Tuesday, November 24, 2015

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 244: Visit Indian Springs Baptist Church in McWilliams

Indian Springs Baptist Church
Indian Springs Baptist Church is one of the oldest churches in all of Monroe County, Ala., and I’ve heard people talk about it for as long as I can remember. I’d been in the vicinity of this church many times, but I’d never taken the time to actually see it in person. For this reason, I placed a trip to this old church on my “bucket list” several years ago.

Indian Springs Baptist Church is located on Indian Springs Road in the McWilliams community, northeast of the Town of Beatrice. It’s about 1.7 miles from the intersection of State Highway 21 and Indian Springs Road, and at this intersection you’ll find an historical marker about the church that was put in place by the Alabama Historical Association in 2003.

If you decided to see this church for yourself, I highly suggest that you take the time to stop and read the historical marker, which reads as follows:

“INDIAN SPRINGS BAPTIST CHURCH: This sanctuary was built one mile west of this site about 1825 near springs used by local Indians. The original wood-frame building survived virtually unchanged, with no modern conveniences. An Indian Springs petitionary letter was presented to the Bethlehem Baptist Association, meeting in Monroe County, by L.W. Lindsay and A. Curry on 26 September 1834. The petition was cordially received by the association.

“The newly constituted church had 22 charter members and held Sabbath meetings on third Sundays. Baptisms were held in the springs nearby which gave the church its name. For more than a century the modest church was an inspiration as our ancestors brought forth the earth’s bounty, worshiped God and led lives of quiet dignity.

“Listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on 26 June 2003.”

On Sunday morning, my son and I paid a quick visit to this church and checked it out for about 15 minutes. No services were being held, so we parked, got out and took a good look around. We also spent a few minutes exploring the church’s sizeable cemetery.

When I got home, I dug around and found an old photocopy of an article someone sent me about the church that told even more about the church’s history. According to that article, “records indicate that Cullen Mims founded this church in 1825 along with 22 members. The church was built near the mineral springs in a clearing deep in a wooded section near McWilliams. It is an area once inhabited by Indians who got their water from these well known springs.

“The area was not isolated when the church was founded as 62 families lived within a radius of two miles. Families were large in those early days and the membership of the church had grown to 372 members.

“The wood framed church was set on three-foot stone pillars and was put together with pegs and square headed nails. Lamp hooks that hung from the ceiling are still intact. The rostrum, pulpit and pews are still handmade and still in place although regular services were discontinued in 1989. A baptismal pool is a square structure located at the bottom of the hill and fed by a pipe leading from the springs that flow constantly regardless of dry weather.

“The late John D. Forte, one time Superintendent of Education in Monroe County, attended this church regularly when he was a boy. Family names in the church cemetery include Cullen, Maxwell, Grimes, Crosby, Smith, Fore, McPherson and Lyons, along with others.

“An annual homecoming, including a preaching service, is held once a year on the first Sunday in May.”

One interesting note about the graveyard there is that when you pass through the main entrance to the cemetery you pass between two brick columns topped with a metal arch that reads “Indian Springs.” On one of the columns, you’ll find a marker that reads, “In Memory of Cynthia and Cullen Mims, these gates, arch and columns were donated to Indian Springs Cemetery by Alice Maxwell Brantley, daughter of Margaret Mims and James Franklin Maxwell and granddaughter of Cynthia and Cullen Mims, Nov. 11, 1955.”

In the end, how many of you have been to Indian Springs Baptist Church? What did you think about it? What other old churches do you know of that are “bucket list” worthy? Let us know in the comments section below.

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