Old Bethel Baptist Church History

Bethel Baptist Church was constituted May 4, 1811, with members from Hazel Creek and Cypress Creek churches. Bethel was about halfway between these two churches. Old church records have been destroyed, but it is believed Bethel was in existence as early as 1801. Bethel was the first Baptist church in the north-central part of Muhlenberg County and the third oldest Baptist church in the county.

Bethel Baptist Church had a great influence on the establishment of other churches in the area. In the early days it was called extending an Arm. Today we would probably call it a mission from the parent church. Churches were far apart and travel to services was very difficult. Many people felt they could not attend services so far away, so Arms to other neighborhoods were established.

In 1811 an Arm of Bethel Church existed near the site of Pond Station. This group did business as the Arm of Bethel until 1824 and perhaps later.

On August 4, 1838, 29 people, most of them from Bethel, organized New Hope Baptist Church. New Hope is near Moorman, KY.

Bethel Church records show that in 1866 an Arm of Bethel known as Charley's Chapel met in business session at Charley's Chapel school house. In September 1869 this Arm requested letters from Bethel to organize a body known as Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church.

Cherry Hill Baptist Church was organized December 24, 1887, with 16 members from Bethel.

On February 15, 1893, Cedar Grove Baptist Church was organized with 74 members. The majority of these came from Bethel and Mt. Pisgah.

The first church building at Bethel was a log building. At a later date a brick building was erected at or near the site of the original log building. In 1917 W.D. Tudor, J.B. Noffsinger and J.R. Reno were appointed a committee to dispose of the old brick building and collect funds to erect a new house of worship. The new building was a frame building on the outside with plastered walls on the inside.

Services were held in Eades school house for three months while the new building was being constructed. The first services were held in the new building February 22, 1918. This building was dedicated August 1918. Bethel hosted the Muhlenberg County Baptist Association on this date and the dedication services were held on the first day of this meeting.

Sunday School rooms and a basement were added to Bethel Church in 1958. The addition of a furnace made it possible to have central heating. This part of the building was dedicated May 1960.

Late Saturday evening, November 19, 1960, a fire of unknown origin completely destroyed the church and all its furniture. The members voted not to rebuild the church. The reasons for this being: there was no longer a community at Bethel because of the strip mining, and members were driving from other communities to the services. The members felt they would be of greater service in the communities where they now lived.

The old cemetery is located on State Highway 181 between Greenville and Bremen, at the site of the house of worship for nearly 150 years. The fire insurance money was put into a fund for the future care of the cemetery.

Before the Civil War many members of churches were slave holders. The Bethel church roll listed 18 members by first name only. These members were given all the privileges of any church member except voting. This was to prevent the masters from telling the slaves how to vote. The slaves usually had a special place to sit in the services.

Surnames of Bethel Church Members 1848-64

The membership roll of Bethel listed 346 members in 1848-64. The following is a list of family names during this period.

Black members of Bethel Church