First Baptist Church History


In the year of 1871 the Baptist believers desired to organize a meeting house of worship in the town of Harrisonburg, Virginia. The Rev William Hill was called for this purpose and was the church's first pastor. From his leadership and the aid of a few Baptist people a church was organized. It was located on West Market Street.

In 1873 a church was erected on the corner of Wolfe and Mason Street at the cost of $850. This church soon became too small for the congregation. In 1878, under the leadership of Dr. G. B. Howard, the old church was set back fifty feet and a new church was built in front of it. The old church was used as a lecture room and social hall. In later years a parsonage was built by Rev. Arthurs on the property to house ministers and their families, as well as visiting ministers.

The church in early 18 and 19 hundreds had strict rules of discipline. Members were excluded for: dancing, card playing, betting, bad language, adultery, non payment of dues, and non attendance at church service or church meetings. Members were allowed to be restored to membership by asking for pardon. Church dues were twenty five cents a Sunday and the pastor received thirty to thirty five dollars a month.

In 1963, under the pastorate of Rev. Thomas Cary Allen, the Wolfe Street Church was purchased by the city of Harrisonburg for the Urban Renewal Program.

Groundbreaking for the present church on Broad Street was held Sept 17, 1963. The cornerstone was laid Feb 23, 1964. The first service was held in the new church on July 12, 1964. Although the church was started in 1871 there is no cornerstone to prove it. The cornerstone on the Broad Street church is dated 1878-1964.

Many sacrifices were made by the pastor and the congregation during the building of the church. At this time services where held at the Lucy F. Simms School and at the home of Deacon & Mrs. Hampton Sampson. Rev. Allen was a fine dedicated minister. He had to travel to and from New Hope, Virginia because the parsonage was also sold with the old church. He and his wife Evelyn were the parents of three children. The church was dedicated September 6,, 1964.

In the years of 1965-1966 the church grounds were improved under the leadership of Rev. R. J. Duncan. During the years of 1966-1970 the church basement was remodeled while Rev Calvin Chew was pastor. The Rev B.J. Williams was pastor during the years of 1976-1978, during this time an organ and piano was purchased. During 1979-1981 while Rev Lloyd Minor was pastor, the public address system was installed and the Sunday school was reorganized.

During 1982-1994, Rev. Calvin Baltimore was the pastor. During this time a church bus was purchased; the kitchen was remodeled; a new stairway was built; the choir was reorganized; a Day Care Center was started in the lower level. Also, during these years the church was expanded 30 feet also with a handicap ramp being built; five additional bathrooms were added; wall to wall carpeting was installed throughout the church and the annex were built. Sis Hilda Cater and Sis Lucille Ware with the FBC family installed communion cup holders; a dwelling was left to church by Sis Maude Carter and the dining room was redecorated.

From 1994-2002 while Rev. Henry Crump was pastor, the kitchen was repainted; new floors were installed; of the choir and ushers were reorganized; three deacons were ordained, the first woman trustee president was appointed, the churchís mortgage was paid off in Oct of 1996.

From 2002-2006 while Rev. Walter A. Ghant was pastor, the church flourished spiritually. The membership tripled during this time, and the outreach focus was on college students in the surrounding areas. Some accomplishments during this time were: the start of a prison ministry; a menís ministry; a womenís ministry started by First Lady Valerie Ghant; the missionary ministry lead the church family to help Katrina hurricane victims; and the was choir reorganized. Major building renovations such as: a new roof, installation of new carpet, new lights and fans and new fellowship hall windows. The kitchen was updated. FBC Playground was built.

Since Dr. Williams's arrival in October 2006, the church has seen more improvements. The church has also grown spiritually and in their knowledge of the Holy word. Some spiritual blessings under the leadership are as follows: two new deacons were ordained; a deaconess consecrated; a ministerís ordination; choir reorganized; the media ministry was established; the second woman selected trustee president, a church trip to Beauty Spot Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC, a TV Ministry Broadcast started August 5, 2007, Consecration of 4 Deaconesses, Ordination in 2008 of another Deacon.

Pastors of the church saw many improvements made during their tenure. There were quite a few pastors from 1871-2006. During the tearing down of the Wolfe Street church many records were lost. We do not know what some of the first pastorsí accomplishments were. Some of the Pastors names and what they did while they were pastorsí were lost.




Pastors that Served First Baptist Church


1. Rev William Hill†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1871-1872

††††††††††††††††††††††† Church began in a building on West Water Street

2. Rev J.B. Howard†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1873-1890

††††††††††††††††††††††† Church erected on corner of Mason and Wolfe Street for $850

††††††††††††††††††††††† 1878 Church moved back fifty feet, new one built for several thousand dollars

3. Rev Deskins†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††† 1890

4. Rev J.W. Hackett††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1890-1897

††††††††††††††††††††††† Electric lights installed in church

5. Rev G Fox†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1897-1900

6. Rev White††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1900-1902

7. Rev L.C. Garland†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1902-1907

8. Rev Taylor††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††† 1907

9. Rev Samuel Moses†††††††††††††††††††††††† 1907-1912

10. Rev St. Clair Drake††††††††††††††††††††† 1913-1915

11. Rev Jordan††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1915-1917

12. Rev Arthurs†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1918-1921

††††††††††††††††††††††† Built church parsonage on Mason Street beside church

13. Rev Walker†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1922-1924

14. Rev A.B. Lee†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1924-1929

15. Rev J.O. Wright††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1929-1945

††††††††††††††††††††††† Pastor for sixteen years

16. Rev C.A. Morgan†††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1946-1949

††††††††††††††††††††††† Remodeled Church

17. Rev Obadiah Simms††††††††††††††††††† 1949-1951

††††††††††††††††††††††† Wurlitzer Organ purchased to replace old Pipe Organ

18. Rev Thomas Cary Allen††††††††††††††††††††††† 1956-1964

††††††††††††††††††††††† Built church on Broad Street

19. Rev R.J. Duncan†††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1965-1966

††††††††††††††††††††††† Church ground improved

20. Rev Calvin Chew††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1966-1970

††††††††††††††††††††††† Church basement remodeled

21. Lost Name†††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1970-1976

22. Rev J.B. Williams ††††††††††††††††††††††† 1976-1978

††††††††††††††††††††††† Allen organ and piano purchased

23. Rev Lloyd Minor†††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1979-1981

††††††††††††††††††††††† Public Address System put in

††††††††††††††††††††††† Sunday school Reorganized

24. Rev Calvin Baltimore†††††††††††††††† 1982-1994

††††††††††††††††††††††† Church Bus purchased; Kitchen remodeled to restaurant specifications;

††††††††††††††††††††††† Youth group organized; new stairway built; day Care Center established in lower level;

Metal outside doors installed; expanded church 30 feet longer with handicap ramp installed; five additional bathrooms added; wall to wall carpeting added throughout church; 1000 gallon oil tank in ground; choir stand changed; hosted 2nd Ketoctan Convention twice; In 88í dwelling left to church by Sis Maude Carter; sound boxes installed to improved organ sound; dining room redecorated by Dorothy White; Sis Hilda Carter & Sis Lucille Ware with church family installed communion cup holders; church yard landscaped;

25. Rev Henry A Crump†††††††††††††††††† 1994-2002

Kitchen painted and tile flooring put down; choir reorganized; Sis Lois Fisher first women Trustee President; Mortgage finished for present structure in Oct 1996; Youth group reorganized; PA upgraded; Youth held 2nd Ketoctan convention for youth; ware family donated 30 new Baptist hymnals; new guttering and drain system; handrails installed in front of church; handicap rails in bathrooms; Sis Catherine Dunn donated a refrigerator; Sis Eris Hawkins donated a electric stove; new awnings installed over back stairwell leading to downstairs dining room; white bibles presented to church by Deacon Conard Washington; Air condition replaced; 100 Baptist Hymnals presented by Deacon Washington; Lawn Mower donated by Lois Fisher; deacon ordination

26. Rev Walter A Ghant†††††††††††††††††† 2002-2006

Bible study reorganized; choir reorganized; menís ministry started; womenís ministry started; playground built on land donated by Sis Hattie Washington; College outreach ministry; Gemeinshaft outreach ministry; church renovations

27. Dr C.E. Williams††††††††††††††††††††††††† 2006-present

3 New Deacons ordained; 5 Deaconesses consecrated; choir reorganized; 2nd Woman appointed trustee president (Sis Elaine Blakey); Media Ministry organized; youth reorganized; a ministerís ordination (Rev. Alfrides Brandon); new trustees appointed; sound system upgraded; drums donated; keyboard donated; deacon in training; deaconess in training; stain glass windows installation; KIDís CAF…í; Elderly Outreach; TV Broadcast (WAZT); Vistaís; Gemeinshaft outreach ministry reorganized; Church Fellowship retreat to N.C.;