FOURTH WARD CHURCH HISTORY
(Church history is an account of the past. Written accounts here were taken from Brother Isom Hood in 1937 gather from his mother, Mattie.)
The idea for a church on the East Side of town was born in the minds of two deacons of the Galilee Baptist Church, Bro. Will Harden and Bro. Joe Carroway.
On September 3,1892, in the 300 block of East Freeman Street a group of dedicated Christians met for the purpose of organizing a church on the East Side of town, where no church existed. Those who attended the meeting were: Will Harden and wife, Lucinda, Joe Carroway and wife, Mattie, Gilford Hicks and wife, Kizzie, Caroline Lott, and several others whose names could not be remembered and Rev. J.P. Ditto of Rockdale, Texas who was the moderator of the meeting. From this meeting Fourth Ward Baptist Church was born, becoming the first church on the East Side of town and the first to become affiliated with the New Baptist Convention.
The church meetings were held in the homes of members. Later, a permanent place of worship was established at the corner of Kaufman and Washington Streets. This remained the place of worship until 1904, when this present site was purchased from the City of Ennis, part of a land grant from Southern Pacific Railroad. For 25 years, 1904-1929, the Pioneer members remained steadfast and the membership of Fourth Ward increased.
In the spring of 1929, a fire completely destroyed the church building and all the church records. For several months meetings were held in the Saint Delight Methodist Church, now called North Side United Methodist Church, which was then located across the street (where Corinth Baptist Church is now located). Meetings were also held in the Masonic Hall on East Tyler Street. Building appeared unthinkable. There was not enough insurance. Banks and Loan Companies refused to grant the Church a loan. But finally the Church was granted the funds to rebuild after Brother J. J. McDaniel and other church members met with officials of the Knights of Pythias Lodge of Texas.
In 1930, the present building was completed under the Pastor, Rev. A.D. Hewitt. This was a time of rejoicing, but not the end of sorrow. The Stock Market crash of 1929 brought on the "Great Depression", which greatly affected the members of Fourth Ward. It became difficult for the Church to meet its mortgage payments. There were times when there was barely enough funds to pay the light and fuel bills. Fourth Ward was threatened with foreclosure many times. But by the Grace of God, the Church doors remained open.
In 1935, a native son, Rev. Jesse Conner, was called to pastor Fourth Ward. He was given a weekly salary of $5.00, which he gave most of back to the Church. Rev. Conner was an excellent financial advisor as well as a spiritual leader. Rev. Conner moved to Oklahoma, where he continued his work for the Lord.
In 1949, under the leadership of Rev. W.B. Smith, the church debt was paid. A note-burning celebration was held that year at the annual Homecoming services. The Rev. A.L. Moore, Pastor of the Second Mission Baptist Church of Corsicana, Texas, delivered the Homecoming sermon. During this period the church was very active in the North Texas District Association and with the help of local churches of the district, Ennis became the site for District meetings.
In July 1956, Rev. James H. McNeil, another native son, was called to pastor Fourth Ward Church. The Church continued to work, pray, and prosper. In 1967, the lots adjacent to the church building were obtained from the family of J. J. McDaniel. In 1974, the Church acquired the remainder of the 1300 block of North Shawnee Street. A house, purchased form the Ennis I.S.D. was placed on the lot, which now serves as the Church Parsonage. In 1975, the inside of the Church was completely remodeled. During this period, six deacons were ordained. In 1985. Pastor McNeil was taken very ill. Another native son, Rev. Ronnie Potter was called upon to serve as associate pastor. He served several months until he was called to pastor another church.
In recognition of the historical importance of Fourth Ward Church, the Ennis Heritage Society awarded the Church the Historical Landmark Plaque. Rev. James McNeil retired in September of 1990 after more than 34 years as Pastor. Rev. Steven E. Edwards was called to pastor Fourth Ward in December of 1990. Under his leadership six deacons were ordained and several members have been added to church membership.
Having been inactive in association work for several years, Pastor Edwards applied and was accepted in the Ellis Baptist Association. Fourth Ward was the first African-American church to be accepted into the Association.
Under the leadership of Pastor Edwards, the Fellowship Hall was remodeled, new chairs and kitchen equipment were purchased, stained glass windows were installed, the parking lot was paved, and a new marquee was installed. Bible classes were initiated under Pastor Edwards. An aggressive Benevolence Ministry was begun in 1998 to support the church agencies of the city. At this time, agencies of the city supported include: Helping Hands, The Women's Crisis Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Ennis, and the Ennis Cemetery Association. In 1999, Bro. Afisu Olabimtan donated a new computer system to the church.
The year 1999 was one of transition. Reorganization of the Youth Department in the area of education took place. The greatest birth of that year was the "Standing in the Gap" prayer ministry which still meets on the First Saturday of each month. Exterior renovations were completed to the parsonage and plans began for the exterior renovations to the exterior of the church building.
In late 2002, renovations to the exterior were completed with some minor upgrades to the interior. On October 6, 2002, Pastor Edwards announced his resignation after serving the church for 12 years. After Pastor Edwards' departure, Bro. Kevin Haynes, Chairman of the Deacon Board, was charged with the duty of the Pulpit Supply. On January 5, 2003, Rev. Don D. Robinson was called as Interim Pastor. On August 17, 2003, Rev. Robinson was called as Pastor of the Church.
During Rev. Robinson's tenure in the pulpit, the church was blessed to baptize 23 people and more than 30 members were added. Morning Service increased from 30 to 80 in attendance. Sunday School enrollment increased from 22 to 60 and co-teachers were added for each class. Bible Study increased from 12 members to more than 30 and in 2004 the church was blessed to host a Vacation Bible School that was attended by nearly 200 children and youth over a 3 day period. Pastor Robinson resigned in 2005.
In October 2005, Rev. Steven Edwards was chosen to serve as interim pastor. Rev. Edwards led the congregation throughout the pulpit search. Since Pastor Edwards return, new ministries have been added for couples, singles, and the youth. A Pastoral Advisory Council has also been established. The church once again in September 2006, received an award from the Ennis Heritage Society for its historical significance. In June 2008,another remodeling project was started and continues to date. Fourth Ward continues to move forward by the grace of God.