First Baptist Church of Franklin.*—This history begins at the time when society in Indiana was in a plastic state. The country was quite new, and was being settled by men of various religious views. Among others, Baptists came. The Franklin Presbyterian Church had been in existence eight years, and had about sixty members when the Baptist church was formed. Blue River Church, the country church from which Franklin came, was organized in 1823. As early as January 23, 1829, an “arm” of the Blue River Baptist Church was constituted at Franklin. Elder Chauncey Butler (father of Ovid Butler, founder of Butler University) was chosen moderator of the meeting, and Samuel Harding, of sacred memory, clerk. Andrew Vannoy (a tanner) was elected church clerk, and Elder Samuel Harding, who lived in the vicinity of Blue River Church, was requested to preach for the church “once a month.”

The names of the members who constituted this “arm,” are Simon Shaffer, Sarah Shaffer, Andrew Vannoy, Rebecca Vannoy, David Tilson, Stephen Tilson, Mary Frary (mother of Mr. Frary, of East Franklin), Eleanor Foster, Jefferson D. Jones, Eleanor Jones and Mrs. Sidney Tilson. On the third Saturday in August, 1832, the Regular Baptist Church of Franklin was formed. Rev. James Woods was made moderator of the meeting. The constituent members of the church, were Simon and Sarah Shaffer, John Adams, Jefferson D. Jones, Eleanor Jones, John and Eleanor Foster, Simon Hunt, Stephen Tilson, Mary Frary, Catharine Bennett, Abraham Stark (brother-in-law of J. A. Dunlap), John Johns, Martha McDaniel, Mary Tracy, Keziah Tracy, Andrew Vannoy, Rebecca Vannoy and Elizabeth Cravens - in all nineteen members. John foster was elected clerk. The monthly meeting, in September, was held in the house of Simon Shaffer, and John Foster, J. D. Jones, W. G. Eaton and Stephen Tilson were appointed to ask admission for the church into the Flat Rock Association. At the November meeting, J. D. Jones and Simon Shaffer were ordained deacons. At the December meeting the Articles of Faith of the Flat Rock Association were adopted. Elder Samuel Harding was the first pastor of the church, having been elected in May, 1843.

The church seems to have had uniform prosperity under the pastorate of Elder Harding. The membership the first year was thirty-two; the second, thirty-six; the third, thirty-four. Elder Harding was an acknowledged leader in all enterprises undertaken by Indiana Baptists. He died at his home near Smiley’s Mill, Shelby County, in the latter part of 1835, or early part of 1836. In June, 1836, elder Byram Lawrence was called to the pastorate for one year. In October, 1837, Rev. A. R. Hinkley, of Sparta Church, was called to the pastorate. Under the Pastor Hinkley the church bought a lot and built a church-house, the most commodious at the in the town, and it had few superiors, if any, in the state. It cost $2,500. Prof. Tilton was of great service to the enterprise. He secured most of the money, and did it in a short time. The dedication services took place on the 28th day of January, 1841. The sermon was preached by Pastor Hinkley. Pastor Hinkley came to the church when the membership was forty-one. He left it with 100. During Rev. Mr. Hinkley’s pastorate, Judson Benjamin became a member by experience and baptism. He went to Shurtliff College, Brown University, and Newton Theological Seminary, and then went as a missionary to Burmah. Failing health obliged him to come home, and he died near Boston, in 1854.

The next pastor was Elder S. G. Miner, who began the pastorate in July, 1841, and continued one year. Elder Miner’s successor was Rev. George C. Chandler, who came from the pastorate of the First Church of Indianapolis. He resigned the pastorate sometime before he did the presiding over the college, and was succeeded by Elder B. C. Morse, or possibly Elder John Currier. Elder Benjamin Reece was elected pastor sometime in 1850, and continued till August, 1851, when Elder J. C. Post was chosen. During Rev. Post’s pastorate, November, 1852, Dr. S. Bailey and wife, and Prof. A. J. Vawter and wife, joined the church, and in March, 1853, upon petition of A. J. Vawter, J. N. Waggener, C. A. Whipple, J. W. Dame, R. F. Grubbs, J. S. Houghan, and William Hendricks, letters were granted them to join a new interest in East Franklin. At the same meeting, Rev. J. C. Post and wife were granted letters to the East Franklin Church, soon to be, and his pastorate of the First Church ceased.

On the 26th day of March, 1855, the following persons met in the college chapel to organize a church: S. Bailey, Mary P. Bailey, J. C. Post, Adaline Post, Mary Parkhurst, J. S. Hougham, Mary A. Hougham, R. F. Grubbs, Louisa Grubbs, John West, C. A. Whipple, Mary A. Whipple, Lydia Whipple, Mary L. Whipple, D. T. Whipple, Ithamar Whipple, Caroline Waggener, A. J. Vawter, Maria A. Vawter, G. W. Grubbs, James N. Waggener, Milas T. Hendricks, Mary Hendricks, Sarah Hendricks, W. T. Brand, M. B. Brand, M. M. Brand, J. W. Dame, J. D. P. Hungate, W. H. Mitchell, J. W. A. Webb, Mary A. S. Hodge, Melia Shepherd, Rebecca J. Fox, Josephine Mayhall, Elizabeth Johnston, Julia McGriffin, Cyrene A. Peggs, Sarah L. Peggs, Margaret Eoff and Elizabeth J. Nance. J. S. Hougham was elected chairman, and A. J. Vawter secretary, and Daniel Trichler was received on a letter. President Bailey was selected to supply the pulpit. In June, Rev. E. J. Todd was called to the pastorate of the church for one year. The next pastor, Rev. J. W. B. Tisdale, of Ohio, was elected in May, 1855, and continued till November, 1856.

Rev. E. J. Todd was again called to the pastorate in January, 1857, and served until January, 1858. His successor was Rev. John G. Kerr, during whose pastorate the union of the First Church and East Franklin was consummated. President Bailey was engaged to supply the pulpit for an indefinite time, and served until July, 1861. Rev. J. S. Read was then elected pastor, and served two years. In August, 1862, the church was dismissed from the Mt. Zion Association to join the Indianapolis Association. Prof. Brumback acted as pastor from July, 1863, to July, 1864, and was succeeded by Rev. M. D. Gage, who preached from September, 1865, till July, 1867. August 14, 1867, Rev. J. H. Smith was called to the pastorate. November, 1868, Rev. I. N. Clark became pastor, and served as such until January, 1871. His successor was Rev. J. S. Boyden, who preached one year, at the end of which time, February, 1872, Rev. L. D. Robinson was elected pastor. From December 17, 1876, till February, 1878, the church was without a pastor, but the latter year, Rev. F. M. Huckleberry was called to fill the pulpit, and served till 1881. October, 1881, Rev. C. S. Scott entered upon the pastorate, and the year following, work began upon the new building, which was erected in due time, and formally dedicated by Rev. Reuben Jeffrey, D. D., of Indianapolis. It is a commodious brick structure, elegantly furnished with all the modern conveniences, and represents a capital of about $20,000. The present pastor of the church is Rev. A. Ogle. The present membership is 360. Superintendent of the Sunday school: Prof. W. J. Williams.

*Compiled from Semi-Centennial History of the Church, by Dr. W. T. Stott, published August, 1882.

Transcribed by Cheryl Zufall Parker

Banta, D. D. History of Johnson County, Indiana. Chicago, IL: Brant & Fuller, 1888, pages 844–847.