White Mills Baptist celebrates 175 years

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Stories from the Heartland

By Amber Coulter

Olene Richardson began attending White Mills Baptist Church when she was about 7 years old. She remembers sitting in the front pew singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and kicking her legs, which didn’t reach the floor.


The 78-year-old was honored Sunday as the earliest current member of the congregation as members and visitors celebrated the church body’s 175th anniversary.

The pews of the building — dedicated in 1902 — were crowded Sunday as the church celebrated the occasion.

Pastor Bruce Underhill said documents show the church began in 1838 under the name Little Flock Baptist Church. That name changed to Stephensburg Baptist Church in 1855 and to White Mills Baptist Church in 1862.

Information shows the congregation was meeting in White Mills by the time of its last name change, but no one is sure where it met before that.

The church joined with three other denomination congregations in 1880 to construct and share a building that still stands nearby, surrounded by a cemetery.

In 1901, for $50 the church bought the property on which its current building stands. There have been additions in the past 50 years.

The congregation has a long tradition and is made up of caring people, Underhill said.

“This is a church that, as a pastor, I have to run to keep up with them, rather than getting behind them and pushing them,” he said.

Ron Lewis, former pastor at White Mills Baptist and a former U.S. congressman, said the church has a long history of community outreach.

It is sad to see small churches boarded up. White Mills Baptist Church has managed to thrive by remaining involved in the area and faithful to God, said Lewis, who delivered the sermon Sunday.

Congregation members attending Sunday ranged in age from young children to those faithful for several decades.

Richardson left White Mills Baptist for a while after she married and moved out of the area.

She returned to the congregation with her husband, until he died two years ago, and now lives a couple miles from the church. She still feels her husband at the church.

“It’s good to know and feel that he’s still with me,” she said.

Getting to the church’s 175th anniversary feels great, Richardson said.

“I just feel that God’s everywhere in this church and with its people,” she said.

Richardson said her church family is made up of loving, honest, hard-working rural families.

“We’re always glad to get home when we’re out, and it just feels good,” she said. “It’s where I live and belong.”

Lorine Horn of White Mills has been with the church nearly as long as Richardson, also leaving for a while after marriage.

Horn said it felt wonderful to know that the church has been faithful and filled with caring people for 175 years.

“I love this church,” she said. “People here, they love the Lord like I do. They’re so precious to me.”

Since February, the church has been remembering its history through dressing in old fashioned clothing one day, hanging handmade quilts constructed by church members and their ancestors one month and displaying pictures of current and past members.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.