Bethel Cemetery

The Alabama Baptist Association was formed on December 13, 1819 by four congregations from the area surround Montgomery: Antioch, Elim, Rehobeth, and Bethel.  The Bethel congregation was just north of the Old Federal Road in Pintlala.  The building is gone, but their cemetery is still standing and being maintained by the Pintlala Baptist Church just south on the Mobile Highway.

The Bethel Cemetery was opened in 1819, so it is old, but that alone might not have been enough to warrant a historical marker.  This cemetery's claim to fame is an odd marker placed in 1923 commemorating an event that took place in 1837.  A missionary movement was sweeping through the Baptist faith in the 1800s, and eventually made its way to the Bethel congregation.  Just like in many other congregations both before and after, the Bethel congregation developed a division over the missionary concept.  One group was in favor of this missionary movement, and wanted to make an active effort to go out and recruit new followers, both at home and abroad.  This group became known as Missionary Baptists.  The other group held tightly to the Calvinist idea of "the perseverance of the saints", which essentially means that God chose all of the people who would follow him before the world was created.  If all of the believers had already been chosen by God, there was no need to go "recruiting".  This group was known as Primitive Baptists.

In 1837, this disagreement came to a head at the Bethel Baptist Church, and the Primitive members voted to exclude their Missionary members from the congregation.  The Missionary Baptists formed the original Pintlala Baptist Church, which only lasted five years but was revived several decades later.  The Primitive Baptists continued to meet as the Bethel Baptist Church, but their membership declined and the congregation disbanded in the early 1900s.  The Women's Missionary Union placed the original stone marker at the Bethel Cemetery commemorating the split of the Bethel Baptist Church in 1923, and in 1998 the Pintlala Baptist Church was able to acquire the cemetery property and begin a much needed restoration project.  The following year the cemetery was placed on the Alabama Registry of Landmarks & Heritage, and the year after that the Alabama Historical Association placed the new historical marker.

The next few photos show the cemetery gates, the stone marker commemorating the split, and the modern marker.  Transcriptions of both markers are also included.

Bethel Cemetery gate, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama

Bethel Baptist Church split marker, Bethel Cemetery, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama

Bethel Baptist Church
Feb. 13, 1819
Elder Eleclius Thompson, JaS. McLemore, Edward Mosley, Builder, Geo. Shackleford
Split of Primitive and Missionary
Site marked Nov. 4, 1923

Bethel Cemetery interior, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama

Bethel Cemetery historical marker, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama

The Bethel Cemetery

Bethel Cemetery was constituted Feb. 13, 1819 and located on Federal Rd. Bethel Church was 1 of 4 churches in the Alabama Baptist Association which was formed on Dec. 13, 1819. On July 22, 1837, the church became the object of a major split in Baptist life. In Oct.. Missionary Brethren were excluded from the church and the split became final. A marker memorializing the division between the Primitive and Missionary Baptists was placed in the cemetery by the Montgomery Baptist W.M.U. on Nov. 4, 1923. Pintlala Baptist Church acquired the cemetery in 1998.
— Alabama Historical Association - 2000

Setting of the Bethel Cemetery historical marker, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama