By E.M. Butler, Ex-Secretary Updated by James H. Fasion, Jr.

It was scarely five years after the emancipation of the Negro Race from slavery, in the “Gray Dawn” of his freedom, that a group of consecrated men of God, imbued with the Spirit of Jesus Christ, met in September 1870, in a small church then known as Vear Swamp Church (now the West Hill first Baptist Church of Warsaw, N.C.), upon call issued by the late lamented Rev. Thomas (Tom) Parker. A msall group of God-fearing men answered the call and formed a temporary organization, electing Rev. Parker temporary charirman, Shade Connor as secretary, and laid plans for the Organization of Baptist Churches.

In October 1970, delegated from the following churhes met in First Baptist Church, Kenansville, North Carolina, at which time an Assoication was formed. Five Churches were represented in this formation of the Assoication, namely–First Colored Baptist Church, Kenansville, N.C., delegates, A.R. (Abe) Middleton, R.M. Williams, Shade Connor; Bear Swamp, EdwardDixon, J.C. Hill; Hill’s Chapel (Fasion), J.S. Cassel, L.M. Newton and others; Six Runs, Robert Faison and others; First Baptist, Clinton, N.C., Balaam Best, G.A. Bizzell and other; Revs. Parker and D.T. Best, ministers. Visiting miniters were Revs. A. B. Wiliams, Pastor First Colored Baptist Church, Goldsboro, N.C., B.B. Spicer of New Bern and Washington Wynn, Pastor, Wynn’s Chapel Baptist Church, Mount Olive, N.C.

By request Rev. Williams acted as moderator. In th eorganization of the Assoication, Rev. “Tom” Parker was elected Monderator, “Abe” Middleton, Secretary, G.A. Bizzell, Treasurer. The following ministers have served as modeators of the Association: Revs. D.T. Best, S.M. Burnery, H. Lee, W.C. Cowan, W.F.C. Kornegay, George Moore, J.T. Deans, C.T. Underwood, J.N. McKnight, J. Malachi Newkirk, Rev. S.M. White, J.D. Morrisey and the present moderator, Rev. James A. Davis. Clerks (secretaries), A.R. Middleton, Amos McCullough, J.S. Bennett, Wesley JOnes, N.M. Holmes, W.H. Ashford, E.Q. Moore, A.J. Boney, J.M. Newkirk, T.P. McGhee, E.M. Butler, Calvin Spurill and present secretry Alease B. Davis. Treasureres, Shade Connor, Green Raynor, J.M. Johnson, W.D. Wilson, W.H. Beatty, Lloyd Bass, Fred Johnson, James A. Davis and present treasurer Larry Bell. The Assoication was named the KENANSVILLE EASTERN MISSIONARY BAPTIST ASSOCIATION to distinguish it from the Eastern Missionary Baptist Assoication composed of white churches.

Thinking of terms of organized Christian education, A.R Middleton called togethr messengers from Sunday schools of churches in the Association in July 1980, and organized the KENANSVILLE EASTERN MISSIONARY BAPTIST SUNDAY SCHOOL CONVENTION and was elected its first president. It was organized in an old house at a place then known as Williams Crossroads. Other presidents were, A.J. Stanford, J.T. Deans, J. Malachi Newkirk, R.W. Underwood, J.N. McKnight, J.J. Howe E.M. Butler, and James H. Fasion, Jr. presently serving. The Daughters of Zion Convention was organized in 1919. Mrs. Adella Faison President; succeeding presidents Mrs. Rebecca Boone, Mrs. Alha Williams and Mrs. Laurie Adger, Mrs. Doris Newkirk, Mrs. Ruth Boone, prsently serving. The Baptist Young People’s Union (now B.T.U.) convention was organized in Willard Chapel Baptist Church, Willard, N.C., in October 1920, E.M. Butler, president, T.P. McGhee, secretary, adn Mrs. Hattie Burchett, treasure. Other persidents inculde Mrs. Mary Newkirk Robinson, Mrs. Hannah Kelly, Mr. G.L. Bynum, Mrs. Tempie McLaurin, Miss Cornelia E. Fennell, Rev. J.R. Winley, Mrs. Mary R. Faison and Mrs. Ruth JOhnson, presently serving.

Noting the importance of usher serving in churches, the Moderator Rev. Newkirk organized the Kenansville Eastern Ushers Association, Rev. J.A. Lewis, president in 1946. In 1948, Rev. S.M. White was elected president, when for convenience of all churches in the Association, it was divided into the Northern and Southern Divisions, J.M. Bell being elected president of the Northern Division in 1950 and was in continuous service until his demise. James A. Davis followed. Presently serving is Rev. Oletha Troublefield. Henry McClammy was elected president Fred Johnson was elected, Deacon Archie Lofton, Jr. followed and is presently serving.

The responsibility of education for the Negro during the early period of freedom largely rested with churhces; therefore, by an act of the General Assembly of North Carolina in 1909, H.B. 1353 and S.B. 1256-799, the Fasion Educational, Agricultural and Industrial Institute was incorporated under the style of “Industrial Training” and serving. All these auxiliaries are well-supporting the program of the Association. The Ministers and Deacons Union meeting was first presided over by Rev. David Jackson.

The responsibility of education for the Negro during the early period of freedom largely rested with the churches; therefore, by an act of the General Assembly of North Carolina in 1909, H.B. 1353 and S.B. 1256-799, th Faison Educational, Agricultural and Industrial Institute was incorporated under teh style of “Industrial Training School” for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a school or system of school at Fasion. This school operated successfully for a nuymber of year being supported largely by churches of the Association until the state provided high school, normal and college education for Negroes. The first principal was Prof. J.N. Bennett succeeded by J.T. Horton, J. Malachi Newkirk, M.S. Modona, R.W. Underwood and J.J Beatty.

The first Negro missionary from North Carolina to Africa, Rev. James O. Hayes, was a member of the First Baptist Church, Magnolia, North Carolina; he was among the first graduates of Shaw University. The experiences of this missionary indirectly led to the organization of the great Lot Cary Foreign Mission Convention which prosecutes an effective foreign missions program in the Carribean area and in Africa and Asia. In 1948, a unit of the National Baptist Convention, Incorporated, was organized as a result of the active and energetic work of the Moderator Rev J. Mlachi Newkirk in Lisbon Street Baptist Church, Clinton, N.C. Rev. Newkirk was elected president, U.S. Brown, first vice-president, J.N. Mallette, recording secretary, S.L. Standford, second vice-president.

For a number of years, Rev. “Tom” Parker and “Abe” Middleton were guiding stars of the Association. Rev. Parker organized the following churches during his ministerial career: First Baptist of Magnolia, Kenansville and Warsaw (Bear Swamp), Hill’s Chapel (Faison), Mount Gilead, Eastern Chapel, he personally purchased the land upon which this church was built. There was only one Baptistminister in Wilmington, Rev. R.B. Banks, pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, which he established with a group of members who came out of the First Baotust Church, leacing the church without a pastor. The Baptist brethren in the upper section of the New Hanover District (now Sampson, Duplin, and Pender counties), sent to First Baptist Church, Wilmington, for someone to preach to them. Thomas Parker, then a deaconk, volunteered to heed their call. He was licensed by First Baptist Church and later ordained by the white Baptist ministers in Wilmington, there being no Negro minister except Rev. Banks at Ebenezer.

In going to the new section, Rev. Parker was mistaken as an “Agitator” until he gave evidence of his Godly intentions and was given much encouragement and support by the white ministers and members in preaching the gospel and organizing new churches. He died in 1924, greatly mourned by members of both races in Warsaw, North Carolina.

A.R. “Abe” Middleton began his first public services as a school teacher in Duplin County in 1869. He was a potent factor in the civic, religious, political and fraternal life in this state. He held many positions in the Grand Lodge of Masons, Grand and Supreme Lodge of Odd Fellows and Good Samaritans; in the Customs HOuse in Wilmington; Storekeeper and Gauger in the United States Internal Revenue Department; delegate to the REpublican National Convention of 1874; Member Repubican state Exdcutive Committee fourteen years; Asssistant Sergeant-at-Arms in two sessions of the State Legislature; three years president of the Negro State Fair of North Carolina, died July 1930. Several men served well as pioneers of this Association by these two men were the most well-known and outstanding in their accomplishments in its organization and operation.

In 1872, there arose a dispute in the Assoication over certain questions of church policy, with Rev. Parker taking the stand that a Baptist Church was superior to the Association, being the creature of the Association while Rev. Banks held that the Association was superior to the church. This dispute caused a split in the Assoication with Rev. Banks heading up a group which met in Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1872 and organized the Middle District Baptist Association. The spirit of church superiority still holds true and is the policy of the Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist Association. In later years, as churches became more widely organized, many churches in Sampson County organized the West Union Baptist Assoication. These Associations, with others since organized, annually exchange faternal delegates and work in harmony in the extension of the Kingdom of God. This Association is continuously moving forward Godwardly. Its destiny is interwoven in themissionary movement so prevalent with Baptist churhces throughout America. It is well supported by its churches which meet on equal ground “Defending the Faith once delivered to the Saints.” And now as we enter the second century of the existence of this Association, with pride in its accomplishments and hopeful for a promising future, we greet ourselves. “HATS OFF TO THE PAST; COATS OFF TO THE FUTURE.”

(Excerpts in this narrative were secured from, “The Life of Hon. A.R. Middleton” by his daughter, Mrs. Hannah Middleton Bryan Tauder, the late Rev. J. Malachi Newkirk and others who lived during the period affected.–E.M.B.)

Written by – E.M. Butler
Updated by – James H. Faison, Jr.

Copyright 2015 © Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist Association. All rights reserved.