ST. TAMMANY PARISH (WGNO) – Magnolia Baptist Church sits idle on Fairview Drive in St. Tammany Parish. Looking at a map, Magnolia Baptist is near Madisonville, but in the late 1800s, it was an area known as Houltonville, a predominantly black logging community.

It may be difficult to imagine when looking at Magnolia Baptist Church that less than ten years ago services were held at the nearly abandoned church. The church’s congregation no longer met once their pastor, the Rev. Frank Sheridan, died.

“The church was actually left to ruin, and I passed by one day, and I said, ‘This cannot be.’ There’s too much history here. This is part of history, part of a culture that’s very important to our community,” said Donald Burris, the pastor of Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church.

Burris, along with historic preservationist Bonnie Dennis, who’s a member of the local and state chapters of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, are now working to restore and preserve Magnolia Baptist Church, so it can be recognized as a historical landmark and, once again, serve the community.

“It was very important in the civil rights movement,” explained Dennis. “It was very important in this area in terms of the black community, having a place and sense of community. This church was instrumental to them in terms of bringing that community and keeping that community together.”

Formerly known as Eagle Eye Baptist Church, Magnolia Baptist was built in 1906 and served as the primary place of worship for those living in Houltonville.

“Some of them knew the struggles, but here, again, they didn’t lose faith. They didn’t lose hope,” said Burris.

The church doesn’t have electricity or running water, so currently, that’s their biggest hurdle. Burris and Dennis are hoping the community can step in.

“So, if we could get someone to either donate the money for or the services to get the survey, as an example,” said Dennis. “We have a tree that’s hanging off on the side that’s threatening the side of the church right now, so there’s some real basic things that need to take place in order to secure the facility.”

Burris and Dennis are also working on setting up a nonprofit organization, the Magnolia Baptist Church Foundation, for tax-deductible donations.

If you would like to offer assistance, email Bonnie Dennis at bmdennis50@gmail.com