Canaan Baptist Church was established in Guadalupe County, Texas before the
second Lord’s Day, October 1867. It first pastor was Reverend C. T. “Nelson”
Wright and followed by George Washington Harris, the son of Mary Owens and Littleton
Harris, who came to Texas as a slave. Rev. Wight was born to James Wright
and Francis Wright on April 5, 1855. He was married to Mrs. Mary (Dibrell)
Wright whose residence is listed in Seguin, Texas. He died of heart failure on
April 7, 1927 at the age of 72 in Kingsbury, Texas. George Washington Harris
was born in 1847 and his nickname was “Wash.” He died at the age of 72 in Kingsbury,
Texas in 1919, and he and Littleton Harris are buried in the Sweet Canaan
Cemetery in Guadalupe County, Texas. He was married to Sallie Ann Johnson
(1854-1922) at the age of 23 on December 22, 1870, who was the daughter of
Henry (Pap) Johnson, who came to Texas as a slave from the state of
Alabama. “Wash” and Sallie Ann had nine children in 19 years. The slave
owner, Addison Asbery Johnson (1823-1877), brought Henry (Pap) Johnson, his
wife, and Sarah Johnson (the wife of George Washington Harris) to Texas from
Johnson was born in Virginia and he established a number of Baptist churches
settling in San Augustine, County upon arrival to Texas. San Augustine is
a city seated in San Augustine County, Texas in East Texas. It is west of
Nacogdoches, Texas and east of the Sabine National Forest. It is seat between
Lufkin, Texas and the Louisiana border. San Augustine is approximately
315 miles from Kingsbury, Texas about a four and a half hour trip by vehicle. Addison Johnson was married
to Frances M. Wright in about 1838. He took up residence in San Augustine
around 1846 at the age of 23. He came to Guadalupe County as a tanner in
1850. It is noted in the 1850 US Federal Census that he came with a
family of 48 members. In 1870 Addison Johnson changed occupation to a
farmer at the age of 47. On June 17, 1877 Mr. Johnson departed the world to go
to the next as the age of 54 in Guadalupe County, Texas. Mr. Addison
Johnson and his wife Frances M. Wright are buried in the Johnson Family
Cemetery on land formerly owned by Addison, but now by Brother Herman Harris
and Tony Harris. He was a charter member and deacon of Prairie Lea Baptist
Church in Prairie Lea, Texas.
In about October
1867, 2 years after the Civil War had ended (May 9, 1865), the members with
African ancestors organized their "Sweet Canaan Baptist Church" more
affectionately known as "Brushy Creek" or "Brusha." These
African American members founded and established their church from the Shiloh
Baptist Church a traveling church from San Augustine County Texas which later
would become Prairie Lea Baptist Church. The Shiloh Baptist Church was made up
of some slave owners, along with their slaves. According to Chuck and Pat
Parsons in A History of the Prairie Lea
Baptist Church quoting from the Prairie Lea Baptist Church Archives, “Page
54 of the second volume of the church record, dated October 1867. The ‘Colored
Brethern’ were ‘all dismissed from this church’, then forming Sweet Canaan” (51). This forefathers and foremothers had a
mind to work. While working in the dark soil, some calcareous clay combined
with fine, sandy loam all day, some picking cotton other picking corn, they
would steal away down by Brushy Creek to pray and singing Negro spirituals seeking
God’s healing and deliverance until the break of dawn. Albert J. Raboteau in Slave Religion voices, “In secrecy of
the quarters or the seclusion of brush arbors (‘hush harbors’) the slaves made
Christianity truly their own” (12). The
religious life of the African American community is rich in religious heritage
and theology. They sought the freedom promised in the Scriptures that would set
their souls free, even though they felt that their bodies where in a hellish
prison of racism and prejudice match by none the world has ever experienced.
Wright served as the first pastor and is buried in the Sweet Canaan Cemetery in
Guadalupe County, Texas. He was ordained by the Prairie Lea Baptist Church
officers in October 1867. It is chronicled that he was “a man of dark
complexion about thirty” when Asa Wright transfer ownership to his sons”
(Parsons, 3). He noted among the community as a charismatic preacher and
proficient teacher of the Scriptures. The original Sweet Canaan Baptist Church
was on Brushy Creek, a half mile S.E., the second church was about 25 feet from
the original location which is located about one mile south of its present
location. It was also this 2nd location that served as a school. Its present
location was built in 1906.
Some of the pastors
after Rev. C.T “Nelson” Wright (d. 1927) were Rev. George Washington Harris (d.
1919), Rev. C.H. Johnson, Rev. A.L. Roach, Rev. George Merriweather (d.1928),
he is also buried in the Sweet Canaan Cemetery. Others include Rev. E.L.
Walker, Rev. W.I. Rector, Rev. D.H. Williams, Rev. J.A. Kimble, Rev. H. Johnson
(d. 1955), he is also buried in the Sweet Canaan Cemetery. The following
pastors include Rev. Blain Smith, Rev. J.N. Wallace, Rev. Albert Woodson, Rev. I.
Inman Reese, Rev. P.V. Richardson. After P.V. Richardson was Rev. Emmanuel
Carpenter, Sr., Rev. George Washington, Rev. Phillip Harderman, Sr. and the
current Pastor is Dr. Johnny Freemont III. Some of the deacons were Will Edwards,
Sam Harris, Tom McClinton, Henry Thomas, and Kit Sanders. Some of the long time
family names were; Forceys, Gaines, Grays, Merriweathers, McClintons, Edwards,
Sanders, Tolivers, Jones, Gordons, Jacksons, Farmers, Salones, Richardson, and
Harris, McVea's, Miles, Roberts, Wells, Woods and many others.
Sweet Canaan Baptist
Church is affiliated with the Guadalupe Landmark District Association. Next to
the present location of the Sweet Canaan Baptist Church or "Brushy"
is the Sweet Canaan Cemetery. At this time, the earliest grave recorded shows
to be 1844.
George Washington Harris founded and
established the New Birth Baptist Church in Nash's creek in 1870 at the age of
23, serving as the first pastor. He was a farmer, Baptist minister, and
provider for his family.
Sweet Canaan Baptist Church
Sweet Canaan Baptist Church, established by former slaves.