MUCH of the early history of the First Baptist Church is lost in the archives of antiquity, but enough of the early history of this church can be gleaned from Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists, the records of the South Kentucky Association (white), the Elkhorn Association (white), and records at the Fayette County Courthouse, to make certain much of the early history of our church. The first Negro church in Kentucky, and the first west of the Allegheny Mountains is what is known now as the First Baptist Church, located at the corner of Short and Deweese Streets, Lexington, Ky. The exact date of its organization is not known; some writers have dated its organization as far back as 1785, but it is safe to say that it was organized in 1790.
Because of the fact that the priority of First Baptist Church has been challenged by the Pleasant Green Baptist Church, it is imperative that we answer some of the statements made by them.
In the Historical Sketch given in the Anniversary Bulletin of Pleasant Green Baptist Church this statement is made: "Sometime between the organization of the church and the year 1801 a group left with one Rev. London Ferrill and these were received into the fellowship of the First Baptist Church (white) in the year of 1822. Rev. Captain remained with the original congregation and died as pastor in 1823."
This accusation relative to Rev. London Ferrill is incorrect and cannot be substantiated by the written record. We give the following facts to prove the statement to be incorrect. From a sketch of London Ferrill's life found in Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists, and from the Biography of London Ferrill, written by A. W. Elder, Printer, in 1854, and published in pamphlet form by The Kentucky Gazette, Lexington, Ky., in 1878. London Ferrill was born in Hanover County, Va., in 1789, was converted in 1809, when he was twenty years old, and that London Ferrill did not leave Virginia and come to Kentucky until after his conversion in 1809. To make the statement that a group left the African Baptist Church with London Ferrill between 1790 and 1801, is to say that London Ferrill led them out of the African Baptist Church before he was 12 years old and before he was converted and came to Kntucky in 1809. This claim is ridiculous in the light of the facts as recorded in history.
There are no records which say that the First Baptist Church was received into the MEMBERSHIP of the First Baptist Church (white). Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists makes the statement, "In accordance with the latter opinion, adopted by the Association, London Ferrill was regularly ordained to the full work or the gospel ministry by the First Church at Lexington, and notwithstanding the irregularity of the baptism administered by Old Captain, a compromise was effected by which the African congregation, which had now been constituted upon a written covenant (July, 1822), was admitted to fellowship by the First Baptist Church (white) in Lexington, and, in 1824, received into the Elkhorn Association. London Ferrill now took charge of this church, on its new foundation, and served it 32 years, during which it increased from 280 to 1,820, and became the largest church in Kentucky." They have attempted to make the above statement say that the First Baptist Church (Colored) dissolved and was accepted into the MEMBERSHIP of the First Baptist Church (white) thereby losing its identity. But when one reads the statement carefully it does not say such. The statement can be easily understood, when one differentiates between receiving a church into "fellowship" and being received into "membership." After London Ferrill was duly ordained, the First Baptist Church (white) received the Negro Church into "fellowship" and not "membership," and then gave them a written covenant, something the Negro Church did not have or perhaps know about. Note that it did not say that they were REORGANIZED.
Another reason given why Pleasant Green was thought to be older than the First Baptist Church was that they purchased property in the year of 1822. Again we quote from the historical record as given in the Pleasant Green Anniversary Bulletin. "A resume of the work accomplished during the period of Rev. Captain's pastorate will show, from records in the Fayette County Court searched by the late Rev. E. T. Offutt that the present site was purchased in the year 1822. This was one year before Rev. Captain's death. The property was purchased from Dr. Frederick Ridgely, August 27th, 1822. The first deed was made to Harry Quills, Benjamin Admon, and Soloman Walker, Church Trustees. An error was made in the description of the property and a second deed was made May 28th, 1823 to Harry Quills, Joseph Preston, Thos. Christian and William McDowell, trustees, at that time. These facts substantiate the claim that the Pleasant Green Baptist Church is the oldest colored congregation west of the Alleghany Mountains."
The inference from the above statement is that the Pleasant Green Baptist Church claims to be the original church because they possessed property in 1822. In answer to the above, the records in the Fayette County Clerk's office, and the Fayette Circuit Clerk's office will reveal that the African Baptist Church (now the First Baptist Church) show that the First Baptist Church purchased property as early as 1815. These records are available to the public. The first deed was from Wm. Tod, the pioneer cotton factory operator, for a lot 60 feet on High Street, extending from the corner property of Wm. Leavy (now the Asbury Methodist Church) to a side alley of 10 feet that there was between this lot and the lot of Dr. Frederick Ridgely on the east. The 60 feet included a brick house formerly used and occupied as a cotton factory, and was deeded to Rolla Blue, Wm. Gist, Solomon Walker, and Jas. Pullock, free men of colour, trustees of the African Baptist Church. This deed is dated April 24, 1820. It is evident from the old Kentucky Gazette, dated July 10, 1815, that this property was purchased by Rolla Blue, Wm. Gist, Solomon Walker, and Jas. Pullock, trustees of the African Baptist Church, in 1815 at a public auction, with Daniel Bradford, auctioneer. This piece of property is very historic, as it was not only the first piece of property acquired by the First Baptist Church, but also where the Central Christian Church (white) began, they having purchased it in 1828 from the Bank of the United States.
This site was traded by the church from the records in the Fayette County Clerk's office dated April 24, 1820, to Col. James Johnson and Col. Richard Johnson, both of Scott County, for a brick house at the northwest corner of Limestone and Maxwell Sts. This property is described in the deed as being a "lot binding and cornering on Mulberry and Maxwell Streets, being part of a lot of ground generally known by the name of Tandy and Castleman's bagging factory lot . . . to include a brick house situated on the southeast end of said lot and 10 feet of ground adjoining said house on the northeast side of same."
This property was held until August 18, 1834, when by a special act of the State Legislature, February 7, 1834, permission was given for it to be sold to Mrs. Sarah Sayre. The church trustees filed the following petition with the Fayette Circuit Court, April 4, 1833, seeking to sell the last described property. (Record on file Fayette Circuit Clerk's office).
"To the Honorable, the Judge of the Fayette Circuit Court in Chancery sitting: Your petitioners, Samuel Oldham, Parker Pea, John Holmes and Edward Claiborne would humbly represent that they are Trustees of the Baptist Congregation of the people of color in the City of Lexington; that a certain lot of land in the city was conveyed by James Johnson, Nancy Johnson and Richard M. Johnson to Rolla Blue, Wm. Gist, Solomon Walker and James Pollock, trustees of the congregation for the use and benefit of said congregation; that said grantees are now all dead except said Blue; that your petitioners are now trustees . . . that said lot is inconvenient for the uses of said congregation; that the said congregation by their trustees have contracted with Alfred Warner for another lot; that the last mentioned lot is more convenient lor the uses of said congregation; that said contract cannot be completed unless said first-mentioned lot can be sold; that said trustees and congregation are ready to sell but feel doubtful of their power in the law to do so, etc." This petition was dismissed in March, 1833, and an Act of the Legislature was obtained February 7, 1834, granting the relief sought. The building was sold August 18, 1834, to Mrs Sarah Sayre.
The present church lot, corner Short and Deweese Streets, was deeded by Alfred Warner to the trustees, Rolly Blue, Samuel Oldham, Ned Claiborne, Parker Pea, and John Holmes, February 6, 1883, for the use of the members of the First African Baptist Church. According to the deed the present main auditorium was built by the white Methodists in 1806. The Methodists sold the building to Elijah Warner, famous clock-maker, who used it as a cabinet shop and clock factory until his death in 1829, when he willed it to his half-brother, Alfred Warner, who sold it to the First Baptist Church in 1834.
Relative to the accusation that London Ferrill split the church, there is a very significant statement in the Biography of London Ferrill, written by A. W. Elder, Printer, Lexington, Ky., 1854, and published by the Kentucky Gazette in 1878. In speaking of some incidents which happened a short while alter London, Ferrill's ordination and his first official baptizing, Mr. Elder makes the following significant statement which may throw some light on who split the church and when it was split. We quote the exact words in the Biography of Mr. Elder: "About this time, Harry Quills, whose heart was as black as his face, started a report, that Ferrill's character was not good in Virginia, but upon some of the Elders writing to persons living in the neighborhood in which he was born and raised, they were informed that his character was unspotted. It was afterwards ascertained that Harry had raised these reports himself, and his guilty conscience, no doubt, lashed him severely for his perfidious conduct. He made another attempt to injure Ferrill, knowing that the law was such, that no free colored man could remain in this state over 30 days, unless a native of the State, thinking he would drive Ferrill away in this manner. He had warrants gotten out and a number of free people were sold and a number went away. He then spoke in the Court Green, and said, they "would never sell Brother Ferrill while Christ reigns." The whites got Dr. Fishback to draw up a petition to the Legislature to permit him to stay in the state, as he had not only been here 30 days, but even eight years. Mr. Jeremiah Murphy presented the petition to the people, after the Baptists had all signed it, and obtained 92 signatures, after which it was sent to the Legislature through the politeness of Mr. William Blair. The petition was granted, and so he was at liberty to stay or go, as he pleased." The first trustee of the Pleasant Green Baptist Church as named in its deed was Harry Quills. We have given this bit of information with only the desire that it might throw some light on the questions raised.
According to Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists the African Baptist Church attempted to get London Ferrill to serve as pastor before the death of Bro. Captain, because of Captain being too feeble to discharge the duties of a pastor, but London Ferrill refused to become their pastor until the death of Bro. Captain. During the interval between the coming of Ferrill to Kentucky from Virginia (which was not before 1809) and the death of Bro. Captain in 1823, London Ferrill was engaged by the trustees of the town of Lexington to preach to the people of color of the town.
The records of the Fayette County Courthouse clearly show that the African Baptist Church owned property as early as 1815 and the ownership of this property together with all property subsequently held in the name of the African Baptist Church, can be traced in an unbroken succession to the present First Baptist Church. The first piece of property purchased in 1815 (the old cotton factory next to the present Asbury Methodist Church on High St.) was deeded by Wm. Tod to Rolla Blue, Wm. Gist, Solomon Walker and Jas. Pullock, trustees of the African Baptist Church. The above piece of property was then traded April 24, 1820, for a brick house at the northwest corner of Limestone and Maxwell Sts., owned by Col. Jas. Johnson and Col. Richard Johnson. The deed from Col. Jas. Johnson and Col. Richard Johnson was to Rolla Blue, Wm. Gist, Solomon Walker, and Jas. Pullock, trustees of the African Baptist Church. This property was held until August 18, 1834, when a petition was filed with the Fayette Circuit Court seeking permission to sell the above described property in order that the propsrty at the corner of Short and Deweese Sts. (the present home of First Baptist Church) might be purchased. A special act of the legislature was passed Feb. 7, 1834 which enabled the church to sell the property.
The deeds will show that the present congregation used the name of "African Baptist Church" until after they purchased the present site in 1834. The word "First" was added to the name of "African Baptist" on the deed of 1834. While the church is known now as the First Baptist Church, the name of the church on the deed of its present property is the "First African Church."
The question may be asked if Pleasant Green Baptist Church is the original African Baptist Church, why did they purchase property in 1822 in the name of Pleasant Green Baptist Church when the African Baptist Church had property in the name of the African Baptist Church from 1815 to 1834? If First Baptist Church is not the original African Baptist Church why is it that all property held in the name of the African Baptist Church can be traced from the records at the Fayette County Courthouse in an unbroken succession from 1815 directly to the First Baptist Church? We think the answer is plain.
Had Pleasant Green Baptist Church been the original Baptist Church they would have come into possession of the property deeded to the African Baptist Church. It is obvious from the records that when Pleasant Green purchased their property in 1822 that there was then and for at least 12 years thereafter property deeded to the African Baptist Church about which Pleasant Green Baptist Church had no claim or say. The records when reviewed with an impartial mind and by logical reasoning clearly show that the present First Baptist Church is the original African Baptist Church.
Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists states that the first Colored Baptist Church organized in Kentucky was the African Baptist Church, with Bro. Captain as its organizer and pastor. This history also states that "London Ferrill was the second pastor of this church," and then again that "Frederick Braxton succeeded Elder Ferrill in the pastoral charge of the old First African Church"
As has been stated, the first pastor of the church was known as "Bro. Captain" to both Negroes and Whites. The church has in its possession a copy of the history of Bro. Captain's life written in 1824. From this history of his life Bro. Captain's correct name
was Peter Duerett. When Bro. Captain with his Master, Col. Duerett made the journey from Virginia to Kentucky Bro. Captain wore a soldier's uniform, and because of this the people called him "Captain." He was born a slave on the plantation of Colonel Duerett in Caroline County, Virginia, in 1733. He was the son of Colonel Duerett. Bro. Captain was converted when he was 25 years old, and immediately after he was baptized and received into a Baptist Church he began to exhort from house to house. About the year of 1785 Bro. Captain came to Kentucky and went into the organization of a small Separate Baptist Church at the "Head of Boone's Creek." A few years later this church dissolved, and Bro. Captain hired the time of himself and wife from his owner and settled in Lexington.
John Maxwell, one of the pioneers of Lexington, gave Bro. Captain space to erect a cabin, and was his kind and generous friend as long as they both lived. Bro. Captain immediately began to hold services in his little cabin, and soon had a number of converts. The founding of the church is dated from this time because there are at least evidences of the work of a church, and there is no doubt that Bro. Captain looked upon it as a church. He continued to watch over it until he was too feeble and died in the summer of 1823 at the ripe old age of 90 years. At the time of Bro. Captain's death the church had a membership of around 300. As has been stated, during Bro. Captain's declining years the church attempted to secure the services of London Ferrill as pastor, but Ferrill refused to do so as long as Bro. Captain lived. Ferrill at this time was engaged by the trustees of the town of Lexington to preach to the people of color.
The second pastor of the church was London Ferrill who took charge of the church in 1823 upon the death of Bro. Captain. London Ferrill was born in Hanover County, Virginia in 1789. According to history and numerous articles written in the daily papers of his day and since his death, London Ferrill was one of the most remarkable characters to grace the pages of Kentucky history. He descended from a royal family in Africa. Dr. Wm. Pratt, a former pastor of the First Baptist Church (white) of this city, said of London Ferrill: "He had the manner and authority of command, and was the most thorough disciplinarian I ever saw. He was respected by the whole white population of Lexington, and his influence was more potent to keep order among the blacks than the entire police force of the city."
London Ferrill was held in such high esteem that when Harry Quills, another Negro, attempted to force Ferrill to leave the state because there was a law which made it unlawful for free men of color to stay in the state more than 30 days unless a native of the state, a movement was led by Dr. Fishback, pastor of the white Baptist Church, which had the State Legislature to repeal the law so Ferrill could remain in Kentucky. His moral courage was dauntless, and his Christian integrity unwavering. When the cholera plague visited Lexington in 1833, London Ferrill was the only preacher, white or colored, that remained in the city to administer to the sick and bury the dead. He officiated at both colored and white funerals. When General Bodley was buried there were none present except Mr. DeWees, Ferrill and the General's children. After the fearful plague subsided in the city, Ferrill went into the surrounding country to aid the sick and bereaved. As a preacher he was said to be strong, clear, and unusually effective. He baptized at one time 220 persons in 85 minutes, and at another time 60 in 45 minutes. During his ministry he baptized more than 5,000 persons. In marrying slaves he pronounced them "united until death or distance did them part."
He pastored the church around 31 years, during which time the membership increased from 280 to 1,820, and became the largest church in Kentucky, white or colored. On October 12, 1854, the faithful and venerable pastor died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 65 years. He is buried in the Episcopal Burying Ground, East Third Street, Lexington, Ky. The funeral procession which followed his corpse to its burial was said to be the largest that ever passed through the streets of Lexington except that which attended the remains of Henry Clay. He left as a legacy for Kentucky a prayer which was published in the newspapers, and can be found in "Men of Mark" by Wm. J. Simmons and the Biography of London Ferrill by A. W. Elder. His will probated after his death, willed his house (W. T. Looney's store next to the present church) to Elizabeth and Eleazor Jackson, sister and brother, reared by London Ferrill, with a proviso that the house was to be sold later and the proceeds to go one-third each to "the church of which I am now pastor, the Morton City School and the Lexington Orphan Asylum." A copy of this will is in the possession of our church.
Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists states that "Frederick Braxton succeeded Elder Ferrill in the pastoral charge of the old First African Church." Rev. Braxton took charge of the church in 1854, and during his ministry the church continued to prosper and grow, until at the beginning of the Civil War the membership numbered 2,223. In 1862 there arose a dissension over the political views of Rev. Braxton, and in 1862 Rev. Braxton with 500 members took their letters in a coffee sack, and with Samuel Johnson marched to the present site of Main Street Baptist Church and organized the Main Street (Independent) Baptist Church. Rev. Braxton died as the pastor of the Main Street Baptist Church, January 31, 1876.
Rev. James Monroe succeeded Rev. Braxton as pastor of the church. Rev. Monroe came to the church from Frankfort, Ky. He was an unusually gifted preacher and the church prospered under his leadership. Several of the aged members of the church now living were baptized by Rev. Monroe.
Following the death of Rev. Monroe the church called Rev. J. F. Thomas, D. D. Rev. Thomas proved to be so successful as a pastor that after pastoring the church for five years, he was called to the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Chicago, Ill.
Upon the resignation of Rev. Thomas the church called Dr. Wm. J. Simmons, the eminent scholar and brilliant preacher. He was perhaps the first Negro preacher in Kentucky who was a graduate of a standard college. He was graduated from Howard University in 1873, receiving the degree of A. B. Because of his scholarly attainments together with his unusual ability, the Board of Trustees of State University (now Simmons), led by Bro. Wm. H. Steward, came to Lexington and upon their urgent request Dr. Simmons was released from the pastorate of the First Baptist Church to become the first President of the school. Dr. Simmons also served as President of the National Baptist Convention for several years. He died October 30, 1890.
Following the resignation of Dr. Simmons the church called Dr. S. P. Young in 1881. Dr. Young during his day was considered the greatest doctrinal preacher of Kentucky, and he also served as Moderator of the General Association. Many souls were brought to Christ during the pastorate of Dr. Young. He resigned the church in 1904, but lived to be a ripe age, dying March 19, 1927.
Rev. S. E. Smith, of Owensboro, was called to the church following the resignation of Dr. Young. Rev. Smith was considered one of the most progressive pastors in the state and had no superior as a financier. He beautified and renovated the church and also installed the pipe organ. He resigned the church shortly before his death.
Following Rev. Smith came Rev. J. W. Hawkins, of Paducah, Ky. Rev. Hawkins only lived 11 months after coming to Lexington, but did a splendid work during that time.
After the death of Rev. Hawkins the church called Rev. W. Augustus Jones, D. D., of Louisville, Ky. He served the church about five and one-half years. The work of Dr. Jones was very outstanding. When he came to the church there was much unrest
among the membership, but it was not long before Rev. Jones had the members in harmony and working together. During his administration the church was cleared of all indebtedness. Rev. Jones endeared himself to the entire city. On October 1, 1914, Dr. Jones offered his resignation to accept the Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Knoxville, Tenn. Dr. Jones has the distinction of being the only living ex-pastor of the church, and he is now the popular and successful pastor of the historic Fifth street Baptist Church of Louisville, Ky.
Upon the resignation of Dr. Jones, the church called Rev. Robert Mitchell, A.M., D.D., of Bowling Green, Ky. He was known as the "Prince of Preachers," a scholarly, dignified, Christian gentleman, and lives today in the hearts of the people of this city. He did a most commendable work during his pastorate. Perhaps the outstanding achievement of his administration was the erection of the largest, the most modern, and the finest Sunday School Annex Building among Negroes to this day in Kentucky, at a cost or more than $42,000.00. In fact, there are few Sunday School buildings among Negroes in the entire country which come up to this one.
Although he did not live to see the building completed (having passed to his reward when the building was about two-thirds completed), this building stands today as a monument to him because of his far-sighted vision, progressiveness, together with his untiring efforts and sacrifice. Members of the church sing his praises to this day. Dr. Mitchell passed to his reward October 7, 1926, after a little more than 12 years as a successful pastor of the church.
Following the death of Dr. Mitchell the church on the last Thursday in October of 1926 extended a call to Homer Eckler Nutter, A.B., B.D., who was at that time a senior in Theology at Simmons University, Louisville, Ky. He was selected by Dr. Mitchell to supply the church during his illness. Rev. Nutter is the present pastor of the church. During his administration many have been added to the church, the indebtedness of $42,000.00 has been reduced to $7,400.00, and improvements totaling more than $4,000.00 have been made and paid for.
The First Baptist Church during 150 years of existence has had only twelve pastors. Within the membership of First Baptist Church are to be found some of the most loyal and devoted members, and some of the most respected citizens of Lexington. No group of members in Kentucky has a finer church spirit than is to be found in First Baptist Church. Its official boards are composed of high-class Christian men.
The main church building is one of the most commodious and most beautiful buildings in the state. The Sunday School Annex is the largest in Kentucky, having 30 separate class rooms with electric lights and blackboards in each room. The church is the most valuable piece of property owned by Negroes in the city of Lexington, being just one-half block from the surveyed center of the city, and only two blocks from the City Hall and Union Railroad Depot. The church property is appraised at $100,000.00.
The church has a front-line Sunday School and a good B. Y. P. U. A number of programs started in First Baptist Church are being used in many of the leading churches in and out of Kentucky. Among the programs are "Loyalty Month" and "Denominational Day." Special emphasis is placed upon Young People's Work. The Young People have a splendid organization which has charge of the church services each fourth Sunday.
The church has three choirs, Senior, Young People's, and Junior Choir. The Senior Choir is rated as one of the best choirs in the entire country.
No church in Kentucky has played a more important part in the history of Kentucky Baptists and the onward march of the forces of righteousness. Thousands have been brought to Christ through the influences of First Baptist Church. Not only is First Baptist Church the mother church of Kentucky, but also within the walls of this historic church the General Association of Kentucky Baptists was organized. First Baptist Church is the only church in Kentucky that has given as many as two Presidents to Simmons University, namely, Dr. William J. Simmons, the first President; and Dr. C. H. Parrish, the sixth President. Dr. Parrish was converted in the basement of the church and was a member of the church when he died. The first three collegiate graduates of Simmons University were all members of First Baptist Church, namely, Dr. C. H. Parrish, Miss Sarah Nelson, and Dr. Charles Sneed. The first President of the State Baptist Women's Educational Convention was Mrs. Amanda Nelson who was a member of this church, and Mrs. M. E. Stewart, the fifth President of the Baptist Women's Educational Convention, who served so many years in a commendable way, spent her early life as a member of First Baptist Church and was the church's first organist. Two of the pastors of First Baptist Church, Drs. S. P. Young and Robert Mitchell, served as Moderators of The General Association of Kentucky Baptists. Dr. J. W. Hawkins was an ex-moderator of the General Association when called to the pastorate of the church. It might be noted also that Dr. William J. Simmons served several years as the President of the National Baptist Convention.
Notwithstanding past accomplishments the church is dissatisfied and continues to move forward in the great work of Kingdom building.
"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Matthew 7:20.
The following is the list of Pastors with the number of years of their pastorate.
Rev. Peter Duerett (Captain) - 1790-1823 Rev. London Ferrell - 1823-1854 Rev. Frederick Braxton - 1854-1862 Rev. James Monroe - 1862-1873 Rev. J. F. Thomas - 1874-1879 Rev. William J. Simmons - 1879-1880 Rev. S. P. Young - 1881-1904 Rev. S. E. Smith - 1904-1907 Rev. J. W. Hawkins - 1908-1909 Rev. W. Augustus Jones - 1909-1914 Rev. Robert Mitchell - 1914-1926 Rev. Homer Eckler Nutter - 1926-
The following are the names of some of the church Clerks Henry Scroggins C. H. Parrish D. K. Williams W. H. Campbell R. F. Edmonds Miss Lilla B. Hawkins J. L. Tandy C. H. Taylor H. L. Gowens William Anderson, Jr Mrs. Harrye M. Johnson Mrs. Annie G. Lee
We feel that special mention should be made of Mrs. Mary Gillis who had an unusual record as a member of the church and a teacher in the Sunday School. Mrs. Gillis was a woman of unusual gifts, and possessed a knowledge of the scriptures above the
ordinary. She was the first Sunday School teacher of Dr. Chas. H. Parrish. She died April 8, 1928 at the ripe age of 87 years, having been a member of the church for 77 years, a teacher in the Sunday School for 62 consecutive years, and was only absent from the Sunday School of First Baptist Church 12 times during the 62 years.
We cannot forget the very fine service rendered by Miss Lilla B. Hawkins who served as the Church Clerk for more than 30 years, and also as Treasurer of the Sunday School for more than 25 years.
Mrs. Mary P. Burnsides, for more than 25 years was the President of the College Society of the Church, and during that time raised nearly $2,000.00 for the cause of Christian education. Upon her death she left the church $100.00.
The oldest living members of the church are the following: Mrs. Martha Byas, Mrs. Maggie Carter, Mrs. Alice Tatman, and Mrs. Margaret Slaughter. These have been members of the church for about 70 years.
The following members have made bequests to the church during the present pastorate: Dr. Robert Mitchell, $250.00; Mrs. Millie Newman Smith, house and lot on West Fifth Street.; Mrs. Katie Dyer, $25.00; Mrs. Maria Harris, $302.86; Alfred Love, $314.54; Mrs. M. P. Burnsides, $100:00; Wm. Carey Simmons, $254.14.
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AID AND IMPROVEMENT CLUB
The Church Aid and Improvement Club was organized in the residence of Mrs. Birdie Taylor in March, 1912, for the purpose of helping the church and community. Upon the suggestion of Dr. Robt. Mitchell the Club was reorganized in the First Baptist Church in 1914 with Mrs. Birdie Taylor President, Mrs. Bettie Tracy, Vice-President, Miss Mary Ellen Slaughter, Secretary, and Mrs. Anna Estill, Treasurer. Following the resignation of Mrs. Birdie Taylor, Mrs. Mary Saunders was elected President, Miss Roseline Brown, Secretary, and Mrs. Hattie Lee, Treasurer. Mrs. Saunders served as president until her death. Upon the death of Mrs. Saunders Mrs. Mary Williams was elected president. Following Mrs. Mary Williams, Mrs. Ellen Cunningham was elected president and is serving in that capacity at the present time.
The Church Aid and Improvement Club is the oldest auxiliary of the church and has done a very commendable work in the church. The first work done by the Club after its organization was the placing of a new carpet on the church floor. Mrs. Martha Byas is the oldest surviving member of the Church Aid and Improvement Club.
HISTORY OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY
The Missionary Society was organized in First Baptist Church by Mrs. Amanda Nelson, who was elected its first President. Under the leadership of Mrs. Nelson this organization grew, and did much in the field of Missions, one of its outstanding accomplishments was the help given to Simmons University.
Mrs. Nelson was succeeded by Mrs. Lucy Clay who became its second president and served this organization well, under the leadership of Mrs. Clay all phases of charitable work were done.
The next President of the Missionary Society was Mrs. Agnes Howard, who like its other presidents kept this organization in the front ranks, rendering real missionary service.
Mrs. Howard was succeeded by Mrs. Amanda Coleman, who became its fourth president. Mrs. Coleman was tireless in her efforts to serve and was always found on errands of mercy. Under the presidency of Mrs. Coleman, the Missionary Society did real evangelistic work, did much for charity and raised large sums of money for Simmons University. Mrs. Coleman served this organization until her death.
Mrs. Mary Toles, the only living president of this organization, was elected in 1917. This office she has held for (23) twenty- three years, and has given her very best to the organization. They continue to do much in soul saving, charitable work, and raising funds for the church.
HISTORY OF PASTOR'S AID
The Pastor's Aid was organized by the late Dr. Robert Mitchell in 1916; at this time he thought the Helping Hand Society would be an appropriate name. While deciding, Mrs. Bettie Tracy was elected its first president. She suggested the name of Pastor's Aid Society, so the two names were agreed upon by the organization, Pastor's Aid and Helping Hand Society. Later the Helping Hand Society was dropped, and the organization is now known as the Pastor's Aid. Mrs. Bettie Tracy served as its president only a short time; Mrs. Eliza Keys, who was the secretary, was elected president and served very successfully for nine years, sending in her resignation. Mrs. Annie Shropshire was elected its third president, and has served very efficiently for more than (15) fifteen years. With love and perseverance she has made Pastor's Aid the organization that it now is, and with God's help and your prayers, the Pastor's Aid will continue to serve and give aid to the church at all times.
HISTORY OF SENIOR GALEDA CLASS
Under the pastorate of Rev. W. A. Jones the Baraca Class was organized, and it consisted of the Philathea (women) and Metoka (men) classes. The charters were purchased by and presented to the classes by (Uncle Billy) Mr. William Anderson. These classes held joint meetings and the first president was Louis Williams, with Charles Hawkins as tsacher. They placed hymnals and book racks on all seats in the church and did considerable charity work among members of the church and non-members of the city. After about two years of successful organization we withdrew from the National Association (white) because at a meeting in Washington, D. C., they refused to give the Negro group proper recognition and became Galedas and Men's Bible Class, working separately. Uncle Billy again purchased and presented the charter from the Negro Baptist Publishing Company, headed by Henry Allen Boyd, Nashville, Tenn. It was at this point, too, our Sunday School began to get all its literature from the National Baptist Publishing House.
The first president of the Galedas was Mrs. Nannie Jones, wife of Rev. W. A. Jones. Upon their leaving the city for Knoxville, Term., Mrs. Eliza Keys became president, then, Mrs. Harrye Johnson, who held it for 15 years, with Mrs. Lizzie B. Fouse as teacher for the same length of time. At the end of this time a banquet was given by the class in honor of these two officers.
Mrs. Fouse then became president and Mrs. Johnson teacher. The Galedas have furnished a large per cent of the teaching force of our Sunday School and many good active members of our church. They placed electric fans in the main auditorium of the church and for a number of years led in the rally collections.
Some ol the officers of the Senior Galeda Class have been, namely: Vice-presidents, Mrs. Delia P. Jones, Mrs. Madge Harris, Mrs. Jennie P. Brown; secretaries, Mrs. Lillian C. McKee, Mrs. Bessie Strider; treasurers, Mrs. Canary Martin, Mrs. M. B. Monroe, Mrs. Emma Robinson; publicity, Mrs. Katie Miller, Mrs. Jennie Anderson, and Mrs. Katie W. Johnson.
HISTORY OF THE INFORMATION BIBLE CLASS
The history of the Information Bible Class begins with the removal of the teen-age boys and girls from the younger pupils in the Sunday School classes. These older pupils were used as teachers and to do constructive church work. The date of the organization of the class as the Information Bible Class is debatable, but the charter to become a mixed class of the Sunday School was granted by the National Baptist Publishing Company Board in 1914 under the pastorate of Rev. W. Augustus Jones.
The name of the class was submitted by Rev. George Coleman, who was at that time a member of the class. Since being organized, the class has functioned as a church club and as a regular Sunday School class. The following persons have served as teachers under the charter: Rev. N. C. Farmer, Rev. George Coleman, Mr. R. H. Hogan, Mr. J. P. Black, Mrs. A. H. Taylor, Mrs. E. M. Berryman, and Mrs. K. B. Jackson.
So congenial has been the membership of this class that there has never been any strife caused by office seeking; in fact, every member of the class, including our late members - Messrs. Henry Roberts and Samuel Underwood, Rev. N. C. Farmer, Misses Mattie Williams, and Alice Saunders, and Mrs. Tevera C. Roberts has served one or more terms in an office. The important office of treasurer has been held by only three persons, namely: Mesdames L. H. Hogan, E. S. Johnson, and B. Mitchell.
Some of our outstanding services to the church include the purchase of the glass-covered bulletin board on the front of the church, covering of the church altar, and the setting aside of the first hundred dollars for the building of the annex.
We have presented to the church and citizens of Lexington the following Biblical plays: "Joseph and His Brethren," "The Dream of Queen Esther," "Paul Before Agrippa," "One of the Nine," and "Ruth and Naomi." For several years, as a project for young people, the class sponsored Bible Story Contests and presented loving cups to the winners.
The last stage of development of the Information Bible Class was when the men were released to the newly organized Men's Class and we became an organization for women only.
This class has always, as now, served the social as well as the service needs of its members. Its bi-monthly meetings, having conducted programs in Bible Study, social service, and wholesome amusements.
The class has given to the Sunday School its present general superintendent and the chairman of the deacon board, in the person of Mr. R. H. Hogan; the superintendents of each department, Mr. J. P. Black, Mrs. A. H. Taylor, and Mrs. R. H. Bowles. Class members who have served as general secretaries have been Misses Ida and Ann Simpson, the late Mrs. Tevera C. Roberts, and Mrs. Myrtle Hummons Jones; one trustee in the person of Mr. John W. Taylor. At present, the following persons, who are members of the class are serving as teachers in the Sunday School: Mrs. Blanche Starling, Mrs. A. H. Ray, Mrs. Nell Searcy, Mrs. K. B. Jackson, Miss A. B. Withrow, Mrs. Elizabeth McCoy, and Mrs. Ida C. Nutter.
Throughout the Sunday School, Church, in the choir, and on the deacon board, can be found members and former members of the Information Bible Class filling places of responsibility. The financial standing of the class has never ranked below THIRD in any annual or biennial rally of the church; the rally money being contributed primarily from the members themselves, with benefit efforts being of secondary importance in raising our quota.
We have been fortunate in having efficient and energetic officers who serve most willingly and cheerfully. The roster of the present officers includes: Mrs. N. I. Searcy, president; Miss I. M. Simpson, vice president; Mrs. A. H. Ray, secretary; Mrs. I. C. Nutter, assistant secretary; Mrs. Blanche Mitchell, treasurer, and Miss Ann Simpson, chorister.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MEN'S BIBLE CLASS
The Men's Bible Class of the First Baptist Church was organized during the pastorate of Dr. Robert Mitchell with Porter Jackson as its first president. He served as president until his death. Following the death of Porter Jackson, the class elected Win. Jackson as president, and he served until his death. Since the death of Wm, Jackson the following men have served as president: Prof. J. B. Caulder, Dr. J. H. Taylor, and the present president, T. N. Hummons.
HISTORY OF YOUNG PEOPLE'S GROUP
The Young People's Group of First Baptist Church was organized in 1932 with Mrs. Rachel Stout Owsley as sponsor. After working faithfully with the group for a number of years it was taken over by Mrs. Mayme Grimsley. In 1934 Mr. William Wilson was elected president and Mr. M. F. Cruse as advisor and chorister of the group. During Mr. Wilson's presidency the fourth Sunday of each month was set aside as Young People's Day, and regular meetings were held.
In 1936 and 1937 Mrs. Hazel Hampton Greene was president of the group and interest has grown steadily among the young people of First Baptist Church.
In 1938 Mrs. Arnetta Johnston, the present president, was elected. Through the efforts of the Young People lights were installed in the annex dining room.
The first Youth Conference of this section was held under the auspices of the Young People's Organization, who brought to this city as their guest speaker, Dr. Howard Thurman. The present officers are: Mrs. Arnetta B. Johnston, president; Mrs. Nannie Howe, vice president; Mr. Desha Harris, secretary, and Miss Hattie Turner, treasurer.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SENIOR CHOIR
The Senior Choir of the First Baptist Church was organized during the pastorate of the late Rev. J. F. Thomas about 1878. John L. Tandy was the first chorister, and Mrs. Mammie Lee Steward was the first regular organist. The Senior Choir of the church has always had the reputation of being one of the best musical organizations in the state. The following persons have served as organist of the choir: Mrs. M. E. Steward, Mrs. Sarah Buford Warfield, Miss Sadie Smith, Miss Katie Campbell, Mrs. Amanda Lindsay, Mrs. Rosa Starling, William Merritt, Mrs. K. N. Johnson, Mrs. Rosa Edmonds, Mrs. Nora W. Johnson, Miss Alice Saunders, and Mrs. Hattie
B. Baker. The following persons have served as chorister: John L. Tandy, Will Overton, Lucy Perry, Harve Buford, Henry Hunley, and Dow K. Williams, Sr.
Special mention should be made of Mrs. Hattie B. Baker, who served as chorister and organist. Mrs. Baker served as the organist of the choir for more than a quarter of a century. Mrs. Baker possesses unusual musical ability, and the choir made rapid progress under the teaching of Mrs. Baker. She retired because of the illness of her sister, taut supplies whenever she is needed.
Miss Ada Withrow is the present organist of the church, being an efficient musician and is loyal and devoted to the church.
Mr. M. F. Cruse is the present chorister of the choir and has served in this capacity for 17 years. Mr. Cruse had special training under R. Nathaniel Dett at Hampton and is considered one of the best choristers in the state. Under the direction of Mr. Cruse the choir renders two sacred cantatas each year. Among the more recent ones rendered by the choir are: Stabat Mater, The Seven Last Words of Christ, and The Messiah.
First Baptist Sunday School
Graded Bible Instruction - Inspiring Singing - Supplementary Work in Adult Division - On the Job in All Kinds of Weather - A Warm Welcome to All - Come.
The Sunday School was held in the basement of the church. Early Sunday morning groups of happy children, young people, men and women were seen entering the two doors of the basement. Later the entire room was alive with many eager faces and murmuring voices. The small children were grouped on one side and the young people and adults on the other side of the basement. Mr. Dow K. Williams was superintendent. He inspired the Sunday School to praise God in song.
Prof. Henry Goins followed Mr. Dow K. Williams, he later resigned and was succeeded by Mr. William Tabb who became our next superintendent after Mr. Tabb, then came Mr. Norman Coleman. During the administration of these three superintendents, Mr. Lindsay and Mr. Harvey Buford were choristers. Mr. J. P. Black was the next superintendent and is at present the Superintendent of the Adult Division.
After Mr. Black came Mr. R. H. Hogan who is our present superintendent. He has served during the administration of three Pastors. He served the Sunday School six years under the pastorate of Dr. Augustus Jones, 12 years during the administration of Dr. Robert Mitchell, and 13 years under the present Pastor, the Rev. Homer E. Nutter. During the administration of Dr. Mitchell the outstanding accomplishment was the First Baptist Sunday School Biblical Alphabet, selected during the Every-Member Bible Reading contest held in 1926. Later the idea for the most modern and finest Sunday School annex was conceived and realized. The Sunday School is self-supporting, and large collections are taken each Sunday. The motto of the Sunday School is:
"All the Church in the Sunday School,
All the Sunday School in the Church
And everybody in both."
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE B. Y. P. U.
The B. Y. P. U. was organized more than 35 years ago during the pastorate of Dr. S. P. Young, under the name of the Young People's Training School, with Mrs. Amanda Coleman as President. This organization ceased to function and was re-organized during the pastorate of Dr. S. E. Smith as the First Baptist B. Y. P. U., with Mrs. Amanda Coleman as President. When the late Dr. J. W. Hawkins took charge of the church his son Charles was elected president. Upon the death of Dr. Hawkins his family moved from.the city and J. P. Black was elected President. Mrs. Rachel Stout then succeeded J. P. Black and served three years as Prsident. J. P. Black was again elected as President and served until 1928 when C. C. McCoy was elected as President and continues to serve in that capacity.
HISTORY OF CHILDREN'S GROUP
The Children of First Baptist Church were organized by our Pastor, the Rev. H. E. Nutter, for the purpose of assisting in our Loyalty Month celebration.
This group is given the first Sunday in February each year, and on this Sunday they hold full sway in the activities of the church, serving in all capacities just as the grownups, with the exception of the pulpit. Pew services, excellent musical programs and pageants have been presented by the group. On this Sunday the children have also -raised various sums of money in amounts from $40.00 to $168.00. The children also play their part in rallies and all financial efforts in our church, Mrs. Rebecca H. Bowles has served as chairman of the Children's organization since its organization.
[H. E. Nutter, Souvenir, Sesqui-Centennial Celebration, 1790-1940, Lexington, KY, pp. 9-15. This document is from a copy at the Kentucky Historical Society Library, Frankfort, KY. - Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
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