Where It All Began


First Baptist Church Town Mountain

Hazard, Kentucky

After the slaves were freed, a few black families stayed in this area of Perry County, making it their home. Though they felt God's love and protection all around them, there was no preaching of the Gospel, nor witnesses present, to encourage them in the faith.

Around 1886, Rev. George Woodard, a Christian minister accompanied by Dan Olinger, a teacher, came over into Perry County from Virginia and preached among the people, traveling by horseback. Services were held in the home of Jack Combs. Rev. Woodard would return several times a year to minister among them. A church was never organized by this group, but a few women accepted Christ, and were baptized by Rev. Woodard. These new converts were, Jensie Combs, Harriet Combs, Lizzie Ison, Vina Combs and Sarah Combs.

A few years later, a small group of families who were farmers, felt God's awakening spirit in their hearts, encouraging a desire within them for a better life in Christ. Seeing a need for a place of worship in their community, by faith and determination, met together sometime in 1892 in an unnamed home, organizing a church under the guiding hand of the late Rev. Birch. The following persons as Charter Members were, Nancy Tarter Stacy, Elizabeth Isom, Dan Richmond, Vina Combs, George Brashear, Caroline Combs, Alex Olinger, Dan Olinger, and Jack Combs. They held worship services under a tree during the warm seasons, using small logs with rocks under each end for benches. In 1894, a white man, the late Joe Sawer Combs, gave a plot of land near the Blue Grass Mining Camp on which a log building was constructed for a black school and church. Church was held there for a long time with various ministers preaching once or twice a month. Economically, times were very hard and difficult for these struggling families whose sole income depended upon farming for their survival.

Rev. Birch, unable to continue coming, sent Rev. Eli Yates of Richmond, Kentucky, who later was called as Pastor. The church and school was then located on top of Town Mountain occupying a large one room building as its new home. With the coal and railroad industries coming to the area offering employment opportunities its citizens enabled the community to construct a "plank church" On the same location where the present building (or church) now stands, the land being given by two brothers, Bill Combs and Jack Combs, who were former slaves.

The church was built during the pastorage of the late Rev. L.D. Forman, who served as Pastor for a short while. After Rev. Forman left, Rev. Eli Yates was recalled in 1920, to carry out his pastoral assignment. He came twice monthly on horseback until his death in 1928. Rev. P.K. Finley was called in 1932 serving for a short time. The church, without a Pastor from 1932 until 1933, contacted the Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist District Association who sent the late Rev. W.M. Dunson. Rev. Dunson came and conducted a two week revival with the Lord adding to his church sixty-six (66) souls through baptism, the largest in the history of the church and the Hazard area. He was called as Pastor, in 1933, serving approximately twenty (20) years. Due to becoming partially blind he was forced to retire. During his pastorage, the present building of stone was constructed. The stone was given by the late Sis. Eliza Williams.

The Missionary Board, Choirs and other auxiliaries were organized during this tenure. In 1954, Rev. Morris T. Canada, was called as Pastor. He was the first Pastor to reside in the community in the church parsonage and to serve as a full-time Pastor. During his tenure the parsonage was built and the church remodeled. Many souls were saved and many rededicated their lives to the Lord. Religious educational groups were formed and put into action in the church and community. Rev. Canada fell ill and in 1971, the Lord called this beloved Pastor from his labor to be at rest with him.

In 1972, Rev. John B. Nurse, was called as Pastor. During his tenure, educational rooms were added to existing building. A dining area, kitchen, indoor bathrooms, storage areas, and a central heating and cooling system. Also a scholarship fund was inaugurated for the youth of the church to enable them opportunities to further their college and vocational careers. In 1978, Rev. Nurse moved as he was called to pastor a church in Louisville. In 1979, Rev. Dr. John J. Barfield was called and pastored for a short while.

In 1980, Rev. John Pray was called as Pastor, a son of the church. He was licensed and ordained under the authority of the church by the Pastor, Rev. John B. Nurse, in 1973, having served as Pastor of the Corinth Baptist Church, Fleming-Neon, Kentucky.

Still serving as Pastor, (1992) under his leadership, the Lord has caused much to be accomplished. A renewed spirituality and commitment is felt within our ranks. Many young and older person, inspired and encouraged by the gospel have been led to Christ. A bus ministry has been established, giving many the opportunity to attend.

The church has and is still undergoing major renovations. The main sanctuary has been completely refurbished. An indoor baptistry installed. Bathrooms, kitchen, and a new building added on housing a large dining area/multi-purpose room, completely furnished with central air and heating, all on the upper, main level. With equipment and labor donated by Hall & Hylton Mining Company, under the supervision of Gene Combs, a large parking lot has also been added, the land given by one of our oldest members, Sis. Susie Puryear. Additional parking was also provided with the land given to the Church by Gene and Pam Combs.

As our minds reflect upon some of the things, told to us by older members, and what we ourselves have been privileged to witness, we are thankful to the Lord Jesus, our Christ for the ministry of the First Baptist Church Town Mountain for one hundred (100) years. The years have brought both sad, as well as joyous times in the life of the church, but through it all, many souls have been saved, and many lives dedicated to the work of the Savior.

Four (4) brethren have been called into the Gospel ministry from within the fold. The Rev. Guy Olinger, former Pastor, of Jerusalem Baptist Church and the Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in the Hazard area, also the Rev. Dr. Jerry Williams, former Pastor, of the Second Baptist Church, Hamilton, Ohio, now both deceased. The Rev. Michael A. Cornett, (the youngest of the sons of the church) now residing in Louisville, Kentucky, and our present Pastor, the Rev. Dr. John Pray.

We give praises to our heavenly father for his mercy and the spiritual guidance he gave to our fore-parents. We will praise him for the faith and the endurance they possessed in him. They worked hard, in a "handicapped way", holding onto what the Lord gave them. Yes the Lord has done great things these one hundred (100) years. The lives he has touched in the church, has spread to many places in the world, enabling them to be a true born witness for our Christ.

For all of this, to God be the Glory. We altogether praise him for the abundance of his love and his tender mercies. Again we say, "Praise ye the Lord and to God be the Glory"

Posted by:

Bennie J. McRae, Jr.
P.O. Box 26148
Trotwood, Ohio 45426-0148
E-mail: [email protected]