On September 10, 1859, an Ecclesiastical Council of ministers and delegates met at the court house in Muncie, Indiana, to consider organizing a regular Baptist church. The church was formally organized the next day, Sunday, September 11, 1859, with twelve constituent members. For almost three years thereafter, services were held in the courthouse. The Reverend G. Williams served as the first pastor until October 1861.
The congregation resolved on January 12, 1861, to build a church building (a frame structure of brick, 48 by 34 feet) on the northeast corner of Jackson and Jefferson streets. The Reverend Silas Bailey, President of Franklin College, dedicated the new building on June 8, 1862. The church had only part time pastors or no pastor over extended periods of time during the 1870s. Nevertheless, church members continued to conduct regular business meetings and to keep records of those meetings. The Reverend Smith Goodin joined the church during the pastorate of N. B. Rairden. Goodin served as church clerk from 1882 to 1895.He also wrote a history of the church in 1889.
During the 1860s and the 1870s the church struggled with political differences (an outgrowth of the Civil War) and financial difficulties. The church was supported financially by the American Baptist Home Mission Society during its early years. As the church grew it became self-supporting and, in 1889, the church constructed a new building of brick at the southwest corner of Charles and Jefferson streets.
One of the largest periods of growth took place during the pastorate of the Reverend C. M. Carter. Carter became pastor in 1897, and during his twelve years of service (one of the longest protestant pastorates in the history of Muncie) over 700 new members joined the church. The Reverend William A. Waldo succeeded Carter as full time pastor in 1910, and served until 1913. Mrs. Waldo was active with the women's work of the church and under her direction the two women's organizations, the Woman's Missionary Society and the Ladies Aid Society, merged into one group, the Woman's Society.
In March 1921, Dr. William G. Everson became pastor. During his pastorate Nettie Cochran became the full time church secretary in 1922. She had served as church clerk since 1915 and would resign her position as secretary November 1, 1931. Miss Cochran kept thorough records of church meetings, services, and correspondence.
According to the 1979 church history, Dr. Everson "envisioned the erection of a beautiful Baptist temple of enduring stone," and so during the mid-1920s he began planning for the building's construction. The new building, which stands at the corner of Adams and Jefferson, was completed in 1929, at the cost of $338,000. The church history states that "although Dr. Everson had put into operation a program of giving and pledging which, under normal conditions, would have adequately cared for all financial obligations connected with the building, neither he nor the congregation could foresee, the dark days of the depression into which the nation was entering."
Due to the depression, the church's income decreased. The church was unable to make payments on its mortgage and in 1938 the church property was sold under foreclosure proceedings.
Dr. J. Marion Smith became pastor in December 1938. Dr. Smith began a fund-raising program in 1939 in order to re-purchase the church property. On September 10, 1939, the title was reassigned to the church. In 1943 the church decided to raise the money to pay off the debt and in 1944 a mortgage-burning ceremony was held.
Dr. Louis B. Matthews filled the pulpit as interim pastor after Dr. Smith resigned in 1946. During his interim, Mrs. John Harris became full time clerk secretary.
From 1946 to 1951, Dr. Lewis Emmerson Maples served as full time pastor. During Maples' pastorate, the church began publishing The Visitor in January, 1947.
This history has been compiled from the following sources:
Commemorative History Centennial Anniversary 1859-1959 (First Baptist Church, Muncie, Indiana. 1959); First Baptist Church Celebrating 50 Years at Adams and Jefferson (First Baptist Church, Muncie, Indiana, 1979); Goodin, Smith. Church History. 1889; Goodin, Emma, Church History (on 50th anniversary). 1909, updated, c. 1928; Haimbaugh, Frank D., ed. History of Delaware County Indiana. Kemper, G. W. H., A Twentieth Century History of Delaware County Indiana.
[From Special Collections, Bracken Library, Ball State University, on-line edition. Thanks to archivist Stephen T. Jones for providing this document. Formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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