In 1900, a prayer band was started in a one room house. A group of sixteen conscientious prayer settlers formed the New Town Missionary Baptist Church. The sixteen prayer settlers consisted of four preachers, three men, and nine women. The four preachers were Rev. G.W. Quinn, Rev. Elex Small, Rev. C.B. Brewer, and Rev. G.W. Watts. Under the leadership of the first pastor and organizer, Rev. J.A. Spikes served a very short time. The second pastor was Rev. Charles Williams, who also served about seven months. In 1904, after conducting a September revival and baptizing about fourteen new converts in the “Old Smart’s Pond”, Rev. W.H. Polk, of Chicago, Illinois, was elected pastor and remained as a dynamic leader of the congregation for forty-two years.
During Rev. W.H. Polk's tenure (1904-1947), New Town’s congregation was composed of freed slaves and their descendants, the first generation of African Americans born “free." With grant support from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation and merger funds from state and county Superintendents, small communities like the New Town congregation, built their own schools between 1900-1932. Located on Barrague Street, the New Town School structure was a Rosenwald School. With a grant from the Rosenwald Foundation, funds from the county/state, and subscription raised by people in the community, Black people in the New Town community purchased lots to erect a school building. The New Town School was a one room structure with a potbelly stove for heat. Teaching state mandated courses in agriculture, reading, writing, arithmetic, and civics, teachers would sometimes cook a meal of soup or beans for their pupils while they were at school. The school term was barely six months long where one teacher or two taught all grades using primers and large cards with simple religious wording. During this time frame, the church members decreased from 49 members to about 35. The membership began growing again and continued to grow until the one room house became inadequate for service and was renovated and made larger.
In 1916, after membership had grown to 200 or more, the church was forced to buy land to build a larger place of worship. A large frame church was built at the present location. In the new church a window was named for the member who paid for it. The Rev. Polk served until his death, April 1947. Following the death of Rev. Polk, Rev. S. M. Taylor, from Dermott, Arkansas was elected as pastor in September of 1947. Rev. Taylor was a strong, dedicated, and progressive leader. He had a vision that would serve the past, present, and future congregation. The church progressed from a wooden structure to a concrete black building, which Rev. Taylor drew the blue print and plans for. Rev. Taylor also helped build the church building and laid concrete blocks. In the 1970's, Rev. Taylor had another vision to build a church with modern office spaces, more classrooms, and modern restrooms. This is the structure of which we are worshiping in today. Rev. Taylor was a minister, preacher, and a teacher, all three he did well. We moved into this building in 1972 and dedicated it to the Lord for service on July 24-29, 1973. Rev. Taylor served from September 1947 to October 17, 1985, until his death. He served 35 dedicated years.
Proceeding Rev. Taylor was Rev. Jerrold D. Brantley, a product of this church that was raised, baptized and ordained in the church. He was licensed to preach September 17, 1978 in Pilgrim Baptist Church in Manhattan, Kansas by Rev. Joseph Henry. On March 6, 1981, Rev. Brantley moved back home to Arkansas and was reunited with the church and served as assistant to Rev. Taylor. Due to the request and death of Rev. Taylor, on October 17, 1982, Rev. Brantley was elected interim Pastor on November 7, 1982. He was ordained a Baptist Minister in this church on Mav 6, 1993 and was elected pastor of this church. During his leadership, he constructed and developed a structure program including events and weekly calendars with the assistance of Olivia Hinton and Joyce Wine as typist; he practiced and demonstrated tithing causing more members to understand the blessing and receiving from paying tithes. On April 27, 1986 Shirley Washington spearheaded a marquee to be placed at the church. One in which she designed in 1985. Rev. Brantley dedicated his Pastor’s Anniversary to alleviating church of debts by mainly paying off the mortgage. He and Rev. Larry Battles exchanged pulpits for Sunrise Easter services along with other ministers to develop the four church fellowships (Perry Lake, Mt. Nebo, Wheeler Chapel, and New Town) giving of Christmas cards and gifts. Due to the lack of true love, understanding, cooperation, and devotion, he resigns. Rev. Brantley served New Town from 1982-1987, five faithful and dedicated years. Thus, ending the machine age.
Moving into the computer age, Rev. Marvell Williams was elected the later part of 1987. Under his pastorage, we purchased office equipment, a computer, and a copy machine for the business office, church school office, and we expanded the fellowship hall. In addition, we remodeled the kitchen, creating a family get together, men and ladies night out, and bible study on Wednesday following the teacher meeting. Rev. Marvel Williams served as pastor from 1987 until March 2, 2003, over 14 ½ years.
October 26, 2003, Rev. Melvin D. Graves was elected pastor of New Town. As a 21st century pastor, Rev. Graves shepherded a congregation of traditional churchgoers together with a new generation of young people called Generation Y. Rev. Graves emphasized in his sermons and teachings a biblical calling to one’s life and its beauty. Under Rev. Graves leadership, New Town achieved an increase in church membership and a myriad of church improvements to the ministries, committees, enhancements to the church, and investments in the community. During Rev. Graves leadership, the church was able to excel in modernizing the church, while providing guidance to those earnestly seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ. Pastor Melvin Graves served New Town form October 26, 2003 – September 11, 2016 and after 13 years of dedicated service, he resigned.
In 2017, God sent a spirit-filled man to New Town, Pastor Xavier Diamond. He was elected on June 28, 2017 and was officially installed September 10, 2017. Pastor Diamond was licensed as a minister by Pastor John S. Montgomery and ordained under the leadership of Pastor Alexander. Pastor Diamond is serving with zeal for the Lord and continuously delivers the word with passion and love. Alongside Pastor Diamond is the Associate Pastor, Theophilus T. Smith Sr. After 115 plus years of tremendous history, we are expecting to make even more significant history under the leadership of our Pastor, Xavier Diamond. As we continue the journey of preaching, growing, and giving, let us continue to support and pray for our Pastor as we follow his leadership. 1 Timothy tells us to doubly honor those who minister to us.
1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV)
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.