History

History

Below, you will find a brief overview of the rich history of First Baptist Church of Tallahassee (FBCTLH). Over the past 175 years, FBCTLH has been committed to helping people find and follow Jesus. The church’s Heritage Center Team has worked tirelessly for the past several years compiling documents, photographs, and historical details that contribute to a more comprehensive history including all the key milestones in the church’s history. These can be seen in the digital timeline below, and eventually, will be part of the FBCTLH Heritage Center, which will officially open to church members and the public sometime in late 2024.

We are thankful for the faithfulness God has shown to work in and through our church and as we celebrate the past we look forward with great anticipation to what God will continue to do!

We invite you to read below and explore the digital timeline to get to know more about the history of First Baptist Church of Tallahassee!

 

On November 10, 1849, a Baptist Church, with Rev. J.T. Zealy serving as the first pastor, was formed in Tallahassee. The congregation joined the Florida Baptist Association on October 14, 1850. By 1854, the church had grown from 9 members to 265 members.

Land was purchased in May 1856, on the south side of College Avenue for the purpose of religious worship. This new frame church, dedicated July 4, 1858, was used during the Civil War by both armies as a hospital and barracks. Due to the hardships of the War, the building fell into disrepair. In September 1894, the church was repaired and renamed The First Baptist Church of Tallahassee. On January 21, 1900, a remodeled church with its new Byzantine inverted onion-top tower and spire was opened.

Another building was constructed at a cost of $40,000 and dedicated in November 1915. In 1950, due to membership growth, the church opened the Duval wing. The Adams wing and a newly built sanctuary were dedicated on September 29, 1957, by pastor Dr. Harold G. Sanders, Dr. Doak S. Campbell and Governor Leroy Collins.

A stained-glass window and wooden prayer rail from the 1858 church were installed in the vestibule and one of the 7 original stained-glass windows from the 1915 church was relocated to the new chapel. Secretary of State, Robert A. Gray presented the Degan Carillon Chimes as a memorial to his wife in 1957.

Over the years, First Baptist sponsored new community Baptist churches: Lakeview Baptist, 1937; University Heights, 1947; Thomasville Road, 1948; Crawfordville Road, 1957 (now Crossway); Haywood Cates, 1961; Morningside Baptist Church, 1983. All churches are now independent.

In 1960, the church purchased the Stewart Property bordering on Adams and Park which consisted of the Old Columns building and the Union Bank Building which were later donated to the State of Florida for preservation.

The church began a ministry to the deaf in 1958 and to Internationals in 1961. In 1965, First Baptist collected enough S & H Green stamps to purchase an airplane and other essentials for a missionary in Brazil. During the 1960’s many churches held segregated services. First Baptist opened its doors to all people in the late 1960’s.

To further serve downtown Tallahassee, the church dedicated the E.C. Allen Christian Life Center in November 1974, to meet the recreational and spiritual needs of the community and the congregation. By 2011, the Chason Building, containing administrative offices, conference rooms, and the Welcome Center, which connected all church buildings was completed.

Since 1849 First Baptist Church remains committed to ministering in the heart of downtown, throughout Tallahassee, and around the world. The church’s influence has had both a local and a global focus. Church members have served in places like Ethiopia; South Africa; Central America; India, Russia; South America; South Asia; Haiti; and in various areas across the US. Locally, First Baptist participates in disaster relief support, caring for the homeless and needy, and partnering with other community ministries. The First Baptist Church of Tallahassee exists to help people find and follow Jesus both here and abroad.

Learn about the Heritage Center


Our History through the Decades

1849

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1849: The Baptist Church of Tallahassee was organized by James E. Broome, Theodore W. Brevard, Sarah Archer, Hugh Archer, Robert B. Hilton, Mrs. E. Swicord, Mrs. C.E. Brevard, Mrs. M.S. Corley, and Miss Catharine Smith on November 10. James E. Broome and Theodore W. Brevard were chosen as deacons. Rev. J.T. Zealy was pastor until 1852.

1854: Rev. W.W. Childers was pastor with membership of 265 people (258 Blacks and seven Whites).

1856: A lot on the south side of College Avenue, immediately west of the present Masonic Building, was purchased on May 31 for $500 on condition that it be used solely for the erection of an edifice for the purpose of religious worship.

1858: A frame church was erected and dedicated on July 4. It is possible that Rev. J.C. Long was the pastor (records are unclear).

1859

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1860: Rev. J. C. Long is believed to have been an Interim or Itinerant Pastor until the church was taken over as a hospital by the military in 1862. Many local women served as nurses and made medical supplies for use with the sick and injured.

1861: Civil war was underway; Florida seceded from the Union in January and joined the Confederacy on February 17. The church building was used by both armies as a hospital and barracks and needed much repair when the members were able to regain it in 1878.

1869

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1879

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1879: F. B. Moodie and Walter Gwynn invited the Florida Baptist Convention to meet in Tallahassee at the church in May.

1880-1886: Rev. A.C. McCants was pastor with a membership of 15.

1885: Tallahassee Map shows Tallahassee Baptist Church (#9) on Clinton St., now College Ave., adjacent to the Masonic Lodge (#5).