Mrs. C.H. Sharp, who operated a hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, had two sons who were fighting in the streets with other city boys. She decided it was no way to rear them up so she began thinking of moving into the country and putting the boys to work on a farm. Having heard about the fertile lands in Cherokee County, Alabama, she decided to come here and settle down. She purchased a homestead of 160 acres from M.D. Keener, who was a Baptist preacher.
Across the branch on Mrs. Sharp’s land, the people of this community organized and built a little log church which they named Piney Grove, later called Pine Grove. Where there is no vision the people perish Proverbs 29:18. They had a vision! Some of the charter members were the M.D. Keener family, Bud Angle family, John Grace family, Westley Steele family, Wylie & Sarah Owens, Sam Bo & Nancy Wilson, the Jordan Green family, Nagles family, Massengale family and the Mohon family. This was about the year 1879.
This little church held services for some time until the members decided to establish a cemetery. Mrs. Sharp vetoed the idea because her sons were so scary, so the church was moved to the present location.
The land for the church was given by Sam Bo Wilson and his wife Nancy. Later, four other families donated more land for the cemetery. The four corners come together about mid way of the present cemetery. The first grave in the cemetery was around the year 1893. Her name, as everyone called her, was Granny Steele, mother of Westley Steele.
There was a deed dated 1893 and the members built a little white church that year. I’m sure the people were proud of their new church. Services were held there for some years. There were oak trees all around the church which was necessary in those days. They hitched their mules in the shade, no one had a car. Also, they spread dinner under the trees.
In the early 30’s the building had posts down the middle of the aisle with kerosene lamps on them, a potbellied wood stove, a pump organ with lamp stands on it. The rope hung from the belfry down into the back of the church. Every Sunday morning the bell would be rung. The bell was a means of communication – when someone in the community died, a family member would go to the church and ring a slow, solemn ring. Everyone in the community would go to the church in their wagon or walk to see who had died. They dug the grave by hand. They learned the funeral arrangements and spread the word. In those days the body was brought to the home and friends sat with the family until the funeral service. The ladies would bring in food for family and friends, sometimes it would be several days.
The people had a Vision. Additional land had been acquired in 1924 and in 1941 a block church was built. We were proud of our new church. We had electricity, gas heat, a piano. Yes, we were proud. Sunday was so special in those days that we spent Saturday getting ready for Sunday. We cleaned house, baked a cake, killed a chicken, washed and rolled our hair, shined our patent leather shoes with a biscuit (the biscuits were made with real lard then) and pressed our Sunday clothes. We wore our best on the Lord’s day. No business opened on Sunday. We rested and visited relatives and friends after church.
Sunday school rooms were added shortly after World War II. In 1959 the church added a basement and other educational space and a few years later the building was remodeled and brick veneer was added. Various other renovations and improvement projects were carried out over the years but I was not living here at that time so I don’t know if there was any opposition. I am sure there was – but that’s a good thing.
In 1981 new educational space and a fellowship hall was added. Being the good Baptist that we are, there was opposition – “We must not cut the big oak trees where we had dinner on the ground and hitched our mules under”. But where there is no vision, the people perish.
In 1987 two tracts of land comprising 5.76 acres and located across on County Road 22 from the church were purchased. In 1988 ground was broken for a new sanctuary with a full basement which would be the new fellowship hall. We moved into the new facility in October of 1989 and we were so proud of our new church with the blue carpet, beautiful pews, choir loft and baptistery. We had come a long way from the log church and the little white church. You see, I can remember the prayers the elders prayed on their knees, not like we stand now, “I pray Pine Grove will always be a bright and shining light for Jesus, that souls might be saved”.
After we moved into our new facility in 1989 the original fellowship hall was divided into additional education space and later the original sanctuary was renovated, making space for more Sunday School rooms and a choir room.
In March 1997, three acres of land across County Road 69 from the church were purchased for further expansion. We wanted to build a Christian Life Center and Offices and additional education. We had to get the road moved to make room for the new building and this was no small feat. In July of 2000 we completed the task and moved in and this was nothing short of a miracle. To God Be the Glory! I know in my heart that God has graciously blessed our church because we have always kept the main thing the main thing, that Pine Grove would always be a bright and shining light for Jesus, that souls might be saved.
The church has gone from the first B.Y.P.U. to WMU, with its GA’s and Mission Friends and we minister to our homebound with the DVD Ministry. We are also blessed with a Bus Ministry, Children’s Church, Youth Organization, Brotherhood, Awana, Faith Evangelistic program and Wednesday Night Bible Study. Our children can participate in the Upward Basketball program and we have now added Upward Football and Cheerleading. Our Vacation Bible School is a big part of our church program and this year we enrolled 689 people, had 72 professions of faith and 18 rededications, and on and on.
In 1985 when Bro. Ricky, Joan and Jordyn came here to Pastor and minister to us the church really took off. It grew by leaps and bounds. Why? Ricky Pollard had a vision! He’s God’s man, he is real, he lives what he preaches and seeks God’s face in all decisions. I know him well and I’ve worked closely with him in many things. Joan is such an asset to Bro. Ricky. It takes a special person to be a Pastor’s wife. Being good Baptist that we are – well, you know! God Bless them. I pray that God will let us keep them until- - - - In the meantime, let’s keep the main thing the main thing, that Pine Grove will always be a bright and shining light for Jesus, that souls might be saved.
God loves those old saints whose remains are planted in our cemetery. They had such a hard life but they depended on God for everything. We should honor their memory, after all, this is our Christian heritage. If not for them and their prayers, we would not have a church. If they were sports figures I’ll bet everyone would honor their memory.
Read by: Betty Steele Hill
September 5, 2004