Goodwill Baptist Church
Navarro County, Texas


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Photo by Dana Stubbs - August 2006


Goodwill Baptist Church
Researched by Verna Bonner,
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", Vol. XXI 1988
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society

Religion played an integral role in the lives of the inhabitants of Birdston Valley. Among the residents of the area, there existed a very strong community structure which united them.  It is believed that religious meetings were being conducted in the vicinity as early as 1876.  A Black Baptist Association was organized at this time called Missionary Baptist Friendship Association.  This Association was very active in missionary endeavors in the counties of Navarro, Ellis, Freestone, Kaufman, Hill, Henderson, Limestone, and Van Zandt.  Prominent  Baptist leaders in the Corsicana, Navarro County, region were Rev. Z. T. Pardee and Rev. W. W. Hay.

While members believe religious meetings were conducted in the late 1870's in Birdston Valley, the first documented evidence can be located in the Missionary Baptist Association minutes for 1884.  The Friendship Association met in August of 1884 in Hill County, Texas.  Goodwill Baptist Church of Navarro County, Birdston Post Office, is included in the Statistical Table.  J. Collins is listed as pastor.  There is no  listing for the name of the church clerk or church messenger.  Total church membership is given as 60 in the report.

Goodwill is not listed among the new churches in the 1884 report.   Normally, a new church would petition the Association for membership.   Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that the church was organized between the years of 1876 and 1883.  The J. Collins listed as pastor is, in fact, Isom J. Collins, resident of Birdston Valley and husband of Cheney Burleson.  Brother Collins, exerted great influence and leadership in the community until his death in 1920.   He led in organizing the Masonic Lodge and also operated a gin on his property.

All historical research points to the fact that the Goodwill Baptist Church was the first organized institution established in Birdston Valley.  The cemetery had been in use for many years prior to this time, but the school and Masonic Lodge were organized much later than the church.

In 1884, also, the Friendship Association, of which Goodwill is a member, belonged to the Baptist Missionary Convention of Texas.  Friendship Association is also included in the same organization in 1889.

A look at the 1891 minutes of the Friendship Association provides one with an in-depth view of Goodwill Baptist Church at perhaps its most active and prosperous time.   The Church reports a total membership of 108, with I. Collins as pastor and J. W. Evans as Church Clerk.  There were 19 members received by baptism, 21 exclusions (about 13 were restored).  There were only two items in the paid out section of the report, $9.25 paid to traveling preachers and $7.00 paid for charitable purposes.   Evidently the pastor, Isom Collins, was serving the congregation without pay.   In this particular report the women of the church were active also.  There was a listed membership in this area of work of 17.  Donations to the various phases of the Women's Work were: 75 cents sent to State Missions Work, 75 cents sent to Women's Mission Work, and $9.09 to Association Mission Work.

There have been two church structures located on the Birdston Valley site of Goodwill Baptist Church.  No exact date for assembling that first structure is known, but an analysis of church records reveal that it was probably between 1884 and 1891 according to property value notes on the Statistical Tables.  A 1901 Navarro County Soil Map indicates that a church and graveyard were located at the site at that time.   Nearby was the gin owned and operated by the Rev. Isom Collins.

This first structure served as the church and school facility until the Masonic Lodge was organized in 1907.  After that date, a two-story lodge  and school was built by the Freemasons.

As a result of a violent windstorm in the year 1939, the original Goodwill Baptist Church structure was damaged beyond repair.  It was necessary for the congregation to replace the building.  The Freemasons also built this new Church structure.  Archeologist, David H. Jurney, describes the new structure thusly:

"It is a gable, frame structure with two small lateral towers, and a central entry way.  A chancel adjoins the rear."

The oldest living member of the church is Mr. Isaiah Kelly, and the current pastor is Rev. Charles Kelly of Richland.  Secretary of the church is Ira Jean James; Treasurer is Mary Frances Robinson; Elder Deacon is Robert Sanford; Chairman of the Building Committee is Booker T. Washington.

In present day, the membership is 20, with an average attendance of 15.   The Church meets once monthly on the fourth Sunday of each month.  In addition to this, there are several special occasions when services are held - Memorial Day and the Birdston Valley Cemetery and Goodwill Baptist Church Homecoming Day.


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Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox