The rural farming community bounded on the north by Sabine River to Cherokee Bayou on the south and from Elderville community on the west to Highway 149 on the east was just beginning to turn from agricultural to a more urban community.
Ballenger’s country store, across from the cotton gin on Highway 322 was the largest country store in the area. Ballenger’s, Jones’ Skelly station, and Toon’s Riverside Fish Market and Bait shop made up the entire commercial businesses for that area.
In the early 1950’s, the Tennessee Eastman plant acquired property across the river, in nearby Harrison county, and began to build their Texas Eastman operations. During this period, the growing City of Longview made plans to build Lake Cherokee for a fresh water reservoir. These two entities, along with LeTourneau Technical Institute and LeTourneau Plant, would soon exert an influence in this area. As the agricultural community made its transition to a more urban neighborhood, Trinity Baptist church had its beginning in a tent revival.
There was no Baptist church in the area and several Baptist felt the need to establish a church. A tent revival was organized in August 1950. Brother George Griffin, a young preacher from Mobberly Avenue Baptist Church, came to preach for two weeks. The tent was rented from Temple Baptist Church and erected on a vacant corner lot on Highway 322 and what would later become Melanie Lane. The tent came with folding wooden chairs and sawdust was spread on the ground to hold the dust down.
After the two week revival, a small group of believers continued to meet in the nearby home of Tuck and Maryann Still.
For two weeks, Brother George Griffin continued to preach at Brother Still’s home as a mission of Mobberly Avenue Baptist Church. At that time, a building became available on Highway 149, near the present site. The building had been part of Harmon Army Hospital during World War II and was in poor shape. The decision was made to let this building become a permanent home for our church. When Rusk County Rural Electric came to turn on the power, they asked for a billing name. Brother George popped off “How about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?” Trinity Baptist Church came into existence. The next Sunday afternoon, Brother C.L. Porter, pastor of Mobberly Avenue Baptist Church, came and preached the message and chartered the church. Because of the strong desire of the charter members to have a place of their own, the mission phase of our church only lasted two weeks.
First Church Building
The building was old and drafty; hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Winter services required gas heater to be lit several hours prior to Sunday School. Even then, on the coldest Sundays, you could easily see the pianist’s frosty breath. Sleet and snow would pour freely through the roof and make little piles on the floor. On these cold days, ear muffs and gloves, long johns and overcoats were commonly worn.
Summer Services were dominated by the whirl of oscillating fans. These fans made the Sunday morning heat barely tolerable. In the evening the unscreened windows admitted hordes of insects that swirled around a bare light bulb above the preacher’s head. How Brother Griffin avoided swallowing insects is truly amazing.
In addition to the heat, cold and insects, rain turned the parking lot into ankle deep red mud. Some members would leave their mud caked shoes near the front door. Later, wooden planks were placed in the parking area to allow arriving worshipers to tiptoe from one board to another and into the church.
First Permanent Home
One acre of land was acquired at the present site and a building was bought and moved to new land. This building had been a washeteria in south Longview. It was a much better building than the rented quarters, although the space heaters and fans were still used to heat and cool the building.
After Brother Griffin, came Brother C.E. Oden in May of 1954. Brother Oden was an instructor from LeTourneau Technical Institute. In November of 1955, Brother C.A. Young came as pastor. Then in October 1956, Brother W.S. Huffines came as pastor and the first three deacons were named: R.T. “Tuck” Still, Eddie Stanley, and Calvin Nelms.
The next project was a new education building. Brother Calvin Nelms was a carpenter and along with Pastor Huffines led the membership in erecting and finishing this building. Another small building served as a nursery. Mama Ethel Henry and Artie Mae Smith served many years as the nursery workers.
First Brick Building
Brother Lloyd Ozment became pastor July 1960 and served until April 1978. The three preciously set aside deacons were ordained and the church was incorporated during this time. On April 20, 1966, a new brick educational building was completed
Brother Ronnie Starr came as pastor March 1979. In February 1981, a second story was added onto the educational building. The members again decided to “do it ourselves”. The next December, construction started on a new auditorium. By June 1982, construction was complete and this building was dedicated September 26, 1982. Brother John Lockler served as pastor from June 1985-June 1986. Brother David Lawson was interim pastor in 1979 and then again in 1985. Brother Gary Orr was called to be the pastor December 1986. In the year 2000, Trinity purchased and paved a new parking lot and started construction on a new gymnasium/fellowship hall. This building was dedicated June 10, 2001 and includes a wonderful large kitchen and additional educational space. Ross Law joined the staff as minister of music in December 2005. Brother Gary Orr retired from serving as head pastor in 2012 and Dr. Gary May stepped into the position in December of that same year. Brother Gary and Brother Ross are still leading the church today.
Trinity is continuing to grow and spread the Word of God.
Pastors serving Trinity since the beginning include:
- November 1953 to May 1954: Rev. George Griffin
- May 1954 to October 1955: Rev. C.E. Oden
- November 1955 to July 1956: Rev. C.A. Young
- October 1956 to May 1960: Rev. W.S. Huffines
- July 1960 to April 1978: Rev. Lloyd Ozment
- March 1979 to February 1985: Rev. Ronnie Starr
- December 1986 to May 2012: Dr. Gary M. Orr
- In October, 2012, Trinity called Dr. Gary May as pastor along with his wife, Carolyn.
God continues to bless our efforts at Trinity Baptist Church and to amaze us as He provides for our every need.