A little boy drowned in the Chattahoochee River on a Sunday morning in 1946, and Mrs. J.A. Crumbley got to thinking—and praying.
“If the Riverbend Community had a church, that little boy might have been in Sunday School rather than swimming in the river. That little boy might not have died.”
Mrs. Crumbley began to dream about and pray for a church. Joining her were her husband, the Rev. J.A. Crumbley, a retired preacher, and her sister, Ophelia Merck. But they did more than dream and pray—they worked. Mrs. Crumbley organized a WMU, a Sunbeam band and the Girls Auxiliary. Whenever she could get a preacher, services were held in her home. Wednesday night prayer meetings were held in different homes in the community.
After renting a house from a Gilstrap family, the worshipers had a place to meet for six months. And then the Crumbleys asked the Chattahoochee Baptist Association to help start a Baptist Church in the community. The request was granted.
The Rev. Homer Morris, the part-time missionary for the Chattahoochee Baptist Association, and the Rev. Wyatt Gilbert were asked to lead a revival in the community. Others began to dream of constituting a church in the area. The group had only $1,200 in the treasury.
“I don’t know how we did it but we did,” said Willie Baker, a charter member of the church.
They did it on December 15, 1946, the day set for constituting the church. The meeting was held on Roper Hill. Eighteen charter members came forward with letters from various churches, and three came the following Sunday. Riverbend Baptist Church had 21 members.
Homer Morris was elected pastor. Other leaders were Ophelia Merck, clerk and treasurer; Hoyt Merck, chorister; Merle Crane, pianist; and Willie Baker, Sunday School superintendent.
Work began on a church building. R.A. “Skinny” Waldrip did the grading, and then Willie Baker and his crew took over. They began digging the footings and pouring the concrete.
J.A. Crumbley placed a stone in the concrete in the northeast corner where the building was to be situated. He and Willie and the workers then prayed and asked God’s blessing on their efforts. After the brick walls were completed, Hoyt Merck’s crew did the carpentry and Dee Whelchel, a roofing contractor, placed the sub-flooring and the tar paper. Most of the work was donated.
About six weeks after the work started in August of 1947, Riverbend members met for the first time in the basement.
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