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Simcoe Church marks 125th anniversarycomment (0)

August 20, 2009

By Greg Heyman

Hoyt Drake estimated he’s been associated with Simcoe Baptist Church, Cullman, for 63 years. So the opportunity to see old friends when this East Cullman Baptist Association church celebrated its 125th anniversary July 12 was a special treat.

Approximately 125 people gathered for the anniversary service, more than double the average of 55 who attend Sunday School at the church each week. The service included singing, a church history presentation and recognition of Virgil Mulkin, who served as Simcoe Baptist’s pastor from 1975 to 1979.

Drake, 81, said his parents were attending the church when he was born. He remained at Simcoe until 1952, when he and his wife moved to Illinois. The two returned to Alabama in 1970 and brought up their two daughters in the church.

And though the faces at Simcoe have changed through the years, Drake said what has kept him there is a style of worship that has remained constant.

“We stay with the old-fashioned way of worshiping — the organ and piano,” he said.

But there’s something else about his church, too.

“It’s special to me because our preacher preaches strictly from the Bible,” Drake said of Pastor Jimmy Baker.

He has served as Simcoe’s 37th pastor since 1985. Baker said though the church is small, it has prospered because of the spirit of its members.

“They’re very gracious people. They’re the kind of people that would give anybody a chance and anybody an opportunity. They’re just very good people,” he said.

A history of the church compiled by Drake and Susan Hazelrig, office associate for East Cullman Association, reveals how one man’s generosity sparked Simcoe’s existence and growth. In the early 1880s, Abraham Austin came through the area on his way east to buy land. When he learned of available land nearby, he bought 240 acres, which included a lot intended for use by a church.

As more people bought land in the area and started building homes, Austin donated property for a church and school. Eleven people started Simcoe in a one-room structure with split logs for seats.

Following his service in World War I, Austin again helped the church by deeding the land where it sits to this day. The present church building was constructed in 1922 and is located across the street from the original one-room structure.

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