Biography of Rev. James D. Jordan
Founding Pastor of Beulah Baptist Church
The Rev. James D. Jordan was mightily used of God in the early days of settling the state of Alabama. He founded and pastored churches in Talladega, Randolph and Marshall Counties. (sections of Talladega and Randolph counties later became what is now Clay county.) He also was instrumental in organizing and establishing local Baptist associations. These were also the early days of the Baptist church becoming one of the dominant denominations in the state of Alabama.
James D. Jordan was born in Georgia, March 12, 1814 to parents that had migrated from North Carolina. He was married to Rebecca Bateman June 20th 1833 in Fayette County Georgia. Their children were Marthena, John C., Mary C., Zachariah, Joeanna, James D. and Rebecca Jordan. (children listed in the 1850 & 1860 census & family Bible record)
During this time period while living in the Court Hill area of Talladega County, James pastored Shiloh Baptist Church and Alder Springs Baptist Church which later became the Mt Pleasant Baptist Church and today is called Barfield Baptist Church. He is listed as the pastor of Alder Springs in 1859 and their records show he left in 1861 for the Civil War. He volunteered for the 14th Alabama Infantry, Company I, called the Hillabee Rifles. This was a unit organized from his home in Talladega County. He entered the Hillabee unit as a 2nd Jr. Lieutenant, sometimes called a 3rd Lieutenant. The 14th Alabama was sent first to Huntsville, AL then on to Fredericksburg, VA. The regiment was removed to Richmond, VA to recover from an epidemic of measles. It was there James resigned his commission and returned home.
When James returned home to Talladega County he resumed his ministry. Family Bible records also show that after James returned from the Civil War his faithful wife of 30 years passed away March 15th 1864. Grieving greatly but wanting to continue his ministry he began to pray for another wife. Living nearby, also in the community of Court Hill, was John and Mary Burgess who had an unmarried daughter named Harriet. James found her to be a Godly woman who would be a loving mother and a faithful pastor’s wife. They were married August 4th 1864. About a year later James and Harriet had their first child, a son they named Thomas W. They would go on to have 6 children, 4 sons and 2 daughters. Their children were Thomas W., Jerry (Jeremiah), Perry A., Missouri Fletcher, Leola and Henry. James had a total of 13 children. Just his family would make a sizable congregation at church. But James would reach a lot more than just his family. Pastoring alone would not adequately provide so James also earned a living as a farmer and mechanic. But his sole purpose in life was to glorify the Lord and do the work He had called him to do.
Secelar Claxton Ray did historical research for the Carey Baptist Association in 1946, which shows that James resumed pastoring Alder Springs Baptist Church after the Civil War. He would later pastor Concord Baptist Church in 1869 and Union Springs Baptist Church in 1878. Union Springs would later become First Baptist Church of Ashland. FBC Ashland records show that James was their founding pastor. In those days pastors were circuit riding preachers. This means a pastor would serve more than one church. He might serve two or more. Preaching at one on the 1st and 3rd Sunday’s and the 2nd and 4th at another.
James was actively involved in the Boiling Springs Baptist Association and likely heard of the need for churches in a new area being settled called Sand Mountain. The annual associational minutes show a strong desire by the Baptists to plant churches in the “destitute areas” of the state. (areas that did not have a church) Many families from the Talladega and Randolph County area were moving to this new area. He likely moved by ox and wagon like so many others did. He moved his family of eight or more and all their belongings up crude rough roads, north, to Sand Mountain. The journey would have taken about 10 days. We might think it was a great hardship but they must have considered it an adventure for the Lord.
James purchased a farm in the Marshall community of Sand Mountain between what is now Beulah and Double Bridges. The sandy soil proved to be fertile with a little fertilizer added and was much easier to plow than the red clay of Clay County. James immediately began to work to plant a Baptist Church in the community. He not only sowed seeds of cotton but also sowed the seed of the Gospel. This community had a syrup mill, shingle mill, saw mill, grist mill, cotton gin, several large farms and a school, but no Baptist church. James received permission to build a brush arbor on the Miller property. He began preaching services there and the Lord blessed. Soon there was a core group ready to organize and constitute a Baptist church. On August 19th 1882 James called on Rev. Lemuel Chambers from New Home Baptist Church in DeKalb County and Rev. S. T. Collier, who had organized and constituted the First Baptist Church of Albertville the previous year, to assist him in forming the new church. The charter members were Richard Eubanks, Jane Eubanks, G.W. Screws, Jane Screws, Rev. James D. Jordan, Harriet Jordan, W.H. McCollum, Dicy McCollum. Some of the first converts to the new church were James and Harriet Jordan’s children, Missouri, Jerry, Leola and Henry.
It was decided to allow the ladies of the church to select an appropriate name for the new church. Harriet Jordan suggested the Biblical name of Beulah and the whole congregation agreed. The church would be called Beulah from Isaiah 62:4
4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
James led the church to build the first wood structure in 1883 replacing the brush arbor. The building was built on an acre of land donated by Nancy Ann Miller. 56 were added to the church while James pastored from 1882 to 1885. In 1884, after Beulah had got on its feet, James went into the Aroney community just a few miles southeast and did it all over again. He organized and constituted Mt. Zion Baptist Church in August of 1884. James also saw the need for organizing the area Baptist churches into an association. Working together they could accomplish more for the cause of Christ. He was selected chairman of the committee that drew up the Articles of Faith, The Constitution and Bylaws and the Rules of Decorum for the new Marshall Baptist Association. These documents were approved and the association was formed December 3rd 1887. Beulah and Mt Zion have reached countless souls for Christ since those days in the 1880’s. The Marshall Baptist Association now has over 100 churches working together for the cause of Christ. All because of God’s grace and an obedient servant called James D. Jordan.
The Rev. James D. Jordan was laid to rest in Beulah Cemetery August 29th 1903, almost 21 years to the day from when he started Beulah. He was 89 years old. The Marshall Banner recorded his service was the most well attended of all services ever held in Beulah cemetery till that day. I’m sure he was greeted in heaven with “well done thou good and faithful servant”.