Indian Bayou United Methodist Church
1029 LA Hwy 700  Rayne, Louisiana 70578-1705
337-334-7166

OUR ROOTS ARE DEEP
INDIAN BAYOU UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
1834-1984
A HISTORY IN COMMEMORATION OF AMERICAN METHODISM'S BICENTENNIAL

PART I: BEGINNINGS

CHAPTER ONE
Soon after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the first missionary appointment to the new territory came from the young Methodist church, then less than twenty years old. Elisha Bowman was appointed from the Mississippi conference in 1805, to work in the Louisiana territory. His instructions, according to conference minutes, were to work in Louisiana, beginning in New Orleans and going into "Appalousa" land. Aside from New Orleans, Opelousas was the center of the Attakapas country, and Bowman probably based his circuit in that town.
According to records in Natchez, there were "Americans" in the Opelousas area. Thus, the early Methodist church differentiated between the Acadians and the Protestants. It was the "Americans" whom Bowman sought, and find, preached.
J. R. Harper, writing in The Louisiana Methodist , mentioned a Thomas Nixon in 1817 - 1818. It is said the he "served the Attakapas circuit." During the first few weeks, he had difficulty finding his way around the countryside. A portion of his diary, dated January 1, 1817, stated that "he had started out to ride to Brother Foreman's, but after a night of riding he came to the home of a Mr. Morgan and found, to his surprise, that he was on Vermilion bayou. During the cloudy day and dark night of travel, he found he had swum Plaquemine Brulee bayou, two large coulees, and crossed a number of small ones."
During the years after 1817, circuit riders ventured into the trackless prairies south of Opelousas, where, not too much later, men and women settled near a bayou in a village which they called Kimball's Chapel.

CHAPTER TWO
In 1819, the Attakapas circuit was served by John Menefree and Thomas Owens. In 1820, Daniel DeVinne rode in and served two years on the circuit. The first building in the circuit was completed at Plaquemine Brulee during DeVinne's term. While his chief concern was the Plaquemine Brulee church, he did ride the circuit, as Plaquemine Brulee was not his home. (Plaquemine Brulee has evolved into the village of Branch.) DeVinne stayed in Opelousas; his assignment was to the circuit and not to Plaquemine Brulee.
Congregations varied, from three to as many as hundreds. DeVinne found "forty-seven distributed in ten localities," and probably, although there are no records of the meetings, he visited Kimball's Chapel.
Thomas Clinton and B.M. Drake are two riders serving Attakapas and Rapides circuits in 1823. New Town -- today's New Iberia -- came into being at this time, within the Attakapas circuit. No record exists of Kimball's Chapel. By 1847, the Attakapas area was populous enough to justify the formation of the Opelousas conference. The minutes of the first meeting do not refer to Kimball's Chapel. The circuit riders continued building their flocks.
A charter member and founder of the church at Kimball's Chapel was Isaac Hoffpauir, who with his wife, Eliza, is credited with the establishment of the congregation. Hoffpauir was the first "licensed Exhorter" of the new church --"one authorized to recruit new members for the church." He was born in 1814, and began serving as exhorter between 1830 and 1840. This would indicate an unofficial founding date for the Kimball's Chapel church as 1835-1840. An article appearing in The Louisiana Methodist in August, 1982, by Clara Erath, indicates that persons from Kimball's Chapel attended services at Perry's Bridge (the mother church for Abbeville United Methodist Church) in the early 1830's. Isaac Hoffpauir was among those in attendance.

CHAPTER THREE
Kimball's Chapel flock did not meet in a church building in its early days. They congregated in private homes or beneath the trees on the banks of the stream, where they sang Wesley's hymns and heard the preachings of circuit riders or local men "exhorting" to better ways; they established a foundation for the church that has existed for one hundred and fifty years, and still is strong in the word of God.
They met in private homes or on the bank of the bayou, and worshipped. Their numbers grew, and they built a church. One of Isaac Hoffpauir's sons, Abel, wrote of the building of that first church for Kimball's Chapel. He, among others, hauled timbers by oxen from forests west of the Mermentau River. Abel (1843-1915) wrote that he was eighteen or nineteen at the time of the erection of the church. This would place the construction shortly after 1860.
The church was built on land which now contains the Methodist cemetery, land donated by Benager Spell. The earliest record now in hand of a land transfer is dated April 11, 1892, by Howard Hoffpauir as notary public, whereby, for the sum of $18, seven and six-tenths acres of land were sold by Benager Spell, with Thomas Hoffpauir, president of the board of trustees, witnessed by Hampton Morgan and Elijah Spell, bought by the Indian Bayou church "known as the Kimball's Chapel of the Methodist Episcopal Church South." This was an addition to the original tract of land.
What did the first church, the 1860 model resemble?
They chose a place on the bank of a small winding stream, heavily wooded, the wilderness tapering to the rolling fertile prairie all around. The first house of worship was a simple one, merely a single gabled room of surprisingly large proportions, capable of accommodating a congregation many times larger than that of Kimball's Chapel. There were three windows on either side from front to back, and two doors in front. It was a simple building, with no spires or steeple, in keeping with the simplicity of the times, and also in keeping with the practices of the people called Methodist. Later, the double front door was eliminated, an extension was built at the front center of the church, and a spire was erected. A small gingerbread cupola marked the beginning of the steeple, and there were louver windows all around a belfry which, according to those who recall the old church, never contained a bell. Beneath the belfry, a single entrance door was centered.

CHAPTER FOUR
Who conducted the early services? Who baptized the babies, performed the marriages, buried the dead?
Conference records for 1847 do not mention Kimball's Chapel. It is assumed that circuit riders served the church until 1872, when Abel Hoffpauir became the first locally licensed minister in Louisiana and was assigned to Kimball's Chapel. Conference records show him as minister for Indian Bayou -- not Kimball's Chapel -- from 1876 to 1877, making him the first preacher whose sole assignment was Indian Bayou. No conference statistics exist for Hoffpauir's ministry, but his own records show fifteen infant baptisms -- Faulks, Foremans, Morgans, Perrys, Sarvers, Smiths, Spells. That year, according to his records (meticulous diaries), these were the elected officials: Isaac Hoffpauir and M. Cady, exhorters; Howard Hoffpauir, Thomas Hoffpauir, Thomas J. Hoffpauir, and Benager Spell, trustees; Martin Sarver, George Morgan, Howard Hoffpauir, Benager Spell, and Elija Spell, stewards. The lay delegate was William Shepherd.
In 1878, there were twenty-seven infant baptisms; ministerial support was $138.66. In 1879, John Pointer was the minister. There were 220 members, one Sunday School with six teachers and twenty-five scholars. One dollar was collected for foreign missions. According to conference records, there were two churches valued at $800, and no parsonage; apparently this was a shared charge, and statistics are for both churches. John Pointer was reappointed late in 1879, but he died in 1880, to be followed by John F. Will, appointed, according to the records, to Kimball's Chapel and Plaquemine Brulee. There were 213 members.
There was no conference in 1881. In January of 1882, John Winn returned. In 1883, the two churches are listed together, with two ministers, L.A. Reed and B. Clegg. There were three churches, valued at 41,600; a parsonage, $600; preacher assessment, $600; $770.50 was collected for ministerial support. There were two local preachers, five adult baptisms, 127 infant baptisms; and sufficient monetary returns to indicate a form of prosperity in the land. Indian Bayou is omitted from the 1884 minutes listing appointments, although statistics are there for the church. Indian Bayou and Plaquemine Brulee had 675 members, two preachers, 54 baptisms, three churches valued at $1,800; one parsonage, a church lot, and $234 collected for building and repair.
In January, 1886, J. Ivy Hoffpauir, younger brother of Abel Hoffpauir, was appointed to Jennings and Kimball's Chapel. Nothing is said of his ministry in the minutes, although we know that he returned to Indian Bayou in 1912 and later became a presiding elder.
In 1877-1888, M.C. Manly pastored the church in the newly named town of Lafayette (Vermilionville), and Indian Bayou. No statistics are given for Indian Bayou. Robert Harry was appointed to these two churches in 1889; again, no statistics.
In 1890, the first mention is found of district division, and W. B. Tilley came to Indian Bayou, listed in the Opelousas district. K.C. Seward, in 1891, reported 328 members, 51 infant baptisms, three adult baptisms, $900 value of the church. In 1892, Jasper Spell of Indian Bayou was district lay leader; Seward returned for a second year.
The Hebron Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1893 and assigned to the Indian Bayou charge.
Other ministers in the list before 1900 include these: 1893, W.J. Porter; 1895, S.M. Whatley; 1896, S.S. Bogan; 1897, J. White Davis; and 1899, J.P. Haney.
The list of preachers immediately after the turn of the century include the following: 1900 - 1902, F.N. Sweeney; 1903 - 1904, J.F. Waltman; 1905 -1906, J.D. Nesom; 1907, F.P. Morse; 1908 - 1911, J.S. Rutledge; 1912, J. Ivy Hoffpauir; 1913 - 1914, J.H. Hoffpauir (a son of Abel Hoffpauir); 1914, J.L. Lay; 1916 - 1917, G.D. Anders; 1918 -1919, C.B. Powell; 1920 - 1922, Perry Lowry; 1923 - 1926, L. E. Crooks.
One final chapter remains in this account of the days of the early church at Indian Bayou, a sad chapter but one that must be told to have a complete story.

CHAPTER FIVE
Perry O. Lowry (1920 - 1922) was the last preacher to serve out his ministry in the old (1860) Indian Bayou church. Brother Lowry's daughter, Ruth Lowry Kobs, wrote a beautifully reminiscent letter describing her father's pastorate here, giving a picture of the people and the times. This letter is included as Appendix 2 to this history.
The Lowry family were the first family to live an entire term at the present location of the parsonage. Earlier, a minister's wife had protested having to live so near to a cemetery (the first parsonage was in the same area as the church, next to the cemetery), and the parsonage was moved. The present parsonage was built in 1951.
During the ministry of L.E. Crooks, a movement arose to move the old church building from its traditional site to a location near the new parsonage. The congregation split into two factions -- those favoring the sylvan setting of the old church, and those advocating a more modern, urbane location. Those supporting the move won out; workmen began dismantling parts of the venerable church building so that it might be transported.
About ten o'clock one evening in the spring of 1926, two young men tending a rice pump irrigating the newly planted fields observed a light in the sky that flickered, then suddenly grew stronger and brighter. The men aroused the countryside, and they all watched, horrified, as the church burned. Only the pews, which had been removed from the church before dismantling began, together with the church records, were salvaged, the pews to be used for many years in the new church, which was constructed on the site to which they had planned to move the old building.
Nearly a century of tradition had ended in a pile of ashes.

PART II: MODERN TIMES

As the Indian Bayou Methodist Church drew near the end of its first century, it grew slowly from its new beginning. Under ministers who succeeded L.E. Crooks, the church was rebuilt at its new and present site. These were depression times -- the late 'twenties, the early 'thirties -- and there was no ready cash in the community to encourage the building of a new, more modern, and larger church to replace the old. Yet the congregation wanted so desperately to have this meeting place that they willingly indebted themselves and rapidly erected the new sanctuary.
In 1926 - 1927, L. P. Moreland was the minister, followed by J.T. McVey; from 1929 to 1930, J.T. Parsons served. The church was paying its own debt during this period, through the generosity of a member who donated a plot of ground to the church. It was part of a rice field, and the grain harvested from this plot served each season to lessen the debt. This was called the "church rice patch", and its proceeds are listed in the church records as money from "church rice". Additionally, each member dedicated an acre of his own rice crop to the church (in addition to tithes).
In 1931, Reverend G. H. Corry was appointed to the church. During his ministry, the great indebtedness of the church was ended. Again, the church rice patch plus dedicated member rice, together with specified additional donations, cleared the debt. Appendix 3 is Brother Corry's list of contributors and their contributions which, taken together, amortized the outstanding building debt of $1,300.60, a very large sum in that depressed time.
Brother Corry, as ministers before and after him, was frequently given farm produce -- rice, chickens, potatoes, preserves, or whatever the members could spare. "Sharing with the preacher" was a community tradition, with no financial credit expected. The produce was considered lagniappe by the donors; however, Brother Corry kept strict accounting of it all, and applied it to his reports, to his total salary. (Brother Corry was interviewed in Shreveport in June, 1971, and recalled, among other tidbits, that Bishop Dobbs visited the Indian Bayou church for the dedication of the new building. During the visit, he stayed with the Corrys, and while he was there, the two small Corry boys set fire to the haystack from the church rice patch, causing much excitement in the parsonage and no small embarrassment for the host.)
Brother Corry was succeeded by J.A. Knight (mentioned again below), 1934 - 1937. During Brother Knight's ministry, the tabernacle was moved from its original site. In 1938 -1940, W.T. Gray was minister.
In September of 1940, new seats were installed in the church. The new pews were a sizable advance in the church's growth, both in money and in pride. Previously, the pews had been homemade slat benches, with a few heavy solid benches. All of these had come from the old church as salvage, and they had served very well through the years. Members still active in the church recall the decision facing the church regarding the choice of new seats, and the debate, leading almost to a schism. Some wanted expensive cypress pews; other, more practical, would settle for pine. Because the depression days had not ended, the pine pews won the vote. They have worn well to this day.
The years 1941 - 1942 saw Lastie Hoffpauir as minister. He was followed, briefly, by Jeff Holliday. Then, in 1943, A.M. Martin was appointed minister, to remain until 1950.
Brother Martin, one of Indian Bayou's most highly revered ministers, was an example of the Louisiana French contribution to Methodism. According to a chapter in his book, "In the Land of New Acadie", Dr. R. H. Harper says, on pages 26-27, the following:
"The history of Bayou Blue, the mother church of our French work in Terrebonne and Lafourche, is quite interesting. Mr. Robert E. Martin, who lived in the neighborhood, was a man of deep religious nature who was not satisfied with Romanism, which was dominant in his vicinity. He led in the organization of a society known as the "Spiritualist Society of Bayou Blue." An old hay shed was converted into a place of meeting, services were held, members were received into the society, infants were baptized, and the dead buried. In 1907, Mr. Martin came into the neighborhood to conduct a meeting. Mr. Martin, viewing a list of denominations in our country, said, "Now, which is your church?" A native of the area replied, of course, that it was Methodist. The results were that the Spiritualist Society went out of existence and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, of Bayou Blue, took its place, and has ministered in that neighborhood ever since".

Dr. Harper continues, stating that Mr. Martin was licensed to preach and in time became a local elder. "Two of his sons are members of the Louisiana Conference -- Reverend J.A. Martin and Reverend A.M. Martin." (This information is on pages 29 and 30 of Dr. Harper's book.) Another minister at Indian Bayou from the Bayou Blue mother church was Brother Knight, mentioned above.
Maxine Wagner, a daughter of Brother Martin, recalls her father's ministry:

"A series of barbecues was started to raise money for the cemetery. Before this time, I don't believe there was a caretaker hired on a regular basis....A sidewalk was installed at this time. Miss Eva Crenshaw, deaconess in the Methodist Church, was appointed to Indian Bayou by District Superintendent Hicks. She stayed about two years. As her specialization was rural work, she loved country people in a country setting. Serving as a combination social worker, spiritual adviser, and chauffeur, she gave a lift to all areas of the church community. As this was war time, special services were held for servicemen, especially remembering those overseas. The Second World War was in full swing, and anxiety was the rule of the day, as almost everyone had someone in combat or near its sites. As I recall, a candlelight service was held, a candle being lit for each serviceman from the community. A plaque listing all those serving was situated on a corner adjacent to the church. Various alterations took place, including the tabernacle being screened in and updated. Donation of a pulpit and a pulpit Bible was given as a memorial; Salsman's Head of Christ was put up. There had been no restroom facilities before the 1940's; an outhouse was installed to the rear of the church.

Following Brother Martin's lengthy ministry, in 1951, R.E. Pierson was minister, to be followed by W.G. Wilson in 1952. Indian Bayou was designated a supply church in 1952, with Byrl Moreland occupying the pulpit during the summer while still a seminary student. In 1954 -1957, M.L. Davis preached; 1958 -1965, J.B. McCann, whose tenure was one year longer than Brother Martin's. In 1959, the old tabernacle was replaced by the fellowship hall. In 1966 - 1968, T.R. Bergeron was minister. In 1969 - 1971, Robert W. Peterson was the pastor.
During Brother Peterson's ministry, many signs were evident of church growth. A letter written by Brother Peterson in 1976 lists the events. The letter follows:

"We (the Petersons) arrived at Indian Bayou in June of 1969 to start our ministry there....That Christmas, we had a really nice Christmas play. Then at Easter of 1979, we held a Passion Play. Older people, rather than young, took part. Some construction was accomplished while we were there. In the winter of 1970 - 71, Sunday school rooms and a choir loft were added to the sanctuary. All this was done through donations, and made the sanctuary more serviceable. The chancel area was changed at that time, and was carpeted. A lectern was donated for the altar area. A sidewalk was placed around the building. The parsonage was updated through a money-raising shrimp gumbo -- with the help of the UMW. The gumbo was held at the school, where money was raised to buy and install carpet throughout the parsonage, and to paint the interior. This year, the United Methodist Men started a project whereby as many of the past preachers who could be found would be requested to send us a photo to have reprinted and placed in the fellowship rooms of the church to make a gallery. This involved a lot of work and correspondence, but certainly was worth it, as at each Labor Day barbecue, friends and relatives come and have a time of remembrance. There are also pictures of the old church and some classes in the gallery. A new barbecue house was built in the summer of 1971. All the while, we continued to hold our "Congregational Sings" and they advanced to the point where we had one every six months. A hurricane fence was installed around the parsonage property..., and the old barbecue house was moved over to this lot after a new building was agreed upon....

Brother Peterson repeatedly mentioned the Labor Day barbecues (also referred to by Maxine Wagner above). The earlier barbecues in the 1940's have continued and grown from almost family affairs to area-wide events, a tradition anticipated eagerly each year for a genuine fellowship that is interdenominational and refreshing. The Labor Day affair is a general homecoming, not alone for one family, but for all persons involved with Indian Bayou. The cemetery, once supported haphazardly if at all, and maintained by volunteer labor on a hit-or-miss basis, has a fulltime caretaker and is an outstanding example of unity of purpose and desire to serve that characterizes so much of the history of Indian Bayou United Methodist Church.
In 1972, Doug Davis was minister, followed in 1973 by Etienne Brouilette. For 1974 and 1975, the minister was H.C. Howell, who was succeeded for 1976 - 1977 by Brother Jim Constable. "Brother Jim" was followed in 1978 by John Coker. In 1981, Indian Bayou's first woman minister, Reverend Kibbie Behling, was appointed, to be followed by the present preacher, Reverend John Wesley Guyre. During his term, central air conditioning and heating have been installed in the parsonage. Brother Guyre has instituted a film ministry, and tapes of Sunday services have been made available for shut- ins.
As the Indian Bayou United Methodist Church approaches the second half of its second century, it stands firm in the conviction that is a growing church, a loving church, and a church worthy of survival and strengthening because of its illustrious history. The church looks forward to a new building program to keep pace with a young, invigorated congregation, to a new evangelical program, and to many as yet unstated advances in its ministry.

Submitted by Bonnie Rives

Indian Bayou United Methodist Church
1029 LA Hwy 700  Rayne, Louisiana 70578-1705
337-334-7166

Indian Bayou
United Methodist Church