The History of Morning Star Baptist Church

 

Written records show that in 1868 a small group of the Christian Pioneers: Stewart Gaines, John Scott, Jefferson McKesson, Frederick Green, James Johnson, and George Jones, came together and organized the church that was named “The Colored Baptist Church.”  The minister and leader was a Reverend C. Caldwell.  The Church was organized on top of a barn that was used to store buggies.  This barn was located on the Gaineswood property behind the present Gaineswood structure.  Later, a church was constructed from logs, brushes, branches, etc.  Services were held here for years until it was destroyed by fire.  It is not certain as to when this fire took place, nor where the place of worship was moved.

Reverend John Scott succeeded Reverend Caldwell.  Records indicate that one acre of land was purchased, and an official deed was drawn up on October 16, 1872, with W. T. Mitchell Lumber Company.  The church was rebuilt as a frame structure and was named “The Old Tabernacle.”  It was located in the area where the parking lot is today.  Priding itself as the first Missionary Baptist Church established in Marengo County, the church and its congregation gradually and respectfully gained recognition as “The Mother Church of Missionary Baptists in Marengo County.

Reverend Calvin Wallace succeeded Revered Scott, continuing his gracious and faithful leadership until 1911.

In the year of 1911, Reverend Jake Smith accepted the pastorate of the church.  He served for three years.

Reverend Monroe Eugene Jones was elected minister in 1914.  With Reverend Jones’ leadership and full cooperation of the following deacons and trustees:  J. Simon Scott, Samuel W. Wallace, Robert Steele, Jessie C. Clark, Houston Green, C. Y. Young, Sr., Henry Ephraim, and William Brown, construction and rebuilding of the church started again.  Reverend General Harrison Black, a dedicated member, was the contractor and builder of the edifice.  Wallace A. Rayfield was the architect. With the willingness to work and the support of the entire membership, the present brick structure was completed six years later in 1920.  The church was renamed “Morning Star Baptist Church.”  Reverend Jones provided outstanding leadership for 25 years.  In 1939, because of declining health and age, Reverend Jones was compelled to resign.

In 1939, Reverend Charles Arthur Tunstall was called to pastor the church.  The mortgage to W. T. Mitchell Lumber Company was sold to a Mr. Tom Breitling because Mr. Mitchell moved away.  It was during Reverend Tunstall’s administration that the final payment of indebtedness on this church was made and the mortgage was burned.

Reverend Columbus Davis succeeded Reverend Tunstall in 1949.  Reverend Davis served quite efficiently until 1955.

Reverend Robert Thaddeus Thomas was called to pastor and served for seven years until 1962.

In 1962, Reverend Felix Nathaniel Nixon was elected to carry on the ideas of the Christian fellowship and service.  Under his leadership in the year of 1964, the church hosted the 97
th Annual Session of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. 
 
When the Civil Rights Movement had begun throughout the state, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Morning Star Church and was also granted the use of the church to house, feed, and serve as an operational center for the movement. 
 

Reverend Nixon served Morning Star for four years.

The successor to Reverend Nixon in 1966 was the Reverend Freddie Francis Andrews.  Under Reverend Andrews’ administration, the exterior of this present structure was stuccoed and the interior walls painted.  Reverend Andrews served almost three years when he tendered his resignation on the fifth Sunday in December of 1968.

During the first seven months of 1969, Morning Star was without a spiritual leader.  However, on the first Sunday in August of 1969, Reverend Alfred Lewis Bratcher was called to minister to the moral and spiritual needs of this church and community.  Reverend Bratcher inherited a mortgage indebtedness of over four thousand dollars, but under his dynamic leadership, the debt was paid off within 60 days more or less.

The membership began to increase and physical expansion became uppermost in the minds of all.  The following projects were undertaken during Reverend Bratcher’s administration.  (1) enlargement of the restroom facilities, (2) installation of a new baptistery, (3) black topped the parking lot, (4) surveyed and fenced in the property, (5) sidewalks were concreted and curbing laid out, (6) installation of a central air and heating system, (7) purchased additional land and the subsequent erection of a parsonage, and (8) installation of new lights in the sanctuary

Reverend Bratcher served Morning Star for a period of 17 years.  Because of age and declining health, he resigned in May 1986.

In October 1986, Reverend James L. Dunn was called to succeed Reverend Bratcher as pastor to carry on the ideals of Christian fellowship and service.  Under Reverend Dunn’s administration, our church was strengthened spiritually, numerically, and financially. Some other accomplishments included the designation and recognition of Morning Star Baptist Church as a historical state landmark; the listing of our church in the 1989 calendar of the Alabama Historical Society, featuring institutions as historical landmarks in the state; the completion of a “Living Memorial” Dedicatorial Plaque; and the purchase of a 90’ by 150’ land addition.

Proudly we hosted the 1992 River City Ministerial Alliance City-Wide Black History Program with Rev. Abraham Woods, president of the Birmingham Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as keynote speaker. 

The year of 1993 brought with it more expressions of the Will of GOD for our congregation.  Working with vision, our Pastor, deacons, trustees, and membership secured a three hundred thousand-dollar ($300,000.00) loan from Robertson Banking Company of Demopolis, Alabama, for renovation work to our present church structure, and addition of an annex building.  A formal contract was signed and agreed upon with the Robert W. Jones Construction Company of Demopolis, Alabama, to complete this major project.

On December 6, 1993, the Church held a formal groundbreaking ceremony for a new annex.

The fulfillment of a dream conceived by generations before came to fulfillment and fruition.

The LORD blessed us to formally Dedicate in His Name our new addition on the second Sunday in October 1994.

The church was blessed by Bro. Robert W. Jones, Jr. and Sis. Louise Jones and family for their donation of trailer lot property to the church as a source of monetary usage or future expansion site.

In 1997 we formally adopted by-laws and a constitution as well as completed the incorporation of the church.

Following the direction of GOD and vision for expanding the church’s ministry, we were favored to purchase property adjacent to the church located on the corner at 700 East Jackson Street, Demopolis, Alabama.

A new metal roof was installed on the sanctuary of the church by Dave’s Construction Company in 2004 and paid in full by the church. 

GOD’s favor and graciousness continued to be extended unto us with recognition of our church building being recognized as having been designed by world renowned architect Wallace A. Rayfield. The Morning Star Baptist Church is featured in Dr. Rayfield’s advertising and promotion of his works.

The Church became the recipients of a charitable donation of the Old Griffith Packing Company property by the owner, Mr. Dusty Byrd, Jr. and his family. 

A new metal roof was installed at the parsonage.

On the fourth Sunday in November 2009, Rev. James L. Dunn tended his resignation as pastor effective the second Sunday in December 2009.

Rev. Ezell Simon, Jr. was elected to succeed Rev Dunn as pastor on the fourth Sunday in November 2010.  Rev. Simon served until he tended his resignation on the fourth Sunday in August 2012.

Rev. Charles D. Burns, Sr. was elected to succeed Rev. Simon as pastor on the second Sunday in December 2013.