THE CHRISTIAN AID SOCIETY
The Christian Aid Society of the Sweet Home Free Mission Baptist Church was organized in 1923 in Clinton, Texas. Their purpose was to purchase an acre and a half of land to be used as cemetery for the colored residents in Clinton, Texas. The members of Sweet Home Free Mission Baptist Church met informally in November of 1922. After many discussions and prayers the Christian Aid Society of the Sweet Home Free Mission Baptist Church had their first formal meeting on January 16, 1923, in the home of Brother and Sister James Maxey directly across the street from my grandparent’s home. The members of the Christian Aid Society met regularly in the homes of their members, where they would meet and pay dues of fifty cents and a dollar to raise money to buy lumber, nails, and wire for the fence around the cemetery and other supplies needed to accomplish their goals.
Each meeting of the Christian Aid Society opened with the singing of a hymn and the reading of the scripture followed by a prayer and sometimes another song. The President would open the business portion of the meeting where the secretary would read the minutes from the last meeting and various committees would make their reports. Before the meeting of the CAS would close different members were allowed to stand and testify about Gods’ goodness. My mother as a small child would sing at the meetings of the Society at the request of my Grandmother. The members of the CAS also used Roberts’s Rules of Order.
The Constitution of the Christian Aid Society
This body shall be called the Christian Aid Society of Sweet Home Free Mission Baptist Church.
The officers shall consist of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasure and various committees.
This body shall carry a sick benefit department; its officers shall consist of a treasurer.
No Applicant can become a member of this body except he be a member of this church and in good standing.
No applicant can become a member of this body until they have fully paid their joining fees and the price of their badge.
The joining fees of body will be .50 cents –Burial Dues; .10 cents for benefit dues and $1.00 for badge.
The monthly dues shall be .50 cents burial dues; 10 cents sick benefit dues.
Any member becoming three months in arrears in monthly dues shall be put on the drop list and therefore loose all rights in this body until the said dues have been paid up.
This society shall provide at the death of a member a grave in the Christian Aid Cemetery and $30.00 to buy or pay on coffin.
It shall be the duty of this body to provide refreshments for any member that is sick and needs assistance.
No outside person shall be permitted a grave in our cemetery until price of the grave has been fully paid.
Prices of graves shall be $8.00 for grown people and $4.00 for infants or small children up to 6years; over 6 years -$8.00.
Each member must provide himself with a receipt book and bring the same book to the monthly meeting. Any member leaving their receipt book at home will be assessed a fine of 25 cents.
Any member in good standing becoming seriously ill is exempted until he has sufficiently recovered and can resume their employment
Amendment to the Constitution
Burial fees are raised from $30.00 to $50.00.
The Christian Aid Society will pay to any one who becomes a member less than a year $25.00 dollars until the year expires. They will then receive full benefit of $50.00 dollars at death.
The Christian Aid Society by motion raises the death benefit from $50.00 dollars to $60.00 dollars.
August 12, 1929, the Christian Aid Society raises burial benefit from $60.00 dollars to $100.00 dollars.
October 12, 1931, any one becoming a member of the Christian Aid Society will receive $50.00 and after a year they will receive the full amount of $100.00 dollars at death.
Members of the Christian Aid Society
The members of the Sweet Home Free Mission Baptist Christian Aid Society were:
Brother James Maxey Sister Anna B. Maxey
Brother Hampton Maxey Sister Ruth Maxey
Brother Isaiah Edwards Sister Jeanette Edwards
Brother Edmond Todd* Sister Estella Todd*
Brother William Jackson, Jr. Sister Lucile Jackson
Brother Frank Bess Sister Hettie Bess
(* My grandparents)
The officers of the Sweet Home Free Mission Baptist Christian Aid Society were:
Brother James Maxey – President
Brother Edmond E. Todd – Vice President and Treasurer
Brother William Jackson – Secretary
Sister Estella Perry Todd – Assistant Secretary (in 1924 became Secretary)
These six couples were the founding members of the S.H.F.M.B. Christian Aid Society who faithfully put their pennies, nickels, and dimes together for the success of this important organization. While reading the archival records of the CAS, the men are listed as “brother”and the women are called “sister.” In the early African-American Churches the members of the congregation always referred to each other as brother and sister, representing their relationships and oneness in Christ. Today in the “traditional”African-American Protestant churches these titles are still used.
The Christian Aid Society’s dual purpose of providing a final resting place for their loved ones was accompanied by the overall well being of their fellow man. The members paid ten cents for their“Sick benefit dues” to give assistance to members during illnesses and the birth of their children.
The Christian Aid Society’s First Loss
The Christian Aid Society in the period of a year would have a total of $350.00 and accrued interest of $8.19 equaling a grand total of $358.19 in their account at First National Bank. This was a very successful and lucratively financial organization in 1923 for people of color. The Christian Aid Society with their first taste of success would soon experience their first loss of founding member, Brother Frank Bess in March of the same year. The Sick Benefit committee treasurer paid $5.00 to the Bess family at the onset of Brother Bess’s illness. The Christian Aid Society would then pay Sister Hettie Bess $30.00 dollars after the death of her husband. My grandfather, Edmond Todd and James Maxey purchased the lumber, nails, and wire to build a coffin for Brother Frank Bess. The men of the Christian Aid Society as a team would dig the grave and provide a headstone for the deceased. Brother Bess would be the first person interred in the CAS Cemetery. A month later Brother Bess would be joined by the nine-day-old infant of Brother and Sister Joe Louis.
Songs, Ceremonies and Rituals
The Christian Aid Society met regularly once or twice a month over the next twenty years. The members of the Christian Aid Society would rehearse spirituals and hymns to sing at funerals. The songs were categorized as: songs for eulogy, songs for dismissal and meeting songs. On April 13, 1923, the members decided that the “sisters”of the Christian Aid Society would wear white dresses and the“brothers” would wear black suits at member’s funerals with their Christian Aid Society badge. I still have in my possession my grandmother and grandfather’s CAS badges now approximately eighty-three years old. The ribbons are made of purple satin or a deep wine in their original color. My grandmother’s badge has a round satin flower at the top of the badge and my grandfather’s badge is identical but without the extra added feminine touch. The badge is about eight or nine inches in length with the initials (upper case) C.A.S. and underneath these letters are two small squares, one on each end with a smaller font of the words OF THE (upper case) with the initials of S.H.F.B.C. with three lines beneath it followed by a partial wreath with a bow at each end.