Photos from Essie Whitehorn Cochran's files and Zilla Spencer
THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
[Extracted from the 1974 church directory and from Essie Whitehorn Cochran's History]
The Vardaman Baptist Church was organized on September 19, 1905, with Rev. J. R. Summers, Rev. J. F. McKibben and Rev. G. W. Riley present. There were nine Charter Members: W. S. Johnson, Mrs. M. E. Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Armstrong, Miss Pearl Armstrong, J. E. Powell, Mrs. Susan Powell, J. D. Walton, and Mrs. Sallie Walton.
The Church officers were Rev. E. E. Thornton, pastor; J. E. Powell, clerk; and J. D. Walton, Deacon (the only deacon until January 19, 1913, when the church ordained: G. M. Herring, I. E. Hawkins, W. L. Armstrong, and M. C. Johnson.) Charles Johnson was the first person admitted by letter. Prior to June 20, 1909, there was a union Sunday School (Methodist and Baptist) with Mr. Levi Ferguson as Superintendent. Then a Baptist Sunday School was organized with S. T. Hawkins as Superintendent with an enrollment of 75.
In 1908 the church had its first wedding. Miss Virgie Hannah married “Little Sam” Scarbrough.
The people that attended this church in the early years were both Methodist and Baptist. At that time, the families attending were:
Whitehorn family, J.R. Richards family, J.W. Hill family, R.G. (Bob) Young family, Hollie Embry family, J. D. Richards family, Wiley Embry family, Scott Embry family, Miss Hannah Rose and Rosie, Mrs. Mary Vanhorn Hawkins family, Sam Hawkins family, E. I. (Ed) Hawkins family, Lee A. Sanderson Family, Dee Blue family, G. M. Herring family, Filmore Dye family, Monroe and Leila Dye, the McCullough and John Pounds families, S. W. Scarbrough family, Alford Gilder family, Dr. Mitchell family, Capt. Tom Young family, B. W. Naron family, N. E. Herring family, Mr. & Mrs. Ervin Smith and Sam Smith, Charlie Vanhorn family, John Hannah family, Mrs. Bell Philpot family, G. W. Dowdy family, Mrs. Johnson and family, John Henry Robertson family, Dr. Edgar Powell family, Mrs. Fannie Smith family, T. L. Harrison, Sr., and McCord family, Mrs. Lamar & family, Mr. Tom and “Aunt Tea” Melton, Dr. Gillespie family, Tom Walton family, Savannah Adams and Ether, Ike Byars family, Bill Overby family, Hattie Bowling family, Dick Berry family, Levi Ferguson family, Kick Ferguson family, Basco Naron family, Ellzey Fleming family, R. M. Mosely & Lecornu families, Mike Martin family, W. P. Vanhorn family, Polk Langston family, Dr. Daughty family, Claude Duncan family, Jennie and Edna Chaney families, Bennett Morrow family, Mrs Kirkpatrick and daughters, and Dr. & Mrs. E. B. Young.
Preaching services were once a month until 1937, twice a month until 1942, and then the church went into a full time program. Brother Carmon Savell was the first full-time pastor.
The church met in the school house until a building was erected. A building committee composed of J. E. Powell, J. D. Walton, S. T. Hawkins, Charles Johnson, and Irvin Smith bought the lot which is still in use. They collected money and material for a frame building which was completed with a $500.00 bank loan. Building started in 1905 and the church was fully constructed in 1908. The loan was paid off in seven years and the church was debt free. The older members stated that it was difficult to pay off the first loan. Rev. E. E. Thornton preached the dedication sermon June 16, 1912.
In 1937, six Sunday School rooms were built on the back of the church building at a cost of $500.00. In 1943, a fire damaged the building. This was in the middle of World War II and a new building was not constructed until 1946-1947. The old building was sold to New Hope Church.
The building in 1946-47 consisted of the Auditorium, the Sunday School department and a kitchen. This building was constructed for $28,000. A two-story youth department north of the first building was constructed in 1950 at a cost of approximately $37,000. The church redecorated the auditorium and installed a heating and cooling unit for it in 1962. New pews were installed in 1964 at a cost of $4,000. In 1965, central heating and air conditioning was installed in all the educational spaces and in 1967 the kitchen was remodeled. Renovation and remodeling which took place in 1969 and 1970 consisted of redecorating the sanctuary with carpet, stained glass windows, and a choir loft. In 1973 six rooms were constructed in the attic over the old Sunday School department; and remodeling and carpeting of the entire Sunday School department and kitchen was accomplished. In 1974, the pastor’s home was carpeted, redraped, and air conditioned.
In 1942, the church purchased a dwelling from Mr. C. D. Hawkins for the first pastorium. In 1959 this property was traded for the lot north of the church property and a new pastorium was built there.
The church published a pictorial member directory in 1974 and a link to it is here:
Vardaman First Baptist Church
Ordained preachers from this church include: James Richardson, Cooper Hartley, Finley Evans, Emerson Tedder, Jr., Donald Harrell, Donald Bryant, D.L. (Fate) Hill, and Jeff Guilder. David Kendall, a former member, was ordained by another church.