Mulberry Baptist celebrates 200th Anniversary 

Published 9:42 am Monday, April 2, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Mulberry Baptist Church in Isabella is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, making it older than the state of Alabama.

Alabama will have officially been a state for 200 years in 2019.

The church has several commemorative events planned to celebrate. The first will be The Good Old Days on April 21 with games and demonstrations from early days of the church, including pony and buggy rides, sack races, three-legged race, corn shelling, hatchet throwing, cross-cut sawing, churning butter, canoe burnout and more. The church is inviting the community to come join the fun of this free event. A banquet with historic exhibits will be held on Oct 6. The celebration will climax with the 200th Year Great Celebration Day on Oct. 14. A memorial will be set up at the estimated location of the original church building. The church’s cornerstone time capsule from 1951 will be opened.

Several committees of church members are working on different elements of the celebrations. Sherrell White is on the committee collecting information to update “A History of Mulberry Baptist Church,” compiled by Ulysses H. Abrams for the church’s sesquicentennial in 1968.

“Abrams was a school administrator, and Abrams loved history,” White said.

Many of Abrams’ books about history can be found in archives at Samford University and Montgomery.

The 200th celebration edition will be titled “Reflections from the Past.”

In addition to adding information about the church from 1968 until this year, White and the committee members are researching each of the church’s pastors to provide a summary of their lives and a picture of as many as possible toward the front of the book.

“We have never had pictures of our previous pastors displayed at our church, and they are hard to find, ” White said.

The committee has been successful in finding some, including one from 1892 of Pastor W.J. Ruddick.

Another photo that White was excited to include in the new edition of the book is a 1909 photo of S.M. Adams. In addition to being a pastor, Abrams was a state representative.

“There is so much history involved with this entire group,” White said.

The team also hopes to include a timeline of the history of the church.

“Mulberry has always been a mission-minded church, and our early history is proving that,” White said. “Mulberry has always been supportive of our state missions.”

White said the church has also been a part of disaster relief efforts and missions trips to other countries.

The church has also helped those in need in the local community. White said Mulberry Baptist, as well as another local church and community members, provided space for classrooms after the Isabella School burned down.

Mulberry Baptist Church members were also influential in establishing the volunteer fire department in Isabella.

Information for the first 30 years of the church was harder to collect than more recent years, because the official church records from those years have been lost.

The church first met in a dirt-floor log cabin from 1818 to about 1833.

“This log cabin was built on Edmond Beaird’s property,” White said.

The logs to build the cabin came from trees along the nearby Mulberry Creek.

The first several pastors of the church were Pioneer Preachers, who served a group of new churches, White said.

The log cabin burned down in 1833 and was replaced with a building constructed with boards from local sawmills.

The 1833 structure is thought to have had wooden siding and possibly shutters over the windows, White said.

In 1853, a larger, two-steeple style building was constructed.

In addition to two main entrances at the front, there was also a separate entrance elsewhere for slaves.

White said this was the time when Sacred Harp music would have been used in the church.

Many of the men would sit in one section, and many of the women would sit in another section with a mix of different musical ranges sitting in the middle, turning the entire congregation into a choir.

The current sanctuary was built in 1951. An educational building was added in 1965. The church’s Family Life Center was constructed in 2005.

According to “A History of Mulberry Baptist Church,” Mulberry Baptist Church was a part of the Cahawba Association of Baptist Churches from 1818 to 1828.

Starting in 1856, the church was a part of the Mulberry Association. White said Mulberry’s pastors were very active in the associations.

Baptist associations more along county dividing lines were established in 1901. This was the Chilton County Baptist association, which was later renamed the Chilton-Unity Association before adopting the name it has today — Chilton Baptist Association.

A highlight of the Mulberry 200th celebration will be to host a Chilton Baptist Association meeting.

The goal is to have the updated version of the church’s history book available in time for Christmas.

Pre-orders will be accepted at the Oct. 14 event.