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Scottsville church to dedicate historical marker Saturday with ceremony

Autor: Marshall News Messenger

SCOTTSVILLE — “The legacy of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church is etched into the very fabric of Scottsville, weaving threads of faith, resilience, and unwavering commitment to God’s work,” a proclamation issued by the Harrison County Commissioners Court states.

On Saturday, the church’s legacy will be celebrated with a historical marker dedication, beginning at 1 p.m. at the site, located at 8277 FM 1998 in Scottsville.

“I’m just excited myself,” said Eddie Hill, chairman of the deacon board. “I just can’t wait for the celebration.

“I have talked to people to come down on May the 11th at 1 p.m., he said. “ The scripture said all you have to do is ask. That’s what we’re doing. We’re inviting others. We’re looking for a good time.”

The church erected the historical marker in January with the aid of the Harrison County road and bridge department. The church was able to secure the marker from the Texas Historical Commission through the help of the local Harrison County Historical Commission.

“This marker is from the ‘new’ foundry being used by THC,” shared Thomas Speir, outgoing president of the HCHC. “The old foundry cast the pole and marker as one piece. These markers come as two pieces, with the pole being sent separate. Note at the bottom of the marker there is a collar that slips over the top of the pole. Screws can be drilled into the pole through holes already in the collar, which secures the marker to the pole.”

“Our thanks to the county,” he said of the county’s assistance in erecting the marker.

According to a press release from the Texas Historical Commission, THC has recognized New Hope as a significant part of the state’s history by awarding it an official Texas historical marker.

“The designation honors New Hope as an important and educational part of local history,” THC officials noted.

“The Official Texas Historical Marker program helps bring attention to community treasures and the importance of their preservation,” said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the THC.

“Awareness and education are among the best ways to guarantee the preservation of our state’s history. This designation is a tool that will increase public awareness of important cultural resources,” Wolfe said.

According to THC, a subject qualifies for a marker if two basic criteria are met: historical significance and age.

Hill, chairman of the deacon board, and Donald Rudd, church trustee, said the small, rural congregation is thrilled to have the church’s history forever engraved for all to see. Hill thanked all who donated for the purchase of the marker.

“We thank God for the support and the help from different ones that contributed,” said Hill. “Sister Estella Patterson sent a letter out to all the families who are active, telling them what we’re planning to do and if each family could give a certain amount of money to help. They were very supportive.”

A Strong Foundation

Hill and Rudd both expressed how much the church has meant in their own personal and spiritual lives, giving them a strong foundation, dating back to their childhood.

“New Hope is very special to the church family. As a matter of fact, throughout our history, we’ve had a background of a strong upbringing of the youth in the church,” said Rudd.

The elders of the church, such as Gladys Lister, Juanita Lane and Ethel Saxon, played a pivotal role in their lives.

“Gladys Luster and Sister Juanita Lane, these are people that had a great impact on us and encouragement to continue on with the church,” shared Hill. “I love Sister Juanita Lane. She would always say: ‘You do what you can do for your church. Don’t ever worry about anybody else.’ And those words still linger today in my heart and mind.

“And Sister Saxon, I just can’t say too much about her,” he said, describing her as a pioneer, whom he had the pleasure of working with not only at the church but learned a great work ethic while working with her, as a young man, at a large plant nursery in the community.

“I thank God I was able to work with her, the lady that organized the youth department at New Hope Baptist Church,” said Hill.

New Hope has been Hill’s home church for 53 years. He joined as a pre-teen at the invitation of Saxon, who noticed him and another group of young boys spending their Sunday mornings playing football at Rudd’s home.

“I used to go every Sunday morning around his house and play football,” recalled Hill. “There would be a group of boys playing football. And Sister Saxon and her husband happened to be coming out their driveway. They were going to the church. And they looked and said there’s a youth choir and a youth department — all those boys there can do something besides playing football on Sunday morning. So that’s what she did.”

“I think the following month, she got up and talked to us and said y’all need to be at church on Sunday morning,” he said.

Respecting her as their elder, they took heed.

“From that point, my mother bought me a suit, and I started going to church and Sunday school,” said Hill.

He said he hasn’t missed Sunday school since. Not even work keeps him from going.

“I work every Sunday. I get off at seven o’clock. But it does not stop me from being at church and Sunday school on time,” said Hill. “Sunday school starts at 10. I’m there. I go home, I take a bath, I put my clothes on; I go to the church, turn the units on for warming or for cold, and make coffee for brotherhood and others.”

“I haven’t missed a day,” the deacon chair beamed.

Rudd said Saxon, his former youth director, was also influential as a mother in the church as well.

“Her name is on the marker. She is the reason behind a lot of us being who we are today,” said Rudd. “She taught us how to present ourselves in public, as well as in the church. She taught that charity starts at home and spreads abroad. And we consider church the home base. And so she taught us how to stand and speak before people, how to present ourselves, and that type of thing.”

“So it was her (guidance) that influenced a lot of us, as kids, to become whatever men and women we are today,” he said.

Rudd said the elders of the church trained them to actively serve in the church, doing everything from leading devotion to serving as ushers to teaching Sunday school.

“Even as 9 and 10-year-old kids in the church, we did it all,” said Rudd.

Thus, “whatever position I can help out within the church, I do that,” he said.

Hill said Sister Saxon would be proud of the church leaders they have become today.

“We’re still working together carrying it on,” he said of him and Rudd, the only two original members of Saxon’s youth group left. “We are truly dedicated in getting this work done for the Lord, keeping it going so that our kids can see what has taken place, what we have done for the years to come.”

Honoring a Legacy

The church and its pioneers mean so much to the congregation that they never want the history to be forgotten, said Hill.

“New Hope has a lot of people that’s my age and older. And in this day and time churches are not drawing in any youth anymore,” said Rudd. “I mean, we had one of the largest youth organizations in this area back when I was a youth in the church, and that no longer exists in the church anymore. So when the people who can actually tell the story are no longer here, or the people who know where the documents are that would tell the story, when those people are gone, then we are going to use the marker and the other information so that other people who are interested, as for as the alumni, their kids, or whoever, they’ll know the history of that church.”

Hill echoed his sentiments.

“Well, we look at the community and some of the people that brought us up and New Hope was the church that they always talked about, the revivals and other things, the big days,” he said. “And as we thought about things, we looked at the history, how long it’s been there, and then we went to gather information.”

They initially received assistance from late historian and journalist Gail Beil, who had a wealth of information about Scottsville. After her passing, Speir, through the HCHC, helped them see the project through fruition.

“It originated in 1869, and rebuilt in 1949,” said Rudd. “And I must say that, in all honesty, a church that is built in 2024, for the first time from the ground up, and under a new name and leadership, the church will not be around another 100 years, even if the world last that long. So that’s something to be proud of.”

“That’s why we wanted to do this marker,” said Rudd, noting they began working on the marker prior to the pandemic. “It was a long process.”

Nevertheless, getting the church marker has been a dream come true.

“It feels real good,” said Rudd. “When a dream becomes a reality, that just ignites you.”

The History

According to an essay of the church’s history submitted by Speir, the church was originally organized only four years after the culmination of the Civil War. It was rebuilt in 1949, four years after the end of World War II.

The essay notes that a small group of residents first established the church in the home of Brother Samuel Graves where they worshipped, sang and prayed. After much prayer, the group decided to build a “brush-arbor” to accommodate the growing membership.

“The history of this church is typical of many small, rural African American churches in Texas. Following the Civil War, former slaves began organized worship services, sometimes in locations where they had not been permitted to do so previously,” Speir noted in the essay, which was submitted with the original marker application. “Their descendants continued to build on these rural churches, improving them through periodic loans. Many of these churches now face shrinking congregations in the 21st century and seek some form of remembrance for those that came before.”

“The church motto: ‘We have come this far by faith’ still rings true after all these decades,” shows an unbroken chain of cooperative, loyal and dedicated services which have contributed to the longevity of the church,” he added.

The essay acknowledges that many members of the church have made numerous contributions to the community and society, including as educators, nurses, pharmacists, businessmen, and musicians.

“This speaks well for a rural church in a small Texas community,” Speir indicated.

Today, members still enjoy morning worship service beginning at 11 a.m. every Sunday morning, followed by 10 a.m. Sunday school, which remains strong. Rudd said they welcome all to the family-oriented atmosphere anytime.

“It’s a church of family beliefs,” said Rudd.

Rudd invites all to join them in honoring the church’s legacy at Saturday’s marker dedication.

“You’re going to always be welcome at New Hope,” he said.

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