The history of Green River and Sandy Run Baptist associations
By CHIVOUS BRADLEY
Special to The Daily Courier
Ed. Note: This is one of a long-standing series of historical stories about Rutherford County.
From the time of its inception, the Green River Baptist Association has grown tremendously. Many new churches have been constituted and several new associations developed as a result of growth.
In 1890, 44 churches were affiliated with the association. On Nov. 27 of that year, First Broad, Floyd’s Creek, Forest City, Holly Springs, Mount Lebanon, Mount Pleasant, and Mount Zion withdrew to help organize the Sandy Run Association. Eleven churches from the King’s Mountain Association also joined that new association. The GRBA held annual meetings each year until 1996 when quarterly meetings began to be held.
In 1887 representatives to the annual meeting of the Green River Association passed a resolution “that we advise the churches composing this association not to retain in their fellowship any member who is concerned in the manufacture, sale or distribution of intoxicating liquors, neither any member who is in the habit of dram-drinking, nor any member who is guilty of the crime of drunkenness.”
Later, the pastors in the association agreed that they would not serve a church which did not adhere to the principles of that resolution. This action stirred the temperance movement to fight for prohibition and Rutherford County voted to become a dry county in 1891.
By 1908, the entire state had followed suit. Although much of North Carolina including several municipalities in this county voted in recent years to allow ABC stores and the sale of alcohol, the Green River Association continues to be a voice against drug abuse and alcoholism to this day.
Christian education has been a concern of the association from the beginning. A boarding school was started in 1899 by the Round Hill Church in Union Mills. The church deeded the property to the Green River Association in 1900 and the school operated as the Round Hill Academy for 25 years.
Because of more attention to public schools the enrollment declined and debt mounted. Mr. J. F. Alexander paid off the debt and took ownership of the school in 1925. At that time the school became Alexander Schools, Inc., a home for motherless children. The association continued to have a friendly association with the school.
Early in the history of this association, there were only three Baptist churches in McDowell County. Rev. J. C. Sorrells was appointed a missionary to plant new churches there. Upon his death, A. P. Sorrells was chosen as his replacement. By 1929 that mission work had resulted in enough churches to form a new association. The McDowell Churches organized into the Blue Ridge Baptist Association. The subject of missions continues to be the chief topic in the association.
As the Green River Association grew and began to accept new missions and ministry opportunities, a need was seen by the pastors for extra help and leadership. Irby Jackson, Rev. N. B. Phillips, and Miss Attie Bostic, among others, presented this need during the 1944 Annual Meeting. Rev. Oren Bradley was chosen to serve as the first Director of Missions for the Association- a responsibility he shared jointly with the Blue Ridge Association. At that time the position was known as the Associational Missionary.
Others who have served in this position through the years include: Rev. L. D. Holt, Rev. Henry Powell, Rev. Zeb Baker, Rev. I. V. Couch, Rev. Talmadge Williams, Rev. L. R. “Bill” Brock, and Rev. Billy Honeycutt. Rev. Honeycutt assumed the position in July 1986 and resigned to accept a chaplaincy position with the Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina in July of 2012. Rev. Ed Rogers is serving as Interim while a search is underway for a full-time Director.
In 1969, the churches of Polk County who had been a part of this association chose to organize into the Polk Baptist Association.
In addition to the normal ministries conducted by Baptist Associations, the Green River Association has participated in a variety of out-reach efforts locally through the years. A summer resort ministry was started by the Chimney Rock Church in 1969. Three years later, the Association accepted responsibility for this work. Much good has come from the efforts of the college students who continue to conduct services at several campgrounds in the area during summer vacations.
In cooperation with the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, Green River, Sandy Run, and Polk Associations opened the Thermal Belt Baptist Youth Shelter on Vance Street in Forest City. This ministry provided an emergency home for local youth from 1975 through 1990. The Baptist Children’s Homes closed four such shelters across the state at that time, due to financial restraints and other options for youth care being available.
A few others include a ministry to the Mountain State Fair, Christian Character Scholarships to graduating seniors from churches in the association, and work done by Baptist Men and WMU organizations. A number of churches help provide and serve meals at the New Beginnings Soup Kitchen. There are too many such efforts to mention them all in this brief article. However, two others merit notice.
Prior to 1998, Floyd’s Creek Church began a ministry to the Hispanic population in Henrietta. Adaville Church was also providing English classes to Spanish speaking adults. As a result, the Green River and Sandy Run Associations decided to work with Rev. Jairo Contreras to start a Hispanic Mission. That mission is now a church located on Oakland Road known as Iglesia Bautista Cristo Vive. This church has helped start five new churches led by Hispanic pastors in western North Carolina. Early in 1998, the Green River Association began a Rest Stop Ministry on U. S. Highway 221 in Gilkey. This ministry served the public on peak travel days for over twelve years.
The Directors of Missions for the Green River Association, beginning in 1945, used their homes as their office and as a resource center. Later some office space was provided by Rutherfordton First Baptist and then, for several years, space was rented above the Rexall Drug Store. Since 1985, the Green River Associational Office and Resource Center has been located at the corner of North Washington Street and West Mountain Street in Rutherfordton.
The association purchased and renovated the building which had once been the Isothermal Motel and Restaurant. Mrs. Teresa Sams currently serves as administrative assistant to the Director of Missions. Thirty-six churches comprise the Green River Baptist Association.
Sandy Run Baptist Association — The Sandy Run Association is 50 years younger than the Green River. A number of ministry efforts of the Sandy Run have been included in the history presented to this point.
Christian education has been a concern of the body from its beginning. In 1905, Boiling Springs High School was chartered under leadership of the Sandy Run and King’s Mountain Associations.
By 1928 this school had become the Boiling Springs Junior College. Other associations helped fund new buildings on the campus and in 1942 the name was changed to Gardner-Webb because of interest shown by the Webb family, especially O. Max Gardner who had married Faye Webb. This institution became a four-year college in 1971 and is Gardner-Webb University today.
In 1980, the Association purchased 43.5 acres with a small house located on Puzzle Creek Road in Bostic. Associational offices were soon moved from the Director of Mission’s home to the house on this property. A new Associational Office and Resource Center was completed in 2001. The office was moved to the new building on Jan. 2, 2002.
Rev. Guy Walker became the first Director of Missions for the Sandy Run Association in 1947. Others have included Rev. Wilford Reese, Rev. Boyd Horton, Rev. W. Van Carroll, Rev. Otis Wheelhouse, and Dr. James C. Diehl. The current Director of Missions is Rev. Marvin Green. Mrs. Loretta Winters currently serves as Ministry Assistant. Sixty churches make up the Sandy Run Baptist Association.