First Baptist Church, Palestine
Mrs. Dean adds, "The church at this time numbered ninety members. The Ladies' Aid Society was reorganized and assumed the payment of $25.00 per month to pastor. It took lots of festivals and mite meetings, besides sacrificial giving to do this."
In 1887 the Ave. A. Baptist Church was completed. Rev. M. V. Smith preached the dedication sermon. The keys to the church, "free of debt," were turned over by Rev. Mr. Penn to Rev. J. T. Jenkins from Denton, Texas, then pastor.
Rev. J. B. Armstrong of Eagle Lake, followed Rev. Jenkins. Rev. W. T. Tardy, "the Spurgeon of Texas," was next. Rev. Dr. A. J. Holt of Nacogdoches came next—to be followed by Dr. J. C. Wingo of Bryan. An outstanding pastor, Rev. A. P. Schofield succeeded Dr. Wingo.
Rev. Isaac Sellers of Comanche, followed Rev. Mr. Schofield. Rev. Sellers was particularly beloved —as were the various members of his household. One daughter, Nannie, married Mr. Yancy Jones, a grandson of that nationally known Baptist Divine, Dr. J. R. Graves, while a son, Mr. W. H. Sellers, assistant treasurer of the Missouri Pacific Lines, is a prominent citizen of Palestine today. Rev. A. D. Sparkman of Henderson succeeded Rev. Sellers. Under his able leadership, the church made such astonishing and rapid gains that it soon became evident that a more commodious building was necessary to hold the great crowds that flocked to hear this gifted man. A mission church established in the western part of the city accomplished great good. At this time an assistant pastor was called, Rev. Mr. Sparks, also a young woman missionary, Miss Bess Weldon, who "walked all over the city in her work for the Master." Mr. Ed Williamson was Superintendent of the Sunday School, and Miss Bessie Heath (Mrs. Henry Kitcher), secretary. The Mosers helped mightily in the mission church, while Miss Ethel Burton and Brother Burton were great workers. Gordon Hancock came into the church about this time, to become today one of the leaders, a deacon and a member of the choir.
Three young preachers, H. B. Ramsour, Jerry Williamson, and J. S. McMahan were ordained for the ministry during Brother Sparkman's pastorate.
A unique occasion which the writer remembers well occurred also during Brother Sparkman's pastorate, when a member, Deacon C. N. McKay, celebrated his ninety-ninth birthday. Rev. R. C. Buckner, himself a venerable "soldier of the cross," journeyed from Buckner's Orphan Home, Dallas, to preach the special sermon. That venerable beloved figure on the speakers' stand, the bringing in of the great birthday cake, ablaze with its ninety-nine candles, the beaming deacon occupying the seat of honor in the pulpit, all made a picture not easily effaced from memory. Then after the beautiful sermon, as the hundreds who thronged the church pressed forward to grasp the hand of the aged deacon, a feeling akin to awe deepened. Truly, one felt uplifted in the presence of a life so lengthened and consecrated. The deacon was "gathered to his fathers" before another birthday rolled around. We were always glad that the celebration was not postponed.