Coldwater Congregational Church opened in 1925
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 4, 2017
The Coldwater Congregational Church is located in the Coldwater community, which is in the northeast area of Covington County, Ala. The site is on the north side of County Road 86, which is commonly called Dunn’s Bridge Road. It is about five miles north of Gantt and a few miles east of U.S. Highway 29. The general area has grown over the years especially with people building homes along and near Gantt Lake.
A place of historic significance, the Dauphin/Carter Cemetery, which is also referred to as the “Old Coldwater Cemetery,” is located about one half mile from the church. The newer Coldwater Cemetery is located adjacent to the church building. Many of the early settlers were buried in the Dauphin/Carter graveyard, and later area citizens were and are still being buried in the Coldwater one. Some years earlier, a special monument honoring William Carter was placed in the Carter Cemetery by members of the Old Three Notch Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Andalusia, who understood that William, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, was buried there in an unmarked grave. However, some recent research suggests he was most likely buried in a family cemetery on his own property between Heath and Mount Pisgah Baptist Church.
Fortunately, a local citizen and member of the Coldwater Church, V.L. Jones, wrote a detailed history of the church. Today’s story will be sharing most of his narrative along with a brief update.
In 1910, the people of the community built a one-room building called Coldwater School. It was located about one quarter mile east of the point where County Road 41 intersects with County Road 86. The building was constructed on land owned by E.N. Jones, a member of the large Jones family of that community. The building was the center of social life for the community. It was used as a school, church and recreational center. Some of the social activities were candy drawings, cake walks and ice cream suppers.
V.L. Jones began his memories from about 1918 when the church was having Sunday School each Sunday. During 1923 and 1924, Ralph Adams of the Antioch community served as Sunday School Superintendent. Occasionally a visiting preacher would come along who would preach in revival services that might last as long as three weeks. This pattern lasted until circa 1933.
The first preacher recalled was a Mr. Cook from Illinois. He, his wife and young daughter, Elsie, came to the community in 1921 and remained for a time. He and Elsie came back in 1922 after his wife had died. The next preacher to come was a Mr. Parks who was referred to as the “cowboy preacher,” since he wore cowboy hats and boots. For a time, he ran revivals for three summers. Following him, several preachers came and preached at times: Mr. Lawson, Mr. Bell, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Williamson.
During the first week of August 1925, two preachers, C.W. Smith of Phenix City and J.P. Blackwell of the Liberty community in Crenshaw County, came to Coldwater and ran a revival for a week. At the 11 a.m. service on Friday, the two preachers asked those present if they would like to organize a church, and the response was favorable. At that time on August 7, 1925, the following people offered themselves as charter members of the Coldwater Congregational Church: Wendell Johns, Amber Johns, Emma Johns, Izzy Dauphin, Hattie Jones, Ada Jones, Agnes Jones, Elma Jones and Charley Alley. Only one of those, Elma Jones Chesser of Orlando, Fla., was still living in January 1988 when V.L. Jones wrote his history of the church.
After the church was organized, Wendell Johns was elected to serve as church clerk. The members called J.P Blackwell to become the first regular preacher of the new church. His tenure was from August 7, 1925 to January 1, 1926. From that time until 1929, there was no regular preacher for the church. A Mr. Goodson served the church in 1929 and 1930. During these years, C.W. Smith accepted a job called trouble-shooter with the Southeast Convention of Congregational Churches. The convention consisted of churches in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and part of Northwest Florida and Tennessee. Smith visited many churches and assisted them with any existing problems.
The decision was made to erect a church building. J.W. Chandler, W. Johns and V.L. Jones were elected as trustees to secure a site. Miss Elizabeth Gantt was approached and gladly donated an acre of land, for which a clear title was secured. In 1935, a second acre adjoining the first was purchased from Miss Gantt for $12.50. Jim Cottle who had a sawmill in the area contracted to saw and prepare the logs into lumber. Many offered their timber, and most of it was cut from the land of Burnett Gantt, J.W. Chandler, F.W. Jones and W. Johns, whose property was located closest to the road.
The men and boys worked together to cut the timber, haul the logs to the mill, and return the lumber to the site. John McLean was hired to help operate the mill and oversee the actual construction, which included many volunteers. One day a stranger appeared and joined in, and no one knew him. He stayed for about three weeks helping steadily and then one day he disappeared just as he had come. No one ever heard from him afterwards.
Work on the building began in June 1932 and proceeded until it was finished in February 1933. On February 12, 1933, Minister Fred Ensminger preached the dedication sermon. Other visiting preaches present were W.W. Smith, Mr. Burdett and J.P. Blackwell, M.L. Thrasher was the local pastor at that time.
The following men have served the church as preachers from 1925 to 1988, but they are not in the order of their tenure: J.P. Blackwell, Mr. Goodson, C.W. Smith, Mr. Nelson, M.L. Thrasher, Mr. Tillman, N.A. Long, Edd Robertson, Mr. Doggett, Hugh Lassiter, Paul Pike, M. O. Worley, Edd Byron and Bobby Driver. Since that time these have served: C.E. Harwell, Ronald Davis, Elmer Davis, John Maust, Graham Tucker and Benjy Willson. Also, Eugene Meadows was a frequent visiting speaker.
This past Sunday, Hank Roberts completed a year as the church’s interim preacher. They have now secured Drexel Copland, a native of this area, to also serve as an interim minister. He will be delivering his first sermon this coming Sunday. The church now has an average of 35 in attendance at services. In addition to regular church activities, the members actively participate in a number of outreach project, such as “Operation Christmas Child,” which is associated with the Samaritan Purse program. They fill shoeboxes with useful items for children in third world countries. Their goal this year is to contribute 170 boxes. They also make monthly donations to the Covington Baptist Association’s food bank, and they support the local Save-a-Life agency in addition to other worthwhile community projects.
The church members are very fortunate that V.L. Jones wrote such a detailed history of the Coldwater Congregational Church. When he did this in 1988, he acknowledged the limited records of the early years and that it was impossible to name all the people who had helped build the church and who have rendered valuable service through the years. His narrative is the source for today’s story. Appreciation is expressed to Esther Jones for making a copy of the history available.
Anyone who has any question regarding this column is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: email@example.com.