Oakey Ridge Baptist Church has had long, varied history

Published 7:54 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

Oakey Ridge Baptist Church is located in Covington County on an historic site on County Hwy. 45, which is known as Lindsey Bridge Road. It is approximately seven miles southeast of Andalusia and about 10 miles from the town of Opp. The church is nestled in a plot surrounded by long leaf pines and scrub oak trees. Several years before the church was established, a community school called Spring Hill School #2 had existed on the site.

The one-room school served the children of the rural residents until it was consolidated with other area schools in 1927 to become Sanford School, which was located in Sanford along U.S. Hwy. 84. Another school included in this merger was Spring Hill #1, which was located on County Hwy. 73 where the present day Scriptures Truth Church is located.

Spring Hill School #2 was built in 1920-1921 by community leaders Jesse Wiggins, Alex Cassidy and George McQueen along with the help of other community members. They were very proud of their own school, which was located close enough for the children to walk from their homes. So, when consolidation began to occur for financial and other good reasons, the school building was left vacant. A wise decision was make to donate it and the surrounding land to the Oakey Ridge Baptist Church that was organized a short time later. The white-frame structure was renovated into a sanctuary, which served the group well for a number of years.

In 1930, the church was established under the leadership of W. Thomas Hicks who resided in the Wiggins Crossroads community. Charter members included Thomas Hicks; his nephew, Bobby Lee Parr; his niece, Cora Lee (Parr) Wiggins, and Jay P. and Cora Whatley. The Parr relatives moved their membership letters from the Mt. Gilead Baptist Church. Five additional members had joined the first five by the time the time the church was accepted into the association. They were Christine Whatley, W.J. Moore, H.J. Biggs, L.D. Day, and G.H. “Bud” Ward of the Sanford community who served as the first preacher.

At a meeting of the Old Zion Association in the spring of 1930, W.T. Hicks petitioned for the Oakey Ridge Church to be admitted to the body. It was accepted, so the church became a member of the Association and the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1932, the Old Zion Association became the Covington Baptist Association.

At the time the school building was converted into a church sanctuary, the Cassidy, McQueen and Wiggins families requested that the annual sacred harp singing be held there in memory of the builders. The church members were happy to fulfill this request by scheduling the second Sunday in August of each year for the singing and dinner on the church grounds. This was done until 1989 when the practice was discontinued.

During the 1940s, a number of new members joined the church. This trend continued through the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1970s, a number of new families settled in the community and became a part of the church membership. Through these decades, the church grew and developed active programs of work.

It is historically significant that the original school building structure remains still as the current sanctuary for the church. Siding and paneling were added on the three existing walls, and many updates have been made through the years. During the 1970s, carpeting, central heating and cooling, and new pews were added to make the facility more attractive and comfortable. Wings were added to each side of the rear of the sanctuary to provide additional seating and to double as Sunday school rooms. Other additions that followed included an educational classroom wing, the Charles Newman Library, storage areas, restrooms, and a fellowship hall with kitchen. Mr. A.L. Love did much of the work in the fellowship hall.

Additional land was donated during the 1970s. A strip of land, located immediately behind the church property, was given to the church by the Dixon family. Rance Taylor who owned the house that would become the Ted and Vivian Sapp home and surrounding land, gave the land for the cemetery. Bart Moore was one of the first to be buried there, and the infant daughter of Jesse Joe and Lucille Wiggins was the first female to be interred in the cemetery.

The Oakey Ridge Cemetery is located directly across the highway from the church building. It is overseen by a committee of church members. Burial plots are made available to church members for free, and non-members may purchase at a reasonable price.

It was in the late 1970s or early 1980s before a baptistery was added to the church facilities. Before that time, baptisms were performed in the nearby Yellow River or one of the local fish ponds.

In 1986, the church had an enrollment of 87 in Sunday school. With three baptisms that year, there was a total membership of 182. The church’s property was valued at $100,000, and the total offerings were $26,522. The Woman’s Missionary Union and Brotherhood age level organizations were initiated in 1989. That year, the Woman’s Missionary Union received the Distinguished WMU Award from National WMU and Alabama WMU.

In 1990, the classroom addition begun in 1989 was completed and dedicated on May 6, 1990. The costs were $33,195. Sunday school enrollment had risen to 119, and the church membership was 179 after adding 9 new members. Total church receipts in that year were $33,549.

In 1991, six members were added by letter, and four, by baptism resulting in a total membership of 198. In 1992, Eugene Meadows came to serve as pastor. Two new members were added by letter, three by baptism, and there were eight erasures resulting in a membership of 195.

In 1993, the membership was still 195, but the Sunday school enrollment has increased to 130. That year, a $47,000 addition was constructed on the front of the building. Gene Stallings Construction Company was the contractor for this work. In 1994, the church adopted a constitution and by-laws.

Pastors who have served the church and the general time of each one’s tenure include the following: G.H. “Bud” Ward, 1930; W.J.H. “Will” Sasser, 1931; C.F. Corbitt, 1934; S.L. Creamer, 1937; C.F. Corbitt, 1938; Will Sasser, 1939; W.I. Williams, 1940; G.E. Andrews, 1941; James Eady, 1943; Will Sasser, 1945; William Goodson, 1948; E.D. Mathews, Jr., 1951; Hamilton “Hamp” Nelson, 1952; Bruce Little, 1955; Monroe Nelson, 1957; Emory Lynn, 1958; John R. Spencer, 1961; Bobby Driver, 1967; Robert Davis, 1970; James Kilpatrick, 1973; Phill Harris, 1975; Charles Newman, 1977; Lamar Kendrick, 1978; Robert Davis, 1982; Donovan “Doc” Stephens, 1987; Eugene Meadows, 1988, and the current pastor, Tommy Greene who came in December 2006.

A source of considerable pride for the church is the ordination of at least the following pastors: Monroe Nelson, Hamilton “Hamp” Nelson, Bobby Driver, Robert Davis, John Maust, Johnny Moore, Ed Russell and Eugene Meadows. John Maust’s son, Johnny Maust, became an education missionary to South America. He maintains contact with the church through newsletters and annual visits.

Men who have served the church as deacons include Jay P. Whatley, Jessie Parrish, Hubert Wiggins, Levi Hollaway, Aaron Whatley, Ed Blocker, Delbert Blocker, Isaiah Adams and Ed Russell. Those currently serving as deacons in 2008 include Jesse Wiggins, Bill Anderson, Henry Kelly, Ralph Barefoot, Johnny Stewart, Keith Norris, Johnny Meeks, Delmar Wiggins, Michael Stewart, Randy Barefoot, and Kenny Teel. Currently, Jerry Coley serves as minister of music and Casey Shiver serves as minister of youth. Current officers of the church include the board of deacons; the pastor, Tommy Greene; clerk, Gayle Johnson; and treasurer, Johnny Stewart.

The church continues to be strong and to serve as a “beacon” for the community.

The primary resource for today’s history of the Oakey Ridge Baptist Church was church records and material compiled in 1988 from interviews with several of the older members. Appreciation is expressed to Shirley Wiggins for sharing this information.

Anyone who might have additional information related to this church or the two early schools in the area, Spring Hill School #1 and Spring Hill School #2, is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; call 334-222-6467; or e-mail cthomasson@centurytel.net.