HISTORY of the First Baptist Church
Dayton, Ohio, 1914
By Rev. Henry Francis Colby, D.D.
The First Baptist Church in Ohio, or in the Northwest Territory, as it was called at that early day, was organized at Columbia, five miles above Cincinnati, and now a part of that city, in the year 1790. The town had been settled about a year and a half before this, a few months only after the settlement of Marietta and one month before Cincinnati, by a band of twenty-five persons from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, who disembarking at that point on the Ohio River, had “offered up prayer to Almighty God for his sustenance, guidance and protection.” In their little company there were six Baptists, whose names have come down to us—Benjamin Stites, John S. Gano, Thomas C. Wade, Greenbright Baily, Mrs. Baily, and Edmund Buxton. Their number was increased to nine before their organization into a church, which took place one Saturday at the house of Benjamin Davis, under the direction of Rev. Stephen Gano, who was then visiting the colony, and who afterwards became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island. “The door of the church was then opened,” and three persons were baptized by Mr. Gano on the next day.
The first pastor of the church was Mr. John Smith, from Pennsylvania, a man of fine natural abilities and most pleasing address, who afterwards became so popular that he was elected a United States Senator during the presidential administration of Thomas Jefferson, and was for several years prominent in politics.
In 1793 a meeting house was completed, where public worship was held, every able bodied man carrying, according to law, his firearms with him, so as to be prepared in case of an attack from the Indians. This was the first Protestant meeting house built in Ohio, as indeed, the church was the first one of any denomination that was regularly constituted in the Northwestern Territory. Many of these early settlers had bee revolutionary soldiers, and having spent their all in the struggle had come to a new part of the country with the hope of repairing their broken fortunes. Another consideration which had doubtless influenced them, was the perpetual prohibition of slavery in all the limits of the Northwest Territory by the ordinance of 1878. This attracted many noble spirits from States where slavery prevailed, making them willing to brave the hardships of the wilderness for the sake of perfectly free institutions.
The spirit of ’76, therefore, and the opposition to slavery, made the pioneers of this portion of our country men of earnest and generous character, securing their permanent success. The early records of the Baptist churches contain repeated evidences that they took decided ground against everything which looked like sympathy with their Kentucky brethren in their oppression of the colored race. After Wayne’s victory over the Indians in 1794, it became safer for parties to attempt the settlement of points away from the Ohio River, and thus members of the Columbia Church began to scatter over the Miami Valley, and to form the nuclei of churches organized in various localities. Among these was the church at Staunton, the oldest town in Maimi County, one mile from Troy. This was established as early as 1804, and was afterwards absorbed in the neighboring churches of Troy and Casstown. King’s Creek and Union Churches sprang up about the same time. The churches at Turtle Creek, or Lebanon, Little Prairie, or Middletown, and several others, might be mentioned in this connection.
The Columbia Church which, as we have seen, must be regarded the mother of them all, changed its place of worship in 1808 to Duck Creek, a point two miles north of its former location. From that time to the present it has existed under the name of Duck Creek Church. The Miami Association, the original Baptist Association of Ohio, and the one with which our own church was connected until 1859, was formed as far back as 1797, when there were only four Baptist Churches in the Territory, the Columbia (or Duck Creek) Church, being, of course the first on the list. How would it have thrilled the hearts of those few Baptists who on the banks of the Ohio committed themselves to the Providence of God, could they have looked into the future and forseen the results!
EARLY BAPTISTS IN DAYTON
Who the first Baptists that settled in Dayton were, can not now be ascertained. The town was laid out on the fourth of November, 1795, and was settled by families from Cincinnati. Mr. Daniel C. Cooper, one of the party who made the first survey, and who soon became the titular proprietor of the place, partly by the acquisition of preemption rights, and partly by agreement with the settlers, reserved the four corners at the intersection of Main and Third Streets for public use.
In the record of the County Commissioners as early as for December, 1806, I find that one Charles Roe, in behalf, as it is stated, of the “Baptist Union Congregation of Dayton,” applied for the land on the southeast corner of Main and Third Streets, as a site for a house of worship according to Mr. Cooper’s gift. A few months later, September 8, 1807, it is recorded in the same book that the petition of the Anabaptist Church, as it is called, was granted, and then follows in due form an agreement on the part of the County Commissioners to deed to the Baptist organization the ground as soon as a deed of it should be received by them from Mr. Cooper. This is the first mention of Baptists in Dayton. What that Baptist Union Church or congregation was, and whether it had at that time anything more than a nominal existence, I have been unable to discover. At any rate it seems not to have been strong enough to follow up and realize the claim which it had thus obtained. For, turning to the record of conveyences, we find that the lots in question were afterward deeded by Mr. Cooper and his heirs, one of them, the lot on the corner to a private individual, and the other to the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1810 there was a Presbyterian Church which worshiped either in the old Academy building or the old Court House, but which was not incorporated until two years later. Dr. James Welsh, an able man, was preaching for them. There was also a church of what were called the “New Lights,” now more generally known as the Christian Church. The Presbyterian churches of the Miami Valley, as in many other portions of the South and West, had been greatly distracted and broken up by the “New Light” or “Kentucky Revival,” as it was often called, of 1801 and the following year. Originating in Kentucky it spread through Southern Ohio. It was marked in some places by great excitement and most singular physical exercises. The Baptists in the Miami Valley do not seem to have been much affected by it, and in 1808 and 1809, about the time of which we are now speaking, Presbyterianism was beginning to recover from the shock. The new denomination, however, which had thus had its origin, still continues to have a church in Dayton. The commencement of the Baptist interest, which resulted in the formation of our church may be associated with the removal to Dayton, about 1823, of certain Baptists form the Lebanon Church and other places. At their request Baptist ministers occasionally visited them and preached. Among these were Stephen Gard, pastor of the Elk Creek Baptist Church at Trenton, Butler County, and Wilson Thompson, pastor of the Baptist Church at Lebanon. In the division which afterwards took place among the Baptists into the Old School and New School, and of which we shall have occasion to speak, both of these men went with the Old School. Thompson was a man of much natural ability, strong in debate and very popular as a preacher. He exerted for a time a powerful influence over the churches of the Miami Association. At first he was a most zealous evangelical preacher, but after a time he embraced many radical notions. Gard, though less brilliantly gifted, was highly esteemed by those who knew him best. From the constitution of his mind he was inclined to search into and dwell upon the mysteries of religion, such as the doctrine of election, etc. He was kind and winning in his manner, and devotional in spirit. Though noted for preaching doctrinal discourses, and giving “strong meat to them that are of full age,” he was a special favorite, it is said, with the children, and always gathered them around him. As we shall soon have occasion to remark he was probably the first pastor of this church. He died many years ago much lamented.
ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH
It was on the twenty-ninth of May, 1824, that a council assembled in Dayton for the constitution of the Baptist Church. Thanks to a difficulty which, afterwards arose, we have preserved for us in the files of Montgomery County the original minutes in the handwriting of Elder Corbly Martin, who was clerk of the council, of the names of those present, the names of the constituent members of the church and the proceedings. The council was composed of seventeen persons, nine of whom were ministers. Besides Wilson Thompson, and Stephen Gard, already mentioned, the former of whom was Moderator, there was Elder John Thomas, who was for some years pastor of the King’s Creek Church, and Elder John Guthridge, who had also been pastor of King’s Creek Church, and who performed much laborious pioneer work. He was a most useful man, making no pretentions to learning; he carried his Bible with him and feeding his own soul upon it, was thus prepared to feed the souls of others. Elder Nathaniel Tibbets, who had been pastor of the first church at Cincinnati, was it is said, a man of great energy of character, and a warm and able preacher. He died soon after in the prime of life. Elder Jacob Mulford had been pastor of Wolf Creek and Tapscott Churches, and though not a man of much talent, is described as an humble, exemplary Christian. He was requested by the church to draw up for them their articles of faith to be presented for the approval of the council, and this interesting document in his own handwriting, has also come down to us. Elder Corbly Martin, the clerk of the council, was born near the old Staunton meeting house. His mother was a daughter of Rev. John Corbly, a pioneer Baptist minister from Western Pennsylvania. Her son was connected for some years with a mission to the Indians, but at this time was living probably within the bounds of the Lebanon Church. He had frequently visited Dayton and preached. He subsequently adopted the views of the Campbellites. The last surviving member of the council was our venerable and honored Father Daniel Bryant, who lived to perform long and faithful service for Christ. In connection with the council, sermons were preached by the various ministers, beginning with one by Elder Thompson. They agreed not to adjourn until all had preached, and the record of the council indicates the times and places of their respective appointments. Father Bryant, himself, preached from Daniel 5,27: “Thou are weighed in the balance and found wanting,” a text which had been suggested to him by his fellow-traveler, as they rode to Dayton on horseback. Some time afterwards he heard that the sermon was instrumental in the awakening of one young man. Father Bryant was at that time pastor of the Millcreek Baptist Church. A few weeks before he had been united in marriage to Miss Corwin, of Lebanon, Ohio. The celebration of their “golden wedding” preceded by the same interval the jubilee services of our church. Always progressive in his ideas and in sympathy with every good enterprise, he lived to enjoy a cheerful old age. He died near Urbana, June 1875. The afternoon was spent in the examination of the candidates, whose names were as follows: Simeon Stansyfer, Elizabeth Stansyfer, Garrett Thompson, Andrew Clark, Rebecca Clark, Rebecca Snider, Elizabeth Crowell, William George, and Nancy Daniels. The articles of faith were carefully considered. They took high Calvinistic ground, in common with those of other Baptist churches of that time, using stronger expressions on some points than most Baptist churches of the present day would be willing to use in such a document. They insisted that the redemption which Christ wrought out was “special” and “particular”; in other words, that it was only for the elect. To these articles was appended the declaration that “We consider ourselves under obligation to attend to the example that Christ gave his disciples, by washing their feet, ‘Ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.’ Yet the omission of this observance by any member shall not be a bar to fellowship.” Father Bryant said this last declaration led to considerable discussion, but it was finally passed as being harmless, and was not afterwards observed by the church. Feet washing had, up to this time, been more or less practiced by different churches, but was last falling into disuse. Elder Tibbetts gave the right hand of fellowship, and announced the brethren a church of Jesus Christ; Elder Gard offered the recognition prayer, and Elder Guthridge preached a sermon containing a charge to the church. After this one Richard Davis, who had been a member of a “Separate” Baptist Church, was received into membership on the relation of this Christian experience and acknowledgement of the articles of faith. The council held its first meeting on the porch of William Huffman’s house, at the corner of Third and Jefferson Streets, where the Beckel House now stands. On account of the hospitalities there enjoyed it was often spoken of in those days as “the Baptist tavern.” After the worship and sermon in the Court House on Sabbath morning, Mrs. Lydia Huffman was baptized in the river, a little to the east of the head of Main Street, the first baptism, so far as we know that was ever witnessed in Dayton. Within three months three others were baptized, which raised the number to thirteen, and in September of the same year the church was received into the Miami Association. In 1825 David Kiser, Sr., was baptized. In that year, also, the church received a valuable accession in the person of Mr. Moses Stout, who came from the church in Lebanon. For the first three years after its organization the church was supplied with preaching generally once a month by Elders Thompson, Gard, Martin and others. According to Father Bryant’s recollection, Elder Gard was the first pastor. Unfortunately the church record book of those early days has been destroyed, so that no additional facts concerning that portion of its history can be gathered.
In 1827 the membership being again reduced by death to thirteen, Rev. D. S. Burnett, then a young man, became pastor, and they were encouraged to rise and build a house of worship. The lot and building together cost about $2,000. They were upon the west side of Main Street, at the corner of the alley between Water and First. Water Street is now West Monument Avenue. It was, for those days, a comfortable building of one story, with the pulpit placed near the entrance. The building was removed several years since. Up to this time they had worshiped sometimes in the old Court House and sometimes in a room on St. Clair Street, between Second and Third. Mrs. Penelope Sharp, whom many will remember, united by letter in 1827, at a meeting held in the old stone bank, now a store, on Main Street, between Water and First. In the same year, at the request of Mr. Burnett, the church consented to some modifications in their articles of faith, “so as to make them, as was said, shorter and to read better, but not to change their substance.” A comparison between the two documents show a softening down on the hyper-Calvinistic expressions contained in the order, and the first year of his ministry the church was increased in numbers to forty-eight, and the succeeding year to eighty-four. The Baptist cause now appeared to prosper, and the society was the largest in the town.
THE CAMPBELLITE SCHISM
The young pastor, however, was becoming fascinated with the new doctrines of Alexander Campbell, which had been for some time spreading among the churches of Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and were now being progagated in the Miami Valley, in part by Campbell himself. This new movement was expected by its author to swallow up all the Baptist Churches of the great Southwest, and for awhile it seemed that it might be really successful. Fearing that the church in Dayton would be affected, and to fortify them against it, Elders Gard and Thompson, who had had the first training of the little vine, and who were noted for their “soundness in the faith,” volunteered to visit the church alternately and preach to them sound doctrine, which, in those days, meant with other points election and limited atonement. Their zeal and jealousy for the old landmarks, as they viewed them, unhappily led them too far. They even cautioned the church to beware of educated ministers, of Bible and missionary societies, and of all “human institutions.” Thus the way was opened for a division in the church. The majority went into Campbellism, and on the twenty-first of March, 1829, a resolution was passed rejecting everything like written articles of faith. Thus the church became a Campbellite Church, and the same year separated itself from the Missionary Baptist Association. Andrew Clark, Lydia Huffman, Daniel Kiser and wife had already been excluded because stoutly resisting what they felt to be the encroachments of error, they had refused to fall in with the majority. Others sympathizing with them were afterwards dismissed, viz: Moses Stout, Elizabeth Crowell, Elizabeth Bowen and Rachel Bradford. These eight (and possibly one other) were all that remained faithful to the principles upon which the church enjoyed the fellowship of other regular Baptist churches.
THE NEW BEGINNING
They met at the house of Elizabeth Crowell and passed the following resolution:
“Resolved, That we keep the stand of the First Baptist Church, of Dayton.”
In accordance with this position, at a subsequent meeting, held at the house of William Huffman, and after due notice, they felt called upon to vote the exclusion of Rev. D. S. Burnett and those who had followed him, from the Baptist Church of Dayton, although these persons, constituting the majority ,had already dismissed them. They did this on the ground that Rev. D. S. Burnett and his followers had departed from the faith. They also made an effort by a petition to the Supreme Court to have delivered to them the church property, but the court decided that inasmuch as this belonged to the society in fee and inasmuch as it was a principle of the Baptist Churches that the majority should rule it must be under the control of the majority, notwithstanding any real or supposed error in doctrine. (See Ohio Reports, 6th, page 363.) But the little band continued to hold regular meetings, enjoying the sanction and fellowship of the Miami Baptist Association, with occasional preaching by Elders Jacob Mulford, Wilson Thompson and others. Both Mulford and Thompson seem to have acted for a year each as pastor of the church. Thus at the close of the tenth year of its history the Church was reduced about the same number with which it started. It was a dark day and a day of small things. Most of the few who were left were so tinctured with antinomianism, the doctrine that faith saves without works, that they were of little use as materials for a new building. But the spirit of the Lord again lifted up a standard for them. During the years 1833-5 they were strengthened by the addition of several new members by letter, among whom were Mrs. Sarah George, Joseph McCammon, W. F. Spinning, Orsamus Osgood, E. E. Barney with his wife and two sisters and Augustin King and wife. The coming of these may be said to have introduced a new era into the history of the church. They brought with them a progressive spirit and a zeal and wisdom to devise liberal things, which were the seeds of future prosperity. There were more influential societies in the place, but, with a conscientious attachment to their own principles these newcomers put in their lot with the feeble body of Baptists and devoted themselves to building up the cause. They did not despise the day of small things, but by their self-denials contributed largely towards making small things great. In 1834 there was preaching every month and a prayer meeting every Sunday afternoon at some private house.
The next year the house of worship owned by the “New Lights” on the lot where the residence of Mr. Rogers afterwards stood (nearly opposite the Lutheran Church on Main Street) was rented, the meetings held there, and a young man, Rev. Samuel R. Clark, of New York, who had been sent West by the Home Mission Society, was called to preach for them one-half of the time. The other half he labored for the church at New Carlisle. Under his labors eleven members were received by letter, five were baptized and two restored. He was a thoughtful and affectionate pastor and much endeared himself to the community. His attentions to the sick and afflicted and his personal worth commended the cause he represented. Thus in many minds prejudices against the Baptists were broken down. The congregation greatly increased and his preaching was blessed, but on September eleventh, 1835, only a few months after his settlement, after an illness of two weeks, he was called home from his earthly field of labor. His body, after appropriate funeral services, at which Elder J. L. Moore preached the sermon, was laid in the old burying ground, and has since been removed to Woodland cemetery. The following record of his death was made by the Secretary of the Home Mission Society: “Elder Samuel R. Clark, Missionary to the Valley of the Miami. He saw the ripened fields waving about him with scarcely a reaper. His love for souls and zeal for Christ therefore prompted him to put forth exertions too great for his strength. In his attempts instrumentally to save others from spiritual death he found for himself a premature grave.” At his death the church, numbering thirty-eight members were much disheartened. For a few months they were supplied with preaching by different ministers, mostly by Elder M. Jones. He then lived part of the time at Lebanon and a part of the time at Middletown. He walked from these placed on Saturday and walked back on Monday. He was one of the first students of Granville College, going there in spite of the remonstrance of some of the older ministers, who stigmatized it as “a factory to make preachers.”
THE ANTI-MISSION DIVISION
We now come to another important period of this history. It was at this time that the secession of the anti-mission party took place. Mr. Nathaniel Hart, who went with the Old School, gave to Dr. Talbott the following account of the division: “In the fall of 1835,” he said, “I was one of the messengers of the Dayton Church to the Miami Association, then about to meet at Lebanon. The excitement between the Old and New School”—(those members of the churches on the one hand who adhered to the hyper-Calvinistic views opposed to the use of any means to spread the kingdom of God except simply preaching, and on the other hand, those who were in favor of Sunday-schools, missionary societies and the like)—this excitement “had now become so great it was plainly manifest the association must take the subject up. All the ordinary business was disposed of on Friday. On that evening, “ continues Mr. Hart, “Elder Gard, the Moderator, took occasion to see me in reference to the next day’s work, and he told me he wanted some of the brethren to bring the matter up by resolution. I said that I would do it. The association met at an early hour, and as soon as it was ready for business I offered a preamble and resolution setting forth that:
“Whereas, There is great excitement and division of sentiment in the Baptist denomination relative to the subject of the benevolent institutions of the day, (so-called) such as Sunday-schools, Bible, missionary, tract and temperance societies; therefore,
Resolved, That this association regards the said societies as having no authority, foundation or support in the sacred Scriptures, but we regard them as having their origin in and belonging exclusively to the world. As such we have no fellowship for them as being of a religious character.’ ”
This resolution to which Mr. Hart refers is found in the minutes of the association of that year. It is there stated that it led to an animated discussion, which lasted till sundown. That it received great favor is the more remarkable because the association had in previous years distinctly given its endorsement to missionary societies, especially to the American Baptist Board of Foreign and Domestic Missions at Philadelphia. Even Elder Stephen Gard, the Moderator of the Association, who at this time appears as bitterly opposed to missionary societies, had in 1816 been one of a committee who reported the constitution for what was called the Miami Baptist Domestic Missionary Society. But his opposition to Arminianism, as manifested in the New Light and Campbellite movements, seems to have warped him to the opposite extreme. When reminded of the course he had taken in former years he replied by saying: “That was a sin of my youth.” In the course of the discussion Father Bryant, who was always a friend of missions, proposed as an amendment to Mr. Hart’s resolution the addition of the following words: “But we do not hereby declare non-fellowship with those churches who advocate these societies.” With this amendment the resolution passed by a vote of forty to twenty-one. But this privilege of free toleration contained in Father Bryant’s amendment declaring a difference of opinion on these subjects, no bar to fellowship, and granting individual liberty to the brethren of the churches, was afterwards receded from. For, at the next meeting of the association, held with the Dry Fork Church, Hamilton County, (September ninth, 1836,) the following resolution was moved:
“Whereas, A number of the churches composing this body have, in their letters, requested the association to drop from her minutes and fellowship the churches advocating and supporting the societies against which the association declared non-fellowship last year; therefore be it
Resolved, That we drop from our minutes the following churches, viz: Cincinnati, Middletown, Lebanon and Dayton.”
After considerable discussion it was carried, thirty-five voting in favor and six in opposition, the rest being neutral with the exception of those criminated by the resolution. These, had they been permitted to vote, would have prevented the resolution from passing. The separation was thus complete. Each party claimed to be the Miami Baptist Association. The excluded churches, whose delegates met in a separate place the next morning, and had an adjourned meeting at Middletown in the next month, maintained that the action of the Association had been entirely unconstitutional, inasmuch as they, the excluded ones, had not departed from the principles on which the body was originally formed, and inasmuch as the vote excluding them affected the independence of the churches, a point specially guarded in the rules of the association. To quote from a letter addressed by them to corresponding associations: “It was also contended that the measure was altogether at variance with uniform Baptist practice. No charge was specially made against any of the churches, no dealing was ever had with them by aggrieved churches, by committee of the association or otherwise; the resolution of the last year recognized distinctly their fellowship with said churches; no change had taken place in their faith and practice; and yet it was moved and finally carried to drop them from the minutes. The measure was believed by the minority to be unparalleled in the history of Baptist associations, an act of arbitrary power and a complete abandonment of constitutional principles. The churches laid under censure contained more than half of all the church members in the association. These churches were prohibited from voting on the question. It is true some of the delegates refused to vote because they considered the motion illegal, but the votes of others who gave in their names were refused. According to this mode of procedure one church can exclude all others belonging to the same body, for all it has to do is to lay all the other churches under censure and prohibit them from voting. The minority, therefore, considered the measure carried by the majority to be on the latter’s part a total abandonment of all right and interest and fellowship in the Miami Association.
Such is a brief account of the separation between the Old School and the Regular Baptist Churches of the Miami Valley: About half a dozen members being in sympathy with the Old School party and not desiring to remain longer with this church were permitted to withdraw from membership with it. If this church was wrong in giving its allegiance to the great missionary and other denominational societies, which were then coming into power, it certainly has not grown much better since. For during the year just closed subscriptions from our members to the single item of Missions amounted to $9,567. The only comment upon these historical facts which is necessary is the statement that the promission churches now greatly out number (1914) in Ohio the anti-mission. The latter are, for the most part, quite feeble bodies.
During the first twenty-five years of its history, therefore, this church passed through two great conflicts in which its safety was threatened by opposite extremes. It is interesting to note that in the first conflict it was kept from utter extinction by that same hyper-Calvinistic element which if it had not been afterwards outnumbered by a more progressive party, would have carried the church into the Old School. Thus in God’s providence, the balance was preserved and the church enabled to keep on its way. The period of these conflicts has been happily followed by one of continued peace and prosperity.
ELDER M. E. COOK
In 1837, Elder Martin E. Cook, a minister of much note in the black River association of New York, who was then in the northern part of Ohio, was called to the pastorate. He was recommended by his Eastern brethren as “orthodox in sentiment, sound in faith and practice, prudent in his measures and wise in council.” He was found to be a good preacher and a man of tender sensibilities. Under his faithful labors, which continued one year or more, there was a revival of much depth and power. Only eight were added by baptism, but the young people of other denominations were attracted to the meetings and felt their influence for good. The church then numbered about forty and would have been glad to have Elder Cook remain with them longer, but he felt that Providence indicated otherwise.
ELDER J. L. MOORE
In the summer of 1838, Elder John L. Moore removed to Dayton and commenced a course of itinerant labor for the Ohio Baptist State Convention, but on January first, 1839, resigned that position and accepted the pastoral care of this church. Feeling the great need of a house of worship the members had taken steps in that direction; and by an act dated February twenty-fifth, 1837, the church had been incorporated. But they were still worshiping in the “New Light” meeting house. As an interesting incident, on account of the results which have flowed from it, we may mention as occurring about this time, the formation of a choir. Rising in the corner of the church on Sabbath morning they led the congregation in the service of song. Some of these, like many others who have united with the church, were led by their interest in the music to become interested also in the truth and in Christ as their personal Savior. Would that all who thus assist the worship of God by his people might have their hearts as well as lips attuned to his praise! “The Psalmist,” was adopted as the hymn book of the congregation in 1844. In regard to his acceptance of the pastorate, Dr. Moore says: “My object mainly was to aid them in erecting a house of worship without which it was evident the church could never rise. There were only fourteen male members. Two of these were superannuated, poor, and living with their children, and I doubt whether the entire church paid taxes on $10,000 worth of property. Yet we subscribed over $2,000 for a meeting house. Young sisters who were not worth a dollar gave their wages—giving forty to fifty dollars each. About $1,000 was subscribed by citizens outside of the church. For the purchase of a lot, the money, about $1, 350, was borrowed by two individuals. In the winter of 1840, having entered the basement, a few precious souls were converted. In December we prepared the room with temporary seats and commenced a protracted meeting, assisted by Rev. S. S. Parr. This meeting was of great interest. About twenty were added, and a more interesting and promising set of young converts I have never seen. At the close of this meeting, having realized to a good degree the desire of my heart, and having assisted the church in securing the labors of Elder Parr, and in providing for his support, I resigned that I might resume my itinerant labors for the State Convention. To Elder Moore, (or Dr. Moore, as he afterwards became), the Baptist Churches of Ohio, and this church in particular, are greatly indebted. He brought to the cause a careful judgment and mental discipline combined with earnest love for souls at a time when such help was especially needed, and labored long and well in laying foundations. He came to Ohio from the State of New York, and occupied several important positions. Early in his ministry he accidently fell into the fire and thereby received injuries and disfigurement such as would have laid aside any other man in the ministry for life. But he kept diligently at work in his Master’s service. The last part of his life he lived in Kansas. It was during his pastorate that the Sunday-school was formed numbering one hundred scholars and twenty teachers, with Deacon E. E. Barney as superintendent, who held that office for fifteen years. Soon after the Sunday-school began to hold its sessions in the basement of the meeting house on Jefferson Street an incident occurred which made a deep impression on many minds. Deacon John Smith, a prominent and devoted member came into the Sunday-school on Sabbath morning and requested of the superintendent permission to “speak to the scholars of the love of Jesus.” After some very earnest but brief remarks he left the room. A few minutes afterwards he was taken up from the sidewalk, where he had fallen, and was brought back to the same spot where he had been speaking only to breathe his last.
In order to support their minister while they were straining every nerve to complete their house of worship, the church found it necessary to ask aid from the Ohio Baptist State Convention. It stands at the had of the list of churches aided by the so-called “village fund”; “the raising and dispensing of which fund, “says Professor John Stevens, who, at that time, was the Corresponding Secretary, “was the first really efficient work done by the Convention.” The church thus received one hundred dollars a year for three years or more. From being a receiver it has since become one of the convention’s largest contributors, now giving out of its abundance to feeble churches aid similar to that which was then necessary to its own support. The house of worship built at that time cost $5,164.51. It was located at the corner of Jefferson and East Fourth Street. It was a brick edifice with a high basement. In it many valuable occasions took place. The Word of God proved powerful as thus preached. It was the first Baptist house of worship till 1863. Afterwards it became the Jewish Synagogue and after use as such for several years, the building was torn down in 1911 to make room for a building for business purposes.
ELDER S. S. PARR
Elder S. S. Parr, the next pastor was a native of Vermont, and had spent most of his previous ministry in the State of New York. He came to Dayton from Zanesville, Ohio, and was pastor from July, 1841, to December, 1843. He was a man of great power in the pulpit. Under his ministry there were many conversions and about seventy-five persons were added to the church by baptism. Many of these were young persons, who afterward became very useful members--a strong accession to the ranks. In its letter to the Miami Association in 1843 the church reports a Sunday-school increased to one hundred and thirty scholars, with forty teachers and a library of five hundred volumes. A young people’s Foreign Mission and Bible Society had also been formed. It was unfortunate that Elder Parr’s superior abilities as a preacher were not accompanied with equal skill in other relations. Careless in his temporal affairs he hindered somewhat his permanent success, but many remember with pleasure and gratitude the boldness and unction with which he presented the Word of God. After leaving Dayton he preached at Memphis, Tennessee; Yazoo, Mississippi; Quincy, Illinois; and Hannibal, Missouri. The last mentioned place he went in 1847 and soon after finished his course on earth.
REV. FREDERICK SNYDER
He was succeeded in Dayton by Rev. Frederick Snyder. Mr. Snyder had been a student at Union College, Schenectady, New York, with the intention of entering the profession of law. His conversion, however, while there, had turned his attention to the ministry, and having come to Dayton he had been for a short time a member of the church. In May, 1843, he had been licensed to preach, and in December of the same year, just before Elder Parr left, he had been ordained. It was in April, 1844, that having accepted the call of the church, he entered upon the duties of pastor, the prophet thus having honor even in his own country and among his own people. The congregation then numbered about one hundred and fifty, and was still struggling under the debt contracted in building the house of worship on Jefferson Street, yet a portion of the debt had been paid during the previous year, and their prospects were bright. Mr. Snyder remained with the church until May, 1851, a period of seven years. He was a man of sincere and earnest piety and labored conscientiously for Christ. The work of the Lord prospered in his hands. It was truly “a growing time” in the history of the church when it was both strengthened and enlarged. At the close of the seventh year, impelled by strong desire to take a theological course at Rochester, New York, he resigned, and the church expressed their love for him and their appreciation of his labors by a substantial gift. From Rochester he went to Terre Haute, Indiana, thence to Williamsburg, New York, where he died July 2d, 1853, after a life of great activity and usefulness at the early age of thirty-five. His remains were brought to Dayton and now sleep in Woodland. Mrs. Snyder later became the wife of Ebenezer Thresher, so long prominent in the church. The children of both of Mrs. Snyder’s marriages we are glad to count as still members with us linking the present with the noble memories of the past. At his retirement from the pastorate the number of members had reached two hundred and more, and it was during his term of service that the Wayne Street Baptist Church was formed. The first steps toward that enterprise were taken at a meeting held Sept. 12, 1848, and the church was recognized on the 9th of January of the following year.
REV. SAMUEL FOLJAMBE
The next pastor was Rev. Samuel Foljambe, who was called on the 5th of January, 1852, and resigned at the close of 1855, having filled the pulpit with great acceptance for four years. He has since been settled over important churches at the East, chiefly in Boston and its vicinity.
REV. SAMSON TALBOT
On the second Sabbath of June, 1856, Rev. Samson Talbot, who had recently completed a course of study at Newton Theological Institution, entered upon the duties of the pastorate. During his stay of seven years he baptized into the fellowship of the church eighty-two persons, making the whole number two hundred and sixty-eight. His sincere love of the truth and humble devotion to the cause of Christ caused him to be much respected and loved, while his careful habits of thought gave promise of this fitness for the position he was afterwards to fill. It was in July, 1863, that he accepted the Presidency of Denison University, at Granville. The work which he there accomplished by his profound studies and self-sacrificing diligence is too well-known to require more than mention here. His death in June, 1873, was deeply and widely lamented.
During Dr. Talbot’s pastorate the project of building a new house was often discussed. The house on Jefferson Street had ceased to be suitable for the needs of the congregation. Great care, however, was taken that the best time and plan for the enterprise might be adopted. After mature deliberation a lot was purchased on Main Street, and in 1863 a beautiful and commodious edifice was erected at a cost, for building and lot, of $45,856.49. The times were favorable for securing everything at a low price, and pains were taken to make every part convenient and substantial. The basement was occupied for worship the first Sunday in June, 1863, and on the 25th October the whole house was dedicated free of debt, Rev. E. G. Robinson, D .D., of Rochester Theological Seminary, preaching the sermon.
REV. H. HARVEY, D.D.
Rev. H. Harvey, D.D., Professor in the Theological Seminary at Hamilton, New York, was called to be pastor in October, 1863. Owing, however, to his duties at Hamilton he did not commence regular labor as pastor of the church until April of the following year. During the interval a revival commenced. Special meetings for prayer were conducted by the Superintendent of the Sunday school and others; and the church gratefully enjoying their new and attractive house of worship were gladdened by the conversion of many souls. When Dr. Harvey arrived he found several awaiting baptism. During the first three months of his pastorate thirty-six followed the savior in that ordinance. At other times also during his stay there were considerable accessions. He endeavored to develop the gifts of the young converts. His sermons were valued as thoughtful expositions of the gospel. The young men of the church, feeling it to be their duty to work for Christ, organized themselves into an association and established some mission schools. One of these was started upon East Fifth Street, and a subscription was raised to build a Mission chapel. This aggressive movement was the means of strengthening the young Christians who engaged in it, while the mission referred to proved to be the forerunner of a new church. A young ladies’ association was also formed which assisted scholars in the Sunday-school. Dr. Harvey continued in Dayton for three years when enfeebled health compelled him to resign January first, 1867. He returned to the duties of a professorship at Hamilton, in which he continued till his death.
The letter of the church to the Association in 1867 reported three hundred and one members. As they were without a pastor, and as the First Presbyterian Church were tearing down their house of worship to make room for a new one, they were invited to unite in the regular preaching services. The arrangement was enjoyed for several months, Dr. T. E. Thomas, their eloquent pastor, preaching, except when the Baptists desired to hear some one as a candidate for their vacant pastorate.
THE PASTORATE OF REV. HENRY FRANCIS COLBY, D.D.
This brings the history of the church down to the commencement of the ministry of the writer, who has so much reason to be grateful to God for the measure of blessing which attended his imperfect labors and the kindness which he always received from their hands. After graduating at Newton Theological Institution in June, 1867, he was invited to supply the church for a time with a view to further acquaintance. He commenced his work in September; the church extended to him a call in November, which he accepted, and on the 15th of January, 1868, he was ordained. On that occasion President Samson Talbot, of Granville, preached, and the venerable Father Blodgett offered ordaining prayer.
The Mission Chapel on Fifth Street, built under the auspices of the Young Men’s Association of the church, at a cost, including the land, of $5,584.18 had been dedicated December 8, and had become the scene of a flourishing mission school.
In the letters to the Association of both 1868 and 1869, the church was able to report the results of special seasons of religious interest. Several accessions were made by baptism, chiefly from the younger members of the congregation. In the beginning of 1870 a more extensive revival commenced in Dayton, in which all the denominations shared. Union meetings were held daily. The work progressed without the employment of any special help from abroad. To quote the associational letter of 1870: “The entire city seemed moved and the tide of worldliness for a time was arrested. Many who had been supposed beyond the means of grace were found accessible to religious conversation and publicly acknowledged their need of a Savior. As the result of this work eighty-nine persons were received into the Baptist church within the period of three months. The communion occasions, when long lines of converts received the hand of fellowship, were exceedingly impressive and filled many hearts with gratitude and joy. At other times also the pastor has been permitted to welcome many who have given evidence of their conversion to Christ.
In 1872 many of the members were impressed with their duty to do more for the eastern and rapidly growing portion of our city. Members of the church residing there agreed to commit themselves heartily to the work. In September, therefore, regular preaching services were commenced in the chapel on East fifth Street by Mr. Frederick Clatworthy, who had lately completed his course at Rochester Theological Seminary. So promising was the field of usefulness before them that it was resolved to constitute themselves a church and to call Mr. Clatworthy to the pastorate. The church was duly recognized by a council on October 17, 1872. Thirty-five members went from the first church and a number also from the Wayne Street Church. This took some of our most valued members; but, as they began the movement from deep convictions of duty, still cherishing an affection for the old church, they received from their brethren, a hearty “God-speed” and a liberal contribution toward the building of their house of worship. The name adopted was The Linden Avenue Baptist Church. The pastor was ordained on the day following its recognition. They soon erected a commodious edifice, and the results which have followed have proved the wisdom of the enterprise.
There are now in Dayton twelve places of Baptist worship including the German and the colored. A Baptist Union has for many years now been in existence in order to promote co-operation in new religious enterprises.
After the establishment of the Linden Avenue Church the young people of the First Church were re-organized for Christian work. This organization has continued under various names and is now a thriving branch of the Baptist Young People’s Union of America. Our space would not be sufficient to make mention also of the work which has been continuously done by the Women’s Missionary Circles in the church. They have provided for regular social occasions as well promoted an earnest spirit of fellowship, and aided the work of missions both at home and abroad.
Our Sunday-school, which for three generations has been an important branch of the church work now in 1914 has a total of 704. It is doing effective work. Our desire is that every member of the congregation should thus publicly engage in the study of the Bible. Besides the home school we have given great attention to mission schools which have been from time to time established. Some of these have grown into churches which have already been mentioned. Besides Linden Avenue and the Central Baptist Church, so long under the pastorate of Rev. J. W. Icenbarger we may mention West Dayton, Riverdale Memorial, North Dayton, East Dayton, Haynes Street and Colorado Avenue. The Riverdale Memorial recalls the memory of Henry C. Stillwell, the first leader in that work when it was a mission. The last three churches mentioned are offshoots from the Linden Avenue Church.
Our church has always been noted for its generous benevolence. Upon this we need not dwell in detail. Not to mention the gifts of other years it is sufficient to state that the grand total of contributions of church and benevolent objects for the year 1913 was $28,749.55. This does not include many large and special gifts of individuals for missionary and educational causes.
In 1887 the church adopted the system of Weekly Giving, so arranged that pledges to give a certain amount per Sunday are secured from the members at the beginning of each year. These weekly gifts are divided according to the directions of each giver and all the great objects have a place. This plan has been found to work well.
During the pastorate of Dr. Colby the church was greatly honored by positions of responsibility given him in connection with our denominational affairs. For three years he was President of the Ohio Baptist Convention. For three years, President of the American Baptist Missionary Union. For twenty-two years President of the Board of Trustees of Dennison University. For nineteen years, President of Miami Valley Hospital.
After a pastorate of thirty-five years during which the church was blessed with great harmony and prosperity, ill health obliged him to retire from the work. This was in March,1902. On this occasion appropriate resolutions were passed by the church.
He was succeeded by Rev. Howard P. Whidden, who had been pastor of different churches in Canada. He was a graduate of Arcadia College and McMaster University.
Dr. Whidden’s pastorate continued eight and one-half years closing on Sept. 1, 1912. His genial and consecrated spirit, ever seeking not his own but the things of Jesus Christ, endeared him greatly to the whole church and gave him a large place in the work and fellowship of his brethren throughout the State. He left Dayton to become the President of Brandon College, Manitoba, where a career of great usefulness seems to be opening before him.
It was fast becoming evident in Dayton that the encroachment of business would soon necessitate a change in the location of our place of worship.
March 6, 1912, about twenty men of the church met and considered an offer of $125,000 for our church property. July 31, 1912, the church unanimously voted to instruct the trustees to close the option on the T. A. Legler property within ninety days from the above date at the sale price of $38,000. The following were named as a neucleus of a building committee; Edward Canby, E. J Barney, F. P. Beaver, W. D. Chamberlin, Albert Thresher, F. L. Canby, Treas, C. S. Barkalew, Sec. The trustees were also authorized to raise the $45,000 needed to purchase the new site and other necessary expenditure.
August 7, 1912, the church voted to accept the proposal of the City Realty Co., to pay $125,000 for the property and to allow the church to retain possession thereof, until Jan. 2, 1914, time to be extended to April 1, if necessary and to have the right to remove the organ, pews, lighting fixtures, windows and ventilating fan.
September 26, 1912, thirty-one members of the First Baptist Church of Dayton being regularly set apart for that purpose formed themselves into the Dayton View branch of the First Baptist Church. Otherwise to be known as the Dayton View Baptist Church.
Beginning on that occasion, and closing with the year 1912, there have been added four more by transfer from the general roll of the first church, twelve by letter, five by experience, and four by baptism. The membership of that body stands Jan. 1, 1913, at fifty-six.
November 6, 1912, Rev. A. E. Waffle, D.D., of Albion, N.Y., began his work as acting pastor of the church, to serve until a regular pastor should be chosen.
December 11, 1912, Rev. J. C. Massee, pastor of the First Baptist of Chattanooga, Tenn., was called. His pastorate began Mar. 1, 1913. His eloquent unfolding of the Scripture and his alert, aggressive efforts are causing his influence to be widely felt.
On suggestion of Bro. D. A. Stout, and on a motion, the last Sabbath in the month of May was designated as “founders’ Day,” and Brothers C. J. Barney, D. A. Stout and J. B. Thresher were appointed a committee to arrange a suitable program for presentation on that date, in commemoration of the founding of this church.