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Bright Light Free Will Baptist Church

The small Brazos County Texas church has been in operation since it was first attended by a group of wagon train families in 1881. This is the oldest, continuously in operation, Free Will Baptist Church in Texas.

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Bright Light Free Will Baptist Church

Harvey Community, Brazos County, Texas

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In 1881 a group of settlers met in a clearing in Harvey, Brazos County Texas to have Sunday worship. They had come to Texas from Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, many with shared family ties. These were the humble beginnings of Bright Light Free Will Baptist Church and Cemetery of Bryan, Texas. Their descendent's still meet in the same spot and are still being buried in the same cemetery. [photo A]

One of the original founders was William Robert Goen of Alabama. He was also one of the original three deacons. William married Nancy Ann Pate, whose family had come to Texas from Early County, GA and settled in Tyler County. Of their three children, Clyde Forrest, who married Grace McSwain, became a deacon and they are buried in the church cemetery. Their son, Oliver Forrest, who married Marcella Sennetta Ruetz, is still an active deacon in the church. Oliver and Marcella’s youngest son, Clyde Morris, is also currently serving in the church, for four generations of continuing service to the little Free Will Baptist church.  

 

 “At first, they met in the open, a kind of brush arbor affair.  One of the members donated some land on which the first building was constructed.  Will, A.B. McSwain and others drove wagons to east Texas for lumber to build the first structure.  It burned down in the early 1900's.  The second structure was built on the same site soon after, where it stood until 1957, when it was demolished to build the present structure.  The second structure had a tin roof on open rafters.  It consisted of one large open room.  When it rained, the preacher had to be loud to be heard over the rain drops on that tin roof.  The pews were built from 2X4's and they were very uncomfortable.  My Grampa (Clyde Forrest Goen) took it on himself to make sure the fires were lit in the two pot belly stoves that stood on either side of the pulpit in the winter. It was drafty, cold, not very comfortable. You had to be a true believer to worship there, I guess.  Until 1948 or so, the church had no full time pastor.  We shared a pastor with a sister church in Grimes Co., just over the Navasota River.  That's when the church bought the old Woodmen of the World lodge, moved it, and converted it into a parsonage.  Since then, we've had a full time pastor most of the time.” – Clyde M. Goen [photo B]

The oldest grave in the cemetery is that of little Rufus P. Mc Swain, second child of Angus B. & Mary Caroline (Graham) McSwain. Rufus, just 1 year, 8 months and 7 days old, died Oct 10, 1884. [photo C]

One of the early pastors, Rev. W. T. Wood, who married William R. Goen and Nancy Ann Pate in 1890, is buried in the cemetery.

No one has come forward to say the cemetery is haunted but there is lore surrounding the death of little Carol Denise Harper who died November 27, 1959 at the tender age of seven. Supposedly, she and some other children were playing in the cemetery when a headstone fell on her. [photo D]

Many of the headstones found in this cemetery can be seen by visiting www.findagrave.com and searching Texas for “Bright Light Cemetery”.

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