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FBC Aldrich marks 75 years of servicecomment (0)

December 20, 2007

By Josh Rutledge

The coal mine in Aldrich closed in 1942, but the ruins are still there. So are the camp houses, the miners’ bathhouse and the site of an old company store — the original meeting place for First Baptist Church, Aldrich, in Shelby Baptist Association.

According to Henry Emfinger, a longtime member of First, Aldrich, a lot has changed in the community over the years but the one constant has been the church’s role as a place of fellowship and mercy.

“I believe we truly are the heart of this community,” said Emfinger, who recently wrote a history of First, Aldrich, titled “Heart of the Community.” “This is an old coal mining town. Most all of the others were torn down, but Aldrich was spared for some reason. And I believe it was because of this church.”

Its first home wasn’t an ideal place for worship, but in the early 1900s, there were few options for the Baptists of Aldrich. For years, most had attended the local Methodist church, while others had traveled two miles each Sunday to First Baptist Church, Montevallo.

So in 1932, when Durias Thomas, owner of Montevallo Mining Co., agreed to rent out the company store to the Aldrich Baptists for $1 a year, no one complained.

The congregation sang “Love Lifted Me” that first Sunday, Sept. 10, 1932. Mack Brasswell took the pulpit as pastor, and J.H. Chapman and H.L. Swann agreed to serve as deacons to the 40-plus members of the newly constituted church.

First, Aldrich, became an established member of the community in the ensuing years, and in the late 1930s, the congregation began to look for a building of its own. The store had been built alongside the mine’s train tracks, and the noise of the freight trains had long been a disturbance for the worshipers.

The church again approached Thomas, who agreed to give it the store to use for lumber on a new plot of land. But his offer came with a condition that if the church ever disbanded, then the property would return to the mining company.

Less than five years later, however, the company disbanded, not the church. In fact, First, Aldrich, still meets on the other side of County Road 10 West, across from the site of the old company store.

It hasn’t been an easy 75 years, however. The close of the mine threatened the existence of the town. Wars have, at various times, called away 23 church members. On occasion, attendance has dropped to only two or three families.

But according to Frances Draper, a charter member of First, Aldrich, and mother to Pastor Dennis Draper, the church refused to ever let the work stop. “We simply have stayed together,” she said. “At times, only a few women were coming but we never gave up.”

The congregation recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, in commemoration of its history and in anticipation of its future.

“I believe we have a good future,” Dennis Draper said. “This is an old coal mining town, but there are still people we can reach.”

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