FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH HISTORY
An article on the Magnolia church, by Nancy O'Connell, was in "Lafourche Lifestyles," The Daily Comet, Section 3, pg. 1, Wednesday, October 5, 1983. This article recounts how the Rev. N. D. King, born a slave, founded the 117-year-old (in 1983) First Baptist Church of Vacherie (actually Magnolia) in January of 1866, the oldest continuing Baptist congregation in Vacherie.
The Rev. Jack Ellis succeeded the Rev. King. During the tenure of Rev. Ellis as pastor, two major events took place which were to affect the growth of the congregation: "Pete's Great Feast Day," which was an event when a goat entered the church and ate the records; and the storm of August 1924, which destroyed the church building.
Construction of a new building was initiated under the Rev. Ellis, but the Rev. Ellis did not live to see his new church completed. He died in November 1924. The church was completed and dedicated January 30, 1925, under the leadership of the Rev. Arthur Jones, who succeeded the Rev. Ellis. The Rev. Jones continued as pastor of First Baptist until his death in 1961. The Rev. Maxwell Cage was installed as pastor in March 1962 and served until his death on July 4, 1971. He was succeeded on August 21, 1972, by the Rev. Dr. Lucian Garrett (retired).
The day was cold and damp. The kinds of dampness that penetrates a man's bones and makes him wish he was sitting in front of his own cheerily blazing hearth.
As the ole man on a mule plodded along the fog-shrouded band of the Mississippi River, His thoughts, however, were not on the weather. He was thinking. "Only two more days, Lord, only two more days and we will have your house finished. "Then, Lord, we can praise Your Name like we should."
It was January 1866, just four short years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Rev. N. Daniel King was returning home from across the river, where he had seen the fruits of one of his many labors for the Lord materialize. He had attended the dedication of one of the many Baptist churches he found throughout St. James Parish during the 1860's. Now, in less than two days his dream was coming true - a real church for his people in Vacherie.
Rev. King founded the First Baptist Church of Vacherie in January 1866 which, today at 145 years, is the oldest Baptist Church in Vacherie.
After the death of Rev. N.D. King, Rev. Jack Ellis succeeded him in 1898. During Rev. Ellis' tenure as pastor, the first of many major events took place which was to effect growth of the little church.
All were progressing well and the little church was growing by leaps and bounds. Many marriages, baptisms and funerals were being performed and recorded by Rev. Ellis, not only in the great Bible, which lay on the altar but in ledgers which lay on the nearby table.
In August 1924, after someone had left the church door opened, the great Bible, the ledgers and all the records in the church were eaten up by a goat named Pete. Just a few days later THE GREAT STORM OF 1924 struck, causing a great disaster of death and destruction for the church.
Surveying the destruction the next day, Rev. Ellis called his parishioners together and said, "We shall rebuild." Construction of the new church was initiated. Rev. Ellis, though, did not live to see his new church finished; he died November 1924.
After the death of Rev. Jack Ellis, the Lord raised ups another under shepherd to pastor the flock of First Baptist Church, Rev. Arthur J. Jones.
Rev. Jones assumed the pastorate in January 1925 and under his leadership the completion and dedication of the second church edifice was actualized. During his tenure of ministry, Rev. Jones was blessed with his wife Sis. Malcolm Jones, who complemented his ministry with her gift of music and became the church's first musician,
Early in his ministry Rev. Jones called and baptized, married, christened, and buried many members of the First Baptist Church family. His work and ministry made a powerful impact upon St. James Parish and surrounding communities. He remained active until he was felled by a stroke. On Friday, November 17, 1961 at 12:00 A.M. he went home to be with the Lord.
After the death of Rev. Arthur Jones, the Lord had already prepared some 28 years earlier a humble young man from the town of MARINGOUIN (MERING-GWIN), Louisiana to become the next under shepherd of First Baptist Church.
The young man, Maxwell Cage at an early age accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and was baptized at the Sweet Home Baptist Church. While still a student in high school he taught Sunday school, he confessed the call to the ministry, and was licensed by his pastor, Rev. K.A. Levi. Upon completion of high school he had the desire to come to New Orleans. It was during the mid 1920's when he arrived and while looking for seasonal work along the River Road, it led him to Vacherie.
It was here that he met and married his wife, Leona Williams. Rev. Cage joined himself with the First Baptist Church Family and served as a faithful young preacher and Sunday School Superintendent under the leadership of Rev. Arthur Jones.
After the death of Rev. Jones, Rev. Cage was installed as pastor in 1962. During his 9 years of leadership and ministry the idea of a "New Sanctuary" was born. However, before his dream materialized God called him home to rest in July 4, 1971.
Rev. Lucien R. Garrett, Sr., became the under shepherd of the First Baptist Church after Rev. Cage's death. Rev. Garrett, s ministry as pastor began in 1961, when he was called to pastor the New Pilgrim Baptist Church, Vacherie, LA. In 1969, he was called to pastor the Mt. Bethel Baptist Church of Abend, LA. In 1972, he was called to pastor the First Baptist Church. Being a minister who believed in getting things done well, he followed the lead of the Holy Spirit and retired from pasturing Mt. Bethel in 1972, so that he could serve and develop a vita ministry in his community as a whole.
Rev. Garrett is married to Ella Mae Moses Garrett, who stands beside him, supports his aspiration, and caters to his interests. Rev. Garrett constantly provided training for every auxiliary in the church, exposing them to the truths and knowledge of what he expected of them by the church.
Rev. Garrett retired from pasturing First Baptist Church, but God had already prepared a man for the task. Through prayers and humbleness, under the guidance of God and Pastor Garrett along with the First Baptist Church congregation a young man from Reserve, LA. Was chosen by God to be the next Pastor. Rev. Johnnie B. Magee, Jr., was installed January 31, 2009.
Rev. Johnnie B. Magee, Jr., married to Dinah Zeno Magee "graduated with a Doctorate of Theology" from the Christian Bible College of Kenner, La. He was then hired in 1999 as the first chaplain of the St. John Parish Sheriff Office and in 2003 was promoted to Director of Theological Services and Programs. His duties are to implement transitional programs for inmates that are preparing to return into society, such as work release, AA, Job Readiness Training, G.E.D., and religious services.
Dr. Magee believes that the Word of God is a lifelong learning process. He also believes that people of God especially leaders should always be submissive enough to be ever burning to learn and live out our calling. His wife, Sis. Dinah Magee is very active in the ministry. Since his service of only two years ago, the growth of the ministry is so phenomenal until only God can get the credit. Several ministries have been instituted to fit and cater to the needs of the community and the tailored according to the growth of the church. His favorite scripture of Psalms 1:1-4 speaks on integrity, which pastor Magee is passionate about training and developing the church for tomorrow.
God has truly blessed First Baptist, and we pray for God's strength to keep us steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the works of the Lord and we will be able to truly say that their work shall not be in vain.