"In 1857 a few Baptists who had settled north of Indian creek organized a church in a small house about six miles west of Tyler, just north of what is now the Chandler road. The charter members of this church were Silas GRAMMAR [sic] and wife, William CLAY and wife, H.S. [sic] ELLIS, John REAVES [sic], Turner WHITE and wife, Edwin ADAMS and wife, and G.B. [sic] GREEN. This church was organized by John WHITMORE and Robert CLAY and called Indian Creek church ..."1
Smith County, Texas, was young and still considered wilderness when a small band of settlers, mostly farmers who had moved in from the older southern states, covenanted together to form Indian Creek Baptist Church. The church existed from 1857 to 1866, a mere nine years. No physical trace remains of this rural congregation once located in western Smith County. And there are few documents telling of its ministry and members. One member's last request to be buried at Indian Creek Baptist Church and a reference to the church in old minutes of New Harmony Baptist Church brought two family researchers together to spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort to learn some of the history of this long-forgotten little church.
The above newspaper article, written by R.A. DEAN in 1938, identifies 11 charter members and two organizers. According to Cherokee Baptist Association Annual Session Minutes, the membership of Indian Creek already had increased to 26 at the time it petitioned to join the association in October 1857.2"G.B. GREEN was soon ordained to preach and the church, though few in number and not wealthy, contributed of their means, bought a horse and sent Bro. GREEN out to do mission work in Henderson and Van Zandt counties.3 While we do not have the statistics to show his success, we feel sure that God blessed the efforts of this little church and pioneer missionary.Cherokee Association minutes show J.H. WHITMORE as pastor at the time the church petitioned for membership in 1857. WHITMORE was described as a missionary who regularly preached that year at Indian Creek, Enon, Mt. Zion and Newburg. In minutes of later years, R.C. CLAY is named as the pastor of Indian Creek. CLAY preached on the fourth Sunday of each month in 1859 and 1860.5
"In 1859 the church was moved to a place on what is now the Dixie Highway, near the home of the late Judge BEAIRD. There they built a very comfortable house and the church gained considerable numerical strength. Robert CLAY was pastor of this church from the time it was organized until 1863 ..."4
Indian Creek regularly sent delegates to the annual associational meetings. Each year from 1859 through 1861, the church showed membership growth (no associational minutes have been found for the years 1858 and 1862). Numbers peaked at 45 in 1861.6
Documented members and organizers of Indian Creek Baptist Church:7
ADAMS, Edwin ~ charter member, 1857, and trustee, 1858.
ADAMS, Martha ~ charter member, 1857.
(Wife of Edwin Adams.)
BARRON, John Wood ~ member, 1866, and association delegate, 1867.
(Husband of Elizabeth Ann Adams, a daughter of Edwin and Martha Adams.)
BARRON, Joseph Smith ~ member, 1866.8
(Brother of John Wood Barron.)
CHEEK, William B. ~ association delegate, 1859 & 1863.
(Purchased land adjacent to the church property from Silas Gammon in 1858.)
CLAY, Nancy W. PRICE ~ charter member, 1857.
(Wife of William H. Clay and a daughter of S.R. Price, who gave property for the church in 1858.)
CLAY, Robert C. ~ organizer, 1857, and pastor, 1858–1863.
CLAY, William Henry ~ charter member, 1857, and trustee, 1858.
(Deed records indicate that William H. Clay and Robert C. Clay were closely associated and likely related.)
ELLIS, George ~ association delegate, 1863.
(Probably George M. Ellis, father of Henry Thomas Ellis.)
ELLIS, Henry Thomas ~ charter member, 1857.
(Husband of Mary Jane Adams, a daughter of Edwin and Martha Adams.)
GAMMON, Sarah SMITH ~ charter member, 1857.
(Wife of Silas Gammon and first cousin once-removed to John Wood Barron. Sarah's father, John Smith,
was a brother to John Barron's grandmother, Martha Smith Barron.)
GAMMON, Silas ~ charter member and association delegate, 1857.
(Gave property for the church in 1858.)
GREEN, G.H. ~ charter member and association delegate, 1857.
(Listed as G.B. Green in article by R.A. Dean.)
PRICE, John M. ~ association delegate, 1860.
(Son of S.R. Price, who gave property for the church in 1858, and husband of Sarah A. Adams, a daughter
of Edwin and Martha Adams.)
REEVES, John B. ~ charter member, 1857.
(Brother to John Wood Barron's mother, Lucy Reeves Barron.)
WHITE, Absalom Turner ~ charter member, 1857.
(May have given property for the original church site in 1857.)
WHITE, Salena PRICE ~ charter member, 1857.
(Wife of Absalom Turner White and a daughter of S.R. Price, who gave property for the church in 1858.)
WHITMORE, John H. ~ organizer and pastor, 1857.
From this partial membership listing, it is quite evident that the church was formed by extended family groups. The PRICEs and son-in-law Absalom T. WHITE left Benton (now Calhoun) County, Alabama, and lived briefly in Mississippi before settling in Smith County in 1848.9 They may have been accompanied by the CLAY family, who came from Tishomingo County, Mississippi, at about the same time. Silas and Sarah SMITH GAMMON, originally from Jones County, Georgia, arrived from Louisiana about 1851.10 John B. REEVES migrated from Coosa County, Alabama, in 1851, buying land in November a few miles west of where the original Indian Creek church would be sited.11 The ADAMS family, including sons-in-law Henry T. ELLIS and John W. BARRON (nephew of John B. REEVES), followed from Coosa County in 1852.12 Henry ELLIS's parents, George M. and Frances SIMMONS ELLIS, also made the move from Coosa County, although probably a few years later than their son.13 Locating in the same general area west of Tyler, these families intermarried in the 1850s. It is quite likely that other members of these families also joined Indian Creek Baptist Church [see Appendix]."At this time all of the male members were engaged in the war between the states, and this church went down. After the close of the war, Bro. John BARRON, one of the members, made an effort to rally the membership and get the church back to work, but failed. He then called upon them to meet and disband, which was done in the fall of 1866."14Indian Creek Baptist Church was not represented at the annual associational meeting in 1865 or 1866 (no minutes have been found for 1864). A report made by W.G. CAPERTON, a minister, in the October 1866 associational meeting described the difficulties faced by churches in the area: "The desolating influence of war has scattered many of our churches and left our sanctuaries desolate. Whole neighborhoods are left without the living ministry."15
In the associational minutes of 1867, J.W. BARRON is listed as delegate for the Indian Creek church. No pastor is named. In its last year, the church had no additions, three members moved their letters, and membership dropped to 31.16After the Indian Creek church disbanded, its members took different paths.
• Several died. Edwin ADAMS had died in 1862 and was buried nearby in what is now known as Beaird Cemetery. William Henry CLAY died in 1861, burial location unknown. John M. PRICE died before 1870, burial location unknown.17 Silas GAMMON, who requested in his 1867 will to be buried at Indian Creek Baptist Church, died in 1868. His wife, Sarah SMITH GAMMON, appears to have predeceased him.18 Their graves have not been identified. Nor has anyone located an Indian Creek cemetery. Speculation is that Beaird Cemetery might have previously been the cemetery for the church [see Indian Creek Baptist Church].
• Some members moved away. Absalom Turner WHITE and Salena PRICE WHITE sold their property in Smith County in 1860 and moved to Henderson County. She died there before 1870; he remarried and later moved to Somervell County.19 William B. CHEEK joined Salem Church in Cherokee County and served as one of its delegates to the 1867 Cherokee Association meeting.20 John B. REEVES was in Henderson County by 1867.21 He lived there only a few months before removing to Van Zandt County, where he appears on the 1870 U.S. census. His family continued to maintain ties with his BARRON kin over the years. Nancy W. PRICE CLAY moved to Tyler and was a member of that city's First Baptist Church in 1888.22
• Other members formed new churches nearby."The Indian Creek community was then left without religious service of any kind. In 1868 there was a small school house built [...] A Sunday school was soon organized and kept up for several years [...] In the spring of 1872 M.J. DEAN at his own expense built the first meeting house for what is now Dean [Baptist] church. The 8th day of June was set for the organization of the church [...] There were nine charter members [including] Mrs. Sarah PRICE, Mrs. Jane PRICE and Mrs. Jane ELLIS."23Sarah (Mrs. John M.) PRICE and Jane (Mrs. Henry T.) ELLIS were daughters of Edwin and Martha ADAMS, charter members of Indian Creek Baptist Church. Jane ELLIS's husband also was a charter member of Indian Creek and later preached at Dean.24 Jane (Mrs. Madison F.) PRICE was the former Christiana Jane VENABLE. Sarah and Jane PRICE were daughters-in-law of S.R. PRICE, who gave a portion of land to the Indian Creek church in 1858."Most of the membership (of Indian Creek Church) went to the New Harmony church a few miles further north."25John Wood BARRON and wife Elizabeth; mother-in-law Martha ADAMS (widow of Edwin ADAMS); brother-in-law Andrew Jackson ADAMS; Mary Ann ADAMS BEAIRD (a daughter of Edwin's son, Jeremiah J. ADAMS); and Joseph Smith BARRON joined with several neighbors and various BARRON relations newly arrived in Texas to form Harmony Baptist Church in 1867.26 The choice of name for the new church may have referred to hopes for better times after the Civil War or possibly to the problems that led to the breakup of the Indian Creek church.
Harmony Church became New Harmony soon after it joined the Cherokee Association in 1869, as there was already a Harmony Church in existence.27 From New Harmony's church minutes, there is a brief description of the difficulties that caused Indian Creek's demise: "... most if not all of those that went into the organization [of Harmony Church] come [sic] from Indian Creek an old and influential [church] of this (Smith Co) which from causes proceeding from the late War caused the dissolution of the Church."28
Though Indian Creek Baptist Church existed for only nine years, its legacy endures through the longevity of its offspring churches, Dean and New Harmony, which continue to serve their communities after more than 125 years.
If you have information regarding the Indian Creek Baptist Church or its members,
please contact the compilers:
Bobby J. Wadsworth
1. R.A. Dean, "Baptist Association Will Meet at Dean Where Church Started 84 Years Ago," copy of loose clipping from the Daily Courier-Times, Tyler, Texas, ca October 1938. 2.
"Cherokee Baptist Association Annual Session Minutes." Smith Baptist Association, 120 E. South Town Drive, Tyler, Texas. 3. A deed dated 19 Oct 1858 (Smith DB J:223) may identify one of the missionary efforts of Indian Creek Baptist Church. G.H. Green, as moderator, signed this document on behalf of the "Church at Macedonia" authorizing three men to hold the deed for land recently donated to the church. These men were S.R. Price (who was likely a member of and donated land for the Indian Creek church just 11 days earlier), J.H. Thornton and Thomas Lowery. The Macedonia church was located in Garden Valley on the border with Van Zandt County. Green, Thornton and Lowery were recorded in close proximity to each other in Garden Valley on the 1860 U.S. census of Smith County. Macedonia Church appeared for the first and only time as a member of the Cherokee Baptist Association in 1859 with G.H. Green as pastor. Total membership of the church was not given, but five were baptized, seven were received by letter, one was dismissed by letter and two were excluded. That same year, the association granted Macedonia Church a "letter of dismission." It is not yet known if this church disbanded or joined a different association. 4. Dean, "Baptist Association." 5. "Cherokee Baptist." 6.
"Cherokee Baptist." 7. Dean, "Baptist Association"; "Cherokee Baptist"; and Smith DB 41:216. 8. Joseph Smith Barron obituary, Baptist Progress, 11 Oct 1923, p. 15. ["Bro. Barron professed faith and joined the Baptist church at Indian Creek Church near Watter (should be Walter) Beards on the Dixie Highway, but now extinct. He remained a member there till the church disbanded and then joined at New Harmony as a charter member in 1867."] 9.
Confederate Pension No. 30739 issued to M.D.L. Price, son of S.R. Price, "Soldier's Application" dated 06 Mar 1915, Henderson County, Texas. National Archives, Washington, DC. [M.D.L. Price stated in 1915 that he had resided in Texas for 67 years. The evidence suggests that both S.R. Price and Absalom T. White lived in Mississippi (probably Tishomingo County) before settling in Texas. It is assumed that the two families moved together and arrived in Smith County at the same time.] 10. 1850 U.S. census, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, p. 145; Alsey Fuller to Sarah Gamon (sic), 28 Apr 1851, Smith County, Texas DB C:523. 11.
Thomas J. Hayes to John B. Reeves, 07 Nov 1851, Smith County, Texas DB D:205. 12.
Clora Barron Stanley, notes written before 1960. [The author, a granddaughter of John Wood Barron, states, "In the fall of 1852, John & Elizabeth (Barron) with the baby Josephine and Eight other members of Elizabeths family came to Texas ... In the Adams Family making the trip to Texas was Elizabeth's Father and mother and some brothers and sisters that was (sic) mostly Grown." Named were Edwin, Martha, Jerry and Sarah E. Adams.] 13. The Ellis family arrived in Smith County before July 1859, when Noah Ellis (Henry's brother) married Martha E. Adams, a daughter of Edwin and Martha Adams. 14. Dean, "Baptist Association." 15. "Cherokee Baptist." 16. "Cherokee Baptist." 17. John M. Price served in the 22nd Texas Infantry, Co. I, C.S.A., during the Civil War. No record of him has been found after June 1863. If he survived the war and returned to Smith County, he likely was buried at the Indian Creek Baptist Church (now possibly Beaird) cemetery. 18. Probate Record of Silas Gammon, File No. 251. Smith County Clerk's office, Tyler, Texas. [In his will dated 12 Mar 1867, Silas mentioned all of his children but not his wife, indicating that she had died before that date.] 19. La Jean Horton, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, e-mail messages to Bobby J. Wadsworth, September 2000. [Absalom T. White's second wife was Zelphia Pugh Lindsey, the daughter of Tignal Pugh and Mary Catledge.] 20.
"Cherokee Baptist." 21. "Voter Registration List – 1867, Henderson County." [Link found on Henderson County, Texas, USGenWeb site, <http://txgenweb7.org/txhenderson/>. "(No.) 408, John B. Reeves ... Years in County: ½, Remarks: "Removed to Van Zandt Co."] 22. "First Baptist Church, Tyler - Roll of Members - 1888." [Link found on Smith Co., Texas, USGenWeb site, <http://www.etgs.org/txsmith/>.] 23. Dean, "Baptist Association." 24. Lorene West Conaway and Ruby Renfro Neilson, Obituaries from Tyler Newspapers, Smith County, Texas, 1905–1915, (East Texas Genealogical Society, Tyler, Texas, 1988), p. 119. [Obituary of H.T. Ellis abstracted from the Daily Courier-Times, 07 Feb 1911.] 25. Dean, "Baptist Association." 26. New Harmony Baptist Church minutes, book begins 1885, pp. 2 & 13. Copy in the possession of Vicki Kruschwitz, Waco, Texas. 27. New Harmony, p. 13. 28.
New Harmony, pp. 12 & 13.
This page last updated 26 Aug 2009.