The Gunnison Baptist Church, formerly known as the First Baptist
Church of Bolivar
County, was established about 1856. The William Washington Arnolds, the Herndons,
and others built the first Baptist church in Bolivar County about three miles southeast of
Gunnison on the Columbus Arnold place, where Arnold Cemetery is located.
This church building was abandoned during the War between the States and was
later rebuilt on the old George Arnold place, then moved to the Wrenn place and later to
the McGhee place (Waxhaw). This was the same church but was moved as the
settlement of the people changed.
In 1879, the Gunnison Baptist Church, then known as the First Baptist Church of
Bolivar County, was a member of the Sunflower Baptist Association. This association was
formed in 1870, but the exact date of entry of the Gunnison church cannot be established
because the minutes of the association from 1870 through 1878 are lost.
M. A. Cameron of Riverton, MS served as pastor of the First Baptist Church, Bolivar
County in 1879. Thomas R. Overby of Concordia, MS was church clerk. Delegates to
the Sunflower Associational meeting were G. S. Stacey and J. E. Blake who presented the
church’s letter. Reported were four baptisms, three dismissed by letter, four restored,
thirteen excluded and one death, making a total membership of 53. The church was
described as in “a very good condition, having had a revival.”
In 1882, twelve were dismissed by letter making a total membership of eighteen. By
1888 the membership was down to seven, all women. Perhaps this sharp decline in
membership can be explained by the following note found in the associational minutes of
1885: “During the past three years of overflow, members were scattered and couldn’t
hold meetings regularly.”
W. L. Slack, who had succeeded M. A. Cameron as pastor several years previously,
resigned in 1891 to become pastor of a church in Memphis. The church was without a
pastor, but continued with regular prayer meeting and Sabbath school. The following
year D. H. S. Cox of Friars Point became pastor. In 1896, the membership was back up
to a total of 35. Services were held on the first Sunday of each month.
The town of Concordia on the Mississippi River moved out to the new Y. & M.V.
Railroad in November 1889 and thus the town of Gunnison was formed. About 1898, the
First Baptist Church of Bolivar County was again moved, this time to Gunnison. D. H. S.
Cox in the Masonic Lodge and schoolhouse held services until a church could be
The three principal leaders in the building program were Mrs. Martha Buckley
James, Mrs. Evelyn Buckley Melchior (two widowed sisters) and Mrs. Satie Strobridge
who presented the church with a fine Bible upon completion of the new building in
1899. Mrs. Strowbridge’s husband, a carpenter by trade, designed and built the church
“with all the love he had.”
The deed to the east half of Lot 103, by which Gunnison Baptist Church bought the
land on which the church was built, was not recorded. Therefore, a certain Andrew
Conner secured a land patent to this lot. Title to this land was changed from Andrew
Conner to Gunnison Baptist Church by order of the Board of Supervisors on October 7,
1910. The western half of Lots 103 and 104 were bought from Sarah H. Gunnison of
Hillsborough, New Hampshire, for the sum of fifty dollars. Signing the deed on April 26,
1904, were W. I. Brashears and R. C. Blailock, trustees of the church.
Mrs. James superintended all buying of lumber and other materials, making several
trips to Memphis for that purpose. She paid for the lot and some materials with money
she had received from a life insurance policy of her late husband, and afterwards, paid
off the debt with help from the Baptist Board, Mrs. S. M. Seaton, Mrs. Reuter, Mrs.
Butcher, Mrs. Tom Hunter, Mrs. D. W. Arnold and others of the community. Tradition
has it that for several years after the building of this church there were no male members
in it, and the women managed everything. This cannot be substantiated by the
The first baptism in the new building was Mrs. Melissa Butcher. The first wedding
was Miss Sallye Wilson to Mr. Charles D. Keeler on the 22nd of January 1902. The first
funeral was that of little Annie Hughes.
In 1900, E. D. Solomon preached to a congregation of 20 on the first and third
Sundays of each month. The name of the First Baptist Church Bolivar County was
changed to the Gunnison Baptist Church. The church had a weekly prayer meeting and
a Ladies Aid Society that did such things as sew articles of clothing for the poor. Church
property was valued at $1,200.00
Services were held on all Sundays in 1901. Membership was up to 32 as a result of 18
baptisms by Pastor L. G. C. Gates. Sunday School enrollment was seven. By 1903,
Sunday School enrollment was up to 16. In 1904, the church property was valued at
$2,800.00, including a $1,000.00 pastorium. Church met on the second and fourth
The first regular pastors after Brother Cox were: E. D. Solomon, L. G. C. Gates and
W. S. Allen, all of whom were young men from Mississippi College and Louisville
Seminary, and were cared for in the homes of Mrs. James and Mrs. Melchior. One room
of the pastorium had been built during their pastorates and was added to later on.
Robert C. Blailock was pastor from 1904-1907 and was instrumental in adding to the
pastor’s home and also making many additions to the membership of the church.
In 1910, B. L. McKee was pastor of a congregation of 38. Sunday School enrollment
was 20 with six officers and teachers. Contributions were divided as follows: $101.00 for
State missions; $115.70 for Foreign Missions; $55.00 for Home Missions; $50.00 for
Orphanage; $5.00 for ministerial relief; $10.00 to Mississippi College; $500.00 pastor’s
salary; $35.00 for incidentals; $60.00 for church repairs; $2.50 for minutes; $85.00 for
visiting ministers and, $38.00 for Sunday School expense.
Walter P. King was pastor of a membership of 31 in 1913. The pastor’s salary was
$350.00 per annum. Brother King also served as bookkeeper at the Bank of Gunnison to
supplement his salary.
In 1917, R. D. Maum, who died in Memphis, TN on May 5, 1962, was pastor with a
Sunday School enrollment of 41 and WMU enrollment of ten. D. A. “Scotchie” McCall
was pastor in 1918, preaching the first and third Sundays of each month. The 28
members of the church made a total contribution of $1,446.25. There were 19 members
of the WMU with an average attendance of 12. The WMU total offering was $357.18.
Since the Bolivar County Baptist Association began in 1924, Gunnison Baptist Church
has been a member.
In 1924, A. F. Youngberg preached on the third Sunday of each month. Sunday
School enrollment was 44. In 1925, Sunday School enrollment was up to 95 and the
BYPC had an enrollment of 44. Sunday School enrollment was down to 51 in 1926.
1927 found the church without a pastor. Total church membership was 30 and
Sunday School enrollment was 55. E. G. Evans began serving as pastor in 1929.
Meetings for the 43 members were on the third Sunday.
Memorial services were held by the ladies of the WMU on April 13, 1927, in honor of
Mrs. James and Mrs. Melchior. Mrs. Eunice Logan Arnold wrote a brief sketch of the
church emphasizing the part played by these two sisters. The sketch says that the two
ladies “should be given the credit for its (the church) being built at this early date and
for the sacrifices they made that it might be guilt and for the love and intense interest
they always manifested in the welfare and upkeep of the little church as long as they
lived, although they had moved away in 1906. And now that the two sisters have both
passed on to their eternal home, Mrs. Melchior on December 15, 1925 and Mrs. James on
March 17, 1927, we feel that as a church it is just and fitting that we give them the credit
due them for the work here begun, feeling assured that their eternal reward is in the
hands of our heavenly father.”
Payment of the church debt was completed in 1930. Pastor E. G. Evans received a
salary of $500.00 per annum and a house. Sunday School enrollment was 45. In 1931,
the pastor’s salary was down to $400.00 and total gifts were only $671.37 as a result of the
depression. By 1934, the pastor’s salary had reached a low of $300.00.
In 1933, church property was valued at $7,000.00, including $4,000.00 on the church
and $3,000.00 on the pastorium. One revival was held and the Lord’s Supper was
observed once. Three members subscribed to the Baptist Record.
Twenty-three were baptized by Brother Evans in 1935 and by 1936, membership was
up to 106. The WMU was reorganized in 1936 after having been discontinued for several
years, and it sponsored a Sunbeam band.
In 1937, total gifts of $850.89 included pastor’s salary of $500.00. Church
membership was 107 and Sunday School enrollment was 28. The WMU had seven
members. By 1938, church membership had climbed to 118 as a result of 22 baptisms
and 10 additions by letter in the two previous years.
The following is an excerpt from the Minute Book dated May 15, 1938:
“…Be it resolved by the Gunnison Baptist Church in conference assembled, that we
object to and forbid the use of the church chairs and all other furniture pertaining thereto, for
the purpose of playing bridge or other similar games or purposes.”
Total membership was 113 in 1940. E. G. Evans was still pastor. The church had
one revival and the Lord’s Supper was observed three times. Sunday School enrollment
was 34. The five members of the WMU raised total gifts of $131.98.
1941 found the church without a pastor. Church membership was down to 85.
Robert Martin began serving as pastor in 1942. In 1944, the church subscribed to the
Baptist Record for all church members.
Robert Martin was pastor in 1945 of a membership of 106. Twelve persons
subscribed to the Baptist Record.
Total contributions were $1,868.95. In 1946, Sunday School attendance averaged 30
out of 44 persons enrolled.
In 1947, H. C. Schjeveland became pastor on a halftime basis with Rosedale. He
received a salary of $865.00. Local expenses amounted to $1,762.45 and $634.13 was
contributed to missions and benevolences.
The twenty-sixth annual session of the Bolivar County Baptist Association met with
the Gunnison Baptist Church on Tuesday, October 11, 1949. A special celebration was
held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the building of the church. “Many of the
former pastors of the church were present and were introduced. Each was given a few
minutes on the program to tell of some of their experiences while at Gunnison. All of
them praised Dr. Cockerham as the best friend to the minister and the ministry and he
was portrayed as “the hero” in the interesting pageant of the progress of the Gunnison
Baptist Church.” Dr. Cockerham was moderator of the Bolivar County Baptist
Association five times and was Superintendent of the Sunday School for 38 years (1917-
In 1949, Sunday School enrollment was 69 and Vacation Bible School enrollment was
82. Total gifts were $4,065 including a $900.00 pastor’s salary. Howard T. Rich became
pastor in 1950. There were 70 resident members out of 142 total members. In 1941,
Sunday School attendance averaged 48 out of 93 enrolled and VBS attendance averaged
82 out of 92 enrolled. WMU enrollment was 15 and 20 were enrolled in Sunbeams.
1952 found the church without a pastor but services continued on the 2nd and 4th
Sundays. B. J. Broome was pastor of a membership of 155 in 1953. Sunday School
attendance averaged 55 and VBS averaged 75. Total receipts were $4,499.00; pastor’s
salary was $1,800.00. Sunday School attendance averaged 55 out of 87 persons enrolled.
VBS attendance averaged 75 out of 88 enrolled. Training Union averaged 50 out of 88
NOTE: The above was transcribed from papers belonging to the Eugene Leftwich
family. The origin of the information is unknown. The following names were
handwritten on the bottom of the last page of Mr. Leftwich’s papers by Mr. Leftwich:
A.V. Faggard - LA
Rev. Leo W. Timms
Rev. Ethert Hagan - New Orleans 1967
Rev. Garland Eaves - Dec.4, 1969
Rev. S. Davis - Sept. 1973
Rev. Leo W. Timms passed away December 28, 2004, at Hospice Ministries in
Ridgeland, MS. Burial was in the Shelby Cemetery, Shelby, MS.