On October 3,1875 a Baptist minister, James C. Bristow, gathered together his family, Indian people, soldiers and neighbors under an old Cottonwood tree and preached a sermon from the Gospel of Mark. This took place in Middle Verde, Arizona. This sermon is recognized by many as the first Baptist sermon to be reached in Arizona, and as the beginning of Baptist work here.
As the years went by, a congregation was formed, and a small frame building was erected. In 1920 Rev. Bristow preached his last sermon, but others came to carry on the work in Middle Verde and in the Verde Valley and Prescott. The Middle Verde church, along with churches at Camp Verde and Clarkdale, was given the name of Bethany Baptist Church.
The old Cottonwood tree was struck by lightning and burned during the 1940's. But in 1945 the Old Tree Association was formed, and annual meetings were held each Autumn. People from all over the state came to share memories of the Bristow family members and of others who carried on the work in Arizona. The Old Tree Meetings have lapsed for several years now, except for the one held in 1975 to celebrate the 100-year, anniversary of Rev. Bristow's sermon.
In this year, 1993, we are reviving the Old Tree Meeting by inviting people from Baptist churches all over Arizona for a day of remembering, celebrating the continued spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will sing, "Arizona All For Jesus", the old hymn which was a theme of the earlier meetings. We will be praising God with preaching, praying, singing and special music, fellow-shipping, and eating.
The American Baptist Indian Churches of Arizona are sponsoring this event. We hope to see hundreds of Baptist people here for a renewal of our Christian heritage and a celebration of what Baptist have in common. We solicit the prayers of each of you for the fruitfulness of this gathering, as we all seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the work of Christ in the future. Please come and fellowship with us on this day.