|History of Bethel Primitive Baptist
Hickman's Crossroads, Brunswick County, NC
Contributed by Danny Blanton
Submitted September 2006
Brunswick County, North Carolina
Bethel Primitive Baptist Church
In preparing for the One Hundredth
Anniversary of Bethel Church, it seemed expedient to prepare a short
history of the Church. Upon beginning the task of compiling the history
of the Church, the first thought was to simply chronicle the existence
of Bethel Church. However, while exploring the old records of the Mill
Branch Association and following the
The original Church records contained in the first Church Record Book were destroyed by fire in January, 1985; nevertheless those records had been read by myself and others. Also my father, M. D. Anderson, a former Clerk and Deacon, was reared by William M. Benton, one of the organizers of the Church, Prior to my father’s death, he made notes which we still have which were taken from the old records.
In doing the research we have relied upon the notes compiled by Brother M. D. Anderson and by Sister Ruth Bell, the daughter of Bro. W. T. Bell, granddaughter of Bro. W. A. Bell and great-niece of Elder Tom Bell, as well as the Minutes of the Mill Branch Association, those of the Original Bear Creek Association and Hassell’s History. From those records the following story appears.
In 1737, a member of the Welsh Tract Church, James James came to the Pee Dee River Section of Horry County, South Carolina, and established a Church in 1738 named the “Welsh Neck Church”. Between 1755-1760, the Little Pee Dee Church was formed from the Welsh Neck Church. Other Churches grew from the Little Pee Dee Church - Mill Branch and Pireway in Columbus County, North Carolina and Simpson’s Creek and Feathery Bay, in Horry County, South Carolina.
In 1871, at the Mill Branch Meeting House, messengers from the Little Pee Dee, Simpson’s Creek and Mill Branch Churches sat in Council and organized the Mill Branch Association. One of the Elders participating in that organizational meeting was Elder Tom Bell of Little Pee Dee Church.
In April 1887, through an extension of an arm of fellowship by Simpson Creek and Pireway Churches, at Hickman’s Crossroads, Brunswick County, North Carolina, a Council met for the purpose of constituting Bethel Church. Messengers to the Council were W. B. Carter, Simpson Creek; Elder Thomas Bell, Little Pee Dee; Samuel Smith, Pireway; W. H. Benton; Hosea Hewett, Mill Branch; Melvin Norris, Cypress Creek. W.B. Carter was chosen Clerk and Elder Tom Bell as Moderator of the Council.
It was moved that W. A. Bell be Deacon and W. J. Stanley be Clerk of the newly organized church. The Articles of Faith, a Church Covenant, and the Rules of Decorum were read. It was moved that the Church be known as Bethel.
Though we have been unable to determine all the original members constituting Bethel Church, we know that some of the original members were: W. A. Bell, the first Deacon; W. J. Stanley, the first Clerk; W. M. Benton, who contributed the land on which the Church building was erected and where it still stands today; M. C. Benton, Jesse Gore, and Furnie Hardee, the Messengers to the Mill Branch Association in 1887.
The first Pastor was Elder Tom Bell who was followed by Elder George Gore.
Elder L. J. Gresham from Texas came amongst the Churches of the Mill Branch Association in the 1920’s. He was an able preacher and was well received by Bethel and the other Churches in the Association. Eventually because of jealousy conflict grew between him and Elder Burl Harrelson of Simpson Creek, the leading Elder in the Association of that day. The particular point of controversy surrounded the acceptance by Bethel of some of the members of Ocean View Church located at Shollotte Point, Brunswick County, North Carolina, a Sister Church of the Mill Branch Association which had ceased to be an active Church. Elder Harrelson took the position that these people could only be accepted by Bethel upon Confession of Faith and Baptism.
As is usual, some of the Church members
supported Elder Gresham; and some supported Elder Harrelson. In 1926,
at at Conference Meeting in which this trouble was being dealt with,
Furnie Hardee, the Church Clerk, took the Church Record Book and walked
out of the Conference Meeting, several of the members went with him.
This group established a meeting house about one mile from the Bethel
Church site on the North Carolina/South Carolina State Line. This group
was recognized by the Mill Branch
Those members remaining in the original location and the original building withdrew from the Mill Branch Association, and the Mill Branch Association did not recognize the members who continued to meet at the Church.
Bethal Church stood as an independent Church which was served by Elder Gresham and by Deacon W. E. Benton, a son of W. M. Benton, one of the Church Founders.
At its Conference Meeting April 20, 1928, Bethel Church received an extended arm and an invitation from Watson Primitive Baptist Church in Union County, North Carolina, to request membership in the Original Bear Creek Association. At the Associational Meeting held at Watson Church on Friday before the fourth Sunday in August 1928 (August 24th), Brother W. E. Benton presented a letter from Bethel Church expressing the desire for membership in the Original Bear Creek Association’ Bethel was unanimously received. The pastor of Bethel Church at that time was Elder L. J. Gresham; the Church Clerk was Brother O. J. Bell. Messengers to the Association in 1928 were Brother W. E. Benton and Elder L. J. Gresham. At that time Bethel Church had 17 members, and they sent a contribution of $1.50 for the associational expenses.
After the split in Bethel Church, the Mill Branch Association drifted into belief in the doctrine of “Absolute Predestination”, which was then embraced by the former members of Bethel Church who were meeting at the State Line. Some of the members who originally left Bethel and went with the other group eventuall came back to Bethel, one of them being Sister Lessie Hardee, the wife of a son of Furnie Hardee, who is at present a member in good standing of Bethel Church. The other group did not prosper and eventually ceased to operate as an active Church in 1950.
The Mill Branch Association has also decreased in membership to 4 Churches and 85 members. The Little Pee Dee Church from which all the Churches in that association, including our own Bethel Church, grew held its last meeting on April 20, 1986 though the meeting house still stands. Bethel Church, thorough the Grace of God, has continued to grow and prosper and currently has 82 members.
The original Church building was moved from the site to the William M. Bento home place and converted to a kitchen in 1939. A new wood frame building was constructed on the site in that same year. That building was enlarged and remodeled in 1965. That is the Church building as it exists on theis our 100th Anniversary.
The Lord has seen fit to shed His Grace upon Bethel Church during this first hundred years. We pray that we as a body can conduct ourselves and that future members will conduct themselves in a manner pleasing to our Lord and Savior so that this Church will be blessed to continue as an active Church as a member of the Lord’s Church Kingdom here on earth until he returns to call His children Home.
Mason and Ann Anderson
Following is a (list of) the Pastors and Deacons who have served Bethel Church since its Constitution:
Elder Tom Bell
Elder W. M. Benton
Elder George Gore Elder Rom Kerley
Elder L. J. Gresham Elder Newell Helms
Elder .c. M. Mills Elder W. C. Mintz
Elder D. B. Willard Elder James McLamb
Elder H. L. Poplin (Elder E. H. Simpson) Co-Pastors
Bro. W. A. Bell Bro. A. D. McLamb
Bro. William M Benton Bro. Roland Mintz
Bro. W. E. (Billy) Benton Bro. R. J. Somersett
Bro. Mike Benton Bro. Carl Stephens
Bro. W. T. (Tom) Bell Bro T. H. Mintz
Bro. R. O. Lewis Bro. Mason H. Anderson
Bro. M. D. Anderson