The earliest evidence we have of the church are copies of deed information from October 1878 when the church was acquiring the land for its present location from the Texas & Pacific Railway Company. Up to this time the church was called Trinity Baptist Church of Christ and three early church leaders are identified as Levi Swinford, Samuel Thompson, and W.V. Yeager. Every indication is that Levi Swinford was the founding pastor and served in that capacity for overs 25 years. Another early deacon is identified as John Freiley.
The church property is loacted one mile south of the now disbanded town of Garvin, TX, and between the present-day towns of Boyd, Paradise, and Springtown. The church building was originally a log house with seats made from split logs. Around 1890 when work began on a new building. It is recorded that no donation over $1 was accepted. According to a brief statement written by E.O. Harris, the new building was completed “35 years after the log house”, with an addition on the south side built after. The following photograph is of the grave of Levi Swinford which we believe to be taken around 1906 that shows the church building.
The earliest entry into our church records that we currently have is from July 6, 1918, and the church is identified as the Missionary Baptist Church at Friendship or Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. The congregation disbanded at some point between 1925 and 1929. The building was then unused and fell into disrepair.
After revivals in 1932 and 1933 led by Bro. Loys Vess, who was pastoring in nearby Aurora, TX, the church was reestablished as a “Fundamentalist Baptist Church” on September 15, 1933. 19 members signed the new charter to restart the church. During this same revival there were 37 baptized, 12 joining by letter, and 51 “conversions and reclamations”. Oscar Harris and Mack Read were elected as deacons. Funds were raised to repair the church building, and after three days of volunteer work it was back in use. Fifty songbooks were also purchased. Sam Anderson was called to be pastor on October 4, 1933.
The next decades came and went as the little country church remained. The surviving records indicated at least thirty-five different pastors serving from 1933 to the present. Faithful members such as Clayton Hays helped provide steady leadership.
Our current pastor, Terry N. Terry, arrived in 2009. The church has continued to reach souls for Christ through a bus and teen ministries, and support over forty mission works monthly. Today it is still lives up to its name of “Friendship” with a warm and inviting atmosphere.
It is doubtful whether or not Levi Swinford and the early church members knew that they were laying a foundation for future generations to build upon. Over 130 years later, Friendship Baptist Church is still carrying on their legacy.
Prepared by Matthew Gage