Our History

First Baptist Church is part of American Baptist Churches USA and the Great Rivers Region. We have a rich history and a vision for the future.

1845 First Baptist Church of Paris was organized at the home of Mr. Dudley McClain on North Main Street. Rev. G.W. Riley was chosen as their pastor and ministered to the growing church for twelve years. Rev. Riley served half-time, receiving a salary of $50.00 per year which “was mighty hard to raise.” One member commented that he didn’t see why they “had to waste so much money on a preacher.”

1846 The first church was built on North Main Street on the second lot south of Union Street. This church cost $1000.00 and served as our place of worship for 22 years. Then the building was moved to Union Street and used as a stable until it was destroyed by fire in the early 1890s.


Church 1862

First Baptist Church 1862

1863 Regular Baptists bought our present site. In 1868, they sold the lot and church building to the Missionary Baptists (that’s us) for $3,000. When construction of a new church began 27 years later, the building was moved across the street and became part of the Logan lumber yard.

1887 The church was redecorated and a pulpit and 3 chairs were purchased. A local newspaper proclaimed the carved black walnut pulpit to be one of the finest in the city.

1890s Picnics were a popular fellowship activity. On August 16, 1894, the young people’s society had a “jolly” picnic at Collett’s Park in Terre Haute. The party included Rev. and Mrs. Bell, M.K. Fletcher, Grace Noell, Hazel Garner, Vic Mann, Anna Jurey, J.D. Arthur, and many others. In August 1895, the Sunday School held an evening picnic at the fairgrounds. 150 people attended.

1895 Plans submitted by Bowman & McPhersan of Indianapolis were accepted and a contract in the amount of $10,600 was awarded to J.M. Bell of Paris to build a new church. The cornerstone was laid on June 21.

1896 The new church building was dedicated on February 9. Prior to the dedication ceremony, the Beacon described the new church as “a thoroughly modern and up-to-date structure, built with a view to comfort, convenience and elegance. . . with a commodious parlor, which will accommodate 75 people and can also be made a part of the lecture room and the main auditorium by means of a rising curtain.” A fully-equipped kitchen and a dining room that would seat 150 was located in the basement.

1903 The mortgage was burned in a jubilee service held on February 6. Joshua Davis, one of the oldest members and largest donors, had the honor of burning it.

1904 The second edition of the 104-page Baptist Cook Book was printed by a local newspaper, the Paris Herald. It included recipes from Mrs. R.S. Lycan, Miss Lucy Tucker, Mrs. J.S. Hartley, Mrs. A.C. Mann, Mrs. Dr. Camerer, Mrs. Frank Rudy, and Mrs. L.A. Hutchison, among others.

1906 The church purchased a new motor for the pipe organ and decided to install a new heating plant during the summer.  The committee seemed to think that electricity was the best way to go when choosing what type of power to use.


Church 1907

First Baptist Church 1907

1907 In late September, a religious census of the community counted 253 as First Baptist, 93 as Second Baptist, and 19 as Primitive Baptist.
Rev. A.C. Hageman resigned, causing quite a sensation when he claimed that two or three women in the congregation obstructed his policies. He left for a parish in Cuba.


1915 The Sunday School class taught by Charles Curl hosted a banquet on January 14. Turkey was served and Rev. Shumaker acted as toastmaster. Music was provided by an orchestra composed of Beulah Tucker, H.B. Rowe, Chauncey Roe, Prof. Loomis and J.H. Reed.

1923 Vacation Bible School closed with a Saturday afternoon exhibit of various articles made by the students. Prizes were awarded.

1927 The church schedule in the Dec. 4 Beacon announced the beginning of the church’s annual financial canvas. Teams would be operating throughout the city; those who would not be present at Sunday morning services were asked to remain at home in order to meet the canvassing teams in the afternoon.

1920s – 1940s To supplement the gap between needs and resources, there were many fundraisers. The Amoma Class had their annual soup suppers, using soup bowls saved for only that occasion. The Philathea Class specialized in chicken pie dinners held at the church or sometimes at the Masonic Temple. The Friendship Class prepared gallons of chicken and noodles and other tasty foods for their Jitney Suppers. Jitney was slang for a nickel; each serving of food you chose cost a nickel. The Two-by-Two Class held ice cream socials with plenty of ice cream and cake. We had bazaars, rummage sales, Dutch auctions, walk-a-thons, plays, and concerts.

1933 Churches in the city joined in a Union Thanksgiving service at First Baptist Church on Sunday evening, November 26.

1937 On September 28, a reception was held to welcome Rev. H.Q. Morton , who recently assumed the pastorate.  The program included music and refreshments.  William L. Cramer was master of ceremonies.
Rev. Morton’s sermon topic for Sunday morning worship on October 31 was “Family Religion.” Oscar Lowry was the four minute speaker. The Sunday evening sermon was “Tribute to Whom Tribute is Due” and William Cramer was the four minute speaker.
A caravan of state Baptist leaders held an all-day meeting at our church on Nov. 5.

1950NewMembers1945 When we celebrated our first century, our minister was Delbert Wickstrom. He and his wife Fern came from Kansas for a handsome salary of $1,800.00. Our annual budget was $5,000.00.

At the 100th anniversary celebration, two members – Ethel Vance and Pearl Gist Lacy – were descendants of original charter members of the church.

1946 We purchased our first parsonage at 1108 South Main.

1947 For 50 years, the church bell rang each Sunday morning to remind all to attend Sunday School at 9:30. The steeple developed structural problems and was considered too expensive to repair; it was removed in June at a cost of $973.59.

1950 Rededication Service.

1951 Our average attendance was 125; Easter church attendance was 330. Thirty-two new members joined the church.

1953 Florence Channon was honored for 50 years as a Sunday School teacher, mostly in the junior department.

1954 The parsonage on South Main was sold and a newer brick house at 306 W. Blackburn was purchased. When newly-hired minister Reece Bayless and his family arrived in town, Carl Kienast was waiting on the steps of the former parsonage to escort the Baylesses to their new home.


Church 1957

First Baptist Church 1957

1955 The Cub Scout pack that met in our church won a first place ribbon at the Terre Haute Scout Fair. Raymond Griffin was cubmaster.


1958 Rev. Bayless began a telephone ministry called Dial-a-Devotion that continued for more than 25 years.



Bishop house & the Annex

1960 The Ida Morris house just south of the church was purchased at auction for $16,300.00. Known as “the Annex,” it was home to several adult Sunday School classes until the early 1980s.


While some Sunday School classes met in the Annex, other classes met in the church. The men’s class met in the basement, as did the nursery-kindergarten class. The primary class and the junior department met on the second floor; junior high met in the tower room, a small circular room at the southeast corner of the sanctuary. Those who attended Sunday School as children before 1984 remember the special features of two classrooms: the nursery had a large sandbox and the primary classroom had the fire escape.

1962 Reece and Frances Bayless joined other Baptist ministers and their wives on a missionary journey to Haiti. Frances took many simple dresses made by the church women as a missions project; she brought back nothing but the clothes she wore for the trip home.

1964 The Katherine Bishop house south of the Annex was purchased and rented to Paris Township as the supervisor’s office until both houses were demolished to make room for the addition to the church.

1967 A family room, bedroom, and second bath were added to the parsonage.

1970 After 75 years of use, the pipe organ had to be replaced. Mrs. Faye Reed donated the funds to purchase a new Allen electronic organ in memory of her late husband Claude. It didn’t fit in the organ loft, but the pipes remained until 1984. During the Christmas seasons, the loft served as home for our Christmas tree.

Our 1970 Vacation Bible School, based on Psalm 24 “the earth is the Lord’s,” stressed conservation and ecology. 40 children received attendance certificates.



1974 Remodeling

1974 The September issue of The American Baptist included a photo of our newly redecorated sanctuary.


1976 Reece Bayless completed 21 years of ministry here. Retired minister Maurice Powers of Chrisman served as interim pastor until James Harper arrived.

1977 Although we had considered building an addition – or a new church – many times over the years, plans moved into high gear when the church was named a beneficiary in Faye Reed’s will (1973), a bequest which ultimately totaled $250,000.00. A goal-setting retreat led to the formation of 5 committees charged with planning new facilities. Ron Parrott was general chairman.

1977-1984 After deciding to expand the present church instead building a new one, the two houses were torn down and work began. The education wing was actually a separate building designed so that it appeared to be an addition. The sanctuary and other areas of the church were remodeled at the same time.

1978 Mrs. Evelyn Rudy’s 75th year as a member was celebrated by special recognition during the October 29 worship service. Mrs. Rudy, who had actually attended our church for almost 94 years, said, “Grandmother Reed thought if you weren’t a Baptist and Democrat you’d never go to heaven.”

1979 The Board of Christian Education compiled and distributed a booklet of cookie recipes to honor the mothers in the church.

1983 First Baptist, First United Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches joined forces to present a Vacation Bible School for more than 100 children.

1984 Our $640,000.00 education building and renovated church were dedicated on April 15. Five months later, Rev. Wendell P. Webster was killed in an automobile accident on his way to speak at Judson College.

America for Christ 19861985 Webster Chapel was dedicated in memory of Rev. Wendell P. Webster on March 31. Rev. James Conger became pastor; he and his family purchased a home within walking distance of the church. The parsonage was sold.

1993 To honor the mothers in the church on Mother’s Day, we purchased blankets for Church World Service disaster relief. Similarly, we honored the fathers on Father’s Day by sponsoring a Huddleson Home child’s trip to summer camp.

1995 Our 150th anniversary was recognized with three special services. In April, a church birthday party featured memories shared by church members. On July 22-23, the church hosted a Homecoming weekend. A potluck dinner brought former and current members and pastors together for an evening of reminiscing. Revs. Hyde, Harper, Brown, and Conger spoke at the worship service the following morning. Other honored guests included Frances Bayless Newell and Peggy Webster. A September service looked toward the future. Two members who served on the 100th Anniversary committees – Dora Johnson and Dorothy Lowry – were still active members in 1995. Mrs. Lowry also served on the planning committee for the 150th.

1996 All the children’s Sunday School classes came together in Reed Hall for an April morning of fun and games that tested their Bible knowledge.

2002 The former pastor’s study – later the choir room – was redecorated to serve as a meeting room and office for our parish nurses. In 2007, the church library moved to this room.

2004 The church found a long-term presence on the web when Jay Edwards created its web site, following a brief earlier effort at another domain name.

2005 On May 22, Pastor Jon Lobos led an outdoor worship service at Twin Lakes Park, an annual event while he was here. We celebrated our 160th anniversary on October 2 with special music, shared memories, displays of memorabilia, and a potluck dinner. Guests included former pastor James Conger.

2009 The American Red Cross moved its monthly blood drive to our Reed Hall in August.

2010 Pastor Troy Warner led a special Hanging of the Greens service on the First Sunday of Advent.

2011 Pastor Trent Horner joined the ministry team as youth pastor.

basement2012 The basement, formerly classrooms and later used as the Compassionate Clothing Ministry, was remodeled as the Legacy Lair for the youth. A church van was purchased a few months later.

2013 The worship platform in the sanctuary was redesigned to allow more flexibility during services.

2015 We celebrated our 170th year.

It’s only the beginning.

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