Mrs. Lewis wrote this beautiful piece of history in February, 1961. Keep that in mind as she mentions the "present" pastor or "present" minister of music. Her entire piece has been transcribed word for word...just as she presented it 43 years ago.
One of the most exacting tasks is that of compiling a church history. Wading through countless minutes written by many people who write differently is no easy job. Delving into Church Roll, Associational Minutes brochures, and bulletins only adds to the general confusion. However, as I relived each hope, joy, happiness, heartache, despair, disappointment, and aspiration: and felt once again the surge of renewed faith, I found the arduousness of the work disappearing. I remembered the elation of spiritual adventure as I, along with the other Charter members, envisioned a better community in which to rear our children – a community which would feel the powerful Christian witness engendered by our own Baptist Church.
Today, as I pass by and look at the towering walls of a new church auditorium nearing completion, my heart swells almost to bursting. I feel the pride of having a small part in this work of His Kingdom.
By presenting this history, as accurately as I have been able to compile it, I hope that you, too, will share an equal measure of devotion. The facts and figures are complete through the year of 1960. A few previews extend into the very beginning of 1961. Any errors which I might have made are purely unintentional. I have tried to present happenings truthfully even though at times I felt like hiding a few skeletons in the church closet. Yet God’s people, as well as others, make mistakes. It is from such mistakes that experience the dear Teacher teaches; and pure character is formed. I, most of all, feel that I have been enriched.
(Mrs.) June Weaver Lewis
Even as tiny seedlings sprout into gigantic trees whose majestic limbs tower into the skies, so it is that church spires point heavenward in mute testimony that men have planted and nourished the seed of faith. Such an evidence of faith was engendered among a handful of Baptists in the North Highlands area of Bessemer in the summer of 1942.
Since the hub of this community then consisted of only two service stations, one grocery store, two warehouses, and two beer and sandwich shops, it was inevitable that a large revival tent erected suddenly in their midst would create a lively interest. When Reverend Frank Colburn, a Baptist minister and resident of the community, stood behind the crude, wooden pulpit and proclaimed his convictions regarding the need for a local Baptist church, responsive hearts were aroused to action.
Immediately a series of cottage prayer meetings were begun and sincere supplication was made for courage to meet the challenge. The first of these meetings was held on June 2, 1942 in the Elman Roberts’ home. Rev. Leon Riddle, the pastor of Vineland Park Church in Hueytown, was elected to serve as moderator; J. A. Lewis, Clerk; and Mr. Roberts, Secretary-Treasurer. These prayer groups consisted primarily of the Elman Robertses, the J. W. Hands, Sr., the J. A. Lewises, the H. T. Kimbrels, and Mrs. M. T. Hatton. The culmination came with the organization of the North Highlands Baptist Church at 2:30 on the Sunday afternoon of August 30.
Under a large tent standing on the present site of the Trailer Court, twenty Baptists stood shoulder to shoulder to constitute the pioneer membership. These charter members were:
Spiritual contagion spread rapidly and the ensuing month brought fourteen more Baptists into the fellowship:
Added to the membership during the remaining months of the year were
The end of the associational year 1943 showed a membership of 81. The following yearly figures were:
The first meeting place for the church was in a rented tent in which the church organization was constituted. Before the month of September had terminated, the church body had moved into an art studio which the owner, Mrs. M. T. Hatton, had offered until a more adequate building could be secured. In return for its use the laiety agreed to provide a new roof covering. The roofing material was purchased, and on the afternoon of September 25 the men of the church roofed the building themselves. This first small, single-room meeting place is the older washeteria which is located behind the present church building.
After the roof was covered and a few benches secured, a piano was purchased from Mrs. Johnny Granger’s mother. The piano cost $40.00 and was paid for my money solicited mostly in the denomination of quarters. (The first church offering amounted to sixty-five cents.)
Next, a ton and a half of coal was purchased and a storage bin was built to put it in. The men agreed to build the fires and the women offered to clean the building weekly. Thus North Highlands Baptist Church began its first winter materially sustained.
Spiritually the church theme became “Forward.” Rev. Leon Riddle, who had been assisting the church until a pastor could be secured, was unable to meet with the body except on weekdays because of the pastoral duties at his own church. Therefore, he, along with the newly elected Moderator J. W. Hand, Sr. and Clerk J. A. Lewis, were overjoyed when the church members voted to call a pastor on October 4, 1942.
Rev. C. L. Cox was called first but was unable to accept. On November 8, the church called Rev. Harold Johnson. He, too, could not accept the call. Another conference was held the night of that same day and Rev. G. C. Morris was called as pastor. He accepted the pastorate and moved into a house at Glenn Hills which the church had rented for him. With the church treasure at $177 and a promised supplement from Vineland Park Church, the North Highlands Church body voted to set the pastor’s salary at $100 plus his house rent. This motion was amended on November 15 and the salary designated was $25 weekly; so that during a five-week month, he would receive $125. Rev. G. C. Morris (now deceased) served the church faithfully and well until his resignation, which became effective on May 8, 1943.
On June 6, 1943, Rev. Joe Bell, a much younger minister than Rev. Morris, accepted the church’s call as its pastor. The church paid his $10.00 moving expenses, and he settled in a house in Vineland Park near Rev. Leon Riddle. Rev. Bell’s salary was increased to $33.00 weekly and he was made liable for his own rent. Because his wife suffered acutely from asthma, Rev. Bell was forced to ask for a months leave of absence to take her to another climate. This request was respected and permission was granted. A while later, the Bell’s only child, young son Rodney, died from accidental poisoning.
In the early part of 1944 trouble arose in the church between the pastor and some of the members. This stemmed from several things; his substitution of interdenominational literature for that of the Southern Baptist Convention, his position on a woman’s place in the church, and his interpretation of scripture concerning women in general. The controversy reached a climax when the church body voted to ask Rev. Bell to resign on April 5, this to take effect no later than May 1. The vote was a 16 to 16 tie. However, Rev. Bell did submit his resignation on April 26, and his work as pastor was terminated on May 3, 1944. This action was not taken by a group of angry people, but was done after much prayer.
On June 4, 1944, Rev. L. M. Jones became supply pastor. He agreed to maintain this position until the church basement, which had been started under Rev. Bell's pastorate, was completed. Rev. Jones was asked by the church to conduct a revival in the basement as soon as it was ready for occupancy. In the month of July after the church had moved into the basement, Rev. Jones was called indefinitely as a regular pastor.
Rev. Jones' salary was raised to $35.00 monthly on august 1, 1944. Meanwhile, the pastor and his wife, who had been living in an apartment in Bessemer, decided to build a home. Rev. Jones purchased lot 7 adjoining the church property and constructed a house. He did this so that the church could buy it later to use as a pastorium. (This house has recently been moved to the back of the church property and is being used as an annex.)
Although the next three years were difficult war years with necessary priorities to buy materials and to build, Rev. Jones managed to lead the church in constructing an auditorium. His salary was increased to $50 weekly and he was granted a well-deserved month's vacation. The church's agreeing to pay him for this vacation in June, 1948 caused some friction among the membership, which resulted in his resignation on July 26, 1948.
The church attempted to call a pastor on October 6, 1948 but of the three men voted on none received a three-fourths majority. Rev. Sid Smith, one of the men voted on, was asked to serve as supply pastor. He served until Rev. C. I. Edge, another of the previously voted-on ministers was called to begin his pastorate on November 21, 1948.
Rev. C. I. Edge served faithfully, and like Rev. Jones he, too, led in further church construction. Both the auditorium and basement were completed and many interior and exterior changes were made. The pastor's salary was increased from $60.00 weekly to $3640.00 annually in October, 1949, and was supplemented by a $40.00 monthly car expense in October 1951.
During his pastorate, Rev. Edge, who had been residing in a rented dwelling, decided to build his own home. The fact that he was a carpenter himself facilitated his building the house quite economically. This lovely home was constructed on Avalon Avenue on the edge of Hueytown. (The church had been unable to purchase the home which Rev. Jones had built and it had been sold.)
Meanwhile, personal difficulties had arisen between the pastor and one of the prominent church families. Rev. Edge offered his resignation on December 16, 1951, but the church refused to take action on it. A letter of resignation was read to the church on December 24, but the church voted not to accept it. Instead, they pledged the pastor their wholehearted cooperation. Some of the deacons tried by prayerfully-arranged meeting to affect a truce, but these negotiations were a failure. So the resignation of Rev. Edge was accepted on February 3, 1952.
Dr. Leon Macon (present editor on the Alabama Baptist) was asked to serve as an interim pastor until the church could call someone to the field. He served well in this capacity until the present pastor Rev. Cecil O. Sewell, Sr. was called on April 6. Rev. Sewell moved to the church field on June 1, 1952.
During the first four years of Rev. Sewell's ministry, church membership increased to 464. The four following years raised this total to 836 (figure at the end of 1960). Materially and spiritually - the church has grown under his able leadership. They have purchased and paid for a beautiful three-bedroom pastorium ($13,500.00) at 2827 North 19th Street. Six additional lots and three houses to use as annexes have been purchased and are debt-free. In addition, the church has bought a tape-recorder, a P. A. system, two earphone sets, new pulpit furniture, an organ, a grand piano, several additional pianos for departments, two water coolers, choir robes, and carpeting. Air conditioning has been installed, and the nursery department and pastor's study has been equipped. Currently the pastor is leading the membership in an extensive building program - the building of a beautiful new thousand-capacity auditorium.
The first church officers elected in 1942 were J. C. Satterwhite, Treasurer, and J. A. Lewis, Clerk. The first church chorister was J. W. Hand, Sr. with H. T. Kimbrel as assistant. Miss Marjorie Hand was elected as the pianist.
Other men serving as church treasurers through the years have been J. W. Hand, Jr., E. W. Chatham, J. T. Crowder, George Smitherman, J. F. Robertson, Jr., and J. B. McFerrin.
Church clerks have been J. C. Satterwhite, J. W. Hand, Sr., W. M. Stringfellow, Mrs. W. R. Oswell, R. P. Whitaker, Horace Kimbrel, Mrs. Homer Baisden, and Mrs. Shelton Cummings, Jr.
First serving as deacons were E. W. Chatham, J. W. Hand, Sr., J. A. Lewis, and H. T. Kimbrel. On January 10, 1943 the church ordained its first deacon, J. C. Satterwhite. Other deacons ordained in the following years have been Ralph Parsons, J. W. Hand, Jr., C. E. Scott, James Smith, Robert Gober, Onam Whitlow, Hub Harrison, C. E. Milstead, Homer Cook, Johnny Granger, T. R. Ricketts, M. D. York, Monroe Donaldson, Thomas Waldrop, David McKinney, Buford Foster, Horace Kimbrel, Erbie Ware, O. E. Byars, Perry Steen, Theron Allen, Walter Gandy, Bobby Cates, Homer Baisden, Paul Thompson, Max Scroggins, Gerald Bush, Louis Wooley, and B. C. Bedsole.
Delegates who first represented North Highlands at the Birmingham Associational meeting in 1942 were J. W. Hand, Sr., Mrs. M. T. Hatton, and Mrs. Elman Roberts. The church voted to send $2.50 to pay for several copies of the minutes.
Church trustees wee first elected on February 3, 1943. They were J. W. Hand, Sr., J. A. Lewis, and J. C. Satterwhite. When he moved away, Mr. Satterwhite was replaced by H. T. Kimbrel. Later R. P. Whitaker replaced Mr. Hand, who also moved away from the field. In later years Mr. Kimbrel resigned; and Carl Layton, Pettus Herring, and L. K. Buckner were added to the board. Since Mr. Herring has moved away recently, the present board consists of L. K. Buckner, R. P. Whitaker, Carl Layton, and J. A. Lewis, Chairman.
Mrs. M. T. Hatton was elected to serve as the first Building Fund treasurer in November, 1943. She was succeeded by Mrs. Frank Kidd. J. A. Lewis and Howard Rogers served later. This fund was dissolved in February, 1949 and became part of the main treasury.
The first Finance Committee was composed of Fred Glass, A. F. McCoy, Mrs. M. T. Hatton, Mrs. J. B. Farrington, and Mrs. Joe Salter.
A Flower Fund was begun on August 16, 1944 with Mrs. Joe Salter as secretary. Mrs. E. W. Chatham, present chairman, has served almost constantly in this capacity since she succeeded Mrs. Kidd.
Those serving on the first Nominating Committee were Mrs. M. T. Hatton, Mrs. Joe Salter, and Mrs. A. F. McCoy.
On July 4, 1943 a Building Committee was selected with Rev. Joe Bell as chairman, Serving with him were H. T. Kimbrel and A. F. McCoy. On July 25 J. T. Crowder, E. W. Chatham, J. A. Lewis, and J. W. Hand, Sr. were added to the number.
A grounds committee was appointed in October, 1944 with Mrs. M. T. Hatton as chairman. This committee was to work toward improvement and beautification of the church grounds.
Joe Foster was chosen as the first church usher in September, 1944. Mrs. Joe Foster was elected Social Chairman for the church on October 7, 1953. This title was changed to Church Hostess in September, 1950.
D. A. West became the first church traffic officer in 1959.
The first church Nursery was begun in 1948 with Mrs. Gladys Parsons in charge.
On May 7, 1958, the church secured its first secretary. Mrs. Margie James served part-time until 1959 when Mrs. Gerald Bush became full-time secretary. She was succeeded in 1961 by Mrs. Shelton Cummings, Jr.
Sunday School: The first Sunday School officers were elected in September, 1942. H. T. Kimbrel, superintendent was supported by the following teachers: J. C. Satterwhite, Adult Men; Mrs. Lula Hatton, Adult Women; Mrs. June Lewis, Young People; Mrs. J. C. Satterwhite, Intermediates; Mrs. L. C. Morton, Beginners; and Mrs. E. W. Chatham, Secretary.
Men serving as Sunday School superintendents since then have been Fred F. Glass, Arnold Lewis, R. P. Whitaker, David McKinnery, James McClinton, Monroe Donaldson, Leon Smith, Robert Gove, Oman Whitlow, Walter Gandy, Theron Allen, and Perry Steen (now serving).
The Lula Hatton Bible Class for women was the first individual class to organize and elect officers. This was done on October 6, 1942.
The first Sunday School organization had no class for Juniors or Primaries. So in April, 1943 the Intermediate class (which had included Juniors) was divided. Mrs. J. C. Satterwhite was elected teacher of the intermediate-age girls and Mrs. Gertrude McCoy was elected teacher of the junior-age girls. The junior and intermediate age boys were combined with W. W. Kendrick as their teacher. May, the following month, marked the advent of the first promotion day at North Highlands and certificates were given to those promoted.
The Young Peoples Class was divided in October, 1947. Mrs. J. R. Parsons became teacher of the unmarried group and Mrs. Laura Adams, teacher of the young married group.
The Sunday School was divided into two departments in October 1947. Mrs. W. R. Oswell was elected superintendent of the Elementary (downstairs) Department.
In 1949 the Primary Class was divided and the Junior Girls and Boys were separated into two classes.
By 1952 the downstairs department had divided into four departments: Primaries, Beginners, Juniors, and Young People, (Intermediates were included in the latter group.) The Sunday School was graded in 1953.
The first Sunday School Study Course was held in December, 1943. The book taught was The Book We Teach.
"Teachers-Officers" meetings were first begun in 1951.
Missions Sunday School was organized in the "sawmill district" on November 11, 1953. The school met in an empty house with W. T. Smith acting as superintendent. This mission did not function very long because there wasn't enough response to keep it going.
Cradle Roll: The Cradle Roll was begun July, 1944, with Mrs. Fred Glass as superintendent. This department of the Sunday School has functioned successfully throughout the years under the leadership of the following women: Mrs. J. C. Satterwhite, Mrs. Roland Jones (Farrington), Mrs. George Smitherman, Mrs. Daisy Howard, Mrs. Howard Rogers, Mrs. David McKinney, Mrs. Ann Daniels, Mrs. Eunice York, Mrs. W. C. Smith, Mrs. Virginia Templin, Mrs. Leon Smith, Mrs. Walter Gandy, Mrs. Mae Glass, Mrs. J. W. Fondren, and Mrs. Howard Hannah.
Extension Department: The Extension Department of the Sunday School was added on October 23, 1942 with Mrs. M. T. Hatton as superintendent and Mrs. J. B. Farrington, Secretary. Under the leadership of consecrated mena and women, this department has continued to serve effectively. Leaders have been as follows: Mrs. T. D. Harper, Mrs. E. H. Roberts, Mrs. T. D. Jones, Mrs. M. L. Howell, Mr. Howard Steele, Mr. L. K, Buckner, Mr. Matthew Carroll, Mrs. L. R. Bradford, Mrs. Idella Thompson, Mrs. Alora Collins, Mrs. B. C. Bedsole, and Mrs. H. F. Delenne.
Training Union: Training Union was organized on August 6, 1944, with Martin Ray as its Director. He was assisted by the following: Mrs. J. C. Satterwhite, Associate Director; Mrs. martin Ray, General Secretary; Mrs. E. G. Smedley, BAU, President; Mrs. June Lewis; Young Peoples Counselor; Mrs. Claudine Kidd, Intermediate Sponsor; Wilkes Kendrick, Junior Leader; Mrs. L. C. Morton, Junior Sponsor; and Mrs. T. D. Jones, Story Hour.
Martin Ray not only made a good director, but also assisted with the music. A singer of repute, he later served as song leader and was responsible for the purchase of the first church hymnals.
Directors following him were Mrs. E. G. Smedley, H. T. Kimbrel, Mrs. W. A. Ballew, t. R. Ricketts, Thomas Waldrop, and Mrs. Sarah Waldrop. Mrs. Waldrop (present director) has been serving most ably since 1953.
In October, 1950, the Training Union was divided into two departments: Adult and Junior. In 1951 the Junior Department was divided into the Junior and Intermediate Departments. The Intermediate Department was divided into Young Peoples and Intermediate Departments the following year. During 1953 all of the departments of the Training Union were organized. This organization is one of the largest in the Bessemer Association and is widely recognized for its attendance on "M" Night (Mobilization), which is held yearly. In fact, North Highlands has won more attendance banners for this in recent years than any other single Bessemer Church.
Woman's Missionary Union: In May, 1944, the Woman's Missionary Society was organized with ten members present. Mrs. M. T. Hatton was elected as first president. Other Presidents have been Mrs. June Lewis, Mrs. Frank Kidd, Mrs. W. A. Ballew, Mrs. Tom Hosmer, Mrs. J. Robertson, Mrs. T. R. Ricketts, Mrs. Paul Thompson, and Mrs. Perry Steen (presently serving).
Girl's Auxiliary: The first Youth Auxiliary to be organized was the Girl's Auxiliary. This began in 1947 with eleven intermediate girls present. Mrs. June Lewis served as their counselor for the following seven years. During this period four Coronation Services were held in the church. At the service in 1951, Patricia Tessneer and Edna Hunnicutt were crowned as Queen Regents, the first two girls in the Bessemer Association to receive this honor.
Royal Ambassadors: Royal Ambassadors were organized in 1949 with six boys as members. That same year a Sunbeam Band was organized with seven young girls and boys as members.
Young Women's Auxiliary: In 1950 the orgainzation of Young Women's Auxiliary, with ten young women constituting the membership, completed the missionary auxiliaries. Thus, WMS became in actuality WMU (Women's Missionary Union). Later in the 50's the GA's and RA's were divided into two groups and the WMS into three Circles. (These ten units stand as the present total).
Rev. Joe Foster had the distinction of being the first man in North Highlands Church who was licensed to preach the gospel. Brother Foster (now deceased) was licensed on November 14, 1943, while the church services were still being held in the Art Studio building.
Rev. Thomas Glover, who joined the church in August, 1945, was ordained on September 30, 1945.
Howard Ballew (church pianist at that time) was licensed as a minister on November 8, 1950.
Kyle Staggs was licensed on April 9, 1952 and ordained on July 26, 1952.
On September 4, 1954, Roy Donaldson was granted a preaching license by the church. He was called as a pastor to McCalla Baptist Church, who requested his ordination on November 13, 1955.
Being granted a license to preach on April 6, 1955, Monroe Donaldson was called as a pastor and was ordained by the church on October 9, 1955. (Rev. Donaldson now serves as an Associational Missionary of Pleasant Grove in Tuscaloosa, Alabama).
T. R. Ricketts was licensed on August 27, 1956, and ordained on December 15, 1957, to become pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church of Adger Alabama.
On October 14, 1956, Hub Harrison was licensed as a minister. He was ordained on September 21, 1958 to go to Wylam Baptist Church.
Horace Kimbrel was licensed on November 2, 1958. Called by Aldrich Baptist Church, he was ordained in September 26, 1960.
L. C. Bernard was licensed to May 31, 1959.
Charles Forrester was licensed June 1, 1960. (He now serves as U. S. Army Chaplain's assistant in Ausburg, Germany).
Tom Hosmer was licensed on September 13, 1959 and ordained as pastor on July 10, 1060.
On May 15, 1960 two young men were licensed to preach: Steve Todd, Jr. and Henry White.
Song Directors: J. W. Hand, Sr., the first song director in 1942 was succeeded by Simon Smith. (Mr. Smith, who served as Music Director at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church for years, joined North Highlands because of some personal misunderstanding with his own church. He retained his membership in North Highlands only a few months before he returned to Pleasant Ridge.) Other leaders following Mr. Smith were Martan Ray, Ralph Parson, Thomas McDaniel, Miss Doris Kimbrel, and Johnny Carter.
The church secures their first Minister of Music on November 3, 1957. Jimmy Walker (an undergraduate at Howard College) served capably until he resigned August 3, 1958, to go to a larger church field in Mobile, Alabama. Jimmy was paid a salary of $40.00 weekly, and he and his wife Nena were furnished a house in which to live. (This house was one of those located on the church property). Jimmy received his degree in music in June 1958, and the church gave him his class ring as a graduation gift. He organized several successful choirs; and before he left the field, he had the pleasure of seeing them in new robes.
John Bush (present Minister of Music) began his service November 5, 1958. Under his direction the music program has grown rapidly. He has the following choirs functioning successfully: Chapel and Sanctuary Choirs (Adult), Young People's Choir, Concord Choir (Intermediates), Melody Choir (Junior Boys), Carol Choir (Junior Girls), Cherub Choir (Primaries), and a Beginner Music Hour. Total choir membership is 171 and attendance is good. New robes are being made for all youth members now (February 1961).
With his wife Jean, John lives in a trailer behind the church. He anticipates receiving his Bachelor of Music Degree from Howard College during June 1961.
Pianist: The first church pianist, Miss Marjorie Hand, was succeeded by Miss Dorothy McCrary. Others following her were Mrs. T. D. Harper, Mrs. Laura Adams, Mrs. J. E. Tucker, Howard Ballew, Mrs. Delores Carter Kimbrel, Miss Virginia Steele, and Mrs. Jean Bush.
Organists: Serving as organists were Mrs. Syble Patton, Miss Virginia Steele, Mrs. Jimmy Arrington and Mrs. Violet Bunn (serving at present).
It is interesting to note that the church pianist and chorister were first paid for their services in February, 1948. The amount was $5.00 weekly for each. (Presently the organist is being paid $60.00 monthly and the Minister of Music, $280.00 monthly).
In May, 1943, Mr. Fred Glass was sent a registered letter by the church which concerned an offense that he had made to the church. During the month of April, 1944, Mr. Glass appeared before the church group and made a public apology. The church forgave him and he was restored to fellowship.
Because of public drunkenness, Mr. J. A. Harris was withdrawn from the church fellowship on July 4, 1951.
During 1958, the church hired a lawyer and went to court to fight the issuance of an alcohol beverage license to Roland Jones, proprietor of a drive-in restaurant (located near the church). A lawyer's fee of $150 and a $100 appreciation gift to Mr. Jesse Davis for his services in this long-drawn-out court fight were good investments...the license was not issued. Today, Roland Jones' Drive-in is a decent, respectable business establishment patronized by church and non-church alike. Mr. Jones' testimony is that he is glad he lost the fight. His business far exceeds that which he did when he legally sold alcoholic beverages.
While North Highlands Baptist Church was struggling along in the small one-room Art Studio Building, the members envisioned a beautiful edifice nearby. This dream began to change into a reality when Dr. J. L. Aders, Superintendent of Missions for the Birmingham Baptist Association, paid the $200 down payment on the first lot in February, 1943. Lot 6, Block 2, which faced Nineteenth Street had been selected by the membership. With J. W. Han , Sr., as overseer, excavation was begun in November 1943. The first labor bill amounted to $47.20. However, most of the actual labor was done voluntarily by the church members. Many women worked alongside the men, digging and hauling away wheelbarrows of dirt.
The foundation was poured 10 inches thick without reinforcement on the upper 50 feet and 14 inches thick with reinforcement on the lower 10 feet. (The basement was to be 50x60 feet). During July the members had decided to use Speedwall tile and the figure submitted had been $2600. But in September, they learned they could save $250 if concrete blocks were used instead. This had been voted on and passed; Sullivan, Long, and Hagerty had submitted plans which had been accepted (with minor changes) on October 6, 1943. There was to be six windows on each side, two doors in front, and the back was to be made of wood and painted gray. (This latter specification was rescinded in June, 1944, and the back was actually finished in blocks). The basement was ready for occupancy in July, 1944.
This basement, when first used by the church, was unfinished at the back. Since is was summer, no one minded the natural air-conditioning. A source of amusement, however, was the large number of curious canines who frequented the services. One of the most beautiful "attendees" was Poochie, a dog owned by the children of Roland Jones. Poochie sat on the pew beside the family throughout all of the services that they attended and was never once disorderly.
A second lot was purchased in March, 1945. Pines cut from this lot furnished 3,000 feet of lumber for the building. A $2,000 campaign was launched in June, 1945. Due to the war, priority had to be obtained to build. (this was not lifted until 1946). Nevertheless, the church membership voted to veneer the basement with red brick and to continue with the frame for the upper story. Dr. Aders again came to the rescue by donating 2,000 bricks to do the veneering.
A blue print was secured for $25 on April 17, 1946. The church borrowed $3,500 and actual construction began on the auditorium in July, 1946. Mr. J. E. Tucker finished his work on the building in 1947.
In November, 1947, the church borrowed $1,200 to put in a heating system and to pay the debts thus far incurred. During February, 1948, bids were taken to finish the facade and basement. By June, 1948, the church debt was $4,100. During May, 1949, the church again borrowed $2,000 from the American Trust Bank to be paid at $33.15 monthly for six years. November, 1949, was the date of an additional loan, this one for $10,000. Another loan for $5,000 was made in March, 1951. Still another for $6,000 was made in February, 1954.
During 1955 the folding doors on each side of the front of the auditorium were removed and the back of the auditorium was extended.
Another lot beside the church was purchased on April 1, 1956, and the Smith house next to the church was purchased the year following. In May, 1959, Annex 2 was moved to the lot with Annex 1 to clear the site for a new auditorium.
In 1953 Mr. Evans of the Sunday School Board came to the church field to make a survey of the records and to estimate the potential growth in the surrounding community. He took these findings back to the Architectural Department of the Baptist Sunday School Board, who recommended that the sanctuary of the new building seat two and a half times the number of the largest present congregation. Because of the slope of the church property, the Board suggested building a ground floor under the new structure and they submitted floor plans for it.
In this same year more than one hundred church members visited the new First Baptist Church building at Columbiana. All agreed that their building was to be of the same design. Mr. Charles McCauley was selected as the architect.
Building was delayed in 1959 due to a long steel strike. Finally, on December 9, 1959, floor plans were submitted for the new auditorium, which would have a seating capacity of one thousand. The church (now debt free) paid Mr. McCauley $3,000 down on his services as the architect.
Early in 1960 construction plans were resumed, and bids were opened April 29, 1960. Mr. E. C. Coston was the low bidder with figures amounting to approximately $318,000 for the building alone. Since this was too costly, bids were cancelled and arrangements were made to go ahead but to use day labor instead under the direction of an experienced builder. Mr. E. G. Ellard was secured as the contractor.
Because the First Federal Savings and Loan company of Bessemer turned down the church's request for a loan of $200,000 (in favor of First Presbyterian) the members decided to finance the building program by the sale of church savings bonds. This program was approved by Mr. Bill Patton, church attorney on June 5, 1960. The Church Building and Savings Association of Jackson, Mississippi sent their secretary, Mr. W. B. Rives to meet with the Building Committee of the church on May 15, 1960. Bonds went on sale June 20 as a result of this meeting.
A ground breaking ceremony was held June 5, 1960. Messrs. M. T. Hatton and Ross Steeley (oldest members), and Misses Patricia Goodwin and Mitzi Layton (youngest members), broke the ground. The ritual was as follows:
Scripture reading: Carl A. Layton
Prayer and ritual: pastor and congregation
The first fire and tornado insurance taken out by the church was on the Art Studio Building. This was in 1942 and the premium was $12.33 yearly.
On January 7, 1943 the envelope plan of giving was voted in and the church treasurer was authorized to order sixty packages.
The first folding chairs were purchased on February 3, 1943. There were twelve, which cost the church $19.20. This same month the church adopted its first budget as follows:
On Wednesday night, October 6, 1943 eleven members first agreed to subscribe for the Alabama Baptist. (This state paper was put in the church budget on October 8, 1947).
A janitor was first secured for the church during November 1943 at the salary of $4 monthly.
Mrs. S. A. Dodd was the first member of North Highlands to pass away. She died in 1943.
The first offering for the orphan's home at Troy was taken on November 8, 1944.
In the summer of 1945, the first Daily Vacation Bible School was conducted with Mrs. Fred Thomas acting as principal. The total enrollment was fifty-five.
I. B. Tinker painted and donated the first church sign. (Luther King painted the next one which is still on the first auditorium).
The first wedding held in the church took place in the late summer of 1944. It was unique in several ways: The couple, Miss Effie Kendricks and M. M. Young, were slightly past middle-age. Mr. Young asked the pastor, Rev. L. M. Jones, to marry them just prior to his going to the pulpit to preach the Sunday morning message. Brother Jones announced to the congregation that there would be a wedding before his sermon. The surprised spectators witnessed the ceremony with much interest.
During October, 1945, North Highlands Church made its first every member canvass. Then in February, 1947, a religious census was taken for the first time by the membership.
The church was incorporated on June 11, 1947.
A grand piano was purchased for the auditorium in March, 1955. Less than a year later on January 28, 1956 the church bought a $2900 organ.
In 1960 the Young People Away Department was organized with Mrs. E. J. Hyland as superintendent. This department encourages and maintains contact with the service boys (and their wives), who are located all over the United States and in foreign countries.
This is your history, North Highlands! Your future rests in the hands of the present membership. Who knows what glorious destiny awaits if the original pioneer spirit of faith and courage prevails as was exercised by those who laid the foundation. The charter members -- Mrs. Farrington, Brother Hand, Mrs. Hatton, and Brother McCoy -- must look down from the portals of glory on their church today and nod in assent to the sentiments of the living charter members who declare: