Who were Editors Taliaferro, Renfroe, and Winkler?


“The invasion of the South by a Northern army is a simple absurdity,” wrote H. E. Taliaferro, editor of The South Western Baptist, following the vote by Alabama representatives to secede from the United States. He argued the demand for cotton in the European nations would cause them to recognize the “independence of a Southern Confederacy…so soon as it is formed….”
Photo courtesy of Special Collection, Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama

Hardin Edwards Taliaferro

Hardin Edwards Taliaferro was a native of North Carolina, born on March 4, 1811, to Charles and Sallie (Burroughs) Taliaferro. He had been born Mark Hardin Taliaferro, but by 1829, he had traveled to Roane County, Tennessee, where his two brothers, Charles and Richard, were serving as a pastor and evangelist, and he had changed his birth name to Hardin Edwards Taliaferro. While living with Charles, Taliaferro learned the tanning trade, was converted, felt called to preach and entered Madisonville Academy.

During this time, Taliaferro met Samuel Henderson and his sister, Eliza, whom Taliaferro married in 1833. They moved to Talladega County in 1835, where he served small churches and owned a tanning business. He wrote articles for the Alabama, Georgia and Virginia Baptist papers, and along the way he wrote of his deep spiritual struggles in a piece called The Grace of God magnified: An Experimental Tract. Eventually he joined his brother-in-law, Henderson, as editor of the South Western Baptist in 1855, moving his family to Tuskegee by 1856.

On July 31, 1859, Taliaferro and John Edmunds Dawson combined their talents and assumed ownership and editorship of the paper. He maintained a supportive role, with Dawson writing most of the more spirited denominational and secular commentaries.

Dawson, a native Georgian, was recognized as a commanding person and gifted orator in the pulpit. He served Mercer University as a trustee and endowment fund agent, and he received the institution’s Doctor of Divinity in 1858. In July 1860, Dawson left because of his poor health and died in November. While editing the paper, Taliaferro completed Fisher’s River North Carolina, Scenes and Characters, the stories of its people and places, under his penname Skitt. It was anonymously published in 1859 by Harper & Brothers.

Taliaferro persevered with the newspaper, but by 1862, the war had taken an emotional and financial toll on his family, and he relinquished editorship and ownership. The paper survived when Henderson arrived to take the reins, with Taliaferro occasionally contributing articles.

Following the war, Taliaferro worked with new black churches in East Alabama in the Cross Keys and Mount Meigs communities, assisting and training members and leaders while editing The Tuskegee News. In 1873, he and his wife returned to Loudon, Tennessee, where he died November 2, 1875, leaving their daughters, Nancy and Adelaide, in Alabama.

John Jefferson Deyampert Renfroe 

John Jefferson Deyampert Renfroe, was born August 30, 1830, in Montgomery County, Alabama, to Nathan W. and Mahala (Lee) Renfroe of Georgia. His father moved the family to Macon County. He was baptized in 1848. He married Elsie Lee in 1852, and the couple had eight children. He was ordained to the ministry in 1852 in Cedar Bluff and served as a pastor in Calhoun and Cherokee counties until 1857, when he moved to First Baptist Church of Talladega and served there until 1860.

Renfroe worked in East Alabama Baptist Association raising money for work among the Indians. He enlisted in the 10th Alabama Regiment as a chaplain from 1863 to 1864 and gained recognition for his preaching to troops, which encouraged and strengthened morale.

He was corresponding editor of the Christian Index and South-Western Baptist from 1866 to 1873 and The Alabama Baptist from 1873 to 1876 and 1886 to 1887. He was awarded an honorary degree from Howard College in 1875. In 1886, he was called to serve as pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham. He died on June 2, 1888, and was buried with Masonic honors alongside Elsie and six of their children at Oak Hill Cemetery in Talladega.

Edwin T. Winkler 

Edwin Theodore Winkler was born in Savannah, Georgia, to Shadrack and Jeanette (McFarland) Winkler on November 31, 1823. He was educated at Chatham Academy, graduated from Brown University in 1843 and entered Newton Theological Seminary in 1843. While serving as assistant editor of The Christian Index, he served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Columbus, Georgia. He moved on from there to First Baptist Church of Albany, Georgia, and later to Gillisonville, South Carolina.

During his tenure as corresponding secretary of the Southern Baptist Publication Society beginning in 1852, he compiled “The Sacred Lute, a Collection of Popular Hymns,” eight of which he wrote. He was also editor of the Southern Baptist of South Carolina. He answered the call to First Baptist Church of Charleston in 1854. While in Charleston, his wife, Abby Turner Howe, died in July 1858. He married Rosa Cornelia Burckmyer in September 1859. During the Civil War, Winkler served as a chaplain in the Confederate Army. After serving as pastor of Citadel Square Baptist Church, Charleston, for a time, he accepted a call to Siloam Baptist Church in Marion, Alabama, in 1872. That same year, he became president of the Southern Baptist Convention Home Mission Board located in Marion, remaining until 1881 when it moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1874, Winkler became editor-in-chief of the reconstituted Alabama Baptist and served until the paper relocated to Selma in 1879. He died in Marion on November 10, 1883.

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Who was Editor Samuel Henderson?


Tuskegee Baptist Church pastor Samuel Henderson reluctantly became editor of The South Western Baptist in 1852. His “decided convictions and opinions” dominated the pages of the paper until the end of the Civil War.
Photo courtesy of Special Collection, Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama

Samuel Henderson was born in Jefferson County, Tennessee, on March 12, 1817, to John F. and Nancy (Mohler) Henderson. The family moved to Talladega County, Alabama, where his father established a printing office and published The Southern Register and Talladega Advertiser in 1835. It was there that Henderson learned the printing and publishing trade. At fifteen, Henderson united with the church. He married Eliza W. McGehee in January 1840.

Ordained to the ministry in 1840, Henderson became the pastor of First Baptist Church of Talladega but moved to First Baptist Church of Tuskegee in 1846, serving there for more than twenty years. Three of his church members bought the South Western Baptist in 1852 and convinced their pastor to edit the religious newspaper. They bought a press with equipment and moved the operation to Tuskegee. By 1859, with his brother-in-law, Hardin E. Taliaferro, serving as co-editor, Henderson felt he could resign. In 1861 he was elected a delegate to the 1861 Secession Convention.

Taliaferro held the editorial reins until 1862, but when he resigned as editor and owner, Henderson returned to the paper while still serving the Tuskegee church.

Through the war years, Henderson filled the columns with his strong Southern editorials, denominational news and war reports, a move that resulted in Federal troops in Tuskegee shutting down the press in April 1865. Henderson remained quiet only until he could partner with James Toon, owner of the Christian Index of Georgia. In 1865, he and Toon joined the Georgia and Alabama papers to form the Christian Index and the South-Western Baptist. Henderson would serve as editor of the Alabama Department of the paper until he retired in December 1866.

He continued pastoring churches in Alabama and served as president of the Alabama Baptist Convention from 1868 to 1873. He retired to his farm in Shelby County in 1889. Henderson died in Troy on February 16, 1890, and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Talladega, leaving his wife, three sons and two daughters behind. He was remembered as a pastor, writer, printer and editor faithful to Alabama Baptists.

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The Association of Brethren


These four leading citizens of Marion, Alabama formed “The Association of Brethren,” through which they founded and owned The Alabama Baptist.
Photos courtesy of Special Collection, Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama

On February 4, 1843, the first issue of The Alabama Baptist was printed in Marion, Alabama. The Association of Brethren appeared on the masthead as the owners and editors. The association was composed of Milo Parker Jewett, James H. DeVotie, Gen. Edwin Davis “E.D.” King and Julia Tarrant Barron. All were active members of Siloam Baptist Church in Marion and were financially able to secure the paper’s future.

Milo Parker Jewett

Milo Parker Jewett, senior editor, was president of The Judson Female Institute and owner of a substantial plantation. He was born on April 27, 1808, to Dr. Calvin and Sally (Parker) Jewett in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. He married Augusta Russell on September 16, 1833. The couple had no children.

Jewett’s early education at Bradford Vermont Academy prepared him for Dartmouth College, and he graduated with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees by 1831. He was principal of the Holmes Academy in Plymouth, New Hampshire, from 1828 to 1829 and read law with Josiah Quincy but left the study for ministry preparation at Andover Theological Seminary. He graduated from there in 1833, and following graduation, he taught at Presbyterian Marietta Collegiate Institute from 1834 to 1838, teaching rhetoric and political economy and raising funds for the college. He was a member of the Ohio State Educational Board, working for the adoption of the common (public) school system in 1835 with Horace Mann.

In 1838, Jewett’s beliefs about baptism changed, causing him to join the Baptist church. He resigned from Presbyterian Marietta, saying, “Having been appointed to my professorship as a Presbyterian, I felt bound in honor to resign my place.”

Six months later, Jewett ventured south and arrived in Marion, Alabama. He was met by a group of enthusiastic Baptists eager to start a Baptist institution for young ladies. He became the first principal, and the doors opened in 1839. Jewett joined Siloam Baptist Church and was ordained to the ministry on June 26, 1842. He served as senior editor through the early years of the newspaper but moved to Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1855. He established Cottage Hill Seminary for Girls and in 1861 founded Vassar College. He moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1867. He died on June 9, 1882.

James H. DeVotie

James H. DeVotie, treasurer, was the pastor of Siloam Baptist Church. DeVotie was born in Oneida County, New York, on September 24, 1814. His parents were Presbyterian, and he was converted in 1830 before his mother’s death. In 1831, he sailed to Savannah, Georgia, to live with his merchant uncle, who was Baptist. DeVotie eventually joined First Baptist Church of Savannah in December 1831.

Feeling called to preach, he moved to Furman Theological Seminary in South Carolina, and in October 1832, he was licensed to preach. He was ordained at Camden Baptist Church in March 1833. He served there for two years before moving to Montgomery, Alabama, to serve as pastor of First Baptist Church. He married Miss C.M. Noble in January 1835, and the couple had five children. Only one child survived. In 1836, DeVotie was called to First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa, and in 1840 he moved to Siloam Baptist Church, Marion. He served there eighteen years. DeVotie was instrumental in establishing Howard College in 1841. He joined the Association of Brethren in 1843, overseeing and contributing to the financial needs of the newspaper.

In 1854, he resigned from Siloam to become pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Perry County and served as Secretary of the Southern Baptist Domestic and Indian Mission Board. He moved to Columbus, Georgia, in 1856 and served a church there for fourteen years and also served with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. DeVotie died on April 4, 1891.

Edwin Davis King

Edwin Davis “E.D.” King was considered the second largest slave and landowner in Perry County. A practicing attorney, he was married to Ann A. Hunter and later Ann Alston Galliard.

King was born to Woodson and Sarah (Cartwright) King in Greene County, Georgia, on April 12, 1792. King served in the War of 1812 and came to Perry County in 1816, assisting in the establishment of Marion. He was a charter member of Siloam Baptist Church in 1822.

Interested in education, King was a founder and trustee of The Judson Female Institute and Howard College. In 1845, he was a representative to the Southern Baptist Convention.

He died on January 11, 1862.

Julia Tarrant Barron

Julia Tarrant Barron, an astute businesswoman, was born in Abbeville, South Carolina, to Thomas and Melina Tarrant on December 18, 1805. She married William Barron on April 10, 1828, in Jefferson County, Alabama. They had one son, John. She was a member of Siloam Baptist Church and donated the land on which it was built.

Barron provided land for The Judson Female Institute and Howard College and made lodging arrangements for the first faculty and students. She was known throughout Marion as a kind, generous lady who used her wealth to aid Baptist endeavors through gifts of land and money. She invested in The Alabama Baptist and actively participated in its business through its early years, her name often appeared on the newspaper’s legal documents. She died on February 5, 1890.

Keep checking back over the next several weeks as we continue to provide biographical briefs on selected editors of The Alabama Baptist from the founding of the paper to today.

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Storied history of ‘unbroken ministry’

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After 175 years of continuous ministry, the first book devoted to the history of The Alabama Baptist newspaper will be published in a four-color fully illustrated book to be released January 2018.

“It is unusual for a weekly publication to have an unbroken ministry for 175 years,” observed Bob Terry, editor of The Alabama Baptist. “Only the blessings of God, the hard work of those associated with the paper and the graciousness of Alabama Baptists made this possible.”

‘Instruments of great power’

In 1843 when the paper was first published in Marion, Alabama Baptists described the new publication as “an instrument of great power in promotion of the best interests of the denomination and in advancing the cause of Christ at large.”

At the same meeting messengers voted the “The Alabama Baptist be employed by the officer of this convention as the organ through which they shall confer with the churches connected with this body.”

From that time to this, The Alabama Baptist and the Alabama Baptist State Convention have worked together for the benefit of cooperating churches and the convention itself.

While covering wars, political upheaval, depression, cultural changes, civil rights, technology shifts and more, The Alabama Baptist has served its readers with the three-fold mission of informing of perspective and understanding, inspiring for growth as Christian disciples and connecting Baptists for missions and ministry.

Focus on stories

Each week the paper reports events from the world of religion, provides practical helps for everyday problems, examines moral and ethical issues from a biblical perspective, shares resources for Christian living, undergirds what Baptists do together and imparts information of God’s work through Baptists at home and around the world.

Now that storied history of this valuable ministry will be told in a 208-page coffee table style book. Its design is to focus on the stories of Alabama Baptist with the history of the publication itself weaved into the stories.

Elizabeth Wells, retired archivist for Samford University and librarian for its Special Collection and Archives department in Birmingham, is writing this intriguing history alongside award-winning journalist Grace Thornton. Wells has written two institutional history books and authored numerous historical articles. Interestingly, her master’s thesis at Auburn University was about the founding of The Alabama Baptist.

“I love the stories of The Alabama Baptist,” Wells said. “I have read them for years and now I get to share them with everyone through this first book devoted to the paper’s history.”

Thornton has served in some capacity with The Alabama Baptist since 2003. After seven years as a news writer and then assistant editor for the state Baptist paper, she served as a writer and editor overseas in England and the Middle East before moving back to Alabama in 2014. Her first book, I Don’t Wait Anymore was published by Zondervan in 2016.

The title of the new book is “The Alabama Baptist: Celebrating 175 Years of Informing, Inspiring and Connecting Baptists.” It will be released in hardback and paperback versions. The cost of the book is $34.95 in hardback and $24.95 in paperback.

“Anyone interested in what God has done through Baptists in Alabama and around the world will find this an exciting read,” said Terry. (TAB)


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You’re all invited!

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The Alabama Baptist wants to invite you to join us in celebrating its 175th birthday. The celebration will be Tuesday, February 6 on the campus of Judson College in Marion where the state Baptist paper began.

The day includes historic tours in the community, presentations by the authors of the new book “The Alabama Baptist: Celebrating 175 Years,” a worship time with Judson students featuring editor-elect Jennifer Rash, a thanksgiving prayer, a birthday party with cake and punch, and a sit down lunch. The activities begin at 9:00am with the historic tours. If you choose to not participate in a historic tour, registration will be in Jewett Foyer at Judson College from 10:30-11:00am.

The day would make a perfect outing for senior adult groups, WMU groups, Sunday School classes, or anyone interested in Baptist history. The cost is $15 per person in advance or $20 per person at the door and covers all tours, events and lunch as well as a $5 discount on the new book.

For more information or to register call 1-800-803-5201.

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From past to present: An overview of The Alabama Baptist


Over the life of the newspaper, The Alabama Baptist has gone through several name changes and flag updates, as evidenced in the graphic above. 

Alabama was booming in the early 1800s as settlers rushed from Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky to claim prime land just made available by the government. Baptists were among those early settlers. John Nicholson, John Cantebury and Zadock Baker, three Baptist ministers, helped start the first Baptist church in the Alabama Territory on Oct. 2, 1808, just outside present day Huntsville.

So quickly did Baptists and other settlers flood the lands along the state’s extensive system of navigable rivers that one observer wrote, “Never before or since has a country been so rapidly peopled.” By 1825 there were 128 Baptists churches with more than 5,000 members in the state.

Baptists in Alabama were a people but not a denomination despite the organization of the Alabama Baptist State Convention in 1823. Baptists brought various theological understandings from their former homes. There was disagreement about how to do church. The major challenge was the rise of the “Anti-Missionary Movement” which opposed any form of missions and evangelism.

Early on Alabama Baptist leaders called for a publication to share information among the rapidly increasing number of Baptists and Baptist churches. A trusted voice could help unify Baptists, leaders said. But four attempts to start Baptist papers in the 1830s were all short-lived.

In 1843, a group of visionary educators and businessmen in Marion, Alabama, agreed to found The Alabama Baptist. The group included such Baptist stalwarts as Milo P. Jewett, Edwin D. King, Jesse Hartwell, James H. DeVotie and Julia T. Barron.

According to a report in the minutes of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, these leaders “agree(d) to meet any deficiency which might arise from the want of a sufficient number of subscribers during the first year of its publication.”

Evidently, the founders had to pay up the first year but by 1845 the report announced, “The proprietors have purchased a building in which to publish the paper, a new press, type and everything connected with such an establishment.” The Alabama Baptist was on its way and continues to this day.

From its first issue, the paper provided a communications channel for Baptists. It promoted the best interests of the denomination. It helped advance the cause of Christ in Alabama and around the world. And all the while, it delivered vital information to church members to help them understand the issues of the day through a biblical perspective and to grow as Christian disciples.

Today, The Alabama Baptist is the largest state Baptist paper among Southern Baptists. It combines the best of professional journalism with a Christian commitment by editors and writers who profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ. The paper has been judged the best regional Christian newspaper by Associated Church Press, Evangelical Press and Religion Communicator’s Council.

The path has not been easy. As a privately founded publication the paper experienced several different owners in its first decades. Frequently the new owners relocated the offices of the paper and sometimes edited the publication’s name. But the mission stayed constant.

The fiery editorial of one editor got him arrested by federal troops after the Civil War. He was forbidden to publish the paper anywhere in Alabama so until the end of Reconstruction, the paper was published as a supplement to the Georgia Baptist Christian Index.

In 1918, the Alabama Baptist State Convention purchased the paper and set it up to function under a board of directors as a nonprofit religious ministry. The directors own the publication and govern all aspects of its ministry.

During the 100 years of convention ownership, four men have served as editors. Dr. L.L. Gwaltney became editor in 1919 and served for 31 years. Dr. Leon Macon took the helm of the ministry in 1950 and served until his death in 1965. Dr. Hudson Baggett was elected editor in 1966 and served until his death in 1994. Dr. Bobby S. Terry was elected editor in 1995 and continues to serve in that role.

In his book Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie (1999) noted historian Wayne Flynt identifies Gwaltney, Baggett and Macon as the most influential Baptists of their days. That is a great complement to the editors and to The Alabama Baptist.

Dr. Gwaltney was a studious man with progressive leanings for the beginning of the 20th century. He raised issues and provided insights that stimulated discussions. He was a trusted voice having been a prominent pastor in the state and serving in several statewide positions. Readers learned to expect the paper to cover a wide range of issues from child labor to the work of church committees.

Dr. Macon’s editorials were aggressive whether dealing with denominational issues or civil rights. The Alabama Baptist announced clear positions on whatever topics the paper covered. Dr. Macon was also a shrewd businessman. He reduced the price of the paper and promoted the Every Member Plan whereby churches provided the paper to resident members through the church budget. Under his leadership the circulation swelled to among the highest in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dr. Baggett was a peace maker. As a pastor and later a Bible professor at Howard College (now Samford University), Dr. Baggett was known across the state and was a former teacher of a large number of pastors. He incorporated his renowned ability as a storyteller into his writings. Dr. Baggett stressed the positive in his editorials allowing news stories to deal with more vexing issues.

This strategy helped keep The Alabama Baptist circulation strong during times of denominational strife through which Dr. Baggett served.

Today, the ministry continues to evolve as digital communication and social media bring new dy- namics to the ministry of informing readers for perspective and understanding, inspiring believers for growth as Christian disciples and connecting Baptists for missions and ministry.

The saga of The Alabama Baptist is fascinating. It continues so. A new book scheduled for release in September 2017 titled The Alabama Baptist: Celebrating 175 Years of Informing, Inspiring and

Connecting Baptists chronicles the impact of the publications through good times and bad on Baptist churches, local communities and the state of Alabama. The book is a testimony to God’s goodness, the faithfulness of committed disciples and the importance of the ministry of communications.

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Baptists convene in Augusta, Georgia


The Alabama Baptist file photo


According to the May 24, 1845, issue of The Alabama Baptist:

Readers of The Alabama Baptist were furnished a detailed account of the meeting in Augusta when the paper reprinted stories from the Augusta Chronicle about the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention and its constitution. Jesse Hartwell, president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, was elected secretary. The Home Mission Board of the new convention was located in Marion with Basil Manley, president of the University of Alabama, serving as president of the board of directors.

According to the May 31, 1845, issue of The Alabama Baptist:

Of the meeting in Augusta, Georgia, Editor James W. Hoskins wrote, “The result was just what it should have been and warrants us in the belief that our southern organization will add to instead of detracting from the interest, importance and success of the cause of missions.” (TAB)

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Raising support

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 Children count the change collected to help fund missionary efforts in Alabama, provide for ministers and their families and support those suffering a loss in the family. The Alabama Baptist file photo 

According to the May 25, 1854, issue of The Alabama Baptist, a committee of the Alabama Baptist State Convention to provide relief and support to “worn out ministers and the families of those deceased” made its first report after meeting in Selma. Key to providing relief was that the church last served by the pastor had to contribute at least $100 for relief of ministers.

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Missionary efforts at home and abroad



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People came from across the country to help recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew in August of 1992. It swept across the southeastern coast causing major damage in Louisiana and Florida, as well as the Bahamas.


James 2:14-17 states, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (NIV).

An important part of the Christian faith is serving others. Whether at home or abroad, Christians are commanded to help others in their time of need. As good deeds without the Gospel are futile, so is faith without works. They go hand-in-hand.

Some Christians are called to give up their life in their home country and travel across continents and oceans to spread the Gospel in foreign countries. Some Christians are called to serve their local communities when people are in need.  All Christians are called to serve and share the Gospel wherever they are.


According to the Feb. 4, 1843, issue of The Alabama Baptist:

The Executive Committee of the Alabama Baptist State Convention reported, “Missionaries in different parts of the state have accomplished much in the Master’s service.”

For instance, Rev. S. Henderson, employed as missionary for Benton, Jackson, St. Clair and DeKalb Counties, had preached 82 sermons, nearly as many lectures and addresses on different subjects and baptized 11 people during the past six months.


According to the Feb. 10, 1844, issue of The Alabama Baptist:

The paper reported the departure of new foreign missionaries Rev. and Mrs. Albert N. Arnold who were aboard a boat “bound for Smyrna.” The missionary couple was to be dropped off in Corfu, Greece, where they had been appointed to serve. Of the sailing, the paper reported, “The parting scene was one of deep and touching interest; the most fervent desires of many hearts united and ascended upward for the safety and success of the missionaries.”



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Books are in!


Are you as excited about these books as we are? “The Alabama Baptist: Celebrating 175 Years of Informing, Inspiring and Connecting Baptists” are officially in and ready to be read. 

If you are interested in purchasing a copy you can visit the WMU Store. It is available in hardback and paperback.


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