A History of The First Christian Church of Bristol, Florida 1874-1875 The Christian Church in Bristol is one of the oldest New Testament Congregations in the state of Florida. Presently no one has found an accurate starting date for the congregation. The earliest remembered evangelist to work with the congregation was J.C. Gibson, a man who had a black beard and was a very able speaker. At the State Convention of 1875, he was chosen as one of the state evangelists to help in starting new churches or congregations. He was preaching in North and Northwest Florida as early as 1874. The earliest glimpse of history goes back to 1875. The following quote seems to be a strong indication Christians were meeting and had elected officers:1875 A.J. Cumbie of Decatur County, Georgia, presided over the convention, the purpose of which was, "For the cooperation of all the Christian Churches of Florida and the consideration of the best means to be used for the spread of the Gospel." There were delegates from 15 Florida congregations, representing a membership of 569. Elder T.J. Gregory of Liberty County (this man is known by church records to have been an Elder of the Bristol congregation), the secretary of the convention reported: "We have received no report from East Florida yet, but last year there were over 500 members in East Florida, and if the increase there has equaled the increase here the membership in Florida must be about 1500."Some forward-looking resolutions were passed at this convention: (1)That elders be ordained in all the churches where persons can be found with spiritual qualifications. (2)That each church establish a Sunday School if they have not already established one. (3)That we hold a cooperative meeting each month that has five Lord's Days on the 5th Lord's Day, for the purpose of investigation of the Scriptures. (4)That 2 evangelists be kept at work in 1876, and that the presiding officer, A.J. Cumbie, and J.C. Gibson be called as the evangelists. (5)That money be raised by the congregations composing this convention to pay the evangelists.
Before the first building was erected, the congregation was meeting in an old school house that no longer exists. In 1875 J.C. Gibson was in Gadsden County evangelizing to the top of his voice and it was no uncertain voice if one may judge by the number of converts reported. However, he later failed to the movement of those who claim speech with the dead. It was at this time the congregation lost faith in the man and any progress was halted for a period of time. Later in the 1880's the present church was re-organized by M.B. Ingle. The ones who remember Mr. Ingle tell of great revivals preached here by him, with many individuals being baptized. This man later went to Jacksonville to help in the new church work there. 1894-1899 In the year 1894, the congregation had already started building and then secured a loan from the Board of Church Extension of the General Christian Missionary Convention of $150.00 for the purpose of completing the church building. It was December of this year that the present property was given to the church by Jasper Kyle and his wife Susan. The deed is dated December 5, 1894. On July 21, 1895, the new house of worship was dedicated, with M.B. Ingle (state evangelist) preaching the service. Church officers chosen at this time were: Elders: W.U. Robertson and T.J. Gregory. Deacons: J.D McAliley, V.B. Jackson, C.L. Jeter, Frank Edwards. Clerk: M. C. Herndon. Treasurer: J. E. Roberts. The same year October 26, J.M. Mason was chosen as minister of the Church. Previous to this time a man by the name of McCracker had served as minister. Brother Mason was called to give 1/4 of his time to the service of the church, including the fourth Lord's Day. August 21, 1897, J.M. Mason, assisted by Elder T.J. Gregory ordained W.U. Robertson as Elder and JD. McAliley V.B. Jackson, and C.L. Jeter as Deacons. For the year 1899, this minister's preaching time was changed to the third Lord's Day. At this time in Liberty County history, each denomination had preaching service only once a month. The schedule was arranged so that there was preaching service at one church with Bible School at all each Lord's Day. Many people of the county made a point of attending a preaching service every Lord's Day, thus all the churches were well visited. In August of 1899, F.J. Longdon preached a revival in Bristol. A quote from the evangelist found in “MISSIONARY TIDINGS” magazine is quite interesting:I began a meeting with the church there under unusual circumstances. A few days before my arrival the son-in-law of our preacher, Brother J.M. Mason, who lives at Fowlstown, Ga., had been murdered and a man had been lynched, so that the feeling generally was not the best for a meeting. Before the close the Brethren said that this was one of the best, because we had reached some who had never been in the church house before. On my former visit of ten days there were 15 additions, and the following year Brother Irvine had 18 more, so that the ground had been pretty thoroughly gone over and gleaned. It is not hard to preach to people who are willing to drive 15 miles to attend services. Bristol is the county seat of Liberty County, and with the care which should be extended could be made a stronger center for that part of Florida This is a church that was built by the help of the Extension Fund and they have paid the entire loan. I spent a little over 2 weeks here and presented the work of the church along missionary lines to good audiences. Aside from the reaching of those who were formerly prejudiced against us, there were 3 added and the entire church strengthened. We must look after this work more closely to obtain the best results. With preaching but once a month no church can do it's best work.
1904 The next glimpse of history is found in a flyer, “FROM THE FIELD” dated 1904. In this publication churches from Ala., Ark., Canada, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois and Fla. Were reported on. The Florida quote is as follows:Bristol, Feb. 8 ,I came to Chipley, Fla., from Warsaw, Ind. Five years ago. I have always been interested in the Standard's advocacy of our brethren preaching who have not had the benefits of a college or university education, especially if the supply of college graduates was not equal to the demand. I began by first conducting a Bible reading and prayer-meeting on each Sunday afternoon in the vicinity of my home, in the country near Chipley, and continued for over a year. On Aug., 18, 1903, on my fiftieth birthday, I dedicated the remainder of my life to the Lord's service and soon after made arrangements with the church here at Bristol to preach for them halftime. I moved here with my family on Christmas eve. I find the brethren have a good frame church building out of debt, but with the Bible-School practically disorganized, no endeavor, no prayer meeting, and a general lack of interest. I have called upon the brethren at their homes mostly in the country, and found them surprised, but pleased, to have a preacher call. We are going to bring about a better order of things. This is a good section of the state and brethren would make no mistake in coming here. Jno. R. Weiss. Since Standard is mentioned in the quote, this piece may have come from early Standard Publishing in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1914-1919 The next glimpse of history is in 1914 during the ministry of B.E. Melendy when church officers were again selected. Elders: J. E. Roberts and Mitch C. Herndon. Deacons, Dave H. Freeman and Herman S. Roberts. C.O. Woodward was called for a series of revival meetings. He was the one who conducted the business meeting to elect the above officers. On March 29, 1918, at the close of a 15 day revival, considered by many as a good success, the church called Bro. E.L. Long as regular minister. During the meeting, there were 5 additions and a general arousing of the members for the cause of Christ. W.E. Daughtery was the evangelist for the meeting. E.L. Long is remembered as a well liked minister. His teaching and preaching was very good, leading many to membership in the church. His wife was sister to Sam P. Fairchild of Liberty County. During this time (1916), Roud Shaw held one of our great revival meetings, however the factor that caused many to join in the fellowship of the Christian Church during the meeting was Bro. Long's Gospel preaching and teaching. Mac Herndon, who joined the church during this meeting is noted as saying, "It takes Bible teaching every day to save people." In June of 1919, there was a 3 week revival held at church by W.T. Brooks of Haynes City, Fla. And Miss Gail Wilhite. This revival was considered a great meeting though there was only one addition.