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
|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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