Sasser church building.


The Sasser church of Christ building is located on U. S. 29 between Brantley and Dozier. In [the mid nineties] the average attendance for Sunday morning worship services [was] 55-60 [At present it runs about 45-50]. There are two buildings housing the auditorium, fellowship area, a baptistery, and six classrooms. Those who presently worship at this building are grateful to the people who began this congregation [back in the 1940's and 1950's]. Several members have tried to help in remembering how this congregation was established. Among them are Mrs. Mary and Mr. Stanford Sasser, Mrs. Evelyn Murphy, Mrs. Elizabeth Raines Johnson, Mrs. Christine Turner Mitchell, and Mrs. Lorene Blackmon.

The family of Jesse Byrd Sasser lived in what was commonly known as the Sasser Community. Near their home-place the family had begun a cemetery known as Sasser Cemetery. The oldest readable tombstone that remains is that of Jessie Byrd Sasser's son, Jeffie P., who was born in 1862. Also nearby (near the Oresta Blackmon, now Gillis Walden home) was the Sasser school. There was no church building in the community. Anyone having a burial in the cemetery had to have the funeral at the home of the deceased.

One afternoon in the early 1940's, Monteen Sasser Carnes (later Nelson), who was expecting a child, and Evelyn Raines Murphy, who already had a family, were working at the cemetery. As they worked they discussed the need for a church building in the community. One of them said, "We need a church here. Why don't we see what we can do?"

When they finished working, they went across the road to the home of Mrs. Annie Jay (John) Raines and talked to her about the need for a church building. Mrs. Annie Jay agreed with them, then dropped her head and was silent for a few minutes. When she looked up she said, "I'll give the land, but I can't build the church. I'll give the land as long as it's a church of Christ, and if services aren't being held in the building, the land goes back to me."

From that point several people got busy going around the community, soliciting the funds and help needed to erect the building. Mrs. Monteen [Nelson] and Mrs. Evelyn [Murphy] (step daughter of Mrs. Annie Jay Raines), Mr. Charlie Pearson (brother-in-law of the Raines), and others (including young people such as Mrs. Doris Turner's daughters, Christine and Lurlene) collected money, got donations of lumber, and secured volunteers to give their labor to build the church building.

The land was deeded to the church on August 21, 1943, by Mrs. Annie Jay and Mr. J. H. Raines. Trustees listed on the deed were Charlie Pearson and Charlie Murphy (son-in-law of Mr. Raines). A condition of the deed stated, "It is the object of those purchasing this property to encourage and build up Churches that recognize and accept the authority of the New Testament Scriptures."

Several families in the community had roots in the church of Christ and were instrumental in the establishment of this congregation. Some of them were Mrs. Annie Jay Raines, Mrs. Willie Blackmon, Mrs. Doris Turner, and Mrs. Alice Walden (all sisters and daughters of Jay Sasser. Fannie May Person, wife of Charlie Person was also a sister.)

Prior to the construction of the building, attempts had already been made to establish a congregation in the community. Mrs. Evelyn Murphy described an early attempt by brother R. Lee Huffman. The Murphy's lived on the dirt road that goes beside Bush's Store. They hadn't been going to church anywhere but decided that they needed to "take the children" to church. Brother Huffman was preaching in a Gospel Meeting in Dozier and someone invited Mr. Charlie to come, and so they did. They didn't have much money, but what they had was in Mrs. Evelyn's purse. She left it in their car when they went inside to preaching, and her purse was stolen from the car while they were inside. Nevertheless, brother Huffman asked to visit in their home and talk with them. They agreed to the visit and when he came, their living room was filled with friends and family. Present that night were Annie Jay and John Raines, and their children, Willie and Marvin Blackmon, Monteen Carnes, and Perrie Lee and John Henry Blackmon. Brother Huffman taught about the establishment of the church, how to become a Christian, and the work of the church, giving Scriptures for everything he taught. A few months later he came back. It is possible that brother Tip Grider had previously done some preaching in the community, maybe at Willie and Marvin Blackmon's and Mrs. Doris Turner's.

In August of 1941, there was a "bush arbor" meeting in the yard of Willie (sister of Annie Jay Raines) and Marvin Blackmon. They lived in the home beside the church land. Brother Huffman was the preacher and Charlie Murphy helped him rig up seats outside with planks. Brother Huffman used light powered from his car and had fashioned tin around it to spread the light. As a result of this meeting, the first baptisms occurred in the Conecuh River. (Mrs. Willie Blackmon and Mrs. Doris Turner had been baptized prior to the establishment of this congregation.) Elizabeth Raines (now Johnson) was baptized in 1943 or '44 and was among the first of the young people (she was still in high school) to become a member.

The Sasser school house had been the site of previous meetings with brother Tip Grider, probably during the late 1920's or early 30's. No congregation was established from this, but a few of the older ladies could have been baptized by brother Grider then or later in Dozier. Singings were also held at the school house. Mrs. Annie Elizabeth Sasser (mother of Annie Jay Raines) had died there of an apparent heart attack during a singing in 1925.

A group of ladies had tried in 1942 to establish a Sunday School class. They met on the front porch of Mrs. Doris Turner's home for three or four Sundays. Attending there were Mrs. Doris Turner, her daughters Lurlene (later Gibson) and Christine (later Mitchell), Mary Sasser (whose husband Stanford was away at World War II), her sister-in-law Celia Sasser, and a young Jones boy. The had no Sunday School books, but read and discussed the Bible.

Many local men worked on the construction of the building-brother R. L. Huffman, Charlie Murphy, Marvin Blackmon, John Henry Blackmon, Joe Boykin, Arnold Blackmon, Archie B. Hughes, Tom Wells, and other farm and mill hands. Lumber for the foundation was donated by individuals Charlie Murphy, Richard Carnes, (husband of Monteen Sasser Carnes), John Henry Blackmon, and possible John Raines. The smooth wood for the siding was given by Porter Walden of the Dozier Lumber Company. As rooms were later added to the auditorium, the Dozier Lumber Company was always good to donate lumber for the additions.

The original facility was a straight wooden building with wooden steps at the front door. It had two classrooms at the back. Later a smaller third room was added. Mrs. Mary Sasser can recall meeting with her class under the pecan tree at the edge of the cemetery. She remembers some of the children as being Arnold Blackmon's older children, two blond sisters who visited with Mrs. Maude Turner during the summer, and Linda Williamson (now Sasser). When the building was completed neither the overhead nor the walls were sealed. Heat was provided by a pot-bellied stove in the center of the building, a few feet in front of the pulpit.

Brother Huffman had bee preaching at the Wahl Street Church in Greenville. The bought new pews, and he talked them into donating their old pews to Sasser if the people of Sasser would pick them up. Charlie Murphy and another man owned lumber trucks suitable to carry the pews; therefore, those pews were gladly received and used for a very long time.

Brother Huffman preached the first Gospel Meeting in the new building, and brother Cecil Perryman preached the next two. When brother Huffman was helping to construct the building or preaching, he stayed with the Murphy's and ate with various members of the community. All preachers running the meetings also stayed with the Murphy's, except for brother Perryman, who stayed some with the John Henry Blackmon's. Some of the meetings lasted for two weeks at a time.

Several families from the community helped to establish this first congregation. Worshiping at the new church building were Evelyn and Charlie Murphy and two children, Lorene and Grover Blackmon, Perrie Lee and John Henry Blackmon and two or three children, Lalar and Oresta Blackmon, Willie and Marvin Blackmon, Fannie May and Charlie Pearson, Doris Turner and two daughters, Annie Jay Raines, and two daughters, Monteen Carnes, Calvin Kimbro, and Mary and Stanford Sasser. Within a short time Odessa and Arnold Blackmon identified with the congregation.

Mrs. Mary Sasser remembers that when they had Bible study on Tuesday nights, it was hard for Mr. Arnold Blackmon to get from his job in Andalusia to the church building on time. Instead of going home, he would go straight from work to church and meet his family there.

Brother Fitzhue Ellington preached in 1947 and baptized Mary and Stanford Sasser, Wanda Blackmon, and Alice Walden in the Dozier Pool. Brother Cecil Perryman baptized Monteen Carnes, Max Sasser, and Benton Free in the Conecuh River behind the Raines home. Many baptisms took place in the Conecuh River. Mr. Stanford Sasser relates that his mother, Alice D. Sasser was baptized by brother Marvin Garrett when she was 75 years old. Because of her age, Mr. Stanford had to walk into the river with her.

Even though Charlie Murphy was instrumental in getting the congregation established and the building constructed, he did not become a member himself for a while. Mrs. Evelyn, his wife, says, "Brother Garrett worked on him a long time." Mr. Charlie was baptized about 1950, a couple of years after his son Charles had become a member.

Services were not held regularly at first. Sometimes preachers could only come on certain Sundays because they preached for other congregations also. On Sundays when they did not have preaching, they still tried to have Bible study classes. Later services were added at night and on fifth Sundays.

Early Gospel Meetings were preached by brother Herman Register and brother George Herring, and by brother Willard Willis from Luverne. Preachers during the early years were brother Lucian Kizer from Highland Home, brother Gene Russell from Montgomery, and brother Marvin Garrett from Andalusia. Brother Garrett later got a job preaching full time in Samson, so he moved his family there. After brother Garrett moved, Darryl Murphy (Evelyn and Charlie's son) drove from Montgomery and preached for several years in the late 1960's and early 70's until his father died in 1973. At first this was once a month, but later it became weekly.

Other preacher brethren have been, Tip Grider, Stanford Sasser, Joe Frost, and Jeff Grimes. [Jeff's preaching duties begin in 1976 and has continued until the present.]

Mr. Stanford Sasser, who was treasure in 1960, has check stubs showing that brother Kizer was paid $15 each Sunday. Brother Garrett was not paid weekly, but received $75 on February, $60.50 in April, and $45 in May. Mr. Charlie Murphy had been treasurer from the time the congregation was established until this time. [Lynn Johnson, son of Elizabeth Raines Johnson, and grandson of Annie Jay Raines is the present treasurer.]

Lots of fellowship unified the early church. They ate with each other a lot and would read and talk about the Bible. Every August they had a big picnic in a nearby pasture on Willie and Marvin Blackmon's land where syrup was made. They had regular singings-even the Primitive Baptist asked to use the building to have their monthly singings. The newly-formed congregation was enthusiastic. Most of them were just beginning to hear the Word taught, and it was new to them. The nearest congregation had been at Dozier, not considered so close during the 1940's. Much of the growth is contributed to brother Marvin Garrett who preached at Sasser for at least ten years. Brother Garrett has lots of personality and could talk to anybody, according to those who knew him.

The building has continually been updated over the years. Two more classrooms, as well as an entry hall and restrooms, were added to the front of the building about 1980. At this time a covered porch with brick steps and hand rails was built. The auditorium has been carpeted, the original pews replaced and the newer ones cushioned, and the windows covered with green-stained panels. In 1992 the second building was constructed between the auditorium and the cemetery. In contains a baptistery, a large eating area, and two additional classrooms.

The cemetery where the idea of the constructing a church building originated is still there, but expanded, of course. Mr. Stanford and Mrs. Mary Sasser recall how hard Mrs. Alice Walden worked the cemetery, keeping it up and having it fenced. The first fence was made of hog-wire, later replaced with a chain-link fence in 1957. The local Home Demonstration Club, sponsored by the County Extension Service, worked hard to raise money for the fence. The ladies remember making and selling lots and lots of camp stew to help pay for the new fence. [Jimmy Johnson, son of Elizabeth Raines Johnson, and grandson of Annie Jay Raines is presently overseer of the cemetery.]

And the present congregation? They now have worship services twice each Sunday with Bible classes [for all ages] on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. Lots of fellowship still unifies the church. They continue to eat together in the "new" building twice each month. [They have a guest speaker each third Sunday night of every month, with meal following. They still enjoy regular singings, and the first Wednesday night of each month a singing is conducted with a "pot-luck" meal following.]

The Sasser church is still faithful to the terms of the deed "to encourage and build up Churches that recognize and accept the authority of the New Testament Scriptures." [1 Peter 4:11]

(Researched in 1994 and compiled in 1995 by Virginia Cook Compton, and Debra Johnson Wallace, [daughter of Elizabeth Johnson Raines, and granddaughter of Annie Jay Raines.] It is our hope that in honoring those who established this congregation that no names have been inadvertently omitted.) [Words in [ ] brackets were added by Jeff Grimes]

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