TAB’s first office building delivered to its new home in Wilcox County

The small white building that was The Alabama Baptist’s first home traveled 71 miles to its new location in the Wilcox County town of Furman overnight on Jan. 26.

Since 1997, the nearly 200-year-old building has stood on the Judson College campus in Marion, just blocks from where it was built in the early 1830s. For years, students have adopted on the way to class and guests visited on special occasions like TAB’s 175th birthday in 2018.

The original Alabama Baptist building (used to produce and print the newspaper in the mid-1800s) sat on the corner of the Judson College campus (shown here) from 1997 until January 26, 2022. (Photo by Jennifer Davis Rash )

But this year, as the historic Baptist women’s college prepares to sell the campus, TAB’s first home needed a place to go.

TAB editor Jennifer Rash originally said TAB and Judson executives hoped to keep Marion home but were unable to find a way to fix it. The grounds of TAB’s current headquarters in Homewood are also not large enough to accommodate the building.

So when a conversation with a friend put Rash in touch with members of Bethsaida Baptist Church in Furman at the exact moment a decision needed to be made, she said she “knew it was a big thing.” God”.

The church voted to take possession of the TAB building from Judson on TAB’s recommendation, let it sit on land owned by the church, and be responsible for any future restoration and maintenance. Judson’s board also saw the move as a good fit and confirmed the move.

“God made it all happen”

“Our friends at Bethsaida Baptist Church are such a blessing and an answer to prayers,” Rash said. “We wanted to find a way to preserve the building, and God definitely made it happen.”

The building will be part of the Furman National Historic District and will feature in their tours, including an annual Spring Illuminated Pilgrimage tour. That event — the Wilcox Historical Society Home Tour — is expected to attract more than 1,000 people on March 26, according to Bethsaida Baptist President Deacon Don Donald.

“We are very honored to have done this and to have been considered to do this,” he said. “We have a great home for that, and we’re excited to have it as part of our downtown restoration effort.”

Pastor Don Bell said it was a natural fit to bring to the community. It’s a “unique little place”, and Bethsaida Baptist – which has been fully restored – is the centerpiece. Almost all of the 21 members of the church have some form of business experience and are “go-getters” dedicated to keeping the area’s history alive. Bell himself restored eight pre-war dwellings.

The TAB building “comes to a very good home,” he said, noting that there are frequent visitors from “everywhere.” There are bus tours as well as a new restaurant, antique store and other places of interest.

Bell said they plan to restore the TAB building to its original state and find a printing press that represents the era in which The Alabama Baptist was printed there.

“The building is coming to an area where it will be well maintained and restored,” he said. “People will hear the story, and it will have life and be open for people to come and visit.”

History of the building

The building was constructed more than a decade before the existence of the official state Baptist newspaper. General Edwin D. King, one of Judson’s founders, built it directly across from Siloam Baptist Church in Marion to use as a business office.

At that time, Marion—although it had a population of less than 1,500—was the center of Baptist activity in the state. The first issue of The Alabama Baptist was published in 1843, and later that same year the messengers to the annual convention decided that this would be their official means of staying connected.

King was a member of the Association of Brethren – the publishers and owners of The Alabama Baptist – ironically one of them was a woman, Julia Tarrant Barron. They printed the newspaper in King’s office building until 1852. After that, TAB had a variety of homes in the state before its current building in Homewood was built in 1976. About 175 years later, Rash is its second female leader.

Some time after the newspaper left King’s office, the building was purchased and used as a dental practice, eventually housing various other businesses. A third piece was added to the rear at some point, but a storm destroyed it.

In 1997, the building was donated to Judson by the family of Dr. OL Shivers, the second dentist to practice there. It was moved to campus by Cullman House Movers and restored as a museum of early Baptist history in Alabama.

“We are deeply grateful to the Judson College family for their love and care for the original building where The Alabama Baptist was born and faithfully shared the news of the day in the mid-1800s,” Rash said. “Judson has been extremely kind to look after the building on the corner of campus at the intersection of Bibb and Dekalb streets since he was placed there in 1997.”

The move to Furman – funded by TAB Media Group – was carried out by Hussey Structural Movers, and Rash is once again grateful for a gracious host for TAB’s first home.

“We are very grateful for the interest shown by the members of Bethsaida and their willingness to take ownership of the building to restore it, preserve it and allow the legacy of Alabama Baptist and Judson College to be shared. from the building as it is in the historic Furman District,” she said.

For more information on the Spring Homes Tour, visit the Wilcox Historical Society website at wilcoxhistoricalsociety.org. For more information on scheduling a visit, visit the Furman Historical Society Facebook page or call Don Bell at 251-362-5169.

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