On October 27, 1878 Alice Jane Cranford was born to John H. Cranford and Mary Elizabeth Jamison in York County. As a teenager, she was born into the family of God. In 1902, Alice Cranford and John David Cooley were married. They moved to the Beaumont Community in 1904. They were members of the Missionary Society that met regularly in different homes. Aware of the need for a Baptist Church in the community and against discouraging words the Society began praying for this need. After assurance from God, Alice Cooley approached Judge J. J. Gentry who owned property near the present intersection of the Southern and Kingston streets with the group’s request for land for a Baptist Church. He said “if you will have $50.00 by Saturday night, I will give you the lot to build the church on.” After stating that her God owned the cattle on a thousand hills every day that week, Alice Cooley went from house to house collecting nickels, dimes and quarters from her friends who wanted to contribute to this cause. She made a list of people’s names who gave and embroidered every name on a cloth. The property was donated by Judge Gentry but was never built at this location, primarily because of lack of visibility and accessibility to the church.
According to some sources, Mrs. I. L. West’s father paid $200.00 for the property at 717 North Liberty where the first building was erected. The first service in this structure was held on Sunday morning, February 28, 1909. The first speaker was the late Judge J. J. Gentry, who was very instrumental in the erection and reality of the building. The second speaker who brought the evening message on February 28, was the late Dr. T. M. Bailey who was the Secretary of the State Mission Board at the time. The original structure was a neat wooden building and it was completed in 1909 under the leadership of the late Rev. J. W. Walker who was pastor. Much credit was given to him for all his work and effort in seeing this project completed. The building was remolded in 1951 under the leadership of the late Rev. Dewey S. Welchel. Several Sunday School rooms were added at this time and then in 1958, the basement was dug out and more Sunday School rooms were added.
In June 1980, Pastor John H. Cox was called to Beaumont. Under his guidance and leadership, the church had experienced a sound and healthy growth in all departments of church work. As a result of this growth, the people of Beaumont realized the need for a larger facility to accommodate the growing membership. In August 1987, 6.4 acres of land was purchased at 945 Beaumont Avenue, Extension from Mr. Paul Burnett. The land, through miraculous and generous giving, was paid off in 11 months and in 1989, the architectural firm of McMillian and Satterfield drew up blueprints for our new church. Triangle Construction was hired as builders with David McAbee as the architect. The beautifully finished structure measured a total of 30,250 square feet, including 5,250 square feet sanctuary which has seating for 544 persons. The rest of the building has 25 rooms, including offices and the fellowship area with a full kitchen. At the completion of the construction and for the dedication, the workers enclosed a time capsule in the building’s cornerstone. Many members gave items for the capsule such as a church directory, the history of our church, a Bible and a song given by Carolyn Welchel.
We have had two additions to our property. In 1996, members gave to have a double garage built to house the two vans purchased for our van ministry. Again in 2000, money was raised for playground equipment that was set up in a landscaped, fenced area. Our future desires are for a Family Life Center. Several years after enjoying worship in our new building and many years after Alice Cooley and her labors on earth were ended and she had gone home to be with the Lord, our church was visited by her two daughters. They possessed the cloth with all the embroidered names on it and donated it to our church. Mrs. Grace Harris, a church member since the age of 16 and one of our oldest members, was presented with the material and asked to make a quilt. It is encased in a frame built by the late Mr. Jr. Pye, a deacon and member since November 22, 1981 and the late Mr. James Robinson, a deacon and member since April 12, 1964. The framed quilt now hangs in our fellowship hall.
The history of Beaumont Baptist Church has been a long and storied one. It has seen wars, economic boom and depression, spiritual depravity and revival, industrial revolution, scientific advancements and population explosion. Through all these things Beaumont has survived because people found relevance in its message. This celebration is not just about honoring an institution that has survived for 110 years but it is a journey to learn of the ageless appeal of the church and is a call to reaffirm our commitment to the reason for its relevance, Jesus Christ.
To God Be The Glory; Great Things He Has Done!