First Baptist Church of Huntsville

On September 16, 1844, the First Baptist Church of Huntsville, Texas was organized in the Brick Academy building by Rev. Z.N. Morrell, Thomas Horsely, and Rev. Benjamin Fry. In 1851, the church's early congregation met at the Dean School House, while the first church building was constructed on two lots purchased at the corner of 13th Street and Avenue J. During the church's early years, baptism's were held at a creek near the Dean House School, as well as at a baptismal pool near Sam Houston's residence. Dr. Rufus C. Burleson, President of Baylor University, preached a sermon at the dedication ceremony of the First Baptist Church. General Sam Houston and his wife Margaret were present at the dedication service and remained church members until General Houston became the Governor of Texas in 1859. The early congregation included Benjamin Fry, John Lehr, Prisilla [Tresilla] Lehr, Thomas G. Birdwell, Tercy [Tirzah] Birdwell, Sarah Horsely, and O.H.P. Hill.

In 1891, the congregation paid to construct a new frame building for worship services. Dr. Rufus C. Burleson again preached the dedication sermon for the church building, remarking on the rich history of the church's first forty years in Huntsville. By 1896, the First Baptist Church was thriving, increasing its membership to 144.

In 1924, the second building was demolished, and a new four-story red brick building with long white pillars was constructed in its place. On the second floor,
the church's sanctuary featured stained-glass windows. On January 24, 1954, tragedy struck when the First Baptist Church caught fire, killing a young college student named James E.V. Davis. The congregation rushed to save church records, nursery furniture, the organ, as well as some of the pews. While the fourth church building was constructed, the congregation met in the local high school auditorium. On December 11, 1955, Rev. Gordon Clinard preached the dedication sermon for the new church building.

In 1985, construction was completed on the church's new Family Life Center, which featured a full-size indoor basketball court with second floor walking track, racketball court, exercise room, locker rooms, kitchen and parlor. The Family Life Center is located on the northwest corner of 13th Street and Avenue J. On February 18, 1990, a church steeple with a cross on top was added to the building and dedicated to the memory of Willis and Beulahree Floyd. The First Baptist Church and its majestic building and steeple are landmarks of Huntsville and Walker County.

Images

Audio

Cheryl Spencer: First Baptist Church
Cheryl Spencer. "Early Churches of Walker County". Musings from Sam Houston's Stomping Ground. 08/15/2008.
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