Monkey created stir in church in 1916

Published 1:11 am Saturday, April 2, 2016

“Here’s the church and here’s the steeple; Open the doors and see all the people.” Do any of you “Baby Boomers” remember that poem from the 1948 Better Homes and Gardens storybook collection? Can you still do those hand and finger motions that go with the poem?

Reflecting on Andalusia’s history, when the settlers in the little village of Montezuma on the banks of the Conecuh moved up the hill to higher ground around 1845-47, the first written mention of a church was the First Missionary Baptist Church organized in 1848 according to the minutes of the Covington Association. The Andalusia Church of Christ was established in 1875. The late Mr. B. B. Padgett, writer of Baptist history, wrote, “No information concerning organized Methodist work is available prior to 1894.” However, the Ed and Twinkle Dannelly Methodist history records that “In the summer of 1877, the Rev. Mr. Hasty organized “The Methodist Society,” a group that encompassed twenty-six charter members.

An excerpt from a newspaper of the era regarding an upcoming revival in April 1899 reads, “We are glad to see so many turning away from their sinful ways and hoping that each and every one of them will live up close to the confessions they have made.”

By 1900 or the turn-of-the-century when the Central of Georgia extended their railroad line from Searight into downtown Andalusia, it was said according to the Dannellys that “Religion, like business, boomed!”

On the evening of Dec. 5, 1901, the Presbyterians of Andalusia, nine in number, assembled at the Methodist Church for the purpose of organizing. “During these years, the Methodist was the only denomination which had a church building – the Baptists and the Presbyterians conducting their services on alternate Sundays in the old courthouse,” Padgett writes.

Pastor J. Allen Cook’s history reads as follows: “The old church (behind the courthouse) was completed the early part of this century (1911). Like so many Baptist churches of that era, it had stained glass windows in the auditorium area and in some of the Sunday School rooms. The church was heated by a coal furnace, but in the summertime, the heat and sometimes the gnats had to be dealt with by fans or paperback songbooks. The church had no kitchen or restroom facilities. The nearby courthouse was available for the latter.

The Andalusia Star, Jan. 25, 1916, edition, reports some article of news that this writer recalls being told by old timers. It reads, “MONKEY CREATES STIR – Sunday morning during services at the Andalusia Baptist Church, a monkey poked its head into one of the church windows causing quite a ripple of excitement among the worshippers. It is not known where the small denizen of the jungle came from, but it is supposed to belong to a traveling amusement troup.” The “rest of the story” is remembered like this: A circus was in town. The elephants and other animals were being watered down on Church Street at the creek (the present Robinson Park area). A monkey apparently got loose and ran toward the congregational singing of the revival going on. With the windows wide open as they were back in the day, it seems that the monkey jumped in during the middle of the “Amens” and “Hallelujahs” and proceeded to run up and down the aisles!

Many more stories such as these can be found not only at the Three Notch Museum on Historic Central Street but also at historical society meetings the last Thursday evening of each month where the public is invited to attend. Museum hours are 9 to 2 each weekday and by appointment. Call 222-0674.