Portland's Rich History of Leadership
Our church stands on the shoulders of great faith and commitment.
A rich spiritual and historical legacy is a cornerstone in the life of Portland Memorial Missionary Baptist Church. This church came to be in 1866 shortly after the Civil War. The Portland Baptist Church was founded and begun as a “missionary church”, following a meeting of a few Christians, lead by Brother William Gohagin. Brother Gohagin was born a slave on the Cooley plantation near West Point, Kentucky about the year of 1826. He lived and labored at his birthplace until he reached the age of about twenty years, carrying the name of Bill Cooley, later he was known as Bill or William Gohagin. He married Sylvia Weathers who lived on an adjoining plantation. She was the mother of several children by a former marriage; however to this union several additional children were born. Both Mr. and Mrs. Gohagin labored on separate farms.
After the Civil War, Brother Gohagin and his family moved to Louisville. They were so happy to be free from the bonds that held them in slavery that they called together their neighbors and held prayer meetings that they might praise God for his great deliverance. Seeing the need of a church in the community, Brother Gohagin shouldered the responsibility of the debt. He mortgaged his body in service to David Duckwall. The Portland membership was made up of Brother Gohagin, his wife Sylvia, a few of their children, Nancy Brown, Hannah Jones and Ellen Thrift. Patsy Grant, Millie Winn, Maria Thurman and Amos Dorsey were also part of that membership.
Brother William Gohagin
In 1868 the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky recognized Portland as a member. As the membership of Portland grew, in 1869 the Portland Church built its first permanent home in the rear of Rudd Ave. By 1875 the General Association of Baptist in Kentucky listed Portland with having a membership of 95. Rising waters from the Ohio River meant frequent postponement of Worship service. The Church was rebuilt on two occasions in the same location, in 1883 and after the
Rev. Thomas M. Faulkner became Pastor in 1885 the Church was rebuilt in 1886. Under his leadership the Sunday school auxiliary began along with an education and certification program for Sunday school teachers through the General Association with Portland participation. He pastored from 1885-1895.
The Missionary Society was initiated under his leadership in 1896. Rev. Reed was the father of the late Sister Elnora Starks. In 1899, the church left the Rudd Avenue flood plagued property for “higher ground” at 2735 Lytle Street on property adjacent to the Portland Colored School. An often spoken parting among Portland members was, “See you next Sunday if the river don’t rise”. Under the leadership of Rev. James Gibson the Church was moved to alleviate costly construction. The Church was lifted from its foundation at 2735 Lytle Street and moved to 2728 Lytle Street.
From 1916 to 1941, the church was led in succession by Rev. Walter P. Offutt, Rev. B. F. Reid, and Rev. Levi A. Offutt. In 1965, Rev. A.D. Hansbrough became the church’s Pastor. Under the leadership of Rev. A.D. Hansbrough the establishment of the envelope system of tithes and offerings, Men’s and Women’s Day; Weekly Prayer Services, Annual Revival; Church Anniversary; representation in the National Baptist Organizations; and in 1941, the official organization of the Usher Board. While visiting a son in Buffalo, New York, Rev. Hansbrough suffered a heart attack. After a lengthy recovery, the dedicated and faithful Rev. Hansbrough was anxious to continue preaching. During his recovery Rev. Leroy Ray was there to assist. He succumbed to a fatal heart attack in the pulpit on July 25, 1965.
Beginning in 1966, The Reverend Arthur Smith led the Portland Church for 47 years. Unprecedented growth was experienced under his leadership. Some of his accomplishments were the official change in the name of the church to Portland Memorial Missionary Baptist Church; and the birth of Portland’s Annual School of Religion in 1967, newly reformed to the Churchwide Christian Education Institute under the direction of Rev. James Woolridge. Some of its directors were: Rev. Herbert Woolridge and Rev. Barbara Faulkner. Other founding Pastors were Rev. J.V. Bottoms, Rev. H.D. Cockerham and Rev. L.H. McIntyre.
The Summer residential camp in 1968. The first Director was Bro. Jeff Hayes. Other directors that followed were Sis. Julia Rogers, Brother Clarence Bivens and Sister Faye Wilford who continues to direct for over 20 years. The Church moved to its’ current location at 38th and Market in 1977 and a 8:30 Worship Service was add in 1993. The Church suffered a devasting loss on November 19, 1995 as the Rev. Benjamin F. Green succumbed to a fatal heart attack after preaching, “A Church on the Move.” Also on December 2, 1995 while shopping to prepare a Church dinner, again death knocked at the door of Portland when Bro. Willie Moore died. The December dinner has been re-named as the Brother Willie Moore Fellowship Dinner. The Church purchased property at the southeast corner of 38th & Market in October of 1997, and the property at the northeast corner of 38th & Market was purchased later that same year. Now housing the PortShaw Community Development, Inc. and the Portland Food Pantry (Dare To Care).
In 2000, the Portland Praise Team and the Drama Ministry began. The following year, the Evangelistic Ministry began with Rev. Henry Nelson as director. Other directors to follow were Rev. Joyce Pumphrey and Rev. Clarence Bivens. In 2001, Rev. Stan Brown became the Director of Missions. He was instrumental in Portland’s involvement with West Louisville Ministries, the Lott Carey foreign Missions and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and Prison Ministry. Rev. Joyce Pumphrey followed as Director. Other leaders who served as President were Sister Delores Ayo, Sis. Gladys Brent, Sis. Helen Davis; Sis. Ida Gray and the current President, Sis. Regina Mayo.
On September 7, 2003 a new cornerstone was laid for the Portland Church. The Youth Ministry and the Church Anniversary Ministry were instrumental in bringing about this portion of Church history. Also in 2003 after a number of years without an active Scout troop, Pastor Smith resurrected the Troop. He commissioned Deacon Samuel Stokes and his wife, Sis. Delores Stokes to serve. A Cub Scout troop was also added. They have continued to serve 13 years with numerous award and certificates. Previous leaders were: Bro. Chuck Williams, Bro. Charles Baker. In 2004 the Children’s Choir was officially named the Joyful Gifts. In 2005 the Young Adult Choir was added. Also in 2005 the Portland Church acquired additional property adjacent to the Church, now known as the West Market Street Community Laundry. It continues to thrive and is an integral part of the Community. The Saturday Morning Breakfast/Bible Study for Children/Youth of the Church and Community began in February 2008. Also a Girl Scout troop was organized.
Pastor Smith led the Church family to realize the vision of the Church of reaching upward toward the heavens, knowing that God’s Commission is our Mission; endeavoring to do holistic ministry, making disciples and increasing in wisdom and knowledge he incorporated the MasterLife teaching series in the Wednesday night study service. Under the leadership of Rev. Brenda Burney as instructor, the Church experienced increased spiritual growth as God moved on their hearts toward a more personal relationship with the Lord. Other instructors, Min. Rickie Brooks and Sister Barbara Smith. Under the leadership of Pastor Smith, 39 Ministers, 25 Deacons and 12 Trustees were licensed, ordained and appointed. After 47 years of faithful service, Pastor Arthur Smith was called home to be with the Lord.
Pastor Smith had often said that the church does not need to be without a pastor. On March 16, 2013 a meeting was called, by the deacons, for the purpose of calling a new pastor. The congregation moved to call one of the sons of the church as its pastor. Rev. Stephen D. Smith was elected by an overwhelming majority. On May 19, 2013, Rev. Stephen D. Smith was installed as the Pastor of Portland Memorial Missionary Baptist Church.