Alabama history

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In about 1950, Nate Taylor from Pennsylvania arrived in the area of Gallion, Linden, and Old Spring Hill, about 50 miles northeast of Needham in western Alabama and began Bible studies in the Old Spring Hill School. Occasionally the Bible study was held in Epps’ grocery store. People were saved and accepted the idea of gathering as a New Testament church. As more people began attending, the group began meeting as an assembly in the home of Herschner and Earline Coats in Old Spring Hill. Among those who attended were Mrs. Henretta Hall and her family, and Frank Glass. The meeting became known as the Scripture Truth Center in Old Spring Hill.

Other brothers who came to help establish the meeting were William Walker of Lafayette, Louisiana, Vernon Schlief of New Orleans, and E.G. Matthews, then 80 years old, from Waterloo, IA. Charles Lacey and his family ministered for several years at the assembly.

The group bought and remodeled an old building at the intersection of Highways 43 and 69. A split in the meeting in 1955 reduced the numbers, and the remaining 36 people decided to rename their building Gallion Bible Chapel. In 1970, a new chapel was built for the assembly by P.A. Bagley. The assembly has commended Mr. and Mrs. John T. Ferris to the Lord’s work. The meeting now has about 14 adults in fellowship.

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In about 1950, John H. Rupp of Altoona, PA came to Choctaw County as a Southern Baptist missionary. He preached to several small Baptist groups around Needham. In1951, some of the several Turner families in the area and Mr. Rupp left the Baptist organization and began to meet in homes. John Rupp and the Turners were invited to Old Spring Hill for the Thanksgiving Conference held by Scripture Truth Center that year, and thus became acquainted with assembly practice.

Soon, William Walker and Vernon Schlief learned of this work through E.G. Matthews of Waterloo, IA and came to the area for teaching and Gospel meetings. In the ‘Turnertown’ community west of Needham, they also had a vacation Bible school. People were saved, an assembly was formed, and in 1952 the Needham Bible Chapel was constructed. James A. Bethany, James F. Turner, and Charlie D. Turner were the founders of the assembly, along with Mr. Rupp. After John Rupp left the area, Charlie and Floyd Turner assumed leadership.

In the late 1960s, Raymond Swales came to speak at the assembly, and it was a time of revival. The assembly outgrew their original chapel, and a new building was constructed about six miles south of Needham in 1984; the name Needham Gospel Center Bible Chapel was taken at that time. James and Billy J. Bonner are the current elders. About 30 adults and youngsters attend the assembly today, which is active in mission and newspaper ministries.

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The first assembly in Birmingham began in January 1948 when a group of like-minded Christians decided to meet in the name of Jesus only. Meeting first at the Birmingham YMCA, they moved to their own building at 4th Court West the Westside Gospel Chapel. In 1962 the assembly relocated to 3926 Montclair Road, its current location, where it took the name Mountain Brook Bible Chapel. The principal leaders at Mountain Brook Bible Chapel have included Robert J. Willey, Earl Miller, Vernon Poehner, Stephen Underwood, and Walter Heasty. The assembly has commended several workers to the foreign field; about 50 adults and youngsters attend on a typical Sunday.

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In 1974, a group living 15 to 20 miles west of the chapel, desiring to have a meeting in their area, hived off from Mountain Brook Bible Chapel to form the Westside Believers Chapel. The two assemblies maintain a close relationship. The new assembly began in the home of Stephen Underwood, who was in fellowship at Mountain Brook Bible Chapel, and had been having home Bible studies with college students for several years. Mr. Underwood’s father had been influenced many years earlier by T.B. Gilbert concerning the New Testament church. Some of the students in the Bible study were driving a long distance to attend Mountain Brook Bible Chapel, so with the blessing of the elders of that assembly, the Westside Believers Chapel was formed. The families of Stephen Underwood, Steve Davis, Craig Criss, Tom Davison, and Ken Sanford were involved in the startup.

In 1976, the assembly relocated to Hanckey Road, then in 1988 purchased its own building at 1490 1st Street S.W. in Graysville in the northwest suburbs of Birmingham, where it is presently located. Westside Believers Chapel has about 20 coming to the Lord’s Supper.

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The Mobile Assembly met in the home of John Todd for many years, reaching 35 persons at its highest. This assembly was begun through contacts made at the Deep South Bible Conference, hosted by the Good News Center in New Orleans. Vernon Schlief and William Walker came to Mobile to instruct the Christians dissatisfied with their denominational affiliations, and the assembly was formed. It continued into the late 1970s.


  • Questionnaire Responses
  • History, Needham Gospel Center Bible Chapel, by James E. Bonner, Sr., 1998