of Shepherd Church
and why Shepherd Church was established
Mrs. Buren A. Sullivan
June 3, 1962
the beginning, all the Baptist churches were Primitive Baptist,
even the early state Baptist conventions. The oldest Primitive Baptist
churches in this section were Bethel, Salem and Spring Hill.
was located on the Black Warrior River near what was later Northport
and Tuscaloosa. It was established in 1818 with 19 members. Our
Yerby and Poe ancestors were charter members.
second church, Salem, was located near New Lexington, Alabama and
established in 1824.
third, Spring Hill, was located in the northern part of Tuscaloosa
County, three miles from Newtonville. It was established in 1827
by elders James Holloway and Nathan Roberts, with 21 members.
Poe and wife, Sarah Threat Poe, sold Spring Hill Church, 17 ¾
acres of land for $22.50. We have a copy of this deed which includes
the Primitive Baptist doctrine 128 years ago. The deacons were Simon
Poe, Charles Lucas, John J. Reynolds, and Cornelious Holloman, all
of whom were living here in Newtonville, as the people of Newtonville
and their slaves attended Spring Hill church.
1832, brother David Andrews, a Missionary Baptist preacher, born
1801 in Laurens district, South Carolina, moved to Tuscaloosa County
and settled near Bethel Church on the Warrior River. Brother Andrews
was a friendly man with a good personality and inspired with Missionary
Baptist religion. Most people soon loved him. In fact, I've often
heard my Mother-In-Law and other elderly people speak of him Uncle
after his arrival in Tuscaloosa County he was asked to hold a revival
at Bethel Church. Dozens of people were saved, and so many of their
members were converted to Missionary Baptist beliefs that Brother
Andrews was called as their Pastor for the next year.
a few weeks, Brother Andrews was asked to hold a ten day meeting
at Salem Church near New Lexington. It was a great success also,
with 97 people being converted.
made the staunch Primitive Baptists very angry. The said David Andrews
and his followers would never get very far. Time has proven how
wrong they were, even though Brother Andrews and his early Missionary
Baptist followers were greatly persecuted.
Andrews organized the North River Baptist Association with 20 men
whom he called his cloud of witnesses. Among them were two prominent
men from Newtonville, Issac Shepherd and Hogan Yerby.
1834, Brother Andrews had been preaching to members of Spring Hill
Church which was still Primitive Baptist. The church passed a resolution
that if any of their members went to hear Brother Andrews preach,
they would be excluded from the church. So, 8 or 10 members from
Newtonville were excluded.
Andrews met with these people in the home of Issac Shepherd 128
years ago and established Shepherd Church, the third Missionary
Baptist Church in this section of Alabama.
Shepherd's home was located, according to deed records, on what
we know as the Uncle Mack Willingham place near Bear Creek, one
mile west of the Clanton farm place, later Bunyan Gibson farm place.
Shepherd was born 1800 in Anson County, North Carolina, and was
the son of William and Elizabeth Yerby Shepherd. He came to Alabama
in 1826, was converted and joined Spring Hill Church in 1828.
mother, Elizabeth, came to Alabama in 1845. She was murdered by
her slave, a Negro woman by the name of Pherbee, and is buried in
an unmarked grave somewhere in this community.
was an older brother of Jacob Shepherd, who served as a deacon for
years in Shepherd Church.
first church service was held in Issac Shepherd's sheep house or
pen, until they could build a church. The first church was located
about 100 yards west of the present Negro school. It was built of
logs with a chimney, and was also used as a school building.
are still signs of a large cemetery in the woods near where the
first church stood. We visited this cemetery a year ago, and found
one monument which reads, "In memory of Sarah Blakney, born
A.D. 1807, died Feb. 13, 1861, wife of Thos. Blakney."
Church was moved between 1850 and 1860 to its second location to
what we people call the Old Shepherd Church. It was located west
of the Dan Patterson farm on the land given to the church by Thomas
church was build of logs. I have often heard my Mother-In-Law tell
of the time when, as a young lady, she was attending this church.
Brother J. M. Chism was up preaching, and a bench of young ladies
suddenly jumped up and screamed. The preacher stopped preaching,
and was amazed at what had happened. An elderly lady, Aunt Martha
Thornton, was sitting nearby and said, "Brother Chism, just
go right ahead with your preaching, it was just a little green snake
ran across the girls' laps."
Shepherd founded Shepherd Church in 1834
of baptism at
Shepherd Baptish Church
of Shepherd Baptist Church and Cemetary
depicting Annual Reunion at Shepherd Baptist Church
1898 some people were dissatisfied with the location of this church
and wanted it moved nearer the center of the population. They also
needed a new building, so, in 1898, the following men were chosen
to select a new site for the third church. They were Joseph Gibson,
J. M. Shepherd, John Sullivan, P.P. Mayfield, J. L. Patterson and
W. W. Gravlee.
contract was given to J. N. (Bud) Yerby to furnish material and
build the church for $325.00. He had a saw mill on Martin Creek
and cut and distressed the lumber there. His son, Vertus Yerby,
hauled it to the church site with oxen.
land was located just across the ditch from her and was given by
Dr. W. W. Jones children. The deed reads:
estate to Shepherd Church. That for, and in consideration of
the esteem and love which we have toward the Baptist Church
at Newtonville, named Shepherd, we do hearby give the said Chruch
the following real estate to have and hold for the use and benefit
of said church, as long as it may be used for such purposes.
Signed: Tolly W. Jones, Dora Graham, W. A. Graham, Wilmetta
Mayfield, and P. P. Mayfield, Sept. 19, 1903.
The first service held in this third church was the association
in October, 1898. since the church records were destroyed prior
to 1871, we do not know who they early Pastors were.
George W. Gravlee served this church longer than any other Pastor.
It was said by those who knew him that Shepherd Church was his heart
1871, Shepherd Church had 56 members. In 1888, there were 84. Since
that time, over 423 people have united with this church.
a few years ago, Shepherd Church was moved to its fourth location,
which is here in this lovely brick building.
Tuscaloosa County Records by Jones and Candrud
History of the early Baptist by Hosea Holcombe
Microfilm of Minutes of 1837 State Baptist Convention
Minutes of New River Association beginning 1871
History of Tuscaloosa County Baptist by Foster
History of North River Association by David W. Andrews
Manuscript by Rev. L. A. Connell