After two days of proceedings, civil suits involving Evergreen Community will continue in the new year, despite Honorable Judge Ford Stinson's desires.
"I had hoped to get this resolved (in the two scheduled court dates)," Stinson said. "I like to finish trials before I begin new ones ... We will continue on January 24."
On December 20, witnesses for Evergreen Union Church and Dorcheat Masonic Lodge continued court testimonies after a suit was filed by both parties questioining ownership of the property.
Floyd Smith, who is Pastor of Evergreen Union Church, testified that Bill Frazier, of the Dorcheat lodge, invited him to an open lodge meeting to discuss what led to the church's letter to the lodge, notifying them to vacate the building.
However, Smith did not respond to Frazier's request, noting the letter specified how the lodge should direct any questions.
"I said he needed to talk to James Pruitt or R.O. Machen," Smith said. "Because those are the chairmen of the board and have authority."
Lodge Attorney Travis Holley alleged during his opening statement that James Pruitt caused the controversy because of a "personal vendetta."
Pruitt gave testimony on opening day (see story December 20), while his wife, Kay Williams Pruitt, gave testimony on the second day of the trial.
She testified she was charged with writing the history of Evergreen Church by a former pastor approximately 12 years ago.
"He wanted a history book for people who came to the 150 year reunion," Pruitt said. "I didn't feel qualified, because I had only joined the church a short time before that. But I accepted."
Pruitt gathered church and personal documents from members of the church, including newspaper clippings, church booklets, interviews and other third sources.
Holley critiqued the book saying because it was compiled from third sources, it could not be guaranteed to be accurate.
"In that thought, any history book would never be admissible evidence," Stinson said. "Someone composes it, largely based on hearsay. Not many authors are there to witness the accounts themselves."
The discussion of the accuracy of Pruitt's work may have been the reason she was brought to tears on the stand.
"It was the best I could do at the time," she said.
Holley withdrew his objection and Pruitt's book was admitted as evidence.
"This is tough," he said. "History books, that we are comparing this to, are peer-reviewed for accuracy. But, I planned on using this as evidence myself."
Thomas Moore testified that he was a member of the lodge when building a fellowship hall was being considered.
"There were Masons – Givens, Prothro, Shaw (no first names available) and others – who were interested in building a hall for dinners and open meetings. We didn't have a place like that," Moore said. "We were told the church did not want to have any financial involvement in building the hall, and Prothro was the one that told us that."
Moore said he had mixed feelings about the Lodge's decision to lock Givens' Hall.
"But with all the animosity against the lodge, we felt it was necessary to show ownership," Moore said. "Most of the problem comes from a few greedy folks. It's all about power and ownership. This is not the work of the Lord."