LINDEN CHURCH OF GOD HISTORY
The first Pentecostal people in the Linden-Webster area came from Center Hill somewhere around the year 1907. In 1909, a tent was pitched in the area of Radney’s drug store in Webster, Florida and Rev. Sam C. Perry and Rev. Sam Caruthers conducted the tent meetings, preaching “Old Time Holiness”. Revival fires broke out and about 100 souls were saved. This new group of worshippers called themselves the “Fire Baptized Holiness.” The Fussell family, converts of the revival, started work on what was later the first tabernacle known as the : Fussell Tabernacle” because it was built on Brother Fussell’s land located about one mile and one quarter Southeast of Webster. At the time of the tent revival, Brother Lewis Giddens’ father, John Gidden was in the Methodist Church, but he would leave their service after Sunday School and come over to the Tabernacle. The people became so interested in holiness that they soon filled the Tabernacle and folks would stand outside to listen to men like Rev. Ogle, Rev. Elliott, Rev. Ebb Akins, and Rev. A.J. Tomlinson [who later became the General Overseer of the Churches of God]. And Rev. Eddy Culpepper anointed of God as they preached conviction so strong people would literally run to the altars to be saved.
While God blessed, the devil was at work. Brother Lewis Giddens, a charter member of the Linden Church of God, reminisced how the folks jumped off the beach seats, but it wasn’t the power of God that night, somebody had put Hi-life [Carbon Di-sulfide] on the benches. But small persecutions like this only strengthened the believers and made them more determined.
Brother Lewis Giddens was saved during Brother Elliott’s revival in 1909. In 1911, a preacher from Dunn, S.C., Rev. Cavanaugh held a five weeks revival in front of where Sister Ola Mae Landress’ property is presently located in Linden. That used to be the main road to Center Hill from Linden. Brother Merritt, Brother Clark, Brother Jim Lee and his daughters were saved in that revival and Brother Cavanaugh wanted to establish a Pentecostal Holiness Church Brother Ebb Akins, was an area minister of the Church of God, and according to Brother W. D. Black, they had a meeting to explain both the churches to the people. A vote was taken, and Brother Akin’s ideas and teaching were accepted by the majority and the Linden Church of God had its inception.
According to available records the Linden Church of God was set in order on October 26, 1913 having 20 members, with Rev. W. S. Caruthers, then State Overseer of Florida and Rev. Ed Simmons officiating.
In 1913, Brother Lee gave the church an acre of ground and the Fussell Tabernacle was moved over east of Linden Road where the first Church of God building was later erected in 1919. From the description given by Brother Giddens and Sister Bonnie Fay Carlisle, this building was painted by artist Wanda Chevuront and hangs in the foyer of our church today.
Rev. Ed Simmons lived about one quarter mile west of Tarrytown and would walk to church when he couldn’t catch a ride in order to minister to the people. Later, Rev. R. P. Johnson, who lived in Bushnell, pastored both Bushnell and Linden churches. Following the assistance of Rev. R. P. Johnson, Rev. Carl Padgett came over from Orlando, Fla. one Sunday each month to preach at Linden. Brother John Giddens was elected leader when no pastor was available. Those were the formative years and it was hard to secure a full time pastor, especially since a parsonage wasn’t available at the tabernacle. But sacrifices and determination to serve God brought the church forward and the anointing of God on such evangelists as I. H. Marks and J. W. Buckalew brought in members from all around to receive salvation from the Lord.
June 20, 1915, found these new converts becoming part of the Linden Church of God; Brothers T.M. Rogers, George Parrish, George Padgett, W.D. Black and his sister and Sister Rosa Parrish.
Brother Black recalled that in 1915 his father died of measles and pneumonia and was the first Church of God person buried in the Linden Cemetery. Some of the church folk were against this because at that time they were not in favor of attending the Linden Cemetery Picnic because it was considered a “Worldly Amusement”. They affirmed that if they shunned the picnic, they should not use the cemetery for burial. It was about this time that some of the members were counseled for attending rodeos, ballgames, and other amusements considered as ungodly and worldly.
Record Book No. 2 contained the following statement: “To whom it may concern: All records and statements to date pertaining to the church of God at Linden were destroyed with the house and entire contents [by fire] of the present clerk.” Signed: R. E. Clark¸ Clerk and Treasurer, dated November 12, 1930, which was some 15 years after the series of tent revivals.
Prior to the year 1930, Linden Church of God was blessed with such pastors as Rev. J. A. Self, Rev. Sapp, Rev. Sullivan, Rev. Bruce Watson and Rev. R.E. Drymon. November 1930, Rev. J. M. Baldree was assigned pastor. Interesting facts concerning the finances of the early church indicated the following: Tithes - $81.05 in November and offering 76 cents. In February, 1931, tithes sent the State and General Offices were $6.00. Brother Baldree received $1.79 for gas and oil in February, 1931, to operate the portable light plant for the church; and $15.71 for the General Assembly in October, 1931. In a local council meeting August 16, 1931, Brother J. M. Baldree was recommended for the office of Bishop and February, 1932, Brother W. B. Langford for the office of Deacon.
In the fall of 1930 an Evangelist named Rev. Hubble, his wife and Mary Mitchell, pianist, held a four week revival in the church. There were more than 30 saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost. From that revival Rev. Lyman Frazier Rogers, Rev. Doyle Franklin, and Rev. George Franklin became ministers. This revival caused many souls to get on fire for God and some said you could hear prayer ringing through the woods for a country mile.
In an interview between Sister Lassie Baldree and Rev. and Mrs. D. R. Langford at Wimauma, Florida. Sister Baldree reminisced of their pastorate at Linden. She recalled their arriving on a Wednesday evening and no one came to meet them. So they just went on into the parsonage. She stated the attendance was probably 50 to 75 when they first moved to Linden. They had a productive ministry and much can be attributed to Rev. Baldree’s faithfulness in prayer. She told of the many times he went to the woods to fast and pray. Ethel [Pitts] Smith related to Sister Baldree how that she was saved as a result of hearing Brother Baldree’s prayers ringing out through the woods. When asked to share a particular instance when God specifically met a need for them, Sister Baldree replied they were about to lose their car and Brother Lewis Giddens advanced his tithes on his crop before it was harvested and they didn’t lose their car. Praise the Lord for faithful tithers!
Following Rev. Baldree as pastor was the Rev. H. L. Holley. He served as pastor from November 1931 to January 1932. In February, 1932, Rev. J. E. Cannaster was pastor and the tithes went from $20.00 in February to $27.00 in March 1932. July 3, 1932¸a special conference was called and the church agreed to denounce the annual Linden Cemetery Picnic as a “Worldly Gathering” and recommended that the members not attend. However, they would send a cash offering for upkeep expenses. The church felt very strongly about separation from the world and setting a Godly example and the following is an excerpt from the minutes of one of their meetings: “The Linden Church of god met in 2nd quarterly conference July 17, 1932 and the following business was done. Minutes of two previous meetings were read and unanimously accepted. Financial report for past quarter was submitted by the clerk; also quarterly church report made out and accepted. A member whose name is withheld, was disfellowshipped from the church as per own request judging himself backslidden. The resolution of the council denouncing the Linden picnic as a “Worldly Gathering” was adopted as a part of these minutes. Also an addition offered by Brother Black which was carried that said, “The resolution be read each year by the pastor or clerk on Sunday preceding said picnic. “Also, those who had been wearing short sleeves or no sleeve dresses were advised to discontinue same or they would be brought before conference and dealt with according to agreement of council.” Further, that Brother Doyle Franklin be set forth as an Exhorter. Being no further business, the conference adjourned. Signed: Pastor and Clerk.