Dawson Baptist Church
Dawson, Navarro County, Texas


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Submitted by Carl W. Matthews

A congregation known as the Spring Hill Baptist Church was, apparently, in existence for some time period despite the fact that no known records of the church exist.   Several early writers referred to the existence of a Spring Hill structure built of a wood frame and covered completely with buffalo or cow hides.   The structure was said to have been constructed on land given by Robert Harve Matthews and was used as both school and church.

There was "Old"  Spring Hill...and...."New" Spring Hill.   The church referred to above was, probably, located in the new Spring Hill.     "Old" Spring Hill was a community centered around the Trading Post operated by Dr. George W Hill which was located just south of the Spring Hill Cemetery.    The "Cowhead Road" was located on the north side of the cemetery and intersected with the "Old Indian or Buffalo Trail" that ran north to Dresden and south by the Brit Dawson farm and on to Tehuacana.    The Old Indian or Buffalo Trail ran north from the Trading Post, crossed Treadwell Branch at a point near the present bridge and made its way to Richland Creek to a point where a wide rock ledge was located and water was always shallow except during floods.     Traces of the Old Indian or Buffalo Trail may be seen today on the east side of the road immediately north of the Treadwell Branch bridge.  It is best viewed in winter when trees are bare.

Robert Harve Matthews had purchased five hundred acres from Dr. Hill during the early 1850s and, at some point, surveyed a new community located north of Treadwell Branch.     The plat of the survey for a town bearing the name "Spring Hill" was drawn by Robert Harve Matthews on the fly leaf of the County Clerk's book at the Court House in Corsicana and may be found there today.

The Richland Baptist Association was meeting at the Liberty Baptist Church at Bassette on July 8, 1882, when the Spring Hill Baptist Church sent messengers to the meeting with a request that the Spring Hill Church be admitted to the Association.  Approval was granted to the Spring Hill Church.   The messengers were W B Ellis and A  C Spurlin.   T H Compere was listed as pastor.  F M Mount was shown as clerk.


 William B ELLIS & Robert Payne ELLIS


Cason Ellis lived lived Tuscaloosa AL …

                        May have been related to Lankford family

                        Nancy Jane Ellis b. 1866 Tuscaloosa AL 

                                    m. 1884  William Lankford at Dawson TX

                                    son      Franklin Cleveland Langford

                                                son  William Burleson Langford

m. 1st 1835  Elizabeth Burleson       

b. 1817  Rutherford Co NC

d. before 1851

m. 2nd

m. 3rd

His children were:


William Burleson Ellis                       b. 1840            AL

d. Dawson, Nav Co 1922 or 1892

            Civil War Veteran - Buried Dawson Cemetery

Phillip Jackson Ellis                           b. 1842           

d. Dawson, NavCo  1910

            Civil War Veteran - Buried Dawson Cemetery

Elisha Ellis                                          1843-1862

Charles S W (Mack) Ellis                 b. 1845

            Lived Titus Co TX 1880…was buying land NavCo 1883

            Married Margaret Lindley

            Children:  Rufus, Andrew, Edison, Etta

James C Ellis                                     b. 1847            AL

Margaret A Ellis                                b. 1848            AL

                                                            d. 1931

Robert Payne Ellis                             b. 1850            d. 1927

Edda Ellis                                           b. Tuscaloosa AL

Jack Ellis                                            b.  Tusculossa AL

Sarah Jane Ellis                                 b. 1859

                                                            d. 1942           

m. Lloyd Pierson





Andrew C  Spurlin    1858-1884  

Buried Spring Hill Cemetery.


John Spurlin   b. 1783…s/o Jeremiah & Drucilla Baldwin Spurlin

                        d.  1856  Macon Co GA

            m. Mary Newberry

            dau      Elizabeth Spurlin       

b. 1813 Jones Co GA 

d.  1872 Henry Co AL

m. 1832 W Thompson Fondren

            s/o James Berry Fondren  b 1800

            gs/o John Fondren  b. 1782


John Spurlin b. 1783...was not a son of William  & Eleanore Spurlin who had come to Western Navarro Co. 1848 and listed in the 1850 NavCo Census.   William Spurlin was b. 1797 in Georgia. …possible brother of John Spurlin.   His wife, Eleanore, was b. 1795 in Georgia.   Their son, Levi b. 1833 in Mississippi.      Permelia Gordon, apparently a widowed daughter b. 1822 in Alabama and her daughter, Florinda..b.1839 in Mississippi, lived with them .   Eleanore would have been well past the childbearing age by 1858.   However, William may have remarried….or…Levi would have been twenty-five by 1858 and could have married and had a child.

Sarah Spurlin  m. Benjamin T Scogin  NavCo  1859

            NOTE: Fielding Yeager Doke  1835-1912  CSA 

                        son of  John Smith & Nancy Yeager Doak  m. Lincoln Co Tenn

                        married Martha Emma Scoggin  1870  Navarro Co TX


Mrs. Texana Spurlin   m. J M Lankford   NavCo  1889

            Could Texana have been widow of Andrew C Spurlin who died 1884?


Mary Martha Spurlin..b 1819           d. 1862 in Texas

m. James W Taylor


The Spurlin Family may have left the area and moved to the Cotton Gin area of Limestone Co.




Thomas H Compere was the first schoolteacher at Wadeville, a village located near  present-day Kerens, Texas.   The Wadeville school was conducted in a structure built by the Relief Masonic Lodge and served as the school and Lodge Hall.

Lee Compere 1790-1871 was born in England.   He married Susan Voysey 1796-1854, also, born in England.   They sailed for America in 1816, lived in Georgia, South Carlina, Alabama, and Mississippi before coming to Texas.

Their son, Thomas Hechigee Compere 1827-1882, is buried in the Hubbard, Texas cemetery.

Another Thomas Hechigee Compere died at Houston, Texas 1965.



Fred M Mount was born 1833 in Tennessee.  He married Mellisia Ann Cates born 1838 in Missouri. 

Mary L Mount - Dau. Humphrey & Margaret Mount…

m.  1830  Stephen W Pollard Jefferson Co Tenn

   s/o John & Mary Hickman Pollard of Jefferson Co Tenn

            Moved to Mercer Co MO by 1870

Sons Samuel…John..William ....Jesse Pollard

Moved to Caldwell Co MO…

R J Pollard  1841-1917  buried at   Spring Hill Cemetery

Fred M Mount served in the CSA Army and may have been related to Pollard family of Jefferson Co Tennessee.    

Sarah Mount m. Thomas Pollard 1830  Jefferson Co Tenn

R J Pollard 1841-1917  buried Spring Hill Cemetery

The Mounts may have been related to the Sykes family of Jefferson Co Tenn.

Children of Fred &  Mellisa Ann Cates Mount were:

Annie Mount                          m. William Newton Matthews

Sarah Mount                          m. 1878  NavCo  John Calvin Coffey

M L Mount                             daughter

R B Mount                              son

James F Mount                      m. Georgia A                                                    

George E Mount                    m. Kate Matthews Slaughter


W T Mount                 Married Mae

            son      1875    William Finis Mount







John Welch was mentioned by Clint Fouty when he named some the early settlers of Dresden.   Hannah Welch, born Illinois, married Ethan Melton after the death of the Widow Hill, whom he had married at Franklin, Texas.      Melton was the first postmaster in Navarro at what is now the community of Dresden.   D S Welch (1834-1904)  served the CSA from Dresden.  Michael Welch had arrived at Dresdent 1844 from Greene Co MO.  He is buried in Melton Cemetery.


The Annual Meeting of the Richland Baptist Association was held at the Rehoboth Baptist Church in Purdon in 1883.   The minutes reflect that the Spring Hill Baptist Church has been dropped and the Dawson Baptist Church is listed.   Messengers from the Dawson Baptist Church were:  A C Spurlin, W B Ellis, R B Ellis,  F M Mount remained as Church Clerk.

It was on January 1, 1883 when S R Frost issued a deed of trust to trustees of the Missionary Baptist Church of Dawson for the East one-half of Block 3 (now South Waco Street).    The purchase price was $25.00.    The trustees were W B Ellis, J R Baldwin, and J R Welch.

The Dawson Baptist Church erected, at some undetermined point in time, a meeting house on the South Waco Street property.   A picture of the structure indicates that it was set on what appeared to have been brick columns approximately one foot above ground level.  The main part of the structure was approximately twenty feet by forty feet with a ten foot by fifteen foot wing.   A bell tower was located at one end.   Ceiling height was estimated to have been twelve feet.

David M Gardner served the congregation as pastor 1911-1913.   Dr. Gardner was a student at Baylor University in Waco at the time and recalled riding the train from Waco to Dawson.   He remembered that he often stayed at the home of Dr. H L Matthews when he came to Dawson to preach.    David M Gardner became a successful pastor and was, for many years, Editor of THE BAPTIST STANDARD, the widely circulated newspaper for Texas Baptists.

The kerosene lamps at the church were replaced by Electric Lights in 1915 when Fred Myers, who had lived in Mexia, built a generator to serve the community and charged churches twenty-five cents per month for power.    Fred Myers had married a Ms Robinson of Mexia.   Her sister, Florence Robinson b. 1894, married Carl W Matthews Sr and bore a daughter, Carleen  Mattie Janet Matthews, b. Dawson 1818.  Carl and Florence were divorce by 1921.     Carl was remarried in 1923 to Velma Coleman of Corsicana who had been teaching school at the Brushie Prairie School located north of Dawson.

The fate of the original Dawson Baptist Church is unknown.   Did it burn?  Was it damaged or destroyed by a tornado?   Was it moved away?    The structure was not standing on South Waco Street in the early 1930s.    

Chances are that the congregation outgrew the structure.     The records indicated that J B Kane served the congregation for six years, longer than any of his predecessors.    It was a time when the Baptist of Texas were experiencing growth as a result of the organization of Sunday Schools.    Training for young ministers at Baylor had begun to teach methods of growing churches and evangelistic efforts by Baptist were encouraged.

It was on April 3, 1922, that the Dawson Baptist Church purchased a lot in the Eldorado addition of Dawson on the northwest corner of North Main and Fourth Street.   The sellers were Mr. & Mrs. Milton Holton and the price was $200.

Twelve month later….April 23, 1923…the congregation of the Dawson Baptist Church held its first service in the new meeting house.  The new structure was approximately fifty feet by fifty feet and covered with a hip type roof.   The sanctuary was approximately forty feet by thirty eight feet and had a ceiling height of approximately sixteen feet.   

The main entrance was on North Forth street and the narthex opened to the sanctuary and to a large room across the rear of the sanctuary that had folding doors which could be opened to the sanctuary.  A set of stairs from the narthex led to the second floor.   The second floor contained two classrooms facing Fourth Street, a balcony, and two additional rooms on the opposite  side of the structure.  One unique feature of the second floor was a ceiling height of, perhaps, six feet six inches.

A Sunday School room on the opposite side was for small children and it was there that Mrs. Houston (Mabel Skinner) Akers played an antique pump organ and taught the children to sing "Jesus Loves the Little Children."    Someone had created a crude sandbox with a blue mirror to serve as a lake.   Children memorized… "Be…Ye…Kind…..and… God..IS…Love."

Two rooms had been created at the east end of the sanctuary and a raised platform constructed between the two rooms.   The two rooms were used for storing church supplies, Sunday School literature, etc.  and as Sunday School class rooms.  The platform extended from the area of the pulpit to the side of the sanctuary and in front of the north side room.    The extended platform was where the Church Choir area was located and dominated by a huge upright piano.   The entire platform area was elevated approximately sixteen inches above the main floor and a small wood railing had been built in front of the pulpit and choir areas to support a cloth curtain.

Factory made pews with a nice finish had been installed with long pews in the center and shorter ones on each side next to the windows.   Three pews had been installed in front of the room on the south side of the pulpit area and faced the north wall..not the pulpit.    That was the area where the Women's Sunday School assembled.

Grandma Hearn, a tall scholarly lady with white hair and a saintly countenance, served as teacher from time to time.    One Sunday a newcomer was sitting in the class.  Her clothes did not appear to have been properly cleaned and she had forgotten to wash the back of her neck.  

Grandma Hearn, gracious and wanting to include the newcomer in the Sunday School, requested the lady to read the scripture.  The lady looked at Grandma Hearn and replied, "I don't know how to read."    Grandma Hearn exclaimed..,  "You can't read?  Well, Honey, I'd learn tomorrow."

All walls and ceilings were covered with a patterned wallpaper.    The building had leaked from time to time and the water had caused the wallpaper to stain and to develop some "new"patterns over the old.    Little boys did not have a sixty-minute attention span and, when the sermons became exceedingly boring, attention could be diverted from the sermon and directed toward the ceiling where all types of scenes were available.    There were clouds and dragons and wagons and horses and faces….IF.... one had a vivid imagination.

There was no baptistery until 1925.    Prior to that time baptisms were conducted at local ponds…sometimes at the rock crossing on Richland Creek at Spring Hill..and..sometimes,  in winter, at the First Baptist Church at Coolidge.

The new baptistry was installed under the floor below the pulpit area and consisted of a large concrete vat with wood steps leading into it from each end.   When baptisms were to occur the pastor and whoever was to be baptized would disappear into the rooms on either side of the pulpit area…men to the north…ladies to the south…..to dress.   Two deacons would then move the pulpit to the choir area.    The floor of the pulpit area had been hinged and folding handles installed on the side opposite the hinges to permit the floor to be lifted and folded back against the east wall of the sanctuary.

The underside of the floor was not particularly attractive and, for some special baptisms, the underside was decorated with fresh flowers.

B T Goodwin was pastor at the time when the baptistry was installed and it was remembered that the baptistry was used often during his ministry at Dawson.  B T Goodwin had been a student at Baylor after having been converted from being a West Texas cowboy, complete with all attendant life style.     He had, apparently, "got religion!"    B T Goodwin preached one type of sermon….Evangelistic.    The number of the invitation hymn was never announced when B T Goodwin was preaching in Dawson or anywhere else…it was always, "Just As I Am."  He wrote a book that was published entitled AN INTERPRETATION TO THE SYMBOLS OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION.  It was a little weird!   

B T Goodwin remained in the Dawson area from 1925 until 1930.    Philip McGahey is shown to have been pastor for a brief time in 1927.   Bro. Goodwin continued preaching until his death.   A son was living in Tyler in the 1980s.

During that period 1927-1928, Carl & Velma Matthews and their son,  Carl Jr., had moved to a yellow painted house on Smith Street in Dawson.   It was across the street from where Mrs. Houston Akers lived and Mrs. Akers, saintly lady that she was, lost no time in introducing Velma to the Baptist Church.     Soon afterwards the church was engaged in a "Protracted Meeting" and Carl & Velma were converted under the preaching of Bro. Phil McGahey.

Carl & Velma had walked to the front of the sanctuary during the singing of "Just As I Am" and Carl Jr, safe in the arms of Mrs. Houston Akers,  had no idea of what was happening.   People were crying.   Grandma Hearn was shouting.  Bro. Goodwin and Bro. McGahey were exhorting.  And, there was an abundance of handshaking and hugging...and more crying... when the service was concluded.

Carl & Velma were to be baptized the following Sunday.   Before the service began,  Bro. Goodwin gave Carl Jr. a tour of the baptistry area and informed him about what was to transpire.    There was the gaping hole in the floor and there was a large swimming pool where the floor had been.    Bro. Goldwin informed Carl Jr. that he would enter the swimming pool later as would Carl & Velma.   Fresh home grown flowers and greenery covered the underside of the floor which had been raised  against the rear wall and produced a sweet and almost sickening aroma.

Later, Bro. Goodwin entered the baptistry and, one by one, individuals emerged from the side rooms...ladies first, then the men...and Bro. Goodwin  would preach some and then lower each individual into the water.  

Shortly thereafter, an incident occurred that brought embarrassment to Velma Matthews.     The property on Smith Street across from the Akers consisted of the residence, a small one room servants residence, and a huge barn and lot where Carl kept hogs and cattle to be slaughtered for the market.   Carl used the servants residence to make his "home brew."   This was during prohibition and the making of home brew was common in Dawson...but never by Baptist.  Well, almost never.

Several bottles of the home brew were kept in the ice box and Carl would enjoy a bottle or two in the evenings when he came home from work.   Velma never touched the home brew, but one morning she decided that if Carl enjoyed it so much, perhaps she should just see how it would taste.   She was almost finished with her bottle when Mrs. McGahey knocked on the door.   She had come to say goodbye to Velma...gave her a hug...then kissed her.    Velma knew that Mrs. MCGahey could smell the aroma of beer on her breath .   Velma never, again, took a drink of any type of alcohol.   


The church parsonage was constructed at some point and located immediately north of the church building and next door to C M Newton, president of the bank.    A bathroom had been included in the parsonage, but there were no plumbing fixtures..not uncommon in Dawson residences.   When the need for more Sunday School space was required a suggestion was made to use the bathroom for a classroom for small children.    Mrs. B W D Hill, who was born in 1869, was named teacher c.1928.    Mrs. Hill was only fifty-nine but she appeared absolutely ancient to a four-year-old.   Mrs. Hill, a kindly woman and wife of a local physician, would begin the lesson telling about Moses in the Bull Rushes, etc. and as she told the story her head would begin to nod and soon she would be sound asleep.  Mary Frances Wolf and I were, usually, the only pupils and we would shake Mrs. Hill and tell her to get on with the story.   One Sunday she fell asleep and when she opened her eyes her pupils had disappeared.

The parsonage was, sometimes, rented when pastors attending Baylor came only on Sunday to preach and then returned to Waco.   Frank J Nichols, school teacher and football coach,  lived in the parsonage for some time in the 1930s.  The family was unable to find their white Spitz dog when they left  for Christmas vacation, assumed the dog was outside, and decided that the dog could fend for itself while they were away for the week.     When they returned…and opened the door of the house..... the dog shot out of the house that was in shambles…window shades ripped…curtains pulled down…sofa pulled apart, etc.

J T Taylor followed B T Goodwin as pastor.   J T Taylor was a crippled man, but a fine preacher.    His wife was talented musically and played violin beautifully.  The Taylors remained in Dawson for four difficult years.   The Great Depression had begun and affected the church financially.  One Sunday, probably in desperation, he preached a sermon on church giving…and at the end….picked up the collection plate….pulled all the change from his pocket…and flung it into the collection plate.  Coins were scattered all over the floor.   Bro. Taylor got the attention of the congregation…but not much money.

He eventually went to a church near Houston and had a long and successful ministry.

Benton Tatum followed J T Taylor.     Benton Tatum was a class act, a great preacher, a student at Baylor.   His room at the boarding house in Waco was neat and he had personally made the bed he had brought to school.   He was always neatly dressed and often brought other student friends from Baylor to help with revivals, study courses, etc.   He married one of those students and she was a wonderful lady.  Once, when her husband had used the term "paraphrase" in one of his sermons,  I questioned her as to the meaning…and she patiently explained the term.    The Tatums left Dawson after two years to begin a ministry at Hubbard.

He was pastor for many years at First Baptist Church, Pine Bluff, Arkansas. My sister, Jean LaMerle, a very attractive young lady, taught school at Pine Bluff her first year out of college.   When she united with the church Dr. Tatum put his arm around her and told the congregation how cute she was as a little girl with bare feet.   She was embarrassed.   

Ralph Glenn Commander followed Benton Tatum in 1936 and the Great Depression was still in full swing at Dawson.   He and his wife moved into the parsonage.   They had a place to live, but not much else.     Once when he had driven his Plymouth to a church meeting and carried several of the ladies of the church with him, the car had a flat tire.   He was embarrassed when had to remove his suit coat and revealed a shirt that was in shreds.   Later, to save money….he jacked his Plymouth up on bricks and it remained in the garage for months.

Once, he became so discouraged that he cried and sobbed in his wife's lap..telling her that he was a failure as a preacher and as a husband…that he needed to quit preaching and get a job that could provide her a new dress.   She put her arms around him and told him that he was not a failure, that he was a great preacher, and that he was a wonderful husband…that she loved him and that God loved him..that God had called him to preach…and God would see them through that time of trial.  

Few pastors gave as much of themselves as did Glenn Commander.  He conducted Vacation Bible Schools that were exciting.    He led in the formation of a Boy Scout Troop and served, with Sonny Boy Newton, as Scoutmaster.   He led the church to begin to maintain the parsonage that was in terrible disrepair.  He always bore a big smile.     He continued to pastor until his retirement in New Mexico where he died in 2000.





1882    T H Compere

            see above

1883    C D Daniel


1885    A J Wharton

            William Tennyson Wharton 1846-????

                        married 1868 Martha Boone in Georgia

                        she was sister of John Boone b. 1845....died Bosque Co TX

            The Boone family lived Spring Hill area..married into Hagle, Staaden, Hargis

families of Dawson


            William Tennyson Wharton Jr...1868  

                        married Elizabeth Cathy Killpatrick

                        dau    born Navarro 1914


1887    R Andrews

            Dr. Matthew Thomas Andrews   born MS  was a prominent Baptist

            minister in Texas...is buried in Hillsboro, Texas in family plot


1889    P J Ellis

            This must have been Phillp Jackson Ellis  1842-1910

            Buried Dawson Cemetery


1891    C P Lumpkin

**        J L Walker


**        Rev. Hardin

            This Rev. Hardin may have been related to the family of John Wesley Hardin

whose father was a clergyman who lived southeast of Dawson.


Hiram Hardin lived at Pursley, Texas

Son      William Hardin

Son      Thomas Jefferson Hardin

            married Sarah F Carroll. a daughter of B F Carroll

            son      Joseph Hardin

            son      Thomas Hardin

            son      John Hardin


**        Rev Saffee

**        Rev. Little

1911    J S Taylor

1911    D M Gardner

            Editor..The Baptist Standard of Texas

1913    G E Burton

1915    C R Steward

1916    J B Rowan

1918    J B Kane

1922    J E Young

1923    D E Moore

1925    B T Goodwin

1927    Philip McGahey

            ???      Phillip E McGaha       MARE 1989

                        Minister Youth

                        Whitfield Baptist Church

                        Belton SC

1927    B T Goodwin

1930    J  T Taylor

1934    Benton Tatum


            Pine Bluff AR

1936    R G Commander


            Las Cruces NM

1939    David C Bawdy

1940    V E Temple

            ???      Vincel E Temple         SWBTS ex TH  1941

                        Ret.   Texarcana TX              1990

1942    H O Black

1946    J A Haley

            ???      Joel A Haley  SWBTS   ex Th 1946

                        Edgefield Baptist Church

                        Waco TX                                1990

1947    Cecil Atchley

1948    W O Estes

1956    Jim Bagget

            ???      Col. Jimmie Baggett  SWBTS  BD 1955

                        Pastor, Roane Baptist Church

                        Living Corsicana 1990

1959    Fred Chapman

1961    Dan Taylor

            ???      Dan E Taylor              SWBTS   ex  Th

                        V-P  Metro-McGee Asso.     1990

                        Arlington TX

1966    Richard Grant

            ??        Richard B Grant        SWBTS  MDiv  1973

                        Ex Dir Children's Service

                        San Antonio TX

1969    Bill Klingesmith

            ???      Billy D Klingsmith   SWBTS  Dip.Th 1968

                        Bill Klingsmith Evangelistic Asso

                        Santo TX  817.646.3211

1971    George Yarbourgh

            ??        George Yarbrough  SWBTS  Dip. Th 1968

                        FBC Goliad TX  1990

1974    Rich Erwin

1976    Joe Brumbelow

1980    Danny Curry

            ???      Dr.Danny V Curry     SWBTS  D.Min  1988

                        Pastored FBC Tahoka TX 1990

1982    Jim Neal

1986    Paul Thompson

1992    David Montoya

1993    David Bugg

1994    Weldon Barnard

1997    Mack Flurry

2001    Leo King



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Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox