“I persecuted the church”

W.H. Cabaniss
W.H. Cabaniss

EVEREND W. L. EDGAR arrived in the mill town of Lockhart, South Carolina, in spring 1937 with a desire to see individuals transformed by the power of God. Assisted by Johnnie Childers, Edgar placed a tent in the middle of the mill town, and the two began preaching. Curiosity and excitement drew large crowds to the tent, which was often filled to capacity with many standing outside.

Yet, some resisted the idea of a Pentecostal church in the town. One of those who opposed the Church of God was “Little Willie” Cabaniss. While Willie and others tried to hinder the services, God’s Spirit moved among the people, convicting them of sin. Miraculous healings occurred, and people were saved, sanctified, and baptized with the Holy Spirit. Spiritual fervor became stronger than the persecution.

On August 28, 1937, the Lockhart Church of God was organized with 13 charter members. Reverend Edgar was appointed as pastor, and Cora Brown was chosen as treasurer. As winter approached, local members searched for a place to worship. The Murphy family permitted use of their farmland, which the church shared with cattle grazing along the hillside overlooking the town and the Broad River below.

Initially an old store building was purchased, dismantled, hauled to the property, and used to construct a church building. To help pay for the building, women of the church often gathered to cook hot dogs, which they sold at the mill. The building was completed in time for an all-day service in April 1938, with only $400 remaining on the debt. Following a successful revival led by noted evangelists Myrtle Whitehead and Pauline Jackson, membership increased to 61 the next year. The church was firmly established in Lockhart.

By December 1946, the Murphy family had sold the land to the church and, through the faithfulness of local members and leadership of Pastor N. A. Jordan, the wooden building had been transformed into a new, brick house of worship. Although the town had initially resisted the establishment of the church, many community leaders and residents joined in the celebration and dedication of the new building.

Today, Pastors Allen and Vickie McKee are leading the Lockhart Church in a time of renewal and growth. The congregation worships in their recently renovated building, which, still on the hillside overlooking the town, stands as a testimony to God’s enduring faithfulness and blessings.

And what about “Little Willie”? Soon after the organization of the Lockhart Church, he surrendered his life to God. Instead of resisting the church, he answered God’s call to ministry. The Reverend W. H. Cabaniss spent the next 50 years sharing the love of Christ and seeing lives transformed by the power of God.

Louis F. Morgan, Ph.D., is a member of the Church of God Historical Commission and serves Lee University as an associate professor and the director of library services.