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Pine Bluff’s historic church marks 180 years of existence



Pine Bluff, Arkansas – The historic Elm Grove Baptist Church in Pine Bluff commemorated its 180 years of serving as a second home to many, a pillar of the community, and a haven in times of need on Sunday.

“This is a huge thing for us. This church has existed through Jim Crow, through civil rights through discrimination, and is still here,” Senior Pastor Jesse C. Turner explained.

First constructed in 1843 on the Robert Johnson Plantation in the Richland Township of Noble Lake by enslaved Africans, the historic Elm Grove Baptist Church has had an impact on subsequent generations.

“It has held the legacy within it. The things and the people who created all of this from their grandparents and grandfather, great-grandfather so the history still goes on here in this church,” Pastor Turner said.

It is a church that has been preserving history under the leadership of Senior Pastor Jesse C. Turner, who has served as pastor since 1994, and is made up of unyielding individuals who have unwavering faith.

“This day is a huge day, not only for us and the church congregation, but for Pine Bluff, and for Arkansas, knowing that there was a church formed in this state, to be the first Baptist church that was formed in Arkansas and that was 180 years ago,” Pastor Turner said.

Everyone has sentimental significance for Elm Grove, but Marie Franklin, who has lived to be 103 years old and was raised in the church, has a unique place in their hearts.

“I used to belong to this church. I was an usher and I was secretary of Sunday school and I’m glad to be home,” Marie Franklin said.

The last surviving member of the original Elm Grove Church, which existed before a tornado destroyed it on April 1, 1939, when it was a school and a church combined, is Miss Franklin.

Pastor Turner emphasized that her tenacity and fortitude are what define the church and are the reasons the venerable Elm Grove Baptist Church survived to celebrate its 180th birthday.

“That’s what we’re doing we’re really keeping the legacy alive so that our young kids will know from whence they came,” Pastor Turner added.


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