Primitive Baptist Church and Family History
Research Assistance for the State of California

Early California History and Statehood

On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill, touching off the California gold rush. Admission to Statehood: On September 9, 1850, California became the 31st State in the Union.

Establishment of the First Primitive Baptist Churches

Elder Thomas H. Owen came to California from Illinois in 1849-1850, and was instrumental in gathering the first Primitive Baptist Churches in the State. Brethren William Kendall and Alfred H. Hagans came to the same general area shortly afterward, and were later ordained and labored in the ministry with Elder Owen. Elder John Mansfield moved into the area from Oregon in about 1860 and labored with Elder Owen. Elders D. B. Holman and Gowen Clifford also labored in these churches. The first Primitive Baptist Church was organized at Santa Rosa, California, in August 1854.



Santa Rosa Church was organized on Saturday before the first Sunday in August 1854, by Elder Thomas H. Owen, who lived about forty miles distant. Elder Owen traveled to this area and found about ten or twelve Primitive Baptists in the month of July 1854, and returned the following month to organize them into a church. This was the first Primitive Baptist Church organized in California. In September 1859, it was one of four churches which formed the Old School Corresponding Meeting of California.


Beaver, Burns, Burrus, Cockrill, Faught, Hagans, Hollingsworth, Lemay, Newkirk, Owen, Van Winkle, Wheeler (very incomplete list due to loss of records).


Suisun Church was organized in August 1855, by Elder Thomas H. Owen, who was living at Suisun City at that time. The members were probably dismissed from the Santa Rosa Church for the sake of convenience. In 1859, Suisun Church was one of four churches which formed the Old School Corresponding Meeting of California.


Holman, Kendall, Owen (very incomplete list due to loss of records).


Ione Valley Church was organized in May 1859, with six members, and one more was then added by experience. Elders Thomas H. Owen and William Kendall constituted the church, and Elder Kendall attended them monthly. This church became a member of the Old School Corresponding Meeting of California in the fall of 1859.


Fithian (very incomplete list due to loss of records).


Liberty Church was organized at the Liberty School house, on the first Saturday in June 1859, with eight members, by a presbytery composed of Elder Thomas H. Owen, Bro. D. B. Holman, and other council from Santa Rosa Church. The Old School Corresponding Meeting of California was organized at this church in October 1859.


Arnold, Clifford, Cockrill, Dorris, Faught, Flanary, Van Winkle (very incomplete list due to loss of records).


A church was organized in Lake County by Elder I. N. Newkirk, before 1900, but we have very little information about it.


Little Flock Church was organized on October 18, 1908, according to previous arrangements made in July and September 1908.


Ball, Bogart, Dundas, Groshong, Haynes, Henderson, Huffman, Periman, Speirs, Steelman (very incomplete due to records not being available to us).


Liberty Church was organized on March 8, 1914, with eight charter members, viz., L. W. Rippeto, Claudie L. Batterton, Lillie P. Grooms, J. L. Penticost, Arthula Penticost, Levi H. Rice, Lillie M. Rice, and Ott O. Rice. The presbytery was composed of the following Elders and deacons: S. B. Moffitt, W. T. Henderson, G. M. Fetter, M. Wire, M. L. Jackson, G. E. Dundas, J. W. Carter, and Y. Bogart. Elder S. B. Moffitt was chosen moderator, and L. W. Rippeto clerk, of the presbytery. After the church was organized, an invitation was given for others to unite with them, and ten brethren and sisters came forward. The church met at first in a rented building at 42nd and Moneta, but within a few years the church built a substantial brick meeting house of their own, at 950 W. 42nd Place, in Los Angeles.

Elder W. T. Henderson was the first pastor. He was followed, in 1918, by Elder George A. Bretz. Later pastors included Elders O. F. Dearing, Frank Hornberger, and Ollie Wilson.

By 1923 the church had grown until it numbered 85 members.


Adams, Alford, Armstrong, Ballenger, Batterton, Bert, Bogart, Bretz, Brown, Campbell, Cash, Crist, Dawson, Grooms, Groshong, Hargett, Harper, Henderson, Hornberger, Jones, Lippert, Mavity, Midlecof, Neale, Penticost, Periman, Reed, Rice, Rippeto, Rodgers, Schmidt, Thompson, Williams, Wilson, Witham, Wood, Wright (very incomplete due to records not being available to us).


Organized by Elders C. H. Cayce and John R. Harris in June 1924, and baptized three new members afterward. This church dissolved in about 1928.


Bethel Church was constituted June 21, 1924, by Elders C. H. Cayce and John R. Harris, who came to California from Arkansas for the purpose of forming three Primitive Baptist Churches in the state. They were also assisted by Bro. B. S. Minor, a deacon. There were seven charter members, viz., W. H. Phipps, Riley C. Minor, B. S. Minor, Nancy Phipps, Ethel Phipps, Letha Minor and Myrtle Oldham. Fourteen others were added to the membership the same day, five of whom were baptized. The church was constituted at the old Lewis Creek School. In 1926 they bought an old ice house, and converted it into a meeting house. Several ministers have been ordained by this church, including Elders W S. Burns (1926), George Gunter (1926), H. H. Garrett (1942), Robert Harlan; and Percy Corum (1954).


Shiloah Church was organized by Elders C. H. Cayce and John R. Harris on the fifth Sunday in June 1924. They were assisted by Bro. B. S. Minor, a deacon.


Organized June 26, 1926.


Little Zion Church was organized May 19, 1930, by fourteen members who withdrew (and probably were excluded) from Liberty Church in Los Angeles. The church bought its first building in 1933, in Compton, after the earthquake of that year. Pastors who served this church up to about 1955 included Elders William Osburn (1930-1953), Lloyd Sapp (1954-1955), John Bates (1955-1958, 1963-1966), Herbert Garrett (1958-1959), C. H. Radford (1959-1962, 1966-1968), Darryle Autry (1971-1974), Travis Taylor (1974-1975). This church, and the ministers listed above, were all identified with the Progressive Primitive Baptists, and were considered in disorder by old-line Primitive Baptists.

In November 1960, the church bought its present property in Bellflower, a five room house, for $23,000. In July 1972 work began on the present church building, and the old building was made into a pastorium. The church was still identified with the Progressives at this time, and the Progressive's building foundation assisted in its construction.

Some after this, this church and the Orange Church (see below) merged, and an effort was made to correct the disorder. This church is now a leader of the Liberal movement in California.


New Hope Church was organized on the third Sunday in October, 1931, with six charter members, including Bro. F. G. Maples and Bro. A. J. Roberts. The presbytery was composed of Elders S. F. Moore and C. R. McClure. There was a good attendance at the constitution meeting, and the names of a few of the visitors included Sister Willfong, Sister Cooper, Sister Dorsey, Sister Melton, and Bro. Ed Smith.


Seclusia Church was organized on October 9, 1932, at the home of Elder and Sister W. J. Berry, at 2807 Pearl Street, in Santa Monica. The first meetings, before constitution, had beenheld at the home of Brother and Sister Pennington in Brentwood Heights, in a hall in Venice, and at the home of Bro. C. G. Miller in Riverside. Elder George O. Walker was chosen as her first pastor, and served for six years until he became afflicted. Elder W. L. Slusher was then chosen. By 1943 the church meetings were being held in Claremont, California. This church was identified with the Absoluter faction.




New Hope Church was organized in 1938 or earlier, and was a member of the First Primitive Baptist Association of California and Arizona.


Little Bethany Church was organized January 29, 1939, in the village of Lemongrove. The presbytery was composed of Elders J. W. Deskin, L. O. Moore, and J. A. Moore, and Deacons G. R. Jones, S. S. Cencibaugh, E. T. Tidwell, and M. L. Veatch. Elder L. O. Moore was chosen pastor, and Sister Sarah E. Hale as clerk. The original members included Sarah E. Hale, Brother and Sister Hopkins, Sister Taylor, and others.


Bethlehem Church was organized on October 7, 1940. Elder Troy McCarty served as pastor here for a year, beginning in 1948, followed by Elder Lewis Barrow.


Golden Gate Church was organized October 6, 1940, with twenty-eight charter members, by Elders S. F. Moore and A. J. Roberts. They were as follows: Clifton Ivey, Atlas Townsend, Arthur Townsend, Ellie Cash, W. A. Brashear, W. E. Townsend, A. M. Brashear, Dixon Rico, J. W. Huckaby, P. A. Aldridge, Lee Rico, Oby Norman, Thurman Huckaby, Viola Rico, Effie Burleson, Wilalpha Ivey, Nadine Nichols, Pauline Brashear, Lorene Cash, Viola Townsend, Vera Key, Mildred Woodside, Rhoda Brashear, Claudine Copher, Mae Ivey, Melba Carter, Alice Rico, Beatrice Findley, Tinsy Miracle, Aline Huckaby, Sister Aldridge, Christine Huckaby, Essie Willis, and Edith Norman. Three were added by baptism immediately after the formal constitution. In September 1941 the church became part of the formation of the Golden West Association; then in 1947 another association, the Pacific, was formed, and the church again was part of its formation. Elder A. J. Roberts was the first pastor, followed by Elders M. E. (Pat) Brown, Henry Cash, T. L. Huckaby, Allen Huckaby, Michael Ivey, and Jesse Stripland. The church met at first in a rented hall in Oakland, Calif., then purchased a building in that city. Later the church rented facilities in Castro Valley, Calif. In 1967 the church began holdings services at 2950 Niles Canyon Road, Fremont, Calif., and a new building was erected there in 1980.


The Carquinez Church was organized on the second Sunday in July, 1941, with six charter members, viz., Oby Norman (deacon), Sister Oby Norman, Lee Rico, Sister Lee Rico, Josie Wright, and Bonita Huckaby Wall. The presbytery chose Elder L. R. Huckaby moderator of the presbytery, and Deacon W. E. Townsend clerk. Elder M. E. Brown was chosen to deliver the charge and offer the constitution prayer. Tom Wright and Lizzie Wright joined the same day.


The San Joaquin Valley Church was organized at Porterville, California, on the third Sunday in December, 1941, with seven charter members, viz., B. G. Pace, Sister B. G. Pace, C. F. Snith, Sister C. F. Smith, Libba Trimble, P. A. Aldridge, and Sister P. A. Aldridge. The presbytery chose Elder L. R. Huckaby as moderator, and Elder A. J. Roberts as clerk. Elder A. J. Roberts was chosen as pastor and P. A. Aldridge as clerk of the church. Later pastors included Elders Lee Rico, A. M. Brashear, and B. W. Huckaby Sr.


Mountain View Church was organized in 1942 with three members. The church was dropped by the First Primitive Baptist Association of California and Arizona in 1947 for affiliating with Elder W. L. Barrett and the Progressives.


The First Primitive Baptist Church of Fresno was organized November 7, 1943, with twelve members. Elder Amos A. Deskin was called as pastor. The church had grown to 20 members by 1950.


The First Primitive Baptist Church of Santa Paula was organized at Santa Paula, California, on Easter Sunday, the second Sunday in April, 1944, with five charter members. The presbytery was composed of Elders Henry Cash and W. S. Smart, and Bro. Townsend of Golden Gate Church. Elder W. S. Smart was chosen pastor, and Mamie Edwards was chosen clerk.


Little Vine Church was organized April 9, 1944, by a presbytery of Elders G. E. Griffin, John R. Whitfield, D. A. Layne, H. H. Garrett, R. E. Johnson, W. F. McCormick, Deacons W. A. Fox, R. C. Minor, Percy Corum, J. H. Green, J. C. Alford, W. S. Lawson, and S. S. Cencibaugh. Members going into the constitution were J. W. Arp, Hubert Arp, Clem Cook, Alonzo Cook, T. P. Walker, Albert Colwell, Mattie Purdy, Adella Arp, May Ella Arp, Lillie Cook, May Bell Cook, Audra Walker, and Erma Colwell.


Little Hope Church was organized August 27, 1944. Presbytery of Elders W. F. McCormick, D. A. Layne, H. H. Garrett, Deacons W. A. Fox, C. W. Graham, Albert Colwell, S. S. Cencibaugh, and Clem Cook. Charter members were Frank Moore, I. H. Cencibaugh, Laura Moore, Azzie Hendrickson, Elizabeth Hendrickson, and Melba Hendrickson.


New Providence Church was organized in 1944. The presbytery was composed of Elders T. R. Jefferson and Tom Elliott, and Deacons Sam Elliott, T. W. Lindsey, and Lee Morris. The organization took place at the home of Sister McCarty. Elder T. R. Jefferson was chosen pastor, and Bro. T. W. Lindsey as clerk.


Haven of Rest Church was organized on March 10, 1945, with six charter members. The presbytery chose Elder P. L. Jones moderator, and Elder A. J. Roberts clerk. Sister M. H. Carnes was chosen as church clerk.


Bethel Church was organized on the third Sunday in March 1945. Elder and Sister Seth Bynum, formerly of Texas, moved to California and placed their membership with Seclusia Church in Claremont, where he was ordained to the ministry. Later they moved near Stockton, and began holding meetings in the homes of brethren and friends, Elder W. L. Slusher, pastor of Seclusia, occasionally visiting and preaching for them. Interest increased, resulting in a church being constituted, with Elder Seth Bynum as pastor and Mabel Lindsey, clerk.


Mt. Zion Church was organized on the second Sunday in June 1945, with eight charter members.


Pilgrim's Rest Church was organized in October 1946 with seven members, viz., Walter E. Dodson, Pearl Dodson, Ruth Baker, Mell Holmes, Anice Bayard, R. J. Thomaston, and L. B. Ivy. Elders G. E. Griffin, D. A. Layne, R. H. Fry, E. J. Norman, and a number of deacons composed the presbytery. The church met at first in homes of the members.


Pilgrim's Rest Church was organized at Westmoreland, on the third Sunday in September, 1949. There were eleven charter members, Sister Lena Venable, her four daughters and son and her two granddaughters, and Brother and Sister Chainey and their daughter. Elder Adrian J. Roberts was chosen moderator of the presbytery, and was chosen pastor of the new church.


Harmony Church was organized May 25, 1952, at Turlock, California, with 30 charter members, who were dismissed for that purpose from Little Flock Church at Salida. The presbytery was composed of Elders D. A. Layne and H. R. Shamblin, and Deacons Charlie Riggs, Percy Carum, J. W. Arp, T. P. Walker, Kenneth Anderson, Jim Daily, and T. R. Bonds. Elder H. R. Shamblin offered prayer and Elder D. A. Layne delivered the charge to the church.


A church was organized at Holtville, California on November 9, 1952. Among The first members were Floy McCarty, Johnnie Marble, Lee Bryant, Erie Burns, and others. Elder Troy McCarty was instrumental in organizing this church.


Mt. Olive Church, at Fresno, was organized in 1952 with eleven members.


Mt. Zion Church was organized at Redondo Beach, on April 6, 1953, with eighteen members. By the fall of 1954, the church had received 17 members by baptism, and 32 by letter, and had a total of 51 members.


Beulah Church was organized on March 20, 1955, with twenty-two charter members. Elder Troy McCarty served as pastor from 1955 to 1959, and was chosen again in 1968, and was serving when the church built a new meeting house in 1975. The church later merged with the Shiloh or San Jacinto Church.



Zion Church was organized November 25, 1956, with thirteen charter members, viz., John Hallen, Russ Hallen, L. A. Hatley, James Martin, Jessie Baker, Anice Bayard, Violet Bowman, Lilly Burns, Tresa Hallen, Eliz Hatley, Armour Martin, Ora Pray, and Lena Warren. The presbytery was composed of Elders Marvin Sims, D. A. Layne, Wesley Keith, and Homer Shamblin. Elder D. A. Layne was the first pastor and served until November 1965. Elder Elvin Layne was called as pastor in November 1965.


A church was organized at Olivehurst in 1957, by the following members: Earl F. Chastain, Dora Chastain, Florence Hendrickson, W. A. Copelin, H. L. Morris, and Myrtle Morris. The presbytery was composed of Elders A. A. Deskin, D. A. Layne, Wesley Keith, and Marvin Sims, and Deacons T. P. Walker, Tom Bonds, T. S. Elliott, C. A. Riggs, T. W. Lindsey, Elvin Layne, Veto McCarty, W. J. Aden, and J. W. Arp. Elder Keith offered the organization prayer, and Elder D. A. Layne preached the charge to the church. Meetings at first were held at the corner of 10th and Olivehurst, in Olivehurst.


Napa Valley Church was organized in 1957, at Napa, Calif. The nineteen charter members were primarily from other churches in the Mt. Zion Association of California. The meetings were held at first in the Ladies' Club building in Napa. Elder Amos A. Deskin of Napa was the first pastor. Later information not available.


San Jacinto Church resulted from a division in Shiloah Church, at Bell, California, in about 1966-1967. Services were held at first at South Gate, and later moved to Cypress, and in about 1981 moved to Hemet, California, and finally to San Jacinto. This church changed its name several times, due to mergers and movement of the place of meetings.


Orange Church was organized in about 1970, or earlier, by Elder Joseph Holder and about six members who were dismissed from Mt. Zion Church at Inglewood or Lennox. Orange Church later merged with Little Zion Church at Bellflower, the latter agreeing to drop musical instruments and Sunday Schools.


The Old School Corresponding Meeting of California

The Old School Baptist Corresponding Meeting of California was organized on September 30, and October 1, and 2, 1859, at Liberty Church, in Sonoma County, California. The churches which entered this union were Santa Rosa, Suisun, Ione, and Liberty. The messengers agreed to send forth a letter of general correspondence annually through two church papers. In the following years, they corresponded in this manner with the Siloam Association of Oregon, Spoon River of Illinois, Salem Association of Illinois, Western Association of Iowa, Concord Association of Illinois, and probably others. These meetings for preaching and fellowship were held annually. Minutes for three years have been found (which were published in two church papers, the Signs of the Times, and the Southern Baptist Messenger), and it appears that the annual meetings continued until about 1880.


The First Primitive Baptist Association of California and Arizona was organized in 1932. Due to internal trouble, the association dissolved in 1959. An informal annual meeting was later resumed by some of the churches, without publishing minutes, under the name of California-Arizona Association. The Golden West Association of Primitive Baptists was organized in September 1941, by four churches, viz., Golden Gate, New Hope, Salt River, and Carquinez. The Pacific Primitive Baptist Association was organized in August 1947, by three churches, viz., Golden Gate, San Joaquin Valley, and Carquinez. It was originally called the "Pacific Golden West Association;" the name was changed in July 1961. The Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Association of Central California was organized September 14, 1951, at Little Flock Church, Salida, California, by three churches, viz., Little Flock, Pilgrim's Rest, and Little Hope. It ceased to hold annual meetings in the 1970's, but churches which were in this association are still active. "The Old Line Primitive Baptist Churches of the West Coast" was organized August 26-29, 1976, at Friendship Church, West Riverside, California, with seven churches represented. As many as ten churches have been officially represented at some of the sessions. Six churches were represented in 1991. The Union (Colored) Association of Oklahoma and California was organized in about 1875, but it was originally in Texas and Oklahoma. The California Churches were added much later.

Sketch of the Life of Elder Thomas H. Owen

Elder Thomas H. Owen wrote a History of the Church, which has been reproduced and is available from the Primitive Baptist Library. Writings and letters by Elder Thomas H. Owen have also been compiled and are available from us.

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