By Rickey Robertson
Pine Grove Baptist Church located in the Peason Community of Sabine Parish, La. has a very rich history of service to the Lord and also to the people of the community. Pine Grove Baptist Church was established in 1894, and over the years, has been located in various sites in the community. In 1917 the sawmill town of Peason was built by Peavey-Wilson Lumber Company. The company built many umbrella type houses, company buildings, theater, school, commissary, garage, and post office, but the most important building was the Peason Church. The company built the church building and services were held there during the mill run from 1917 to 1934. The church was "unionized", having Methodist services 2 Sunday's and 2 Baptist service's the other Sunday's of each month. But the most important thing placed at the church by the company was a church bell.
In the time of the great sawmill, the church bell held 2 important functions. First, in the event of a disaster or tragedy at the mill, the church bell was rung, along with the mill whistle being blown, to alert the members of the town of some type event at the mill. The church bell was also used to proclaim some type of special event to all who lived within hearing distance. Several times in its history, the old bell rang forth with a disaster at the mill. In 1925 a boiler exploded and blew down one of the 6 smoke stacks. Everyone came and assisted in making sure the fire was out and no further damage was imminent. When World War I ended, the bell rang loudly proclaiming that the war to end all wars was over and that the troops would come home. Each and every time the congregation gathered, the bell was rang. The beautiful sound could be heard for miles around the community, letting everyone know it was time for church.
But in 1934, the bad news of the mill's closing was released to all the mill workers. So, sadly, the church bell rang one more time at the Peason Church. Since the company was moving the mill and town to Holipaw, Florida, the company deeded the church, bell, land the church was on, and attachments to Pine Grove Baptist Church. A joint service was held and all the members from the Peason Church who would stay in Peason joined the Pine Grove Baptist Church. The bell proclaimed this great moment.
In 1963, Pine Grove Church formed a committee and built a new church about a mile from the sawmill church site. As everything was being moved, the old church bell, taken down from its pedestal of 4 tall poles, was stolen! An investigation found the church bell in Leesville and it was returned back to its home in Peason. The bell was mounted on a brick and concrete pedestal and stayed there for many years till the foundation began to crack and fail. The bell was removed and sat for many months as the church members decided how it should be mounted and displayed so it could again be rung.
Wade Thaxton, a local welder and Pine Grove Church member, began to work on making a lasting mount for the old bell. Wade completed the job and the men and pastor of the church completed the concreting and mounting of the bell. The old bell was again ready for use.
On Saturday May 26, 2012 Pine Grove Baptist Church held a dedication service in honor of the old church bell. My wife and mother accompanied me to this blessed event. Church members were seated outside near the church as Wade Thaxton rang the old bell again, letting the people of the Peason Community know it was again ready to proclaim church services and events. It was a touching event hearing the old bell ring forth. Many in the audience gave remembrances of the old church bell over the many years. Rev. Mike Henderson brought a great dedication message as the bell was again dedicated to the service of the Lord! In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 11 is what I call "the Roll Call of the Faithful". Those with faithful service to the Lord are mentioned in this chapter of the Bible. And as we heard the old bell ring again, it can now be known as a faithful bell that continues to sound forth for the Lord at Pine Grove Baptist Church! Long may the bell be a piece of Peason history, a piece of Pine Grove history, and a piece of history to each and every citizen of the Peason Community!
The Historic Bell of Pine Grove Baptist Church
- Betty and Murl Westfall, accompanied by Steve Mitchell on guitar, sing "The Old Country Church" at the dedication of the church bell at Pine Grove Baptist Church on May 26, 2012.
- Rickey Robertson standing by the church bell at Pine Grove Baptist Church.
- Old church bell on new mount in front of present day Pine Grove Baptist Church located in the Peason Community.
- Cornerstone of the present Pine Grove Baptist Church located in the Peason Community.
- The bell pictured when it was located at the original site of Pine Grove Church. Rev. John W. Goodwin is ringing the bell.