The History of the Reedy River Baptist AssociationIn the early years of the organization of the Reedy River Baptist Association, historical records were created, but the records are no longer available. Therefore, the historian acknowledges the initial efforts of Professor Charles C. Brown, who compiled a sketch of the missing records on August 23, 1947, and presented it to the Seventy-Fourth Annual Session, held at Cedar Grove Baptist Church on September 18, 1959.
The earliest minutes available were those of the Annual Session held at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, September 15-16, 1907. Mrs. Prudence Ballenger preserved them from the records kept by her father, the late Mr. M. C. Cooper, one of the earliest Secretaries of the Association. Accordingly, the following historical account is recorded from verbal account, borrowed data, and minutes of the Annual Sessions.
About twenty years after the Emancipation Proclamation of Negro slaves, the Reedy River Association was conceived and organized for those who did not have the privilege or opportunity to pursue formal education. Several churches in the lower part of Greenville County envisioned the need for spiritual enlightenment and formalized training, realizing that “No people can grow any stronger than the unity of converted hearts and the wisdom of educated minds.” Thus, being led by the Holy Spirit, and having been exposed to the conflicts and successes experienced by the Enoree River Baptist Association (organized in 1868), they came together to organize an Association for the purpose of promoting the Kingdom of Christ; sharing their Baptist beliefs; and building an institution that would enable their sons and daughters to learn how to read and write.
The Reedy River Baptist Association was organized at Bethlehem Baptist Church on September 12, 1885. The Reverend P. L. Morris was elected as the first Moderator, and Professor L. F. Goldsmith was the first Secretary. The following churches constituted the grand body: Reedy Fork; Flat Rock; Union; Mt. Pleasant; Cedar Grove; St. Matthew; Reedy River; Poplar Springs; Shady Oak; Bethlehem; and Thessalonial Baptist Churches.
In the minutes preserved by Mr. M. C. Cooper of the Twenty-First (Twenty-Second) session of 1907, the Reverend L. W. Simpson was elected Moderator; M. C. Cooper was elected Secretary; and Mr. A. D. Sweeney was elected Treasurer. The session was held at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. Also recorded and approved in the 1907 minutes, is a report of the Executive Board. They met in July 1907, at Union Baptist Church, and submitted plans to build a high school in Simpsonville, S. C. “to educate the sons and daughters of the Reedy River Association.” Upon recommendation of the trustees of Reedy River High School, the Executive Board approved the purchase of a new school building for the high school. The Association paid $102.50 for the building, and the treasurer received $25.00 on the old building in Simpsonville.
The following Moderators served the Association after Reverend P. L. Morris: Rev. A. W. E. Williams; Rev. L. W. Simpson; Rev. B. B. Earle; Rev. J. W. Hill; Vice Moderator S. O. Walker; Rev. P. J. Barton; Rev. H. L. Cunningham; Rev. U. S. G. Sweeney; Rev. S. C. Cureton; Rev. W. B. McMahand; Rev. W. R. Davis; Rev. R. E. Dennis; Rev. A. B. Brown; Rev. W. E. Davis; Rev. William Gamble; Rev. Reginald L. Dawkins; presently, Dr. Phillip Baldwin.Martin Webb Learning Center was established on Augusta St. in Greenville, and a building was later purchased on Fleming St,. as a joint effort of the Enoree, Greenville Baptist, North Enoree, and Reedy River Baptist Associations. Also, Contributions to the Baptist Colleges and to the college students greatly increased. The churches in the Reedy River Baptist Association continue to give strong support to black institutions of higher learning in South Carolina.
We cannot tell the whole story of the Reedy River Baptist Association. Much of the past history of the work of this body lies buried with the early pioneers, the saints of yesteryear. Only a few records remain to document their sacrifices, struggles, toils and labor; consequently, their contributions and the historical significance of this information goes unheralded and overlooked by our generation. We hope to correct this inequity and to do justice to those who labored in the vineyard, faithfully upholding the light of holiness. Our task is to continue their labor with new visions, renewed strength, and unadulterated devotion. In the one hundred and twenty one years span from 1885 to 2006, dreams have become a reality. With the combined effort of our schools and churches, education has been made possible for anyone with a burning desire to learn, to grow, and to contribute to the advancement of our nation and our world.
Churches now affiliated with the association are: Antioch, Bethlehem, Cedar Grove, Fairforest, Faith Tabernacle, Flat Rock, Goodwill, Lincoln Street, Mount Pleasant, Nicholtown, New Hope, New Mount Bethel, Old Pilgrim, Old Shady Oak, Poplar Springs, Reedy Fork, Reedy River, Rocky Creek, Shady Oak, Saint Matthew, St. Paul, Second Calvary, Staunton Community, Shady Grove and Victory Temple.
Truly the Lord has blessed the Reedy River Baptist Association, enabling us to survive the past, serve the present age, and forge new pathways for the future. One hundred plus years are behind us and a glorious new day is before us. Christ still leads the church. Behold we stand before open doors and Christ is still beckoning for us to come in. This land is our land because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” and we are His children. The challenge of this century is to continue answering the call to press forward into the future and not stay in the past. We must press on toward the mark of unity and holiness in Christ. Our association continues to grow in serving God, our Association, and our people. We continue striving to fulfill our obligation to God and our mission. Our 20th Moderator is Rev. Phillip Baldwin. Serving as 1st Vice moderator is Rev. T.E. Simmons and 2nd Vice Moderator is Rev. Ronald Barton.