First Baptist Church

As published in "The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1879), pages 384-386

In the winter of 1840, at the request of Charles S. Wright and J. Lathrop, the Pastor of the Southport Baptist Church visited Racine and commenced a series of meetings, which were held in a vacant room in one of the stores on Main Street. These meetings made many converts, and encouraged the gentlemen mentioned to take incipient measures for the formation of a Baptist Church.

On the 11th of April a meeting was held, and eleven men and women formed themselves into a Conference, and having adopted the Articles of Faith and the Church Covenant of the New Hampshire Baptist Convention, letters were sent to the Baptist churches in Southport, Milwaukee, Burlington and Prairieville, inviting them to be present on the 25th of the same month, and it deeemd expedient, recognize them as a Baptist Church. On the day appointed, the Council convened, and the following persons were organized and recognized as a Church of Christ, under the name of the First Baptist Church of Racine, viz.: Charles S. Wright, Mary Wright, Lydia Wright, Lucy W. Fay, Elijah Fay, Martha Fay, Benjamin Ames, Charles W. Sawyer, Abram D. Eveland, Lorin Webber, Sally Webber, Semantha Harmon. Shortly after the organization of the church, the following were received upon experience and by baptism, viz.: Levi Blake, Caroline Morehouse, Charles Bunce, Eveline Fay, Polly Blake, Elbridge E. Fay, Moses Vilas, Charles H. Blake, Albert Knowlton, Winslow E. Fay, Warren Brewster, Sarah Milligan, Lorenzo Janes, making the entire number of members twenty-eight.

The services of Rev. J. Lothrop were then secured for one-half the time, he preaching alternate Sabbaths for the Southport Church, which arrangement continued until the summer of 1842. In August of that year, the church was visited by Rev. S. Carr, and they being destitute of regular preaching, in consequence of the feeble health of Mr. Lathrop, gave him an invitation to take charge of the church, which invitation he accepted, and shortly after became their Pastor. At this time, the number of members had been diminished, by death and removal, to eighteen, but shortly subsequent to the settlement of Rev. Carr as Pastor, the church was greatly strengthened by the accession of many valuable persons both by baptism and by letter. In the early part of 1844, the Church purchased the lot on which they built a house of worshop. In February, 1845, Rev. S. Carr resigned the charge of the Church, and in March of the same year, they extended a call to the Rev. Silas Tucker, which call he accepted, and shortly after entered upon the duties of the pastorate. The church numbered at that time ninety-five members.

During the winter of 1845-46, a series of meetings were held, in which the Pastor was aided by Rev. L. Raymond, and a refreshing revival followed, as the fruits of which twenty-two were added by baptism, and almost as many by experience and letter. Up to this time, the Church had worshipped a part of the time in a building used as an academy, and a part of the time in the Court House; but in 1846, having completed the basement of their house of worship, and fitted it up with conveniences for worship, they commenced holding their regular services therein. In 1848, the walls of the second edifice were erected, the building inclosed, and the steeple built and furnished with a bell weighing sixteen hundred pounds.

In June of the same year, Rev. S. Tucker, resigned the charge of the church, and for sixteen months they remained destitute of a Pastor, though the pulpit was generally supplied, and mostly by Rev. M. B. Tremain. In 1849, the Church gave a call to Rev. Wm. Rollinson, which was accepted by him, and in November of that year he commenced his labors with them. In 1850, the house of worship was completed, and on the 2d day of July of that year, was publicly dedicated to the service of God.

Mr. Rollinson served the church until April, 1852, when he resigned and was succeeded by Rev. J. W. Fish, who remained until 1854. Rev. O. O. Stearns followed him, closing his pastorate in 1857. April, 1858, Rev. H. K. Stimson was settled, remaining unil June, 1859. In October, 1859, Rev. Howard Jones accepted the call of the Church to become its Pastor. May 1, 1862, the Church edifice was destroyed by fire. The house was immediately rebuilt, the lower part being used for stores, the upper portion serving as a place of worship, in which upper room the members worshipped. In November, 1863, Rev. Wm. Rollinson was recalled to the pastorate, by owing to the climate did not remain but a few months, leaving in February, 1864.

Rev. N. F. Ravlin followed, commencing his labors May, 1864, closing them in 1867. July 9, 1867, Rev. Joseph Rowley, the present Pastor, accepted the call of the church. The cornerstone of the present First Baptist Church edifice was laid Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1876, and the following articles were placed in the cornerstone: History of the Church; Articles of Faith and Church Covenant; List of Membership and Officers; Minutes of Wisconsin Baptist State Convention, and the Minutes of the Lake Shore Association; a copy each of the Racine Journal, Advocate and Argus; a copy of the Standard.

The Sunday school room was occupied for Devine services in December, 1877, and the house was dedicated in June, 1878. The church property is valued at $30,000. The present membership numbers over 300. the present Deacons are: Harry Griswold, J. Humphrey, W. T. Lewis, A. Fixen, and W. T. Bull. Trustees: L. S. Blake, W. T. Bull, H. Mitchell, J. Q. Erskine, A. Fixen, W. T. Lewis; Treasurer, A Fixen; Clerk, John J. Conklin. The Sabbath school officers are: W.T. Lewis, Superintendent; W. Cahoon and Miss Mary Harris, Vice Superintendets; Miss Lizzie Bull, Treasurer; George Graves, Secretary. The Church supports a Mission Sunday School, which meets on Campbell Street, between Eleventh and Twelfth Streets, of which A. Fixen is Superintendent, and A. Ritman Assistant Superintendent. Connected with the Church is also the Ladies Foreign Missionary Circle, Mrs. J. R. Doolittle, President, and the Young People's Social Union, Julius Ninger, President.




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