Though the present church building dates to 1906, Benevolence Baptist Church was constituted on 16 May 1840; it succeeded nearby Walnut Grove Baptist Church (known as Mt. Paran when organized with nine members in November 1831). In 1840, Missionary Baptists accepted five acres of land from Thomas Coram, first settler of this area, with the intention of forming a separate church. For this generosity, Abner Ward suggested the name Benevolence for church and community. Members hauled lumber from Dawson and built the first church building, dedicated 17 May 1842, with Reverend James Matthews, Pastor, and A.M. Albritton, Clerk. First deacons were James Sherman and John Winfrey. Other early clerks were David Holman, Abner, E. H. Keese and G. W. King.
An Act of Benevolence, a play by Anna Kirsten Beard and Karan Pittman detailing the lives of the church’s pioneer members, provides historical and genealogical information. I’ve abridged it here as a list of these early settlers:
Reverend James Matthews; Isaac Osteen; Simon D. & America Jane McLendon; John & Nancy Winfrey; Samuel, Edith & Mary Sherman; John M. Frazier; Ansel & Ann Crawford Albritton; Eleanor Collins; Mary Walker; Isabella Wamble; Sarah Stapleton; Thomas Coram.
Funeral Home Fans at Benevolence © Brian Brown 2012
Bonnets at Benevolence © Brian Brown 2012