The Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association was first organized in the fall of 1875 by Elder Ballum Garrison, Deacon A. W. Watson, Deacon Edward Sanders, and Brother Stephen Sumpter as clerk. In an attempt to organize a religious association, Elder Garrison and the deacons made two trips to Greenville, Alabama, and spent a week each time. Later, they traveled to Pensacola, Florida, and enlisted two preachers, named Elder Holmes and Elder Younger, to assist them in their organizational efforts.

Another meeting was later convened with the assistance of these Pensacola ministers. Known individuals to attend this organizational meeting were Elder Ballum Garrison, Elder Holmes, Elder Younger, Elder Lewis Daniels, Elder Wash Daniels, Elder Green Daniels, Elder Joe Owens, Elder Cree Jarrett, Deacon A. W. Watson, Deacon Edward Sanders, and Brother Stephen Sumpter. They sang hymn #614 to open the meeting. Elder Joe Owens was elected as the organizing moderator. Elder Owens wanted to be Primitive Baptist but refused to be baptized again. Noting that in those days, individuals joining the Primitive Baptist faith and order were to be baptized again. The Board of Elders and Deacons elected Elder Cree Jarrett as the moderator; this was in Butler County, Alabama. Later in the fall of 1875, the above individuals met again. They met in Lowndes County, Alabama, three miles north of Hayneville, “Spann Place,” at Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church. This was the first organizational meeting of what is now known as the Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association. During this meeting, the association received its name “Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association.” Then, Elder Lewis Daniels was elected as moderator and served for 40 years until his death.

The following elders have served as moderators of the Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association:

  • Elder Lewis Daniels served 40 years 1875 – 1915
  • Elder Green Daniels served 14 years 1915 – 1929
  • Elder A. G. Gilchrist served 3 years 1929 – 1932
  • Elder T. M. Gardner, Sr., served 5 years 1932 – 1937
  • Elder S. M. Gardner served 13 years 1937 – 1950
  • Elder A. F. Walker served 5 years 1950 – 1955
  • Elder T. M. Gardner, Jr., served 35 years 1955 – 1993
  • Elder T. M. Gardner III currently serving 1993 – present
  • For the last 115 years, the Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association has enjoyed the fellowship of the following churches as members:
  • Little Bethel Primitive Baptist Church—South Kentlock, MS#
  • Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church—Montgomery, AL
  • Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church—Hayneville, AL
  • Bethel Primitive Baptist Church—Burkville, AL
  • Beulah Primitive Baptist Church—Hope Hull, AL
  • Mt. Ramah Primitive Baptist Church—Prattville, AL
  • New Sardis Primitive Baptist Church—Legrand, AL**
  • Old Sardis Primitive Baptist Church—Sprague, AL*
  • Pine Grove Primitive Baptist Church—Hayneville, AL*
  • Zion Travelers Primitive Baptist Church—Birmingham (Midfield), AL
  • Canaan Hill Primitive Baptist Church—Burkville, AL
  • St. John Primitive Baptist Church—Detroit, MI**
  • Galilee Primitive Baptist Church—Butler County, AL*

*no longer exists  **no longer in fellowship  #status unknown

The Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association has received and sent corresponding delegates to the following Primitive Baptist Association of like faith and order for the past 115 years:

  • Steadfast Indian Creek Primitive Baptist Association—Huntsville, AL
  • Indian Creek Primitive Baptist Association—Decatur, AL
  • Goodwill Primitive Baptist Association—Meridian, MS
  • Consolidated Flint River & Running Water Primitive Baptist Association—Huntsville, AL
  • Succarnoochee River Primitive Baptist Association—Livingston, AL**
  • Sipsey River Primitive Baptist Association—Tuscaloosa, AL**
  • Lynn Creek Primitive Baptist Association—Franklin, TN
  • Mallard Creek Primitive Baptist Association—Huntsville, AL
  • Cumberland Primitive Baptist Association—Nashville, TN
  • This association holds in high esteem its officers, men who have served with dignity and reverence, to include:
  • Elder M. C. Gardner, Clerk (reflected in the 1917 minutes)
  • Deacon Joseph Gadson, Clerk (40 years)
  • Deacon John W. Sanders, Sr., Financial Secretary (37 years)
  • Deacon G. W. Pringle, Treasurer
  • Deacon W. M. Johnson, Treasurer (19 years)
  • Deacon Mingo Bracy, Treasurer
  • Elder R. B. Davis, Vice Moderator
  • Elder C. J. Johnson, Vice Moderator
  • Deacon Fred Johnson, Financial Secretary
  • Deacon Willie DeJournette, Recording Secretary
  • Elder George Johnson, Vice Moderator
  • Elder James Franklin, Evangelist

Also, we recognize that we no doubt have missed some of these great men. We ask the readers to understand that it is an error in mind or time but not of heart.

Although the association was organized in the fall of 1875, the next reorganizing session took place on August 28, 1926 at its district meeting, also known as the Elders and Deacons’ Council Meeting, held at Bethel Primitive Baptist Church. At this meeting, Elder G. D. Daniels, Moderator, appointed Elder Frank Lee and Elder S. M. Gardner to preach. Elder Lee’s text was I Corinthians 2 and closed by Elder S. M. Gardner. The moderator stated the objective of the meeting was to examine the plan and constitution. He chose a committee of 15 elders and deacons of the Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association, which they did with all ability and a motion prevailed that the fifth session of the plan and constitution be removed from the minutes. It read as follows:

“We will not hold in union any church that holds any member in her that is a member of any of the following institutions, towit: Theological schools, state conventions, missionary society, Bible society, tract society, Sunday School union, temperance society nor any other society that is tributary to the missionary plan as it now exists in the United States. Neither will we knowingly hold any church in our union which holds members in her who received from any other order without baptism, nor any society of a secret order that does not or may hereafter exist, founded on the wisdom of men, neither will we correspond with or receive correspondence from any association that holds churches which hold in them a member who is a member of any of the above named institutions, as auxiliaries to the church nor that does belong to any secret that does not or may hereafter exist, founded on the wisdom of men, or holds members in them who are received from any other order without baptism except those baptized before the division.”

With the removal of this, Pilgrim Rest was well on its way. The committee, also, ordered the work to be written and presented to the association for its adoption. The association approved the work of the council and a new amendment in its place. The plan and constitution still exist today, except the last paragraph of the Article 6, which was removed by order of the association in 1952, (Elder A. F. Walker, Moderator) which reads:

“For rebaptism, Act 10:26, and other parts of the scripture. We will not hold in union any church that holds members in them who are received from any other order without baptism except those baptized before the division.”

Again, growth of the Pilgrim Rest P. B. Association was well on its way.

The present member churches of the Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association are:

Bethel Vacant Burkville, AL
Beulah Elder Tom Gardner III Hope Hull, AL
Canaan Hill Elder Lovell L. Jenkins Lowndesboro, AL
Mt. Ramah Vacant Prattville, AL
Mt. Zion Elder Thomas Stokes Montgomery, AL
Shiloh Elder George Johnson Lowndesboro, AL
Zion Travelers Elder Elijah Weatherspoon Midfield, AL

The above churches are active and in good order.

In 1986, Moderator T. M. Gardner, Jr., appointed a Ways & Means Committee to make recommendations to the association concerning its future. Each church has a member on said committee and Deacon Willie Fred Gilchrist of Canaan Hill P. B. church chaired the committee. During the association’s next meeting at Canaan Hill, this committee recommended to the association to discontinue its plan to build a tabernacle, noting each church was improving their own facilities. This recommendation was approved. Deacon Gilchrist remained chairman of the committee until his untimely death in the summer of 1990. At the August meeting, the committee elected Elder Tom Gardner III as its chairman.

The Pilgrim Rest District Sunday School Convention was organized in the early 1950s with Elder T. M. Gardner, Jr., appointing Deacon J. R. Thompkins as President; Deacon S. W. Williams, Vice President; Deacon W. M. Bracy, Treasurer; and Sister Brazil Johnson, Secretary. These officers served until later years and some until death.

The moderator, Elder A. F. Walker, appointed Mrs. Louise Gardner president of the Women’s Congress. Mrs. Walker served as vice president until she moved to another city. Sister Tenna Davis was elected vice president, and she served until her health failed. After Sister Davis’ death, Sister Susie Harris was elected vice president and served in this position for two (2) years.

After 33 years of service, Sister Louise Gardner resigned, and Sister Susie Harris was elected as president, Sister Johnnie Young served as vice president, and Sister Johnnie Brown was elected as secretary. Other officers that have served for the Women’s Congress, namely, Sister Sadie Todd, Sister Lizzie Mae Patterson, Sister Rubye Jenkins, and Sister Catherine Bray Green served as vice president and interim president. Currently, the Women’s Congress Officers are Sister Amanda Houston, President; Sister Mary Perry, Vice President; Sister Beatrice Jackson, Secretary; and Sister Cathy Simmons, Assistant Secretary; and Sister Gwenevere Weatherspoon, Treasurer.

In 1974, the District Sunday School Convention elected Deacon Tom Osborne as president, Deacon Haigler Johnson as vice president, and Sister Velma Rogers as secretary.

The Youth Department was reorganized in the 1970s with Sister Barnetta Hall serving as president. After Sister Hall, then Sister Amanda McGhee was elected president and Sister Gwen Daniel served as youth advisor.

Others that have served are Sister Gwen Johnson, Sister Debra Davis, Sister Alfreda Williams, Sister Temika Brooks, Sister Lakeisha McGhee, Sister Emilee Weatherspoon, Sister Elecia Weatherspoon, Sister Camille Jackson, and Minister Victor Wyatt.

Officers who served in the General Convention are Sister Henrietta Gardner, Sister Thelma Davis, and Sister Yvette Patterson.

The association’s present officers are: Elder Tom Gardner III, Moderator; Elder James O’Ree, Vice Moderator; Deacon John Gatson, Jr., Recording Secretary; Deacon Edmond Moss, Financial Secretary; Deacon Theodore Cheatham, Treasurer; Elder Elijah Weatherspoon, Dean; Elder Lovell Jenkins, Assistant Dean; Elder Percy Smiley, Evangelist; Elder Joe Pernell, Assistant Evangelist; Elder David Oliver, Auditor; Deacon Tom Osborne, Sunday School President; and Sister Amanda Houston, Women’s Congress President.

The Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Association meets annually on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before the 2nd Lord’s Day of October. Also, Pilgrim Rest holds membership in the Tri-State Primitive Baptist Convention and the National Primitive Baptist Convention USA.