History of PHBC
The church first met and was organized in the home of Dr. John and Eugenia Wright. Mrs. Wright was called "Grandma Wright". She had a stroke in 1946. On the morning of the day of her death when her son and grandson went by her house at 6:30 in the morning, she requested that her bed be turned facing east rather than north. Her grandson undoubtedly knew she was going to die. What a living faith and testimony.
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church is located on the most historical spot in what was then called the Hurricane Township. Now called the Sardis community, it is the site of the first schoolhouse in the township, which was a large log building used for school and church. Both the Baptists and Methodists used it for religious services in 1869. A few days before the Battle of Jenkins Ferry a skirmish battle was fought at the old log schoolhouse.
The ground was deeded to Pleasant Hill by the late W.T. Ball. It was first owned by the late James Mitchell, whose granddaughter was the wife of one of the pastors, Truett Blackman. Mr. Mitchell gave the deed to this ground for church purposes.
It is unknown how old the Sardis community is, but records show it was a settlement long before the Civil War. A paragraph out of the Benton Courier in 1936 gives the following statement about an event in the community that occurred 64 years earlier. “Now you rarely see anything in the woods bigger than a swamp rabbit. In 1872 Jim Caple went less than a mile from home for a load of pine, was treed by a hungry bear and had to stay a search party found him. The bear was killed and furnished the community meat for weeks.”
The mail came in twice a week when weather permitted. You could walk four miles to get your twice-a-week Gazette or read last year’s almanac.
The first church building was built soon after the church organized in 1906. Baptisms were held at Hurricane Creek.
In 1935 the church was badly in need of repair. It was decided early in 1935 to “raze” the old building and build a new one. The teamwork and dedication of the people to each other, the community and God is worth recording. With Rev. James Truett Blackman, pastor, Dr. J.D. Wright and Jim Grogan (the two active deacons) the work began. Logs were donated by church members and friends. The men of the church worked together cutting, hauling the logs to a sawmill to be sawed into lumber; then from the sawmill back to the church to be used in the building.
A team of mustangs was used to haul these logs to the sawmill. These mustangs were shipped in here from Texas. Jim Grogan was the owner of one and Allen Mashburn owned the other. Carl Mashburn (Allen Mashburn’s son) and Jim Grogan hitched the two mustangs to a log wagon to do the hauling.
Other members tore down the old church (the new church was built from the ground up). Men, women, and children pulled nails and stacked the lumber so it could be used again. It was in August and September when the new building was started.
Sunday School and preaching services were in the pine grove behind the church. They never missed a service while in the process of building.
All of the work was volunteer except for the architect. All of the work was done by hand. There was no electricity at the time. The concrete for the base of the church was mixed by hand…the lumber used in the church was sawed with handsaws.
The story is told about the day it was time for a huge crossbeam to be lifted and nailed into place. The workman decided to stop for lunch and then tackle the beam. Tom Sanders was the first to try to lift the beam. He tugged and tugged and tugged…He knew he could lift that beam. After thoroughly examining the beam he realized that someone had quietly nailed the beam to the ground. He looked around at the group and his eyes lit on the culprit. He knew that John (Uncle Buster) Baxley had “snuck off” during lunch to pull his prank. John Sanders was Nancy Brenton’s grandfather and John Baxley was Doc Caple’s uncle.
The church was built in the form of a cross with one big auditorium and a wing on each side, which could be made into two rooms each by curtains. Then the wings would be opened to make the main auditorium larger.
When the church was completed, they did not owe anything on it. Some of the ways the church made money were: a play sponsored by Ruby Wright Little. They traveled, many played, and put on the play — even at a CC Camp. They had church suppers, quiltings, picked beans, peas, fruit, tomatoes, etc. They also had chicken suppers and cake sales.
Jim Murray, a member of the church, gave an acre of ground. The women of the church planted it in cotton. Mr. Murray let the church use his mules to plow the cotton. They got about 500 bales of cotton from that acre. It was sold and the money used for the church.
In 1938 electricity was installed.
A parsonage was built on the church property in 1956. It was later used by the youth and now has been razed to make space for more parking.
In 1959 a new educational building was built. It is the one still standing today. The names of the building committee are written in the concrete on the current porch. They are: Bill Garrett (chairman), William O’Neal, Herman Miller, Robert Stuckey, Everett “Doc” Caple, J. Benedict, and Miss S. Jones.
In 1979 more remodeling was done, which gave the front of the church a new look. The auditorium was extended, two bathrooms and an extra classroom were added and the building was bricked. Also, the educational building, fellowship hall and kitchen were made larger. At that time, the church was clear of any debt.
Land was donated to the church by Mrs. Lula Mae McDonald Grogan for the purpose of a new parsonage. The parsonage was located on West Sardis Road. It was paid off in July of 1994, which was a lot earlier than the original payoff date. The parsonage has since been sold with the funds used for building a new building required because of church growth.
It was determined in early 1998 that, because of church growth, the church needed more Sunday School space and a larger kitchen. A Building Committee was formed and under the leadership of the chairman, Steve Barnes (also a deacon), there were two levels added to the existing educational building. More classrooms were added and a new kitchen/fellowship hall was added. The work began in July of 1998 and was completed in January of 1999. The cost of this project was more than $300,000. The amount borrowed was $175,000.
In 2000 the church was continuing to grow and it was evident that a new sanctuary was needed. We still owed a great deal on the recent addition and it was suggested that we have a Debt Retirement Day. October 1, 2000 was the date set. On that Sunday, $37,000 was received. In June 2001, an anonymous donor gave $7,000 to pay off the remainder of the debt.
The old sanctuary was torn down and we had a groundbreaking ceremony in the spring of 2002. The Building Committee consisted of Clayton Pettus, Floyd Vocque, Michael Vocque, Debbie Wright, Matt Greer, Doc Caple, LeAnn Whitmire, and Kenneth Davis. We held our first service in the new sanctuary in December 2002.
The final building endeavor began at the end of 2007 with the completion of a Ministry Life Center. The church has used off of its approximately 3½ acres covering it with buildings for worship, education, ministry, and fellowship — all for the glory of God.
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church was organized on September 16, 1906, with 24 members. The names of the charter member are: Dr. John and Eugenia Wright, John and Laura Grogan, William & Ida Shelnut, Jim & Dora Murray, Mr. and Mrs. F. H. Hopkins, Mr. and Mrs. Adamson, Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Covington and Daniel & Angemier Mashburn.