CARROLLTON — Bear Marsh Missionary Baptist Church sits among towering pines along Jackson Street, a winding road a few miles from the town’s courthouse square.
Beginning at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the congregation will celebrate the church’s 150th anniversary at its building, 310 Jackson St., with a discussion of its past and future. The Rev. Benjamin Lewis of Millspring Missionary Baptist Church in Weir will be a special guest.
The church was established in 1869 and was the first black church in Carroll County, according to Annie Ruth Gatewood. As the congregation grew, a log cabin was built 3 miles east of the church’s present location.
Then, in January 1923, a fire demolished the church. Services were moved to a nearby Masonic Hall. By June of that year, the congregation was able to move again, this time to a newly constructed church.
The new site was situated between two streams, which made the area marshy, and bears used to dwell there. This led to the church’s name, Gatewood said. In 1971, the building was bricked.
Since its inception, Bear Marsh has had 21 ministers. The current pastor is the Rev. Ozell Landfair Jr.
For Gatewood, who lives in Carrollton and works as a certified nursing assistant in Grenada, Bear Marsh has been her life.
“I’m a member of the sanctuary choir; I’m the kitchen director; I’m the jack of all trades doing everything,” she said.
“I’m 63. I’ve been here all my life. ... I love my church. I love it.”
Her parents, James and Elizabeth Foreman, who are both in their 90s, attend Sunday services regularly, Gatewood said.
Of the congregation, she said “everybody is friendly, loveable people to be around.”
About 75 to 80 people, most of them from Carroll County, attend service each Sunday, she said.
Now she’s hoping the church can thrive in the future. It acquired a new outdoor sign from last year and is looking to get a new mic system.
•Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or email@example.com.