South Summerville Baptist
The history of South Summerville Baptist Church began with a meeting of the presbytery on August 8, 1914. The Rev. G. W. Cox, then moderator of the Chattooga Baptist Association, called the meeting for the purpose of organizing a missionary Baptist church in south Summerville. Those in attendance, in addition to Rev. Cox, were brothers N.E. Mulhey and J.D. Whitehead of Trion, J.W. Pitts of Summerville and S.R. Pettyjohn of Spring Creek. Alfred L. Pullen was appointed clerk at this initial meeting of the church.
A subsequent meeting, two days later, saw the calling of Rev. O.G. Lewis, who was not yet ordained, as the first pastor of the church. At that meeting, it was determined that the new organization would be called SOUTH SUMMERVILLE BAPTIST CHURCH.
The 11 charter members of the infant church were Mr. & Mrs. O.A. Hankins, A. Bailey, Viola Bailey, John Hale, Mrs. L.E. Kinsey, Mrs. M.J. Whitley, Orilla Whitley, Laura White, Minnie Fletcher, and C.D. Denton. Subsequent business meetings determined: 1). the church members would assemble every Sunday at 2:30 for Sunday School; 2). church services would be held in the afternoon and on the nights of the first and third Sundays and; 3). the election of the charter deacons, Mr. Hale, Mr. Pullen, and Mr. Bailey.
During the first year the members held their services in what was then known as Mallicoat's Store in south Summerville. However, as time passed and steady growth was realized it became imperative to move to a larger building. Thus, in the winter of 1915 the determined members of the Baptist church began to assemble in Pepper's Livery Stable, located across the street from, what is currently known as Mason’s Funeral Home on Commerce Street. Symbolic of the spirit of the membership was their choice to hold their gatherings in a stable. Perhaps, they kept in mind that it was a stable in which the Lord was born and not a beautiful cathedral.
In 1916, an important goal was attained, the erection of a framed building on Union Street built by free labor. Members and friends of the congregation alike gathered on Saturdays, working with their hands, to construct this first place of worship. Much of the lumber was donated by community members. The building was used four years before it was sealed, and in 1920, the Summerville Cotton Mill financed its completion. During this time in the life of the church, the membership increased from the humble beginnings in a small storefront to 150 names on the church roll.
In 1924, the membership of South Summerville saw their first church destroyed by flames. Unwilling to allow their plans to be thwarted, they immediately began to meet in the YMCA building. In 1927, the Rev. K. C. Baker was called to pastor the church, and, once again, rapid advances were realized, and the membership continued to grow. J. D. Hill became the custodian at a salary of $.75 a week.
The Rev. J.A. Smith became pastor in 1928. The need for a new building was realized at that time. However, because of financial conditions, this advance was delayed until 1932, when the present location and structure was begun. The church treasury was completely impoverished during the Depression period. Nevertheless, the members again refused to allow circumstances to hinder their progress and, with only one delay, loyal Baptists and members alike erected the new building.
In 1935, J.S. Owings of Lyerly, volunteered to complete the church, which had yet not been floored and seated. Mr. Owings stated that he would do the work and the congregation might repay him whatever or whenever they could. The debt, $1,456.23, was paid little by little, with Mr. Owings, in the end, agreeing to erase the obligation for payment of $606.00 and charging no interest.
It was also during this time that the church ordained seven more deacons. This took place at Mr. & Mrs. J.M. Hale's home on South Commerce Street. The men ordained were Gene Glenn, D.F. Hales, J.L. Cox, D.F. Quinton, W.L Reece, Housch McAbee, and O.I. Reece.
In 1936, the Rev. E.L. Williams was called to pastor the church, becoming the first full-time pastor of South Summerville in 1937. Incredible increases in membership were recorded under his leadership from 1936-1939. At the time of his arrival, 195 members were listed on the roll, and, at his departure, a total of 836 names lay upon the clerk's record.
Rev. Herbert Morgan followed as pastor, and the church continued to thrive, hitting its peak and, in 1939, adding the present Sunday School buiding which included an extension of the auditorium and 11 additional classrooms.
However, by 1944, two years after Rev. Morgan’s departure and two years into WWII, only 258 members were reported to the Chattooga Baptist Association. Rev. W.M. Pruitt assumed the pastorate in 1945 and remained until 1946, followed by Rev. Willis Moore (1946-1947) and Rev. W. Steele, who remained through 1952 as the church began to rebound.
In 1952, Rev. W.L. Caldwell assumed the pastorate and remained until 1955. He was followed by Rev. Ralph Bone, who became pastor on March 1, 1955. Records show an increase in church membership, with 69 additions, during his tenure.
Rev. Thomas Freeney assumed the pastorate in 1956 and remained until 1960. Rev. Freeney was particularly loved by the church and community of Summerville. There were 124 additions to the church and increases in both Sunday School and Training Union.
Rev. Robert E. Smith became pastor in 1962, and the church continued its course of realizing growth, adding 106 members. Several pastors filled the pulpit upon Rev. Smith's departure until Rev. Jimmy Bryant assumed the pastorate from 1979 until 1995. Under his leadership, the new Fellowship Hall was constructed, and the church continued to grow. In 1996, Rev. Davis Lacey became pastor and brought in the AWANA program. He remained until 1999 and was succeeded by Rev. W.M. Phillips (2000-2003), Rev. David Craven (2004-2013), and Rev. Stanley Smith (2014-2019).