The Rev. Freddie Smith has weathered many storms during his 82 years on Earth, and so has the church he's pastored the last 44 years– Galilee Baptist. This Collinston church, currently with 200 members, has undergone being rebuilt twice – once when it was relocated and another after a tornado destroyed it.
The church was originally built in 1899 on Patey Road, the road which the Morehouse Parish Jail – Collinston Division, is now located. In 1947, the church was relocated and rebuilt in its current location, under the leadership of the Rev. R. S. Stewart. Smith said the church's reason for relocating was that it rested on a local farmer's land, and its members wanted a place to call their own.
Nearly four decades later, the church witnesses more change, when in 1983 it was destroyed by a tornado.
“I had been telling the congregation that we needed to rebuild, even before the tornado I was telling them that,” Smith said. “The church was beginning to look weathered and worn down and needed many improvements, but my members at the time said, 'No Pastor, we can't rebuild right now.'”
GBC members knew they had no choice but to obey their pastor's wishes of renovating the church, especially after the tornado ultimately left them no choice.
“The tornado caused the entire roof to cave in, all except for my office,” Smith said. “I still use my original furniture today because it was never harmed.”
GBC was rebuilt in 1984. Since then, the congregation has purchased the old Collinston Central Elementary and the five acres it sits on, across from the church. Some of Collinston's older residents say the school was built between the late 1940's and early 1950's. The land on which it sits was purchased by three African-Americans, Leon Tennant, Handsome Williams and Peter Jones, so that African-American students in the area would have a local school to attend.
“These three men paid for the property and the government funded the construction of the school,” Smith said. “Before that, the school was located beside the old church. After the church came to this location, the school followed not too long after.”
Smith said he and his congregation are currently discussing their plans for the newly purchased property.
“We're not all in agreement yet, but I have a vision for that land,” Smith said. “I'd like to see houses over there. Houses for the elderly or less fortunate. I'll continue talking to my members about it. I don't have any plans of retiring. I've been here for so long already, I don't plan on leaving any time soon.”