Church History

Excerpt from Good Hope Baptist Church History Book

Catherine Debnam
Chairperson and Editor
A History of Good Hope Baptist Church
Early Roots in Hephzibah Baptist Church
From all available records, Good Hope Baptist
Church is a daughter of the Hephzibah Baptist Church,
white, which is situated on Highway 64 East, about
four miles west of Wendell. Black members were
recorded on the rolls of that church as early as May,
1810 and thereafter until 1912 when the last one died
in the person of “Aunt Hixie Merritt.” She was the last
black member buried in that cemetery. In 1823
Hephzibah Baptist Church’s membership consisted of
88 males, 120 females and 40 blacks. The record of
1832 mentions two black deacons serving the church.
“Hephzibah Baptist Church was constituted by
Elder John Purefoy of Wake Cross Roads and John
Galley of the Rock Spring Church of Johnston County.
The ten original members were: William Broadwell,
Henry Jordan, Reuben Jordan, Lott Robertson, Martin
Hall, Savina Bagwell, Christina Bagwell, Mary Jordan,
Sophia Hocutt and Martha Hall. The date of this
organizational meeting was December 30, 1809. John
Purefoy was elected pastor.” (1)
Prior to 1865 the custom and practice was for blacks
to worship in white churches. They were not accepted
on par with their white sisters and brothers. The
records of Hephzibah show that blacks were taken into
membership constantly. In September, 1863 the Min-
utes of Hephzibah state: “Received by experience
John Morgan (Colored) ; Louis, servant of B. Y. Deb-
nam; Grizzie, servant of A. B. Foster; Lewis, servant
of G. W. Scarborough.” (2)
The October meeting of that same year shows :
“Betsey, servant of Joseph Fowler; Badger, former
servant of Jackson Terill; Mazie Hall, a free Colored
woman, were received in membership.” (3)
Between 1840 and 1860 there was much growing
discontent among the colored brethern and sisters all
over the county. It was during this period that many
of our independent churches and denominations were
born. Hephzibah was no exception. In the December
meeting of 1865, a motion was recorded which stated:
“Granting the colored brethern and sisters the privi-
lege of worshipping among themselves rescinded.” (4)
The meaning of this motion is that the blacks had
already been granted the privilege of leaving the
Mother Church, but at this meeting, this action was
rescinded. This shows further that there was much
confusion in the church over the status of blacks.
The Minutes of 1866 states: “Agreed that the
church grant her colored members a letter in a body
and constitute them into a separate church.” (5) It is
unfortunate that we do not have the details of the
organization of a separate church. Just how many
members formed this church is not known. We do not
know how much assistance the white brethern gave
the colored, if any. If the colored brethern and
sisters came out of Hephzibah Baptist Church,
as this motion states, in 1866, it is probable that Good
Hope Baptist Church is 105 years old. There is much
validity in this motion because in a regular worship
service, as the colored members were worshipping in
the balcony, a deacon Scarborough asked them to leave
because of emotional outcries.
After the colored members came out of Hephzibah
Baptist Church, they seemed to have followed patient-
ly like the Children of Israel in “Wilderness Wander-
ing.” They seemed to have moved from first one place
and then another for a period of about 10 or 12 years.
It seems that all of the colored members did not leave
the Mother Church. According to relatives testimonies
those members who did leave, the number unknow,
met first under “Brush Arbors” at a place called
‘”Butterstump,” between Eagle Rock and Buffalo.
We do not know how long they remained there, but
a few years later we were told that they met at a place
called “Black Anchor” near Brother Ruth Dunn’s
farm. Some time around 1875 this little band is re-
ported to have built a log hut about “twenty by
twenty” some where in the neighborhood of the old
rock near S. M. McCullers’ farm. We are not able to
document with any degree of certainty the activity
of this period.
Brother Sylvester Mial related that a John Curry,
known as “Father Curry” and the Reverend Essie
Blake were instrumental in the organization of Good
Hope Baptist Church. When the question of a name
came before the members, Father Blake said call the
church, “Good Hope.” It is my candid opinion that the
Reverend Mr. Essie Blake aided in the organization of
The First Baptist Church, Clayton; Springfield Bap-
tist Church, Auburn; Wake Baptist Grove, Garner;
and the Wakefield Baptist Church, Zebulon. Reverend
Blake was instrumental in organizing the Johnston
District Association and perhaps was its first Modera-
tor about the year of 1885. I am told bv those who re-
member Reverend Blake that he was of small stature,
but possessed great power as a preacher.
We know with certainty that by 1878, the Good
Hope Baptist Church had been organized with deacons
and trustees. A deed recorded in the Wake County
Court House in Book No. 56, page 8 is dated December
1878, made to:
“Banks Price, Simon Price, Isham Pair,
Allen Miles and Haywood Wilder, Trustees of
the Good Hope Baptist Church all of the State
and County Aforesaid, Witnesseth: That in
consideration of twenty-five dollars, in hand
paid to said Wm. B. Doubd and L. L. Doubd
have bargained and sold, and they do hereby
bargain and sell and convey to said trustees
and their successors in office, all their rights,
title and interest in and to the following tract
of land, situated:
Begining in the Middle of the Smithfield
Road near the N.W. Corner of the Shuck
House field and running just north of a large
pine side tree Due East (3.1) Three and one
tenth chains to the line; Thence with said line
North 3 degrees. East (3.1) Three and one
tenth chains to stake and pointers; Thence
due West to the Middle of the Smithfield
Road; thence down the said Road to the
beginning, containing one Acre, More or less. (6)
It is further mentioned in the records of Hephzibah
Baptist Church that twenty-five dollars was given to
the colored brethern to purchase a church site; ant’
the records also show that twenty-five dollars was the
purchase price for the original tract.
The first pastor of the Good Hope Baptist Church,
as far as the available records go, was the Reverend
Essie Blake, who at this time must have been in his
early years. Some other early leaders, other than those
mentioned in the deed were, “Brisker Jones,” Sonnie
Powell, Green Hinton, Ransom Mial, Clark Griffis an^’
Fenner Terrill.
About 1894, or there about, the church must have
realized the need for a cemetery
According to a deed, made this the 7th
of March, 1894, C. Hendrick Williamson of
Wake County, and State of North Carolina,
of the first part, to Haywood Wilder, B. T.
Terrell and Isham Pair, Trustees of Good
Hope Baptist Church, Shotwell, N. C, of
Wake County and the State of North Caro-
lina, of the second part, Witnesseth :
That said C. H. Williamson in considera-
tion of twenty-five ($25.00) dollars to him
paid by said Trustees, Haywood Wilder, B. T.
Terrell and Isham Pair, the receipt whereof is
hereby acknowledged, has bargained and
sold … to said trustees … a certain tract
or parcel of land in Wake County, State of
North Carolina, adjoining the lands of L. L.
Doubd, Good Hope Baptist Church and C. H.
Williamson (said land being designated a
graveyard for Good Hope Baptist Church. (7)
According to this deed the graveyard is 420
feet by 210 feet being two acres, more or
less. The deed is recorded the 12th of Novem-
ber, 1894. Millard Mial was the Register of
The second pastor of Good Hope Baptist Church was
the Reverend Robert Shepherd. (Bob Shepherd). We
don’t know the end of Reverend Blake’s pastorate
nor the beginning of Reverend Shepherd’s; but some
of the older members who knew Reverend Shepherd
said he pastored about fifteen or twenty years. Accord-
ing to the Minutes of the Wake Baptist Association
for the year 1881, fifteen years after the constitution
of the church, the total membership was 100 persons;
thirty males and seventy females. The delegates that
year were Clark Griffin, F. Terrill and Haywood
Wilder. The total valuation of the church was listed as
In the year of 1892 the Minutes of the Wake Baptist
Association list the Reverend S. B. Barker as the
pastor of the church and a membership of 210.
The Minutes of 1893 listed Reverend Joseph Perry
as pastor of the church. He was also at that time, the
Moderator of the Wake Association, and the teacher
in the Shotwell Community.
The records of 1901 list the Reverend A. T. Price as
pastor and G. H. Williams as clerk. The membership
was 220. The Reverend Price served this church on
two different occasions. He must have been a young
man at this pastorate which covered a period of two
or three years.
The year 1905 records the Reverend W. S. Wyche as
pastor and Arthur Jones as clerk. We do not know
just how long Reverend Wyche served, but we are led
to believe that it covered several years. It was report-
ed of him that he was a “powerful preacher.”
It is thought by some of the members that the
Reverend Dr. George W. Moore followed Reverend
Wyche, but I do not find any records to substantiate
this assertion. Sister Mazie Johnson, Cora A. Watson
and Brother Joseph J. Blake state that he did con-
duct a great revival about this time when many per-
sons came to Christ. Whether he was pastor or just
the evangelist is not clear.
The year 1912 found the Reverend A. B. Vincent as
pastor and R. G. Dunn as clerk. Reverend Vincent
served until 1917. The North Carolina Edition of the
American Negro states that he pastored for seven
years. It is probable that he assumed the pastorate
around 1910. If this is the case his tenure woud be
around seven years. His biographical sketch lists him
as A.B., A.M., and D.D. and a member of the faculty of
Shaw University. (8)
The Reverend A. T. Price came back to Good Hope
for a second pastorate in 1918 and served until his
death in 1928.
The Reverend John Henry Clanton served as pastor
from 1929 through 1930. The Reverend Clanton was
followed by the Reverend E. M. Saunders who served
several years. He was followed by a local son of the
church, the Reverend Charlie Jones who served about
one year.
In 1938 the Reverend A. B. Johnson became pastor
and served until December, 1942. Under his leadership
the church was covered with tin shingles and a con-
ference room was erected.
About the early part of 1943, the Reverend C. L.
Faison was called to the church, but chose not to serve.
On the second Sunday in February, 1943 the Rever-
end Claude R. Trotter was invited to supply the pulpit
and that following April the church extended him a
call. He accepted and has served the church through
some of the most productive years of its long history.
After about a year’s observation and study of the
church, Pastor Trotter saw the need for better organ-
ization. He recommended the “group system.” The
church was divided into six geographical areas. The
original areas and their leaders were as follows : Shot-
well, Mrs. Carrie McCullers, who declined in favor of
her daughter, Mrs. Hattie Bryant; Good Hope Group,
Mrs. Bessie Hinton who declined in favor of Mrs.
Laura Ruth Hinton who served for about fifteen years ;
Eagle Rock, Mrs. Viola Johnson who served until Eagle
Rock merged with Shotwell and other groups ; Knight-
dale, Mrs. Annie Jones; Auburn, Mrs. Zenobia Jones;
and Raleigh Group, Mrs. Mary Jane Adams. The
groups have been a real blessing to the church both
financially and spiritually.
The deacons have played an important role in the
long history of our church. Some of the deacons were:
Isham Pair, Brisker Jones, Simon Price, Banks Price,
Haywood Wilder, Conley Bryant, Fenner Terrell, Sr.,
Allen Miles and Green Hinton. The next set of deacons
were Rufus Merrit, Felex Watson, Richmond Hinton,
Porter Powell, Badger Terrell and Arthur Jones, Sr.
These deacons were followed by Sylvester Mial, Ruth
Dunn, Augustus Goodson, Sr., S. M. McCullers,
Collins Hinton, Henry Coffey and James H. Watson.
About ±944 the church elected the following brothers
as deacons: Fred Debnam, Fenner Bryant, Marion
Goodson and Early Johnson. Some years later Norman
Dunn, Lemuel Mials, Henderson McCullers and Ollie
Dunston joined the ranks. Brother Nathan H. Watson
moved his membership from Lee’s Cross Road Baptist
Church and was accepted with full rights as a deacon.
The next men elected to the deaconship were Leonard
Williams and Walter Williams. The last set of men to
be elected as deacons were Theodore Goodson, One?
Polk, Walter Hinton and Willie E. Jones. Dalon Free-
man moved his membership from Smith Temple Free
Will Baptist Church, and was later accepted as a dea-
con of Good Hope Baptist Church.
The present roster of deacons are Nathan H. Wat
son, Fred Debnam, Dalon Freeman, Marion Goodson,
Fenner Bryant, Walter Williams, Ollie Dunston, Ones
Polk, Theodore Goodson, Walter Hinton and Willie E.
The present roster of trustees are J. W. Evans,
Isaiah Goodson, Arthur Barbour, Garfield Bryant,
James Coffey, Sidney Lee Hinton, Otis Williams and
Joseph J. Blake who is also the present treasurer.
In 1948 the church engaged Mr. Eugene Savage to
design a new church edifice 42′ x 90′. By 1951 sufficient
funds, with the help of members and friends who do-
nated timber, had been gathered for the erection of a
new church. Pastor Trotter was engaged to supervise
the construction of the building, and by the end of 1952
the building project was well on its way. On June 30,
1957 the new church was dedicated formerly by the
Reverend Samuel Moss Carter of Richmond, Virginia.
The stain glass windows are donations from
individuals and groups. The H. R. Coffey family, the
Johnson Family, the A. I. Goodson Family, and the
S. M. McCullers Family gave the windows which bear
their names. The window which bears the name of
Deacon Collin Hinton and Mrs. Zenobia Jones was
donated by the Auburn Group in their memory. The
window which bears the name of Mr. G. H. Williams
and Mrs. Alex Hines was donated by the Knightdale
Group. The window which bears the name of “Aunt
Jane Jones” was donated by Mr. Carl Williamson. The
window which bears the name of Mrs. Cora Pair
Thomas was given by the church in memory of the
distinguished Christian work of a former member in
Liberia, West Africa. The large window in the front of
the church was given through the efforts of Mrs.
Bessie Coffey. The window which bears the name of
Mrs. Inez Dunn was donated by the Shotwell group.
The picture of “Jesus in the Garden” was donated by
the Debnam Family several years later.
On June 3, 1957, the church purchased thirty-six
pews fifteen feet long from Southern Desk Company
at a cost of $4,025.00. A few years later the church
installed a new Hammond Organ. In the spring of 1967
the church launched a building program to include
Sunday School rooms, kitchen and dining area. During
this time the membership doubled. In 1970 the church
purchased four acres of additional land, making a total
of eight acres of land owned by the church. All of these
physical accomplishments have occurred under Pastor
Trotter’s long pastorate.
The new pulpit set is a donation to the church by
the deaconess, under the leadership of Mrs. Annie
The Bulletin Board in the front of the church is a
donation of Miss Elmira Pace, given in the honor of
James and Hattie Pace, her father and mother.
Mrs. Thomas
No true history of the Good Hope Baptist Church can be written
without some mention of the unique contribution of Mrs. Cora Pair
Thomas. Many persons, men and women, have left their foot prints upon
the sand of time, but thou excellest them all.
Cora Ann Pair, the fourth child of the late Harmon H. Pair and
Allie V. Pair was born September 8, 1875 in Shotwell, Wake County, North
After her basic schooling in the local community, she graduated from
Shaw University in 1895. She also did further work at Fisk University
and the J. R. Moone Fireside School in Nashville, Tennessee. Miss Pair
seemed to have possessed a great humanitarian spirit, perhaps greatly
influenced by her pastor, the Reverend Robert Shepherd.
“She taught in the Public Schools of Wake and Nash Counties; while
thus engaged she was invited to accept the principalship of the Colored
Orphanage, Oxford, North Carolina. She held this post until she felt
strongly urged to the work of the foreign field — Africa.”
While at Shaw University she met the Reverend William H. Thomas
who was pursuing training both in the arts and religion. After both com-
pleted their courses and were prepared for the work to which the Master
had called them, they were married November, 1908 and sailed the follow-
ing month for Liberia, West Africa. They arrived January, 1909 in Brewer-
ville where they labored together for thirty-three years.