A Brief History of Gonzales, Louisiana
Hope Villa Church Organized in 1889
Early in 1888, Elder Thomas H. Gibbs traveled from New Orleans to Hope Villa. Hope Villa was a little village about fifteen miles from Baton Rouge at that time. One of the members in New Orleans had been sending publications to Hope Villa for some time, and Elder Gibbs spoke twice to an attentive audience. The owner of the Town Hall offered it free of charge whenever Elder Gibbs wanted to use it again. Another man gave a donation, and yet another offered transportation to and from the train depot at any time (Gibbs, 1888). It was a year-and-a-half later that Elder Benjamin Franklin Purdham, a minister from Indiana, made a visit to Hope Villa in the fall of 1889. He had tried to come earlier, but the meeting place that had been promised was not given and there had arisen strong opposition in the area to the Adventist message. Finally a large school house was offered and Elder Purdham held meetings for three weeks. On July 29, 1889, Elder Purdham organized a church with ten members including Eugene Causey, Solomon Broussard, Mark Perdue, Paul Broussard, Dawson and Roxanne Broussard, and twelve or thirteen others, who began keeping the Sabbath. Within a week five more members were added. On August 4, they met on the river bank and six more were baptized. Elder Purdham made three more visits over the next six months, baptizing new members each time (Purdham, 1889; cf. Westbrook, 1949).
A New Church in 1890
Elder Benjamin F. Purdham held more meetings at Hope Villa in the summer of 1890. As a result, seven were baptized and ten were added to the church during these meetings. By now this church had increased more than three-fold since Elder Purdham organized it the previous summer. Meanwhile, the Broussard family, who lived between Hope Villa and Hobart, donated some land and immediate steps were taken to build a Seventh-day Adventist church here. Before the end of the year there was a neat and pleasant church building ready for use (Purdham, 1890; Ancestry, 2010). This was the first Seventh-day Adventist church built in Louisiana (Encyclopedia, 1996).
The Louisiana Conference held its annual camp-meeting in a beautiful grove near Hope Villa, about eighteen miles southeast of Baton Rouge. The camp meeting continued from July 23 until August 3, 1903. Sixteen new members were admitted to the Hope Villa Church as a result of these meetings (Orrell, 1903).
The Broussard Family
In 1907, John Broussard married Hester Denham and together they had a family of ten children. Hilda was the oldest and she had the responsibility of tending to her other siblings. One of her fondest memories was riding behind her daddy on horseback to attend church over the years. Meetings were held near Hobart in the small communities of Hope Villa, Oak Grove, Galvez, and Lake numerous times over the next few years. The Broussard family gave out lots of tracts and even the children often helped. One year they gave out literature for five weeks in preparation for tent meetings. “Even though the parish priest told his people not to take the literature, several were baptized” (Fletcher and Broussard, 2001).
Meetings in 1915
From May 25 to June 29, 1915, meetings were held near Hobart by Elder Oscar F. Frank. The forty foot tent was pitched on M. D. Broussard’s lot close to the little church. A letter dated June 6 from Elder Frank read, “I am glad to be able to tell you that last night we had an immense crowd. The tent was filled to overflowing, and large numbers were in the yard. The evening was ideal, and a Baptist preacher was present. I spoke on the perpetuity of the law of God, and our blessed Lord was very near and gave me unusual liberty, and so I praise him that a good impression seems to have been made. I am very happy over the prospects of the meeting so far.” Following these meetings, plans were made to hold tent meetings at Hope Villa (Worker, 1915). The Hope Villa meetings, held from July 13 to August 8, 1915, were located “near the post office and between the two stores of Hope Villa.” At the close of the meetings eleven united with the church, nine by baptism. Eleven others promised to keep the Sabbath (Frank, 1915). What had been called the Hope Villa church became known as the Hobart church (Beeler, 1996).
Hobart and Gonzales Evangelism
At the end of 1939, Charles Beeler and his wife held a series of meetings at Hobart and as a result, several young people were baptized in January (Neil, 1940). June 16, 1940, with high water covering the roads in many places, a lay effort opened at nearby Gonzales. Jack Carey and Carl Ray Holden, a lay evangelist from Baton Rouge, took the responsibility for this work, and the Hobart church members were very helpful. The opening attendance was encouraging and the building was pretty well filled (Bryant, 1940). In 1941, George Kendall held evangelistic meetings at Gonzales, again with the help of the Hobart church. Carl Ray Holden and William Causey worked to generate interest in the Adventist message around the Gonzales area (Neil, 1941). The congregation continued to grow through the ministry of Elder I. C. Pound, so the Hobart congregation moved to Gonzales (Fletcher and Broussard, 2001), about six miles from Hobart, to build a new church.
A New Church in 1958
On May 3, 1958, the members of the Hobart Church moved into their new church in Gonzales. That same day, the name of the church was changed from the Hobart church to the Gonzales church (Evans, 1958). The church dedication was August 15, 1959 (Ray, 1959). In 1962, it was voted to deed the first church back to the Broussard family, who were the donors of the land when the church was built (Minutes, 1962). The Gonzales church was mainly a family church, since both the Broussard and Causey families were quite large. In 2001, Opal Broussard explained, “My grandfather (Dawson) led out in the first church, then passed the leadership down to his son John (my father), then to his son Arthur and now to Roger. It is wonderful that this message has been passed from generation to generation and all have remained faithful” (Fletcher and Broussard, 2001).
(1915, Jun. 24). Southern Union Worker, p. 202.
(1962, Jun. 23). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
(1963, Feb. 6). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
(1996). Arkansas-Louisiana Conference. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Washington D. C.: Review and Herald, p. 108.
Ancestry.com. (2010). 1880 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
Ancestry Family Trees. (2015, Jul. 12). Benjamin Franklin Purdham. Retrieved from ancestry.com.
Beeler, Charles R. (1996). A History of Seventh-day Adventists in Arkansas and Louisiana. Keene: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, p. 96.
Bryant, F. J. (1940, Jul. 17). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
Evans, I. M. (1958, Apr. 16). Ibid., p. 3.
Fletcher, Sandra and Broussard, Opal. (2001, Sep. 1). Ibid., pp. 9, 10.
Frank, O. F. (1915, Jul. 29). Southern Union Worker, p. 243.
Ibid. (1915, Aug. 26). pp. 272, 273.
Gibbs, Thomas H. (1888, Apr. 17). Review and Herald, p. 253.
Kilgore, R. M. (1892, Jul. 26). Ibid., p. 476.
Neil, J. L. (1940, Feb. 7). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
Ibid. (1941, May 5). p. 3.
Orrell, Mrs. E. V. (1903, Sep. 3). Review and Herald, p. 15.
Purdham, B. F. (1889, Sep. 10). Ibid., p. 569.
Ibid. (1890, Oct. 21). p. 650.
Ray, J. L. (1959, Aug. 12). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
Westbrook, T. B. (1949, Apr. 27). Ibid., p. 3.*
Wood, R. H. (1953, Nov. 11). Ibid., p. 7.
*In this article, W. M. Watson implies that the Hope Villa church was “destroyed by fire.” This was actually the Galvez church, 3 1/2 miles from Hope Villa, not the Hope Villa church. Elder R. M. Kilgore wrote the following, “Brother Shaw and myself went by steamer to Galvez and Hope Villa, where we spent several days laboring as best we could for these two churches. I was glad to meet these brethren and sisters again after so long an absence, and to find that the bitter prejudice which had existed was nearly gone. It was at Galvez where our church building had been burned, and some severe threats had been made to try to drive away those laboring in that vicinity” (Kilgore, 1892).