Bethany Missionary Baptist Church was organized in October 1848 with eight charter members; however, there is no written record of the names of these early pioneers. The church was admitted into the Clear Creek Association in 1849. Bethany Church is known as the "Mother Church" of Friendship, Dongola and Mt. Olive Baptist Churches. Christian Peeler was the first minister. Christian, his wife, Rachel, and their children moved here from North Carolina, probably in the 1820's. Their home was the place of worship in this community long before any church house was built. The Presbytery consisted of a Mr. B. Kelly, Mr. Gourly, and Mr. Bell. In 1858, a church house was built on land given by John and Anna Beggs. Anna Beggs was a daughter of Christian and Rachel Peeler. At that time, land was not considered very valuable and there was just a verbal agreement and not any deed. Later this piece of land became the property of their youngest son, Frank Beggs. For the protection of the whole church's interest, Frank and Ruth Beggs made Bethany Church a deed for this land.
A sawmill nearby sawed the lumber for the first building. The planks were unplanned and unpainted and were placed in a vertical position. This type of building was referred to as a box house. The first free school in the neighborhood was taught in the church house that same year.
The first minister ordained from this church was Perry Clifton in 1848, followed by William B. Pearce in 1849, and then in 1855 Jacob Karraker. Rachel Karraker, a daughter of Jacob Karraker, tells how she rode on horseback behind her father as he kept his appointments for preaching at Bethany. They rode about seven miles from their home through woods all the way. This was around 1860, and the roads were only a strip cut through the timber, wide enough for a wagon to pass through. The stumps were not yet removed, but cut low enough for wagons to pass over. When one road became impassable because of ruts and gullies, another road was cut through the timber a short distance from the first. By 1939 there was a gravel road leading to the church.
Jacob Peeler, a son of Christian and Rachel Peeler, was never married. In 1871 he left his entire estate to the Clear Creek Association for missionary purposes, with the exception of twenty dollars a year to help pay our pastor's salary. Jacob Peeler professed religion and joined the church in 1848. He served as Clerk, Deacon, and Sunday school superintendent through the years. Our church still receives his gift today, and is known as the Peeler Fund.
Some more recent highlights to our church:
Around 1947 Electricity was brought to the church and in 1949, a furnace.
Then on April 6, 1962, the church building was completely destroyed by a fire. However, just because the building was destroyed did not mean Bethany Baptist Church was gone. That Sunday, April 8, services were held in Jimmy & Myra Montgomery's garage. The trustees at that time were Almus Dunn, Will Henry, Leonard Martin, and Howard Niblock. There was a motion to rebuild the church on or near the same location, and within 4 months a new church building was completed. On August 5 of that same year, the first service was conducted in the auditorium of the new building. On September 16, there was a dedication and homecoming service; Kenneth Eudy was our pastor.
Then in 1974 Air Conditioning was installed. In 1984 the church dug a well and got water, and soon afterward indoor restrooms. In 1992 the church was enlarged and in 1997, the church grounds were expanded thanks to a gift of 1 acre.
Viola Beggs Wicker was a member of Bethany Church for over 40 years, and served as a church clerk from 1924 to 1941. She once overheard a remark "What has this little church amounted to anyway?" When she told a minister about it, he replied, "Eternity alone will tell what this little church has amounted to."