First Baptist Church
Top Photo: The first building - First Baptist Church (1880)
Second Row Photo: The second building (March 12, 1893) with inside photo of sanctuary
Third Row Photo: The current building (July 10, 1927) Dedication and Education Wing Dedication (1957)
Bottom Photo: Current day building with steeple
In 1880 First Baptist Church of Baxley, Georgia was organized with the following charter members: Mr. & Mrs. J. Isham Carter, Mr. & Mrs. John W. Carter, Mr. T.H. Carter, Mr. W. J. Carter, Mr. & Mrs. John Hamilton, Mr. & Mrs. George Herndon, Mr. & Mrs. H. M. Herndon, Mr. & Mrs. William C. Parker, Mr. & Mrs. Thomas A. Parker, and Mr. W. H. Parker.
This was ten years after the Southern Railroad completed this section of Georgia when Baxley was known as Station No. 7, and five years after Baxley became the county seat of Appling County. Also, in 1880 the first Sunday School in Baxley was organized in a small school building with W. C. Carter, three women, and twelve children as members.
The first church building for First Baptist was erected on the north end of North Main Street at the time of the organization of the church. The congregation grew rapidly and it was soon necessary to build a larger church. It was said that the noise of a grist mill across the street from the church interfered with the Saturday services so an alternate location was selected for the new building.
In 1890 the church's present site was purchased by William C. Parker and Co., who "in consideration of the love they have for Christ and His Kingdom on earth" gave the land to the deacons of the church. The second church building was completed free of all indebtedness and dedicated on March 12, 1893.
The first youth organization at First Baptist was started in 1898 as B.Y.P.U. (Baptist Young People's Union). In 1902 the Convention minutes listed Baxley Baptist with a Ladies Missionary Society. The church had preaching one Sunday a month until 1904 when Rev. Jessie M. Gilmore became pastor and services were held two Sundays each month. In 1911 Rev. E. F. Rice was made full time pastor holding services every Sunday.
On November 29, 1925 under the leadership and inspiration of Rev. Zach Everett Barron, the church voted unanimously to build a new church plant. The old building was moved to a lot behind the courthouse and used for services while the new building was under construction. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on November 21, 1926.
The building was completed and opened for worship on Sunday, July 10, 1927. Rev. Barron preached the dedicatory sermon on May 7, 1939. It was said on that day by members of the church "that every brick in the building was laid in the prayers of Zach Barron."
The auditoriums were air conditioned in 1955. In 1957, under the leadership of L. Bert Joyner, a two story brick educational building was constructed. Air conditioning was added in 1961. The pipe organ was installed in the sanctuary in 1962. The church purchased additional properties surrounding the church as membership continued to grow and additional space was necessary to enlarge its present facilities and for parking. For many years the two story Dunn House was used for Sunday School classes.
On November 12, 1989 the church initiated a Forward in Faith program to raise funds to begin construction of a ground level sanctuary. A reassessment committee determined the priority of a new fellowship hall in 1992. The new fellowship hall building with kitchen, stage and offices was constructed in 1994 under the leadership of Rev. James Dant. The addition of an elevator structure was completed in 1998 during the interim of Rev. Virlon Griner.
First Baptist Church has always been a strong supporter of missions. The church has sponsored two missions, one which began as Dunn Memorial Baptist Church in the forties while Guy Atkinson was pastor. The other, Riverside Mission, began when Hugh Garner was pastor in the sixties. A scholarship fund for seminary students from First Baptist was put into the budget in 1998.
First Baptist Church was a member of the Piedmont Association until 1894 when the Consolation Association was organized. Since 1894, it has been a member of the Consolation Association.
Over the long history of First Baptist Church many outstanding men have served as pastor: James F. Reeves, George A. Blount, A. R. Richardson, M. O. Carpenter, L. A. Cooper, Jessie M. Gilmore, J. A. J. Dumas, Joseph A. Ansley (1909-10), E. F. Rice (1910-12), R. J. Mincey (1912-14), W. J. Ballew (1914-17), R. L. Bonsteel (1917-19), B. D. Porter (1919-22), Rufus D. Hodges (1922-24), Zach E. Barron (1925-29), Walter B. Feagins (1930-37), Ernest A. Kilgore (1938-43), Guy N. Atkinson (1943-48), Charles D. Stewart (1949-53), L. Bert Joyner (1953-60), Hugh P. Garner (1961-64), Ernest L. Carswell (1964-69), David B. Howle (1969-72), Cecil D. McCollum (1973-78), James W. Howard (1979-85), Virlon Griner-Interim (1985/1990/1998), Julian Griner (1986-1990), James C. Dant (1991-1997), James A. Meadows (1999-2009), Ches Smith-Interim (2009-2010), Keith Alderman (2010-2014), Robert Wigley-Interim (2014-2016), Joe Ferguson (2017-present).