By N. J. Chapin, 1898
This Church, which has been variously known at different periods of its history as the Fifth Street Baptist Church, the Pierson Street Church, the Freeman Street Church, the Third Baptist Church, the Pine Street Church, and the Lincoln Park Baptist Church, has had three corporate names, viz.: the Fifth Street Baptist Church, the Third Baptist Church and its present one, the Lincoln Park Baptist Church. The other names have been given in order more perfectly to mark its location.
The Church had its origin in a movement begun by four Baptists in south-western part of the city in February, 1841. These four were Mrs. Martha Brown, her son-in-law, Henry DeCamp, his wife, and Mr. Joseph Johnson, father of the late Deacon Thomas Johnson of the Third Church, from whom the personal reminiscences for this history were obtained. These four brethren and sisters began their meetings in an old saw-mill (near what is now Sargent Street), which had been fitted up for a Sunday-school. An evangelist, Rev. King Griswold, was invited to hold a series of meetings with them. He is described as a man of great physical strength and boldness of speech, and he had marked success among the rude elements of the population in that river region. A great revival followed, so that a Baptist Church of 120 members was organized March 23, 1841, Rev. S. W. Lynd, D. D., of the Ninth Street Church, preached the sermon at the recognition of the new Church, and its history as an organized body had its beginning at that date.
The Church, whose origin seemed almost to renew the Pentecostal history of the early Church, was destined also to share with the early Church an experience of martyrdom. King Griswold, through whose labors the Church was brought into being, had incurred the enmity of certain wicked young men, and one young man had been known to threaten the preacher with violence if his sister should be baptized. About the middle of March, 1841, as Mr. Griswold was returning from a meeting, a rock was thrown from a lurking place, striking him on the head and crushing his skull, from which he died a week later. He is said to have spent much of the time previous to his death praying for his assassin, who was never brought to justice.
Recovering from this terrible blow the young church proceeded to build its first house of worship, its front being first on Pierson Street, and afterwards on Freeman Street. It was situated but a little distance back from Fifth Street, which at first was the only street of prominence in that region. Hence the variations in name in the early history of the Church. This was the first church building erected west of Central Avenue, and is still standing, though now used for manufacturing purposes. The house was dedicated in October, 1843.
The little Church passed through a variety of unfortunate experiences during its first years, diminishing in membership, until in 1845 but 56 members - half its original number - were reported to the Association. Brighter days came with the beginning of Elder Daniel Bryant's pastorate, December 14, 1845. There was a steady upbuilding during the seven years of his ministry, 212 members being added in that time, and, in spite of the removal of many members, the Church attained in the sixth year of his pastorate to a membership of 208, the highest number recorded at any time until the year 1886, when it numbered 243. Elder Bryant was one of the noble pioneer preachers of the Miami Association. He served his Master faithfully for over sixty years, and finally dropped dead in the pulpit from heart disease. His pastorate extended from December 14, 1845, to 1852. Following these seven years of plenty were ten years of spiritual famine. Even the efforts of such men as Marsena Stone, D. D., and the late Rev. James Cooper, D. D., could not arrest the spiritual decline.
During a term of pastoral and supply work of five years, Rev. Joseph Emery held the Church steady and brought it to an admirable habit of systematic
benevolence. Rev. J. S. Gillespie was called in October, 1868, as pastor, at a salary of $1,200 per year, the highest salary paid by this Church up to that time. The uniting at this time of several members from the Ninth Street Baptist Church greatly helped the new pastor in his labors, and the Lord's work flourished during his stay with this people. Following his pastorate the Church again sank to a low condition and was aided by the Church Union.
A new era began when Rev. S. A. Collins, with nearly 100 members from the First Church, united with the Freeman Street Church. The charter name, Fifth Street Baptist Church, was resumed, then the Church removed to Pine Street, and built a house of worship, and was re-incorporated as the Third Baptist Church of Cincinnati. This pastorate began March 25, 1872. The Pine Street Church was dedicated November 23, 1878. The name of the Church was changed in January, 1874, and the new body incorporated July 7, 1874. For these two years the Church was paying a salary of $2,500 to its pastor, and was supporting from one to three native preachers in the foreign mission field, and a student in the South. It is recorded of them that most of the members were giving one-tenth of their income to the Lord's work. But this period of prosperity was brief. At the end of two years the pastor's health and the Church's financial ability were both impaired. The pastor resigned, and died soon after, and the Church was obliged to curtail its expenditures.
From 1875 to 1879, inclusive, Rev. F. J. Parry, Rev. C. A. Quirell and Rev. A. M. Worcester served as pastors in the order named, and for a little more than a year each. At about the beginning of the year 1880, Rev. E. P. Roberts began his pastorate of five years. These were years of faithful work under difficulties, owing to the weak financial condition of the Church, the low moral condition of the city and the great flood of 1884.
Rev. A. S. Carman began his pastorate September 1, 1885, being ordained by this Church on the completion of his course at Rochester Theological Seminary.
During the two years and nine months of Mr. Carman's pastorate 171 new members were added to the Church, many of whom became valuable Church workers. The membership were trained to a more general system of contributing to current expenses and benevolence.
Rev. G. R. Robbius, its present pastor, began December 1, 1888. In 1889 he was appointed by Governor J. B. Foraker Chaplain of the First Regiment O. N. G., and a year and a half popular services were conducted each Sunday afternoon under his charge at the Armory, attended by audiences varying from 300 to 5,000.
During the summer of 1889, while Mr. Robbins was calling upon members of his Church residing at North Side, he was convinced that there should be a Baptist Church established there. Immediately he and a few of the members of his Church secured Masonic Hall in that part of the city, and began holding prayer-meetings, organized a Sunday-school and provided preaching for each Sunday afternoon. This was continued for nearly a year, when the Immanuel Church was organized, 19 members from this Church joining the new organization. Thus this Church became the mother of the Immanuel Baptist Church, in one of the most promising fields in Cincinnati. This motherly care was continued until the Church Union took upon itself the responsibility of making abundant provision for the purchasing of a lot, erecting the beautiful edifice and assuming the greater part of the money for current expenses.
Since the beginning of Mr. Robbins' pastorate large additions to the membership have been made. On March 27, 1892, 75 received the right hand of fellowship; April 3, 1893, 80; and March 26, 1893, 132. March 3, 1894, the Church spent an entire night in prayer, which resulted in many professed conversions. April 8, 1894, the cross and flag were placed on the church.
The work of this Church is carried forward preeminently in answer to prayer. While paying for the lots and erecting the temple, at almost each weekly prayer-meeting, and from the pulpit on Sunday, specific amounts of money have been asked of the Lord, and not once has He failed to give the desired amount. Shortly before the dedication of the new edifice it was discovered that the lease on the old Hopkins Street property was for ninety-nine years at
the high prices of thirty years ago, and with six per cent, interest. After two weeks of earnest prayer and some efforts, Mr. Gerard was induced to give the Church entire release from further obligation. Our edifice stands as a proof that God answers prayer.
During this pastorate there have been received 805 new members, 600 of whom were by baptism. The whole number received during the fifty-seven years of its history is 1873. Since 1883, when the Hopkins Street property was purchased from the Presbyterians, there has been a gradual increase of membership; and the congregations have been so large, at times, that they could not be accommodated in the building; this fact, together with the demand for better facilities for carrying on Church work became so apparent to pastor and people, that a fund for the new temple was started in 1891; Dr. T. J. Peale made a conditional subscription of $10,000, providing the Church raised $40,000, which has been done. In 1894 several lots were purchased on the corner of Freeman Avenue and Betts Street, opposite Lincoln Park, for a building site, 831/2 x 120 feet, at a cost of $10,220, for which cash was paid, except for one lot of 20 feet, which was leased with the privilege of purchase when the heirs can legally convey it.
Ground was broken with appropriate ceremonies April 1, 1896, and the celebrating of the laying of the corner-stone was July 18, 1896. The building covers the entire lot.
The new temple is especially arranged for carrying on Institutional Church work, and is considered by competent judges the most unique church edifice in the United States.
The Building CommitteeConsisted of W. C. Peale, President, Dr. J. R. Spencer, Vice-President, Dr. T. J. Peale, Treasurer, Obert Spencer, Secretary, James M. Williams, Adam Hess and Arthur Paulus.
The DedicationTook place, commencing Sunday, November 7, 1897, and continuing during the week. Rev. P. S. Henson, D. D., of Chicago, preached the sermon.
The duties of the pastor had multiplied to such an extent that the Church invited Rev. H. O. Fry, of Madisonville, O., to become associate pastor. He accepted the call and entered upon his duties December 1, 1896. Mr. Fry resigned July 1, 1898.
Before entering the new temple in 1897, the Church felt it owed a duty to itself to revise the list of members, and to withdraw the hand of fellowship from a large number, and to drop the names of others from the Church roll. A majority from whom the hand of fellowship was withdrawn had removed from the city, and united with other denominations.
The unfavorable location of the church, the frequent removal of members to the suburbs and elsewhere, brief pastorates and frequent pastorless periods will account for many losses in the membership; but that the Church has done a valuable work these years none will deny. The contributions to benevolence of this Church show a record surpassed by few Churches of its financial ability; there are evidences that it has always given liberally of its means.
Other items of interest may be gleaned from the appended tables containing the list of pastors and supplies, and the reports of the Church to the annual meetings of the Miami Association for the whole period of its history.
[From the 100th Anniversary Edition of the Miami Baptist Association Minutes, 1898, pp. 63-65. Document from the Miami Baptist Association Office, Cincinnati. - Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More Ohio Baptist History
Baptist History Homepage