Volume 1, Issue 1
Fall, 2004


Olive Bertha Smith (1888-1988),
Southern Baptist missionary
to China and Taiwan.

The Spartanburg County Baptist Network in SC donated the Olive Bertha Smith Papers to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in January, 2004. Missionary and prayer center founder, Olive Bertha Smith (affectionately known as “Miss Bertha”), was born on November 16, 1888, near Cowpens, SC, to John McClellan and Frances Thorne Smith. On July 3, 1917, the Foreign Mission Board of the SBC appointed Smith as a missionary to China. She spent much of her initial time in China learning the Chinese alphabet and language and teaching English classes to Chinese students. She also witnessed the roots of the Shantung Revival (a period of Christian spiritual awakening for Chinese people) during her lengthy career of mission service.

In 1948, Smith became the SBC’s first missionary to Taiwan. She retired from mission service in 1958 at age 70 but traveled extensively telling about her mission work. Smith founded the Peniel Prayer Center in Cowpens, SC, in 1973.

Olive Bertha Smith was one of Southern Baptists’ most influential foreign missionaries. She was also a beloved educator, author, and administrator. Smith died on June 12, 1988, in SC, at age 99, just short of her 100th birthday .

The Olive Bertha Smith Papers consist of 7 linear feet of material including 433 folders and 186 audio cassette tapes. The finding aid to the collection is located at http://www.sbhla.org/downloads/856.pdf.



Isaac Backus was a Baptist minister and champion of the separation of church and state. He served as pastor of First Baptist Church, Middleborough, MA, for 50 years.

The papers of Isaac Backus (approximately 2,700 documents that Backus either wrote or collected over the course of his life) span the years 1630 to 1806 and include 15 reels of microfilm divided into 3 series. Series 1: letters, petitions, deeds, wills, and notes; Series 2: sermons and sermon notes; Series 3: notebooks, account books, unpublished writings, and notes—all related to Baptist history. A published guide accompanies the microfilm. The Backus microfilm collection enhances the available resources on Colonial American Baptist life available at the SBHLA.



The Sacred Desk: Sermons of the Southern Baptist Convention Presidents. (Ergun Caner & Emir Caner, general editors, B&H, 2004) Beginning with William Bullein Johnson on May 12, 1845, the book includes a blurb describing each president and his tenure, the complete text of his Convention address, and a photograph .

Preaching with Passion: Sermons from the Heart of the Southern Baptist Convention. (James T. Draper, Jr., editor, B&H, 2004) Texts of sermons by contemporary SBC leaders. A CD-ROM version of the book is included.

Faith in the Fight: Civil War Chaplains. (John W. Brinsfield, William C. Davis , Benedict Maryniak, James I. Robertson, Jr., editors, Stackpole Books, 2003) Striking vignettes of wartime service are followed by a roster of 4,000 Union and Confederate ministers listed by denomination, dates, and military assignment.

Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life. (Elaine Neil Orr. University of Virginia Press, 2003) The daughter of SBC medical missionaries, the author was born in Nigeria in 1954 in the middle of the national movement that would lead to independence from Great Britain. But Orr didn’t grow up as a stranger abroad; she was a girl at home. When she was sent alone to the U.S. for high school, she didn’t realize how much leaving Africa would cost her.

Dangerous Intersections: Eleven Crucial Crossroads Facing the Church in America. (Jay Dennis and Jim Henry. B&H, 2004) Authors name the 11 most dangerous intersections for today’s churches. Each church must decide its future.



The Christian Life Commission Resource Files finding aid has been updated. The collection includes 120 linear feet of material and covers the period 1950 to 1995. The resource files maintained by the staff of the Christian Life Commission cover a wide variety of topics mostly related to social, religious, moral, and political concerns. The files include clippings, pamphlets, reports, brochures, newsletters, and articles. The new finding aid is located at http://www.sbhla.org/downloads/138-2.pdf

Additional material has been incorporated into the finding aid to the Una Roberts Lawrence Papers. Lawrence served as young people’s secretary for the Woman’s Missionary Union (1916-1926) and an mission study editor for the Home Mission Board (1926-1947). Her papers document the work of the Home Mission Board during the first half of the 20th century. The updated inventory is available at http://www.sbhla.org/downloads/631.pdf

The Baptist Congress (an intellectual think tank and forum for theological, social, and ethical discussions and debates among members of Baptist churches) existed from 1882 to 1912. The Baptist Congress Proceedings Collection is now processed and available for research at the SBHLA. The collection includes 1.5 linear feet of proceedings arranged chronologically. Its inventory is available at http://www.sbhla.org/downloads/40.pdf

Jesse Murphy Hendley
(1907-1994), Baptist evangelist

The Jesse Hendley Papers are now available for use. Hendley, the “Dean of Southern Baptist Evangelists,” was also an author, poet, and song writer. He held evangelistic crusades across the United States, Canada, Africa, India, Central America, and South America and hosted The Radio News Hour, a broadcast for spreading the gospel, for 50 years.
The collection’s 12 linear feet of material includes 1,332 folders and 258 cassette tapes. Over half of the collection consists of Hendley’s sermons, sermon outlines, and sermons on cassette tape. The majority of the recordings are sermons Hendley used on The Radio News Hour, his primary media evangelistic outreach tool. The collection also includes a gamut of material that shows Hendley’s talents as an author, poet, and hymn writer.

The Hendley papers also contain promotional photographs and photographs of revivals and events. The finding aid to the papers is located at http://www.sbhla.org/downloads/848.pdf

The Baptist Press story is available at: http://www.baptistpress.com/bpnews.asp?ID=18271



Director Bill Sumners published “Bridge Builders: Baptist Women and Race Relations at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” in Volume II of the Journal of African American Southern Baptist History, June 2004. Two upcoming articles by the director include: “Lynn E. May, Jr.: God’s Remembrancer” for an upcoming issue of Provenance (Society of Georgia Archivists’ journal) and “Harold C. Bennett: God’s Great Optimist” for the 2004 annual issue of the Journal of Florida Baptist Heritage. On October 14, Sumners gave a presentation to the Maury County, TN, Genealogical Society about genealogical resource materials at the SBHLA.

Librarian Kathy Sylvest will celebrate 5 years of service at the SBHLA on November 1, 2005. Kathy has formerly served on the staff of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and of the NOBTS library.

Library Assistant, Jean Forbis, continues recovery from a serious accident at her home on July 5. In a fall from a ladder, she fractured her left ankle and knee and her right hand and was taken to Vanderbilt Hospital, where she had surgery on her ankle. She is currently recovering at her home in Portland, TN.



Currently the SBHLA is presenting three displays on Southern Baptist life.

Two of these exhibits are located in the library’s 4th floor display area. The first highlights the early years of Southern Baptist efforts in publishing and Sunday School work. The title of the display, prepared by Librarian Kathy Sylvest, is “Shaping a Denomination: The Early Years of the Sunday School Board.” This display includes images and documents from Southern Baptists’ early publishing enterprises . The second display is entitled, “Leading the Way: Southern Baptist Convention Presidents, 1845-2004.” The display includes images of all the former presidents of the Convention and highlights events during their tenures of office. This display was arranged by Archivist Taffey Hall.

Inside the SBHLA reading room is a smaller display honoring the memory of Harold Bennett (SBC Executive Committee president, 1979-1992) who passed away in 2003. This display was also prepared by Taffey Hall.



The Baptist History and Heritage Society will hold its annual meeting in Birmingham, AL June 2-4, 2005. The conference is hosted by the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission and Samford University. The Fellowship of Baptist Historians will also meet in Birmingham in connection with the BHHS. For more information on the BHHS meeting, visit the Society’s website at http://www.baptisthistory.org/. For additional information about the FBH, contact Carol C. Holcomb, president, at cholcomb@umhb.edu.

Join Walter B. Shurden, director of the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University, for a 13-Day Baptist Heritage Tour in England. The tour will last from July 25-August 6, 2005. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, The Purpose-Driven Life author Rick Warren, Baptist World Alliance president Billy Kim, and others will worship and celebrate the BWA’s 100th anniversary. For a brochure with more information, contact trip organizer Drayton Sanders at drayton@optlink.us.

Baptist Heritage Celebration 2007 is scheduled for August 1-3, 2007, at Eastern Baptist Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. Titled, “Exploring Baptist Influence on History and Culture,” the conference is being planned by a wide range of Baptist conventions, groups, and organizations to commemorate the establishment of the Philadelphia Baptist Association in 1707 and the adoption of the Philadelphia Baptist Confession. The program will highlight the common history of Baptists and also reflect the historical variety seen in Baptists in America. For more information on the Baptist History Celebration 2007, contact event chairperson Gary Long at gwlong@juno.com.


The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives website now includes a photo gallery of selected images from the collection. Currently the gallery includes individuals, churches, convention meetings, and home missions. The web address for the gallery is http://www.sbhla.org/photo_gallery.asp . The SBHLA’s photograph collection includes about 12,000 images of people, churches, meetings, mission work, groups, and events. Below are two images from the collection:

Pawnee Indian mission church dinner, ca. 1918.
Home Mission Board missionary to immigrants
A. Folz (right) prepares to take a plane ride with
B. D. Gray, HMB executive secretary, to Galveston,
Texas, where Folz works with immigrants, ca. 1920.


Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives
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