The History of Springfield Baptist Church
(A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.  Ecclesiastes 1:4  RSV)

 
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The following outline of the history of the founding of Springfield Baptist Church of Mt. Lebanon, Louisiana was written by Ms. Lavinia Egan, at the request of members of the congregation for their use in commemorating the Seventieth Anniversary of the founding of the church, to be held at the church edifice on March 8, 1936. 

The facts recorded in this outline have been taken from manuscripts, papers and maps in Ms. Egan's possession and dating back to the year of the founding of the church, in 1864, and also from "A History of the Baptists of Louisiana," by Rev. W. E. Paxton, once a resident of Mt. Lebanon and a well-known authority on church history in the State.

Before the close of the Civil War and the Emancipation of the slaves in 1863, it was not the custom for separate churches to be built for the colored people of the Southern States.  Instead, it was generally the custom for them to become members of the churches organized by the white people of the various communities, with certain benches or pews assigned for the use of the colored members.  In some churches, a balcony or gallery was erected at the rear of the church for use of the colored members.  In others, merely a separate section of the auditorium was set aside for them.  Usually, also, a deacon or other church officer was chosen from among the colored members whose special duty it was to look after their spiritual needs. 

When the early colonists who came from South Carolina and settled in the village of Mt. Lebanon in 1837 wished to organize a church in the new community, the only ordained minister among them was a colored man, the Rev. Henry Adams, a Free Man of Color, a native of Georgia, well educated and a man of high character.  So when the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church was organized in July of 1837, the Rev. Henry Adams became the pastor and the white people and their slaves became members and worshipped together in the same church until the close of the Civil War in 1865.

When Henry Adams resigned the pastorate of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church and went to Louisville, Kentucky in 1839, one or more deacons from among the colored members was chosen to look after their welfare.  One of the deacons chosen around 1845 or 1846, was William Newman, a slave belonging to Mr. Matthias Ardis, with whom, together with his wife and family, he had come from Beech Island, South Carolina.  William Newman was a man of high character, holding the respect of white and black alike and throughout his residence in Mt. Lebanon, was a strong influence for good among his people.

With regard to the founding of the colored church at Mt. Lebanon, on pages 322, 323 and 324 of his "History of the Baptist of Louisiana," Dr. Paxton states: "Red River Association met with Saline church, Bienville Parish, September 22, 1866.  One of the subjects of most interest before the association was the question of the colored members of our churches.  The question was whether they should be organized as independent churches or constituted as subordinate congregations under the watchful care of the white churches. 

Having been suddenly elevated to the rights of citizenship, but unused to self-government they were, in some instances, being made dupes by designing white men whose interest it was to alienate them from all the Southern white people.  Thus, a prejudice was created against them and many were in favor of leaving to take care of themselves. The wiser and more farseeing perceived that the whites were interested in retaining an influence of good over them, and improving them morally, mentally and socially.  A report on the subject recommended the churches to organize them into separate bodies under the friendly supervision of the pastors and churches of the whites.  Some churches however, did nothing at all; others merely dropped the names of their colored members from the roll while still others took an active interest in the religious condition of the freedmen.

At Mt. Lebanon, not only the pastor and members of the church, but prominent citizens not connected with the church, but interested in the welfare of the colored people, took an active part in helping the colored members of the congregation to organize a church of their own and erect a church edifice.  

Among the citizens who took a leading part in assisting the colored people to secure a church of their own were Dr. and Mrs. James C. Egan.  Dr. Egan was a leading physician in the Parish who afterwards moved to Shreveport where he became a prominent in Sanitation and Public Health work for the State.  Mrs. Egan, who had acquired considerable property and real estate in Mt. Lebanon from her father, Mr. Matthias Ardis, donated the triangular lot upon which the colored people built their church, while Dr. Egan circulated a subscription list for donations of lumbers and labor for its construction.  The original list of subscribers who contributed labor or material for building the church is still in the possession of Dr. Egan's daughter, Ms. Lavinia Egan, with a map of the church lot donated by her mother.      

Following is a list of contributors who gave lumber for the building of the church:

 
Name Lumber in Feet Value in Dollars
     
Dr. Bartholomew Egan 1,000 15.00
Dr. James C. Egan 1,000 15.00
Mr. W. B. Prothro 1,000 15.00
Colbert Brothers 666 10.00
Gen. Felix Lewis 666 10.00
Mr. P. J. Key 333 5.00
Mr. J. V. White 200 3.00
Wesley Gascoe 1,000 15.00
Levi Hill 700 10.00
David Hill 400 6.00
Bill Alexander 400 6.00
Willis Lathon 400 6.00
Prince Hart 200 3.00
Charles Herring 66 1.00

Following is a list of those who contributed labor for hauling:
 
Name Contribution Length of Time
     
Mr. J. J. Howerton Wagon and driver 1 day
Mr. Sam Shaw Wagon and driver 1 day
Mr. E. Hardy Wagon 1 day
Mr. J. V. White Wagon and driver 1 day
    
     The first pastor of the new church was Elder Alvin Parnell, a white preacher who, at various times, served as pastor or associate pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church.

The following list of pastors to succeed Elder Parnell and of the deacons who have served Springfield Church through the years, have been given to the writer of this sketch by Mary Parish, a lifelong member of the church:

 
Jerry Chapman Roy A. Mayfield
John Gipson S.L. Holland
Dimp Stroman, Sr. J.H. Wilbert
Pat Millon R.D. Coleman
W. M. Hicks Dr. L. R. Martin
S. W. Lee Oscar Jenkins
Samuel P. Joseph Calvin Williams, Current Pastor

Deacons in 1936, at the time of this writing:
 
Scott Brooks Williams Lewis Jim Parish, Sr.
Isaac Crawford Silas Gipson Louis Lathon
Walter Scott Amos Chapman Edward Johnson
Stephen Crowley J. J. Jackson Dennis Alford
Cal Hart Joe Ross Cornelius "Nealy" Hill
Adolphus "Dorphus" Crowley Henry Jackson  

Deacons since the writing are as follows:
 
Deceased Present
   
Henry Lathon, William "Jack" Jackson
Harry Sanders
A. J. Johnson, Louis Lathon
A. D. Lathan
Jiles Sneed, Morell Sneed, Roy Felder
Charlie D. Richardson
Albert Henderson, Horsteen Sneed
Arthur J. Lathan
Lannis Brackens, Enos Wayne Jackson
James Crow, Jr.
Arthur Simpson, Cleve Dillard
Thomas Sneed
Herbert Gordon, William Lathon
Darryl Ryder
Johnnie Brackens, Earl Lee Brackens
James Crawley (former member)
   
Deceased Deaconesses Present Deaconesses
   
Lillian Hill, Amy Crawley, Bernice Johnson
Polly Sanders
Della Dillard Jackson, Francis Scott
Barbara Harper Richardson
Talmadge Alford, Lucille Dillard
Linda McClendon Brackens
Mary Parish, Faye Parish
Anna Mason Lathan
Jessie Sneed, Blanche Sneed
Roseira Lathan Crow
Louise Felder, Marie Henderson Brackens
Juanita Daniels Sneed, Rosetta Simpson Ryder
Ida Ross, Beatrice Hart Henderson
Jacqueline Cleveland Cato, Mary Rhodes Harris
Doris Brackens, Odessa Crawley Sneed
Sylvia Crawley (former member)
Mary Jewel Simpson, Hazel Richardson Lathan
Willa B. Hill Gordon (former member)
   

The present church building was originally a frame building constructed during the service of Rev. S. L. Holland. The children of the church were instrumental in helping pull nails from the old school house across the street to help construct the church.

The church was remodeled and brick veneer added was during the service of Rev. J. H. Wilbert and completed during the service of Rev. R. D. Coleman.  New pews and furniture were also purchased during this time. 

Under the pastorate of Dr. L. R. Martin, who believed in progress and served this church for 39 years, several deacons were ordained, an educational annex and kitchen were added, and many other improvements were made  to enhance the physical and spiritual comfort of the sanctuary.

The late Mrs. Beatrice Hart Henderson, the late Mrs. Pauline Hill Critton, the late Deacon Lannis Brackens, the late Mrs. Ollie M. Felder Sneed and Mrs. Barbara Harper Richardson made important contributions of past and recent information to our Ancestral Church History. 

Note:  On March 9, 2017, Springfield Baptist Church will celebrated its 153rd anniversary.