History of Union Chapel General Baptist Church

History of Union Chapel General Baptist Church
(formerly Buntin Chapel)

Submitted by Denise Harper Wilson

The Union Chapel General Baptist Church was organized as the Buntin Chapel General Baptist Church on the fourth Sunday in August 1918.

The Buntin Chapel General Baptist Church was located on the east side of old U.S. Highway 31W about one-half mile south of the junction of Highway 31W and State Highway 52 that leads to Portland, TN.

The church building and property belonged to the Buntin family estate, and their consent was given for the church to be used so long as the building was maintained.

For several years, Sunday School, Preaching Services, along with some revivals by ministers from different denominations, had been being held in the Buntin Church. It was following a revival held by Rev. E.C. Keen that the General Baptist Church was organized, Rev. Keen was assisted in this organization service by Elders R.C. Hardison and S.S. Carter.

The church met in the first business session on Saturday before the second Sunday in September, 1918. Rev. E.C. Keen served as the first pastor of the church, and Mrs. Eliza Caruthers was elected as the first clerk. Bro. Bluford Harper was the first treasurer and was ordained as the first deacon and served faithfully in that capacity until his death in 1976.

According to records available and the living members, there wer nineteen or twenty charter members. Five of these united at the first business meeting which followed the organization by about two weeks.

The Buntin Chapel Church was a member of the Mt. Union Association until 1921. At this time, the Mt. Union Association had become so large that several churches in this area requested their letters from this body and formed the Portland Association.

A deed was secured for a track of land consisting of one acre for a church site from Mr. and Mrs. Lex Lane on August 7, 1948. The Union Chapel General Baptist church was built on this tract of land in 1948 and completed early in 1949. It is located on Highway 52 (now College Street) three miles west of Portland, TN. The building committee was Rev. Harry Neagle, Rev. C.W. Harper, Bluford Harper, and Oliver Searcy.

The first service in the Union Chapel Church was held on April 17, 1949 (Easter Sunday), and the dedication service on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1950. In the dedication service, the building committee was in charge. Bro. Harry Neagle, the pastor led the service; Rev. C.W. Harper delivered the message, Bluford Harper offered the dedicatory prayer, and Oliver Searcy led the song service.

The first elected trustees of Union Chapel were Harvey Mathias, Raymond Harper, and Walter Meador.

It was in 1952 that Union Chapel made another progressive move. During the pastorate of Rev. Cody Johnson, it was voted to build a church parsonage which was the first in the Portland Association. For this purpose a half acre was purchased on the east side of the church building from Mr. and Mrs. Lex lane, and this deed is dated january 11, 1952. The trustees at this time were Harvey Mathias, Raymond Harper, and Marvin Groves; and they served as the building committee. Rev. Kenneth Kennedy and family moved into the new parsonage the last of November, 1953.

In February 1957, the encumbrance against the parsonage was paid, and the dedication service was held on the fifth Sunday in March, 1957. The dedication service was conducted by the pastor rev. Glen Lashley. Rev. Kenneth Kennedy returned for the sermon of dedication, and Rev. Coda Johnson offered the dedicatory prayer.

In June 1956 while still in the program of paying for the parsonage, an offering was given to be used for expansion of the church sanctuary and educational facilities. In March, 1957 the church voted to continue to receive an offering each fifth Sunday in anticipation of this expansion.

On July 2, 1956, union Chapel purchased another plot of land behind the lots on which the church and parsonage are located for futher expansion. This property was also purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Lex Lane.

It was on January 31, 1959 that the church voted to begin the enlargement of the church building under the leadership of Rev. Oliver Duggins. The building committee was composed of the following who were trustees at the time: Lawrence McFarlin, Chairman; Harvey Mathias, and Richard Harper.

Through the following years, the church continued to grow in their leadership for the Lord and continued to maintain the appearance of the church.

In the September, 1973 business meeting, it was voted to expand and remodel the parsonage. A committee of three, Edward Crafton, Bobby Joe Harper, and Gary Mathias was appointed. In May, 1974 the remodeling of the parsonage was completed and Rev. John Holder and family were the first to live in the parsonage after the expansion. In January, 1975 the church started looking into the improving the church basement. On October 1, 1975 a committee were appointed in charge of the erection of a steeple for the church. A plaque was placed in the church with names of those giving on the steeple in memory of their loved ones. In April 1977 it was decided to remodel the sanctuary of the church. In December, 1978 it was voted to check into the construction of a baptistery. The church today has gone through several more changes.

There have been six members from the church to enter into the ministry: Charlie Harper, Walter Meador, Oliver Searcy, Riley Mathias, Charles Johnson, Berlan Harper.

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