Cypress Creek Church continues since 1885

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

Cypress Springs Baptist Church located near the Sailes Community, just south of Gibsland, La., and approximately four miles north of Sparta, the former seat of Bienville Parish, was founded December 27, 1885. A group of ten met that day to set forth their Church Covenant, By-laws, and Articles of Faith. All were former members of Sparta Baptist Church. The church that was founded is still standing, has endured, on a plot of land located off Louisiana Highway 516. A benevolent minded congregation, most descended from its founders, still meets within to carry forward the mission of the church.

The building neatly wrapped in white siding doesn't look its age although the style of the high inside ceilings and the general appearance of the outside reflect the architectural style of the late 1800s. The Cypress Springs congregation through the years just kept on making the original better while keeping its heart and its history intact.

In a church history by Menyon Pullig, (former church clerk, now deceased) she wrote: "On September 11, 1886 there was a motion that the moderator appoint a committee to solicit money to build a church. In December of the following year it was reported that arrangements had been made to build and that five acres had been secured for the site. Over a period of years the present building was erected. Oxen teams brought the sills and much of the materials used from Sparta. The pews, which are still in use, were brought from there."

"Unlike today," Pullig continued, "the church kept strict surveillance over the members and if they went to a dance, played a fiddle for dancing, got drunk, or conducted themselves in any way unbecoming to a Christian, they were excluded from the fellowship. A member was appointed to contact them, and they were required to apologize to the group in order to be reinstated."

The entire history of this early Bienville Parish church is still intact in records that date from that first day in late December of 1885. The original records are housed in a former freezer that remains unplugged. Dr. Terry McConathy, clerk-teacher-member of the congregation carried the preservation of the old records a giant step forward by scanning them to a computer and then to CDs, making them assessable to researchers. Dr. McConathy also translated the older records into a more readable form while keeping their original spelling and punctuation.

Reading the Cypress Springs Baptist Church records allows a close look at a congregation that was serious about establishing a church. Their rules were put forth and members were to be guided by them. Non conformance to the rules called for action by the church. A committee talked to members who didn't abide by the rules if they were reportedly hosting a dance, playing a violin at a dance, 'cussin', or drunk. Offenders were allowed to come back to the fold if they repented and then apologized to the church.

Building a church had been a major consideration and a committee was appointed on 9/11/1886. This committee was appointed to superintend sawing lumber and paying for it and then later the construction of the building was postponed. (2/12/1888). Collections were made, time went by and some of the contributors to the building fund were reportedly dissatisfied with "disposition of said money". The congregation took a collection and refunded the money to "those dissatisfied". The amount of the collection was $6.00. The committee reported that "after performing its duty there remains balance of $1.50 for mission purposes".

The records are a find for those interested in genealogy and local history. The early "Spartans" figure in the story because the founders had all attended church in the early town. The financial health of the age is reflected in collections of $3.25 for the purchase of a Bible. A collection for songbooks netted $1.20 and the clerk was instructed to go ahead and buy the books. A pastor's salary as late as 1920 was $12.50 monthly.

A spring surrounded by cypress trees once served as a baptistry. A wall had been built around the spring to make a pool suited to immersion of new believers. Today the trail to the spring is overgrown and the pool is inaccessible. Lori Mullins remembers how cold the water was when she and her sister Mandy Kennedy Hodge were baptized there in the 1980s. "It was a memorable day for me," Lori said. "They had cleaned out the pool just for us and all our family were there."

Twelve of the faithful were attending on a Sunday in July 2009. Reverend Harlan Smith came early to preach before going on to preach at Mt. Lebanon. Earlier, Dr. McConathy had led a study titled Common Sense based on a chapter in James. George McConathy, Deacon, sitting on a time worn pew from the former Sparta courthouse, kept a fly swat near by as insurance against wasps that occasionally drift down from the attic. The small congregation sang hymns while echoes of the past kept raining down around us.