Nelagoney Baptist Church celebrating golden anniversary

Kathryn SwanJ-C Correspondent
Nelagoney Baptist Church celebrating golden anniversary

The Nelagoney Baptist Church invites the community to attend its 50th Anniversary celebration this Sunday, October 4, at 11 a.m. Dr. Anthony Jordan, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention will deliver the anniversary message. All former pastors, members and friends are invited to attend. Dinner will follow the services. Martin Witt is the Pastor.

A colorful history surrounds the Nelagoney Baptist Church (NBC). According to an early edition of the Pawhuska Journal Capital, “A new $10,000 Baptist Church was ready for services in December of 1921.”

NBC historian Jimmy Craun said, “Those of you who have lived in this area know that a tornado destroyed most of the community in the mid-1920s. The people in the Nelagoney community had to depend on area churches for worship services which were held in the community room of the Nelagoney Public School.

“The First Baptist Church of Pawhuska supplied ministers and teachers during the 1930s and 1940s. Three of the early ministers were Rev. Hiram Jackson, George Boston and John McCool.”

In the 1950s, through the efforts of Raymond Redcorn and Jess Dittmar, Virginia Avenue Baptist Church in Bartlesville agreed to assume mission sponsorship with Bill Lair as Pastor. Under Lair’s leadership, plans began for the current facility which is located on land donated by Boyd H. Gibson.

When the concrete slab had been completed, Pastor Lair announced he was resigning in order to continue his education at OBU. Before he left, he wanted to hold a revival led by Jess Dittmar.

“Bro. Dittmar stood and preached on the concrete floor without any walls,” continued Craun. “After the walls were constructed, a mighty wind-

storm blew the north wall down.”

Montie Campbell succeeded Lair as Pastor. With Virginia Avenue’s endorsement, Campbell enlisted mission sponsorship of Barnsdall’s First Baptist Church who also agreed to help complete the building. Craun said everyone enjoyed the fellowship of working together, especially the homemade ice cream.

Local families who donated their time and labor included the Wallace’s, Hubbard’s, Culver’s, Rogers, Tomey’s, Craun’s, Sloan’s, Harrison’s and Pastor Campbell.

The congregation enjoyed their first sermon on August 21, 1955. J. Harold Bryan led a revival the following week with official dedication services held on August 29th.

Two years later, Pastor Campbell resigned in order to attend seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. During his tenure, Pastor Campbell conducted baptisms at Birch Creek, Jim Swan’s creek, First Baptist in Wynona, Barnsdall and Pawhuska.

Bill Holland of Russell, Kansas, succeeded Campbell as pastor. He was followed by Gee Tanner, W. C. Shelton, Raymond Redcorn, Dale Jordan and Eugene Witt. In early 1965, Leo C. Ray (or Preacher Ray as he was affectionately called by his congregation) led efforts to officially organize the church. On December 5, 1965, the Nelagoney Baptist Church was voted into the Delaware Osage Baptist Association with 25 members. Bob Craun, Darrell Clark, and Thomas Wallace were elected as the first Board of Trustees.

During the first five years of the newly organized church, Pastor Ray preached approximately 500 sermons and 250 mid-week services. He conducted 5 weddings, 18 baptisms, 8 funerals and welcomed 9 new members by letter.

Other pastors included Bill Shea, Gerald Bradshaw, Lonnie McWhirt, Jim Clare, Scott Pallett, Louis Davis and Marcus Sizemore.

Martin Bud” Witt has been NBC’s pastor since 2006. “He and his wife Brenda drive three times a week from Dewey to serve God and to serve God’s people,” said Craun. “Our entire body of fellow believers feel that we here in the Nelagoney community are so fortunate to have a leader in Bud Witt. He preaches the truth. If you are visiting today and do not have a Church home, we welcome you to come and worship with us. You won’t find a more loving and friendly Church.”

The Nelagoney Baptist Church currently has 60 members. Craun has the distinction of being one of the original 25 founding members. He has witnessed the church’s growth, numerous improvements and community service. Craun welcomes the community to help NBC celebrate its golden anniversary Sunday, October 6th.