A Brief History of West Pelzer Baptist Church
Excerpts from a Revised Version of the “History of WPBC,” written and presented to the church during the Homecoming service of March 14, 2004.
Nothing anchors a town as much as a city hall and churches. Specifically, in the South, Baptist churches seem to appear on every main street. Historically, a church was among the first buildings constructed in towns and settlements. Although incorporated in 1913, the small upstate town of West Pelzer labored forty-one years without a Baptist Church. However, in June 1953, a group of young people who were members of the Pelzer First Baptist Church felt the call and started a mission in the Ernest Dunlap store building in West Pelzer. This group consisted of: Harry Padgett, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kay, Miss Glenda Brown, Robert Allen, Miss Martha Leathers, Miss Jane Clardy, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Coker, Mr. and Mrs. James Cox, Hovie Porter, Mr. and Mrs. Wilton Guthrie, Mrs. Belt Boyce, Sr., and Mrs. Truman Cox. This group worked under the sponsorship and supervision of First Baptist Church of Pelzer, South Carolina. They held services each Sunday.
After several months, it was decided to organize a Baptist Church with the original group and all other Baptist who wanted to join. On March 7, 1954, a meeting was called to discuss the possibility of organizing the mission into a church. The Reverend J. N. Watson, Superintendent of Missions of the Saluda Baptist Association, was present and told the group the conditions for organizing the new church. On the next Sunday, March 14, 1954, the new church was organized and the name chosen was West Pelzer Baptist Church.
Reverend Glenn Owen, who had recently joined the First Baptist Church of Pelzer to work with young people, came as the first Pastor of West Pelzer Baptist Church. On March 28, 1954, the new church began with eighty-one charter members. A building on the property, a former grocery store that had been operated by Mr. J. W. McCuen, was converted into the new church. All meetings were now held in the building. Membership began to grow. First Baptist Church of Pelzer allowed the use of its baptistery for the Ordinance of Baptism for new converts of West Pelzer Baptist. As evidence of increasing growth, the membership voted on July 13 1956, to build a new building. Things were progressing nicely for the church. However, less than one year later tragedy struck with the unexpected death of Reverend Owen on June 15, 1957. He had served the fledgling congregation faithfully and well.
Following the recommendation of the Pulpit Committee, Mr. & Mrs. Belt Boyce, Sr., Wilton Guthrie, James H. Johnson, and Linda Loftis, the church issued a call to the Reverend Wilbur Sutherland, Associate Minister of Grant Park Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia on September 1, 1957. He delivered his first sermon as pastor on September 8, 1957. In an effort to move forward after the death of Reverend Owen, the church broke ground for a new building in November of 1957. Mr. W. T. Smith began work on an auditorium and adjoining classrooms in December of 1957. As with later projects, men of the church volunteered much of the construction work. Financing for the $43,000 project was handled through a bank note and a $5,000 grant from the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Church members voted to give $1.00 per week over their regular offerings to pay the note. With the new building up and being used, the church family turned its attention to other structural needs. On January 11, 1959 the church decided to build a Parsonage. The Deacons recommended on May 10, 1959, that the church buy a lot located at number 15 Drake Street, West Pelzer. The Parsonage was to be erected on the location.
May of 1973 was an auspicious month for the church. Most importantly, the Reverend Sutherland suffered a heart attack on May 13, which would force him to resign three months later. Secondly, the church voted to answer the call for Christian Day Care in the community. With a small $500 loan from the church treasury, the West Pelzer Baptist Church Day Care Center opened under the direction of Mrs. Wanda Sutherland. The center continues to flourish under the current direction of Mrs. Nancy Cogburn.
After a three month search, the church called the Reverend Donald West of Newberry, South Carolina as pastor. The Reverend West and his family moved to West Pelzer on January 17, 1974. Just as the Reverend West arrived during the twentieth anniversary year, so he left in the twenty-fifth anniversary year. An almost six month search concluded when the membership issued a call to the Reverend James Sloan of Greenville. On October 11, 1987, the Reverend Eddie Ramsey was called to serve WPBC by a 100% secret ballot vote. Late in November the Reverend Ramsey moved his wife, Jill, son, Adam, and infant daughter, Rachel into the Drake Street residence. He delivered his first sermon on November 22, 1987. After serving West Pelzer Baptist Church for nine years, Reverend Eddie Ramsey submitted his resignation June 21, 1996. Reverend David McMahan preached a trial sermon September 14, 1997. Reverend McMahan received a majority of votes and he accepted the position of pastor November 1997. Reverend David McMahan rendered his resignation on August 19, 2001. Reverend Randall L. Smith was called to serve as our Pastor with 100% vote. His first Sunday was November 2, 2002. Reverend Smith is serving at the present under God’s leadership and guidance. He, along with his wife Donna, sons Jonathan and Matthew, and daughter Jennifer are a great inspiration to all of us at West Pelzer Baptist Church.