Fletcher Memorial Baptist Church — 1982
Jefferson, Ashe County, North Carolina
(From the Ashe Baptist Association Minutes for 1982)
Fletcher Memorial Baptist Church had its original beginning in 1888 being founded by a Mountain Missionary, Rev. James Floyd Fletcher. Rev. Fletcher served as the first pastor. The Ashe Baptist Association was but two years old at the time. According to local historian Basil Barr, by the 1900’s it had for some reason stagnated and degenerated. Services were held only occasionally, and about 1916 it disbanded altogether.
In 1953, a small group of people, especially Dr. B. E. Reeves decided that Jefferson needed and would again support a Baptist church. Rev. E. J. Jenkins, Associational Missionary took a census of the community and found two hundred Baptists. And so, one Sunday morning in 1953, eight or nine people met with Rev. Jenkins on a strip pulpit Rev. Jenkins read a scripture passage and Mrs. J. S. Baker led in prayer and then the group discussed the organization of a church. They began meeting in a cinder block building beside Denny’s Texaco in Jefferson. About this time Rev. Jenkins was called to another field of work and the church came under the watch care of the West Jefferson Baptist church and became known as the Jefferson Baptist Mission.
On September 27,1953, a small group of pastors and laymen met with the Jefferson Mission congregation to form a Baptist church. Sixteen charter members joined that day. They are as follows: Mrs. J. S. Baker, Mrs. Lola Porter, Mr. & Mrs. Phleat Fender, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Poe, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Hartsoe, Mrs. Ida Lambert, Miss Mary Eller, Mr. & Mrs. David Burkette, Mrs. Mannie Hudler, Mrs. Roye Blevins, and Rev. & Mrs. E. J. Jenkins. Only four of these charter members are yet living: Mrs. Lola Porter, Mrs. Phleat Fender, and Mr. & Mrs. Henry Hartsoe.
On November 29, 1953, an organizing council of area ministers and deacons met with eighteen members who presented themselves as a church. The council accepted a motion to accept this body as Jefferson Baptist church. On that same day, Rev. G. C. Burketie was called as part-time pastor. The small group began building on the purchased site and in the first half of 1956 they held their first worship service in the basement of the new building. Having helped the church move to its permanent site, Rev. Burkette resigned on June 3, 1956.
On October 7,1956, Rev. W. T. Whittington was called as pastor. At that time he was serving as pastor in Mountain City, Tennessee. Under Rev. Whittington’s leadership the church grew and in 1958 the church hosted the annual meeting of the Ashe Baptist Association. A great day came for the members of the church when dedication services were held in May 1961.
Rev. Whittington retired from the active ministry in September, 1963 and Bill Ballou, a member of the church was called as pastor. During his four years, three month ministry, the church saw a net growth of 130 members with an average of 21 baptisms per year. In the Fall of 1967 Rev. Ballou was called as Director of Missions for the association.
Rev. Ray Shumate was called as pastor on August 18, 1968. He laid the groundwork for a new building program. He resigned, effective the last Sunday in March, 1971. He left a membership which had grown to about 240.
Rev. Ernest Austin joined the church as her fifth pastor. He led the church in additional growth. In September, 1971 the church adopted plans to renovate the sanctuary, install a baptistry and add an educational wing. Following this decision, Mr. Alfred Fletcher, son of Rev. James Floyd Fletcher, spoke with Rev. Austin concerning the possibility of the church changing the name of the church to Rev. J. F. Fletcher Memorial Baptist Church as a memorial to his father. The church approved the change on Sunday, January 9,1972. Mr. Fletcher later made a $50,000 gift to the church.
Rev. Austin resigned November 13, 1977 and was followed by Rev. Roy Roach who left the church September, 1980. Rev. Dan Little was called by the church and began his duties in January, 1981. The church continues to be a strong force for Christ in the community.