Ruhama and Its People 'Were There in All Seasons' for Samford
Three years after being auctioned on the Perry County courthouse
steps in 1884, Samford University-then Howard College-moved
to Birmingham, lured by rosy promises of support from its
Financial problems had plagued the school since the Civil
War. The low point came when the Perry County sheriff ordered
Howard sold at auction to satisfy debts. Two Howard trustees,
J. B. Lovelace and W. W. Wilkerson, put up their own funds
to buy the school property, then deeded it back to Alabama
Baptists, saving the school.
|Samford's Class of 1951 prepares for graduation at Ruhama
But when the opportunity to relocate near a thriving new city came
in 1887, Howard jumped at the chance. Alas, the promises of support
fell short of expectations, due in part to an economic downturn.
The school continued to struggle at its new site in East Lake.
"It's fair to say that, were it not for the support of Ruhama
Baptist Church, Samford University may not have survived during
those early years," said Samford President Thomas E. Corts.
The oldest church in Jefferson County, Ruhama was founded in 1819
adjacent to a site that would become the Howard College campus.
|Samford President Thomas E. Corts
presents a resolution of appreciation to Ruhama Chairman of
Deacons Joe Thomas. Right: University historian Lee Allen portrays
Ruhama founder Hosea Holcombe during the program saluting the
"From the date Howard College arrived in East Lake, Ruhama
Baptist Church was the single most stabilizing institution in its
world," said Corts. "The economy had gone sour, promises
could not be kept. In no meaningful way was the Alabama Baptist
State Convention able to assist.
"But this one church and its dear people were there in all
seasons. Until the move in 1957, the church provided a meeting place,
spiritual inspiration, care and concern, and the College provided
the church with high-caliber leadership."
After almost 200 years of service, Ruhama sold its historic property
and merged this fall with First Baptist Church of Irondale. On Sunday,
Oct. 28, hundreds of well-wishers filled Ruhama's sanctuary to celebrate
more than a century of connection between the church and Samford.
Among the speakers were retired faculty members Arthur Walker '49,
Grace Marquez '42, Ruric Wheeler and John Carter, all former Ruhama
members. (Walker also served as Ruhama interim pastor four times
over the years.) University historian Lee Allen and his wife, Catherine
'64--who were married at Ruhama--were masters of ceremony, portraying
church founders Hosea and Cassie Holcombe.
Samford trustee James Stivender '49, whose father pastored the
church from 1914 until 1944, also spoke, as did Corts, who presented
Ruhama chairman of deacons Joe Thomas a resolution of appreciation
from the Samford Board of Trustees.
"One of the dear families of Ruhama was that of Margaret Putnam,
an alumna and wonderful friend to the University and to my wife
and me, who died a few years ago," Corts recalled. "She
told me that their family, like many others in the church, kept
students in their homes--and some of them even paid! In other words,
a lot of Christian charity was extended by Ruhama families, sort
of person-to-person financial aid."