Odenville First Baptist was organized September 29, 1907, as a Missionary Baptist church. A 1908 newspaper article states: “The Odenville Baptist church was organized less than one year ago with eleven members….” The organizational meeting was held in the Odenville Elementary School, although the building was not the rock one that is there now, for in 1907 the school was a brand-new two-story wooden structure, modern in every way. The preacher for the day was Rev. S. O. Y. Ray. After the sermon, N. A. Hood was elected moderator for the service and called for applicants into the church. The charter members were W. T. Hodges, Anna Newton, Libbie Hodges, Vester McCrory, G. F. Honeycutt, Cordella McCrory, Lizzie Honeycutt, Dr. Charles C. Brown, J. H. Hess, Janie S. Brown, and Edna Hess.
Rev. Ray conducted worship services for the new church until October 20, 1907, when the membership called Rev. W. C. Brown as first pastor.
In July, 1908, the “Odenville Locals” column of the newspaper reported that a large and appreciative audience had heard two splendid sermons by Rev. W. B. Brown on the previous Sunday. Then in September of the same year, Rev. Brown conducted the Baptist “protracted services” in the Odenville Elementary School chapel. During this 1908 revival, the church received seven additions: Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Ogletree, Mrs. B. F. Hammond, Claude Newton, Hicks Hodges, Bert Mize and Leonard Hunnicutt. The baptismal service was held at “Williamson’s old mill” in conjunction with Friendship church.
Just after the revival, the Odenville church petitioned for membership in the St. Clair County Baptist Association and was received into said organization on September 12, 1908. The church was mentioned again in the 1909 minutes, but then many years passed before another reference to Odenville Baptist was made.
The church made early efforts to construct a building. On April 25, 1909, the membership appointed a building committee. By September they had chosen a location across the street from the Odenville Methodist Church, and it was reported in the newspaper that the members would begin construction at once and that the sanctuary would be built in the latest style of church architecture. October found the following in the Odenville paper: “The Baptists have some of their material on the ground and it is stated by members that actual work will begin at once, and they hope to have it ready to occupy within the next few weeks.” These first efforts to raise a building did not succeed, although just why they failed is now unknown; however, 1909 was a poor financial year for farmers.
With services held in the Odenville Elementary School, the Baptists had a good revival in late October, 1909. It was reported that “a general religious uplift was experienced,” and that the church received six additions, five of whom came for baptism. They were baptized after the eleven o’clock service on the last Sunday of the revival. October would be a cold month to be baptized; however, “…the five applicants were baptized [with] the tank at the Ewing gin being used as a pool. A rather unique [circumstance] of the baptizing was the heating of the water used from the engine of the gin making it perfectly comfortable on a rather cool day.” Bob Ewing’s gin was on the east side of Beaver Creek across from where the Whittens live today.
As with other churches, various methods were employed to raise funds. In July, 1910, “An ice cream supper for the benefit of the Baptist Church was given at the home of Mrs. C. P. Ward…, and a delightful time was spent by all present.”
Nineteen thirteen found Rev. W. H. Carson pastor, with Rev. Stivender conducting the September revival. A writer for the paper said that his closing sermon, “To an Unknown God,” was “strong and convincing” and preached “to a large congregation [where] much interest was manifested.” Revival services closed on a Friday night, and on Sunday night Rev. Carson, after three years as pastor, resigned. However, the members of his church declined to accept his resignation and expressed their sincere hope that he would remain as pastor. For about two months Rev. Carson continued to be listed in newspaper announcements as pastor of the Odenville Baptist, but at the end of November, Rev. J. E. Griffin is listed as minister.
Another effort to build a sanctuary was made September 23, 1915, when Rev. Griffin “…appointed a new committee to draft a plan for the building and locate a desirable lot for it.” This effort to build also failed.
Eighteen years later, in 1933, Rev. W. C. Vest, pastor at that time, appointed a third building committee. “The plans were laid September 20, 1934, with $69.00 in the treasury and a large pile of rocks on the lot.” The lot was donated by Rev. J. E. Griffin.
Built largely by local labor, the sanctuary is of natural field rock and solid masonry. Men of the church and of the community donated time and labor toward the completion of the building. Double-teams of horses and mules pulled wagon loads of stones and sand from Stovall Mountain. To raise money, the women of the church drove about the Odenville area seeking donations of chickens, eggs, or anything that could be sold for money to add to the building fund.
So the funds were raised, the structure erected stone by stone, and the first service was held in August, 1935–twenty-six years after the membership first hoped for a sanctuary of their own. Rev. J. E. Griffin, pastor, preached the revival services that year, and twenty-three candidates came for baptism and sixteen joined the church by letter for a total of thirty-seven additions that week.
In 1964, after a group of the membership broke away to form another church, Odenville Baptist then became Odenville First Baptist Church.
The original rock building is still in use today, although improvements have been made over the years. On the ground floor there are classrooms, fellowship hall and kitchen. The auditorium is on the second floor. A pastorium is adjacent to the sanctuary. On the east side of the church grounds is a cemetery, well-kept and lovely.
So many of Odenville’s old buildings have fallen to decay or fire or destruction that it is a pleasant comfort to the spirit to see the old rock church still there with its long, wide steps leading up to a spacious, arched portico. As it has always done, this church invites you to come and worship.
Article reprinted from Odenville, Alabama: A History of Our Town, 1821- 1992, by Joe Whitten. Used by permission of the author.