Pastor recounts start of First Baptist Church in Pawhuska

Kathryn SwanJC Correspondent

Rev. Travis Finley, pastor of First Baptist Church South in Pawhuska, was the keynote speaker for GFWC Heeko’s 105th Founders Day Celebration and luncheon. The event was held in the Hope Room of the Methodist Church Fellowship Hall.

After graciously thanking GFWC Heeko for inviting him to speak, he asked Heeko President Debbie Reed to explain the meaning behind GFWC Heeko. Reed explained, “GFWC stands for General Federation of Women’s Club and ‘Heeko’ is an Indian word that means learning.”

Finley began his program by giving God praise. He then complimented the attendees, saying, “You ladies look lovely. Pawhuska has it going on! Congratulations GFWC Heeko for attaining 105 years as a viable civic organization. May God bless your organization for another successful 105 years.” He also thanked the excellent cooks for providing such a delicious luncheon. Hostesses were Arlena Trumbly, Dean Shoemate, Rene Weyl, Connie Miles, Ellen Weigant and Sherry Williams with decorations by Barbara McVey.

As pastor of First Baptist South, Rev. Finley talked about the church’s beginnings and the people who made it happen.

“About 140 years ago, a few of the children of slaves in this community came together, prayed and decided to build a church where they could praise and worship God. Many of the men did not have a formal education but they knew Jesus. They had heard their mothers and grandparents talk about Jesus, about how He was a mighty leader, how He was their Savior, how He died for them and rose on the third day and would be coming back to receive them. I remember our elders, including my Grandfather Dangerfield, talking about how good the Lord is. We call that ‘shouting’ news.

“Together, the men decided to build on the south side of the city of Pawhuska which, at the time, was part of Indian Territory. The site was on the north side of Bird Creek at 3rd and Prudom. Some of the names of the men who began this task had slave owner’s last names, such as the Reeds, Phillips, Seals and Edwards.

“The church was completed in 1913, just six years after statehood, and was known as the ‘Colored Baptist Church.’ The first minister was the Rev. Z. T. Berry. Fifteen members made up the congregation. Zealous Dangerfield was the first deacon.

Rev. Berry was followed by Rev. M. T. Montgomery in 1914; Rev. J. E. Barnes in 1916, Rev. M. Jackson 1917-18 and Rev. Charles Richardson 1919-21. During the latter part of 1921, Rev. A.C. Chin took over church leadership. By then, membership was increasing to the point where plans were made to build an edifice to the small building. Twelve years later in 1933, the church was officially dedicated. Rev. Chin served as pastor for 23 years until his death in 1944.

“Although we don’t use that old church any more, the craftsmanship was such that the building is still standing and could easily hold worship services today. For 95 years, hundreds were saved and baptized there, including me.

“When I walk into that old church, I can still feel God’s presence and recall many of the pastors, deacons, sermons and choirs singing many of the old one hundreds.” Finley explained that the “old one hundreds” refer to hymns being sung in a slower pace, more deliberate. Ultimately, many of the worshipers would start shouting praises.

To be continued ….