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Historical Sketch, First Baptist Church

Tyler, Texas - 1848:1938

By R A Dean, Church Clerk



Since the First Baptist is celebrating its ninetieth anniversary April 3 to 8, the writer has been asked to prepare a historical sketch from its organization up to the present time. For the information in this sketch up to 1877, the facts are taken from a church manual published in 1888 and "A History of the Baptist Church" published in the Tyler Courier-Times, April 1911. All church records to 1877 are lost. From that date the records are in hand. We have gone over the minutes of the church for the past 60 years and gathered such facts as was thought would be interesting to show the church's progress and accomplishments, its trials and difficulties and to call to mind the names of men and women who have toiled, prayed, and sacrificed to bring it to what it is today.

April 8, 1948, the Tyler Baptist Church was organized in the small log court house that was situated on the north side of the court house square. Capt Sid S Johnson, in his book, "Some Biographies of Old Settlers" says of this court house: "It was of rustic structure and furnished strictly on the primitive' style with mother earth for a floor."

Elder W H Ray and Elder W B Langston composed the presbytery who organized the church. The charter members were Wm S Walker and wife, Amy W Walker, Stephen Reaves and wife, Georgie A Reaves, Hampton E Hudnall and J G Adrain. Elder Ray was elected pastor, Wm S Walker, deacon, and Stephen Reaves, clerk. From the best information available this was the fifty-third Baptist church organized in Texas. There are only twenty of these that are in existence at this time.

Mrs Reaves was a daughter of Wm S Walker and wife. It would be interesting to know how many of the descendants of this family have been members of this church for the past ninety years. There are at present 32 grand children, great grand children and great, great grandchildren members. Hampton E Hudnall was a great uncle of W R Hudnall of this city. If he had a family it is not known. J G Adrain has some grand children living at Ben Wheeler.

Elder Ray was grandfather of Mrs. Harlan Smith of this city. His body sleeps in the cemetery at Antioch Church in Smith county.

In 1849 Elder W B Langston succeeded Elder Ray as pastor and served until 1853. He was succeeded by G G Baggarly, who served until 1856.

The church joined the Cherokee Baptist Association in 1852. At that time it had a membership of 68 and had services on the third Sunday and the Saturday before in each month. The services were announced by blowing a large horn. The Cherokee Baptist Association was organized in 1850.

The church used the log court house for two years. The next five years the Odd Fellows Hall and the Federal court house. The first church house was built in 1855 in connection with the Cherokee Baptist Association and was used for school and church purposes. This house was destroyed by fire in December, 1856 before it was completed. This house was situated on the lot just in front of Sear-Roebuck's place of business. The lot was deeded to the trustees of the Tyler University, which was sponsored by the Cherokee Baptist Association.

When this house was burned the church again used the log court house and the Methodists granted the use of their house. The second church house was built in 1859, with Rev J S Bledsoe as pastor. This was a one-room brick house, 40X60 feet. Rev Bledsoe was a great pioneer preacher and perhaps participated in the organization of more churches in this county than any other preacher. Rev Bledsoe served two years. W S Walker, John T Davis and James E Moore were deacons. While he was pastor T J Kelly and E F Swann were ordained deacons. In 1856 the first Sunday School was organized by T J Kelly. He was the first superintendent. Rev D B Morrell succeeded Rev Bledsoe and served two years. John H Whitman was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1854; Robert Clay in 1855.

Rev J R Clark was pastor in 1862. From 1863 to 1864 the church had no pastor and had preaching only by visiting ministers. Rev N P Moore was called in 1864 and served until 1867. He was succeeded by Rev John H Rowland, who served from 1868 to 1872. During this time George Yarbrough and E H Wells were ordained as deacons. While John H Rowland was pastor the Dean Church, seven miles west of Tyler, was built. He organized this church on June 8, 1872. A week later he went back and conducted a meeting for ten days. The church was organized with nine members. At the close of the meeting there were 48 members, 29 coming for baptism. As a boy the writer remembers that the Tyler Church presented Dean Church with a large pulpit Bible and some hymn books without music and a chandelier. This chandelier was a large tin ball shaped like a hornet's nest with eight wires soldered around the sides projecting out about twelve inches and a small cup on the end to hold a candle. The Tyler church had just discarded this and was using kerosene lamps.


The next pastor was Dr J H Stribling, who served from 1873 to 1880. With his pastorate the church began having services every Sunday and weeekly prayer meeting. The prayer meeting was held on Thursday night so as not to conflict with the Methodist service which was held on Wednesday night. A J Swann and R H Brown were ordained as deacons in 1873. Dr Stribling was the first ministerial student to enter Baylor University. "The Centennial Story of Texas Baptists" has this to say of him "Texas has never produced a preacher who was better poised, safer in counsel, truer to his trust as a pastor, more devoted to the varied interests of his denomination and less concerned about personal advancement and denominational distinction than J H Stribling. ****He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Baylor University and was probably the best loved pastor in Texas in his day."

It was while Dr Stribling was pastor in 1875 that Major W E Penn, a lawyer from Jefferson, Texas, came to Tyler to attend a Sunday School Convention. After a soul searching message which he brought at this Convention, Dr Stribling asked him to remain over the week end and speak to the church along soul-winning lines. He consented and when the news went out that a lawyer was speaking at the church, crowds thronged the building. A revival broke out and continued for five weeks. Scores were converted. This was the beginning of Major Penn's remarkable work as an evangelist, which he continued until his death in 1895.

On September 5, 1880, Dr Stribling resigned to take effect January 1, 1881. On October 31 the church met in conference to call a pastor. M V Smith, G W Roger and J A Hackett were put in nomination. M V Smith was elected.

It was not stated why Rev Smith did not accept but he was pastor at Belton at that time and continued to serve that church for twelve more years.

At this meeting the minutes state that "A J Hawthorn was present in the interest of Foreign Missions and organized the Annie Luther Missionary Society, electing a full corps of officers." It is evident that this society has continued until the present time. May, 1887, the church voted to borrow what money the Ladies' Aid Society had on hand, $700.00 or $800.00, to use on the church building and two years later the minutes state that the Ladies' Aid bought a pastor's home for $3,000.

On December 26, 1880, Rev Reddin Andrews was called and served six years. In 1880, the International and Great Northern railroad moved their freight and passenger depot and switch yards north of Ferguson street, along the side of the church lot. For several years there was much contention with the railroad company in regard to the disturbance of public worship as there was much switching of cars during the eleven o'clock service.

April, 1882, H T Morton joined this church from the Second Church of St Louis, MO. It was voted to take immediate steps to ordain him to the gospel ministry which was done April 23. The following were the Presbytery: S W Marston, pastor Second Baptist Church, St Louis; Dr R C Burleson of Waco and Reddin Andrews, pastor of this church, with Deacons J T White and George Yarbrough.

In 1882 a cotton gin and planing mill situated on Fannin and Elm streets burned and sparks from this fire fell on the roof of the church and it was burned.


The church was chartered June, 1882. The following were trustees: J T White, George Yarbrough, E H Wells, A J Swann, R H Brown and J M Roberts.

From the time the building burned until they went into the new building in June, 1886, the church rented the Albertson opera house, situated on the corner where the Peoples Bank now stands.

The membership thought best to get a new location. They first selected a lot on the corner of Erwin and Bois 'd Arc where the telephone office now stands. This lot was 75 by 100 feet. The price was $1500. The church accepted this lot and authorized tye committee to have the papers drawn up. $1,305 was subscribed to pay for the lot and Mrs W S Herndon and Mrs John H Bonner were appointed to raise the balance.

On March 25 the committee reported that they could not get a deed to the Erwin street property but that a lot on Bois d'Arc, 90 by 172 could be bought for $1,300.00. This lot was accepted February 15, 1883, Deacon R H Brown proposed to be one of 20 to pay $500.00 each for the erection of the new church buuilding. The following named members joined him in this challenge: R H Brown, J H Bonner, Geo R Philips, Mrs W S Herndon, George Yarbrough, J H Carter, G C Wimberly, John A Brown, M T Brown. Others promised smaller amounts. A Total of about $5,000 was subscribed.

A committee on plans submitted plans to the church, December 30, 1883, which the church accepted. A building comittee was appointed and authorized to let the contract. The committee was Dr E H Wells, Dr W J Goodman, John C Robertson. The following June the church rescended all action in regard to the new church building. A new committee was appointed to get plans.

At this time it was discovered that the church had never secured a deed to the lot on which the old building was burned. A committee was appointed to perfect the title to the property which was vested in the Cherokee Baptist Association. October, 1884, the Association, meeting with the Mt Zion church, appointed a committee to transfer the title to this church.

September, 1884, new plans were submitted and approved by the church. M T Brown was appointed to supervise the building. Dr E H Wells was asked to cooperate with him. November, 1884, Bro Brown resigned and Dr Wells was given complete charge. April, 1885, Dr Wells resigned and T R Swann was elected to take charge. S S Gibbs was solicitor and collector for funds for the building. It was said that he was very faithful and efficient. After many difficulties the church was near enough completed to be occupied June 20, 1886.

It is not stated what this building cost. The Manual published March, 1888, states that the church is under process of being completed. "Up to this time $13,500 has been expended and several thousand dollars will be required to complete the building. It is thought that this, when completed, will be one of the largest and most beautiful buildings in East Texas."

March 8, 1885, Rev Andrews resigned to accept the presidency of Baylor University. June 14 conference was called to consider the call of a pastor. E R Carswell of Georgia, A J Fawcett of Arkansas and Rev Hardwick of Missouri were put in nomination. E R Carswell was elected. He declined the call. November 29 a call was extended to A J Fawcett which he declined.

February 21, 1`886, R T Yates was called for the remainder of the year at a salary of $1,000 per year. He came to the field at once, as he was moderator of the church conference Feb 28. The membership at this time was about 250. Rev Yates was evidently a soul winner. The minutes do not state that there was a series of meetings but on May 16 and 23 there were 23 received by letter and 48 for baptism. The first year of his pastorate there were 56 received by letter and 54 by baptism.

March 1887, a communication was read from the Dean Church, calling a conference to meet with this church to consider the advisability of organizing a Smith County Baptist Association. This church elected messengers to the conference, which met the fifth Sunday in May. There was not enough sentiment in favor of the move to justify the organization. Rev Yates resigned in May, 1887, to take effect Sept 1st. July 21 he asked the the church release him at once, that he might accept the pastorate of the church of Denton.

Rev A J Fawcett was called October 9 and came January 1, 1888. The salary was fixed at $1,500 per year and a home. He served until January, 1898. This is the longest time that any onc has held the pastorate in this church.

In 1888 the Ladies' Aid bought a pastor's home. We have not been able to find out where this was located. The minutes, November 13, 1892, state that the Trustees were authorized to deed the property to F L DeShong on payment of $100 and cost of court.

A committee that had been appointed to arrange for the dedication of the church reported August 31, 1889, and set September 29, as the date and asked that Dr F H Kerfoot of Louisville, Ky, preach the sermon. If this service was ever held we failed to find a record of it. We find in December, 1894, that the church was about to be sold for debt, and was not paid out until 1895.


In the fall of 1888, the church sponsored a mission in North Tyler, establishing a Sunday School and having weekly prayer meetings. A year or two later a church was organized and called the "Second Baptist Church," now "Calvary." The First Church helped pay their pastor for several years.

In March 1890, the clerk notes that there were 27 received for baptism, the result of the Sam Jones meeting that had just been held in the city. November, 1891, Geo R Philips resigned as church clerk. He had served for 14 years. C F Mansfield was elected to the place.

November 3, 1893, Miss Annie Swann resigned as organist. I do not know how long she had served. Miss Mary Bonner was elected. She served until 1898, and was succeeded by Miss Mabel Boyette.

December, 1893, it was noted that the church was $900 behind with the pastor's salary and a committee was appointed to collect money to pay the debt.

July, 1894, Geo R Philips, T B Butler and Dr A L Montgomery were elected Deacons. They were ordained July 19. A J Fawcett, Geo W Truett, G A Grammer, F M Wells and E C Rice constituted the presbytery.

July 8, 1894, J H LeGrand was appointed as one of the ushers. He served until his death, April 18, 1934. Bro LeGrand served as one of the most loyal and faithful ushers to be found anywhere. Many people looked forward to his warm handclasp and none who ever served in this church was more sorely missed from its services when he passed away. He was gracious, kind, affectionate, thoughtful, gentle, tactful, and generous, both in heart and mind, and filled his place as usher and deacon in a most unusual fashion.

January, 1895, Sid Williams held a revival meeting with the church. There were 20 received by letter and 30 for baptism. The church was greatly revived and raised $5000 to pay the debt on the building, which had been a burden on the church for nearly ten years.

Dr Fawcett resigned September, 1897 to take effect January 1, 1898. January 16, 1898, the church called a conference to elect a pastor. The committee that had been appointed to make recommendations submitted the names of about twenty ministers who were open to a call but recommended no one especially, leaving the church to make its own selection. Before the call was made the salary was fixed at $14000, the pastor to pay his own house rent. J H Gambrell of Georgia, S W Miller of Dallas and Rev Holland of Marshall were put in nomination. J H Gambrell received 72 votes out of a total vote of 105. On a vote to make the call unanimous there was one descenting vote.

March 13, 1898, a committee was appointed to arrange for the celebration of the semi-centennial. If this service was held the minutes do not record it.

October 23, 1898 the church formally withdrew from Cherokee Baptist Association, giving as the reason that the Association was not in harmony with the organized state work and the lack of harmony at the annual sessions. At the same conference the church sent out a call to the churches of Smith County to elect messengers to meet with Dean Church, December 6, for the purpose of organizing an association to work in harmony with the state work. There were four churches that elected messengers to this meeting and organized the Smith County Baptist Association, Tyler First; North Tyler; Noonday and Dean. These churches had a combined membership of 740. This association now has 43 churches with a membership of 9339It has been the writer's privilege to attend every session of this association. There has been a harmonious spirit in every session.

November, 1900, the pastor's salary was raised to $1650. January, 1901, it was raised to $1800. August 1901, the church purchased their first piano. The price was $250 and the old organ. It was paid for at $10 per month. This calls to mind that the writer heard the late Deacon R H Brown relate this circumstance in regards to the first organ purchased. There were some of the prominent members who were so opposed to the use of an organ in church that it was put down in a place under the pulpit that had been prepared for a baptistry, which had not been used since there was no facilities for filling it with water. The organ stayed there for several years. When the church had a great revival it was brought out and used to the praise of the Lord. The church at this time baptized in a pool at the edge of Spring street just west of the American Laundry. This pool was filled by a spring. They continued to use this pool until 1886 when they moved into the building just north of our present building.

January 12, 1902, the treasurer reported that the church was out of debt and $275 balance on hand. The clerk states that this was a condition almost unheard of. January, 1902, C F Mansfield resigned as clerk and Lee Butler was elected. Bro Butler served until May, 1904. He was succeeded by R A Dean.

June, 1902, the church bought a pastor's home on west Houston street, paying $2500 for it.

January 11, 1903, J S Magee was elected Sunday School superintendent. Dr Gambrell resigned January, 1904. W A Hamlett was called March 27 and served until the following January. Under his leadership the church bought a pipe organ. The price paid was $2500. Miss Mary Bonner was elected organist.

May 4, 1904, all of the deacons resigned. It was voted that a conference be called on Sunday, May 15, at which time the church would elect nine deacons by written ballot. The three receiving the highest number of votes to serve three years, the three receiving the next highest number to serve two years, and the three receiving the least to serve one year. At the conference the following were nominated and elected by acclamation: R H Brown, A L Montgomery, Geo R Philips, J S Magee, C C Edwards, A W Birdwell, Geo S McGhee, C C Crews. The last three named were ordained May 29. The other six were ordained deacons. J H Bonner, C F Mansfield, John A Brown, J M Edwards, J H Hambrick and Geo W Cross were elected Trustees.

Dr H C Risner succeeded W A Hamlett July, 1905. The church built a tabernacle on a lot south of Elm street, just north of the present school athletic field. Dr J H Gambrell and Geo W Truett were to conduct the meeting. Dr Truett was called away the second day of the meeting on account of a sick brother. Dr Gambrell preached one week, June 25 to July 2, when Dr Risner arrived and continued the meeting until July 16. There were 28 additions by experience and 8 by letter. J S Magee moved from the city in June, 1905, and Geo S Magee was elected Sunday School superintendent. M O Meadows was ordained to the work of the gospel ministry Octover 3, 1906. Chas B Marsh, a young minister of Louisville, Ky, was employed as pastor's assistant June 20, 1907, at a salary of $600 per yer. He served only a few months.

Sunday, March 22, 1908, Deacon R H Brown presented resolutions in regard to the church going in a building program, asking that a committee be appointed to make disposition of the present church property and select a suitable place for the new building. That a collection for the new building be taken at once and a committee be appointed to canvass the membership. Action on this matter was deferred until the next Sunday when it was adopted and the following committees were appointed:

Building committee: Dr A L Montgomery, A W Birdwell, R H Brown, Mrs M L Herndon.

Finance committee: Geo S McChee, W G Human, Jas P Boroughton, R B Long. A large soliciting committee was appointed.

May 3, 1908, R H Brown reported that the committee had secured an option on the lot corner of Bois d'Arc and Ferguson. On motion of John H Bonner the committee was authorized to close the deal for this lot, which was done. The price was $10,000. Nov 22, 1908, Dr Montgomery reported that the committee had agreed to employ Mr Green of Houston as architect for the new church building.

On account of some church trouble that came up at this time, the matter of a new building was dropped and not taken up again for two years.

Miss Mary Bonner resigned as organist April 4, 1909. Miss Irene Swann was elected, Miss Mary Bell, assistant. Dr H C Risner resigned in November, 1908, effective Jan 1, 1909.


Rev Will A Hamlett was again called. Bro Hamlett declined the call. Rev G L Yates was called April 10, 1910. He was with the church in the first service Wednesday night, June 1st. It is noted that from Jan 1 to June 1, the five months that the church had no pastor and no special series of meetings but preaching each Sunday by a visiting minister, there were 20 additions by letter and 41 baptism. At one Sunday afternoon service, after a prayer meeting led by T B Butler, ther were 8 received by letter and 13 for baptism. The membership when Rev Yates came was 678. The salary was $2500 and home.

August 1, 1910, Geo S McGhee resigned as Sunday School superintendent, church treasurer and deacon. T B Butler was elected Sunday School superintendent, Carl Wood, treasurer.

The following were elected deacons August 10, 1910: Lee Butler, R D Cobb, R B Long, E E Bedell, Carl Wood, J H LeGrand, H T Gilliam, W G Human, H A McDougal and Walter Funderburg. September 21 the ordination service was held. Rev Will A Hamlett preached the ordination sermon. R D Cobb, J H LeGrand and W G Human declined to accept the office.

December 10, 1919 (error should be 1909), the matter of erecting a new church building was brought up and the church voted unanimously to go into a building program. The minutes state that a subscription was started and that in a few minutes $23,000 was subscribed. R H Brown, W G Human and Mrs M L Herndon were appointed a committee on plans.

April, 1911, R H Brown, G L Yates, W G Human, Carl Wood and C C Crews were appointed on a building committee. Evangelist M F Ham conducted a meeting with this church in June, 1911. The church built a tabernacle on the lot that was bought two years before. There were 44 additions by letter, 24 for baptism.

At the close of this meeting the church was called in conference. Rev Yates offered his resignation as pastor. After a number of talks were made against accepting his resignation, the matter was postponed until the next Wednesday night. The next morning some twenty-five or thirty of the members, including most of the deacons, held a meeting to discuss the situation. It was thought that if the church would get under the building program and pledge themselves to put it over Dr Yates could be persuaded to withdraw his resignation. He was called to the meeting and everyone present pledged their support in every way possible to the building program . . .Dr Yates withdrew his resignation and a large building committee was appointed.

October 11, 1911, Deacon Brown reported that the contract had been let for the new building. The price was $39,950.85 but there were some changes made in the plans that cost $5000. The church borowed $25,000 from the Amicable Life Insurance Co of Waco at six per cent interest. The loan was for five years. At the end of the five years there was $13,000 still due. This was refinanced at eight per cent and the debt was finally paid by the end of 1922. October, 1911, T B Butler resigned as Sunday School Superintendent. R A Dean was elected.

Wednesday, October 18, 1911, at 3:30 pm the congregation assembled for the ground breadking service for the new building. The exercises were opened with a song, "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name." Pastor Yates led the prayer and read selections from the third chapter of Ezra. Deacon R H Brown gave a short historical review of the work of the church since it was organized in 1848. Carl Wood spoke of the future. At the conclusion of this address the oldest members of the church, all who had been members since 1885 when the old building was begun, were asked to come forward and take part in the ground breaking. Mrs M L Herndon was asked to turn the first spade of dirt, she being the oldest member in point of service. The some thirty-five or forty others than took part in this service.

The church manual printed in 1888, shows the membership at that time to be 314. Of this number 71 are living at this date, about half of them were present and took part in this service. "Blest Be the Tie That Binds" was sung and Rev John Holland led the closing prayer. At present there are 16 of those whose names appeared on the roll of 1888, members of this church. F M Bell, H L Burks, Miss Mary Douglas, Mrs. Alice Douglas, Mrs Pauline Fleishel Cooley, T N Jones, R B Long, Mrs R B Long, J M Oden, Mrs J M Oden, Geo R Philips, Mrs S D Reaves, Mrs M P Baker, Mrs Mollie Riviere, Miss Georgie Smith, Mrs Annie Smith Booty.

January, 1913, Miss Irene Swann resigned as organist and Mrs J H Hambrick was elected at a salary of $15 per month. The church was completed March, 1913, and we find in the minutes Wednesday night, March 13, and we find in the minutes Wednesday night, March 13, "This was the last service held in the old church building." The first service held in the old building was June 20, 1886, and the sermon was preached by R T Yates, who was pastor at that time. The first service in the new building was held March 16, 1913, G L Yates, the pastor at that time, preaching the sermon.

At the first service Miss Virginia Sledge, a granddaughter of Deacon R H Brown, who had had the leading part in the construction of the building, was the first to unite with the church for baptism. There were 865 present in Sunday School that day. The church had a membership of 748. The Sunday School reported an average attendance for March of 680.

This was the beginning of a series of meetings in which Dr L R Scarborough of Ft Worth did the preaching. There were 16 additions by letter, 91 for baptism.

June 11, 1913, the following were elected deacons: Roy W Philips, W R Hudnell, B V Hammond, James P Broughton, S W Walker, W W Whitfield, and J M Donohue. They were ordained August 3.

September 20, 1913, the church employed Chester Harris as General Assistant and Music Director at a salary of $110 per month. The following January he was elected superintendent of the Sunday School. October 24 he offered his resignation to take effect January 1, 1915, which was accepted. W P Philips succeeded Bro Harris and served one year and was succeeded by J B Oliver.

Rev M E Dodd conducted a revival meeting April 24 to May 7, 1914. There were 25 received by letter, 40 for baptism. The next year Dr L R Scarborough came on Tuesday, March 30 but was called away on Thursday. Pastor Yates continued the meeting until April 7. There were 44 additions by letter and 44 for baptism.

W P Philips reported at the May conference, 1915, that the Sunday School had 1020 enrolled and the average attendance for April was 819. The church membership at that time was 1001.

At the September conference, 1915, Deacon Brown reported that the church was behind on bills and salaries $615 and asked that this be raised next Sunday by public collection. He also recommended that the church adopt the Duplex Envelope System for weekly offerings, which was approved by the church. Since the adoption of the weekly envelope system the church has always had money to meet its obligations promptly. At a later conference the church made the following division of the benevolent fund: $70 per month to Foreign Missions, $60 to Home Missions, $60 to State Missions, $60 to Education. This would leave approximately $100 per month to be used for the poor, Orphans' Home, sanitariums, and Associational Missions, which would be appropriated from time to time as the need might be.

The revival for 1916 was conducted by Dr L R Christie of Columbus, GA, April 16-30. There were 4 additions by letter and 16 for baptism. The pastor's salary was raised at the beginning of 1917 to $300 per month; the Financial Secretary to $75 and the organist to $25.

The 1917 revival was conducted by J M Dawson of Waco. There were 14 additions by letter, 32 by baptism.

October 3, 1918, Rev G L Yates resigned to accept the church at Macon, GA. At the last service the church presented Bro Yates and wife with a beautiful Silver Memorial Trophy Tablet engraved as follows: Mrs & Mrs G L Yates from First Baptist Church, Tyler, Texas, In Loving Remembrance 1910-1917.

G L Yates was one of the best loved pastors that has ever served this church. He led in the building of a beautiful and well equipped church house; he built one of the largest Men's Bible Classes in the state; led in adopting a financial system that enabled the church to meet all bills and obligations promptly, greatly increased church contributions to benevolences, and brought the membership into a closer fellowship and inspired them for greater work for the Master. The seven years and four months he served there were 608 additions by letter, 352 for baptism. The net gain in membership was 316.

Sam H Campbell was called January, 1918, and served four and a half years. The revival that year was held by the pastor, there being 10 received by letter, 18 baptism. March 12, 1919, Earl Wood and J R Moore were recognized as deacons of this church. J H LeGrand and W W Davis were elected to be ordained. They were ordained May 4. At this conference the church voted to take two Memorials in the Home Mission Board "Hall of Fame:" one in honor of Dr. G L Yates and one in honor of the committee that had charge of the building of our church.

Rev H L Winburn of Arkadelphia, Ark, did the preaching for our revival meeting, April, 1919. There were 18 additions by letter, 12 for baptism. November, 1919, J B Oliver resigned as Sunday School superintendent and J R Moore elected. The 1920 revival was conducted by Rev chas E Maddrey of Austin. There were 28 additions by letter, 24 baptism.

Rev Geo Green of Brownwood was with the church in the revival April, 1921, and again in 1922. There were 50 additions by letter, 61 for baptism in 1921 and 18 by letter, 25 for baptism in 1922.

Rev Sam Campbell resigned Aug 1, 1922. On August 27 the church called Dr H R Holcomb of Mansfield, Ls. The salary was fixed at $4500 per year, the church to furnish him with a car. Dr Holcomb declined to accept the call.

Sunday, December, 1922, the debt on the building having been paid, this day was set to dedicate the church house. By invitation, Dr G L Yates, who was pastor when the house was built preached the sermon. After reading part of the 8th chapter of First Kings he preached from the text "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord." Deacon R H Brown led the prayer.

Rev James T McNew was next called. He came January, 1923. April 8, being the 75th anniversary of the church the eleven o'clock service was given to a special program in celebration of the event. Deacon R B Long, who had been a member for 55 years (longer than any other one now living) spoke on "Then and Now." Deacon R H Bown, who had been an active deacon for fifty years, spoke on "Fifty Years as a Deacon." Deacon Geo R Philips gave "Some Reminiscences," he having been a member for more than fifty years. H A McDougal read a "Historical Sketch." R A Dean gave "some Statistics" and Mrs R H Brown gave "My First Impressions of Tyler Baptists."

The revival for this year, 1923, began May 20. Dr McNew was to do the preaching. For several days he had a throat trouble and was unable to preach. J R Rozell, pastor at Whitehouse, Z T Sullivan, pastor of North Tyler, and B G Holloway, county Enlistment Director supplied time until he recovered. There were 22 additions by letter, 40 for baptism. The budget for 1924-25 was set at $12,500 for local, $10,000 for state and southwide objects.

Deacon R H Brown died November 4, 1924. He had been a member of this church for 54 years, a deacon for 51 and chairman of the deacons for more than twenty-five years. A church never had a more loyal, faithful and efficient leader. Deacon Geo R Philips in his talk on the 75th anniversary of this church referring to the active members of this church when he first came to Tyler in 1873, has this to say of him, "Bro R H Brown, then being a young man but quite active in church affairs, among other activities conducted a young men's prayer meeting. And I want to say it now while Bro Brown may hear it, that I consider him the most consistent and continuous church worker that I can recall and for a longer period of time." Judge J R Warren, in a paper read before the Men's Bible Class, paid this tribute to him:

"Brother Brown for many years lived in this city and has been in a large way connected with its business enterprise. In business he was successful; but I speak of his church life, which came first with him. While he was generally regarded as perhaps the most distinguished layman in this church, he was retiring and unassuming, but always ready to act when duty called As chairman of the board of deacons, he looked to the interest of the church in a worthy manner; he gave to it the very best of his splendid business judgment. While very unassuming he was courageous and never compromised his religious beliefs or the interests of the church. In him was the ideal business man in the church and the highest type of Christian man in business. While he was known in his church life for his labors and efforts in its business affairs, he realized the fact that the purpose of it was the saving of men and women. He had a passion for the souls of men. He lived his three score years and ten, and was vigorous to the end. He fought a good fight, he kept the faith." His picture hangs in the "Rich Brown Church Parlor," furnished in his memory by his daughter, Mrs A F Sledge.

December 14, 1924, J C Hale, J M Stepehens, W V Boone, H M Eagle, C M Day, W A Martin, C F Mansfield, and J R Warren were elected deacons. They were ordained Dec 28.

Rev O L Powers of Wichita Falls led in the revival February, 1925. There were 35 received by letter and 62 for baptism. The 1926 revival was led by Rev D M Gardner of Birmingham, Ala. There were 85 additions by letter and 95 for baptism. The pastor's salary was raised to $5,200 per year. The church membership was 1325. At the close of the church year, 1926, the treasurer reported a balance on hand of $2,708.60.

The following were elected deacons October, 1926; W V Henson, L R Herring, R L Garner, and A B Hill. June 12 to 26, 1927, Rev Will C McClung of Denton did the preaching in the annual revival. There were 19 received by letter, 27 for baptism.

July 31, 1927, J Ligon Rozell was ordained to the full work of the ministry and R L Garner, A B Hill and L R Herring to the office of deacon.

J D Carroll was elected as Educational Director, August 3, 1927, at a salary of $2,700 per year

The revival for 1928 was held by Dr I E Gates of San Antonio, Texas. There were 38 additions by letter and 49 for baptism. J D Caroll resigned as Educational Director June, 1928. Dr James T McNew resigned as pastor September 16, 1928.


Dr Porter M Bailes of Lakeland, Florida, was called in February, 1929. He began his pastorate May 1, 1929. The salary was fixed at $5,000 per year and home. The membership of this time was 1248. His has been next to the longest of any pastorate.

Rev H D Bruce was employed June, 1929, as Educational Director at a salary of $150 per month. He resigned March, 1930. June, 1929, the church bought a lot on Bonner and Woldert Streets for a pastor's home, and the following year built the home. This with the lot cost $13,500.

September, 1929, W E Morgan was elected superintendent of the Sunday School. Pastor Bailes did the preaching in the revival, October, 1929, which resulted in 34 additions by letter and 44 for baptism. September, 1930, J R Moore was again elected as superintendent of the Sunday School, which position he has held up to the present time. The 1931 revival was conducted by the pastor, March 1 to 15. There were 34 received by letter and 30 for baptism.

September 1931, the number of deacons was increased to thirty and they were divided into three groups to serve one, two and three years. Thereafter each group would serve three years. The following six were elected to bring the number up to thirty; Earl C Hankamer, Paul Parker, W G Russell, G H Lasater, J M Bonner, W A Harris.

Dr J Dean Crain of Greenville, S C Did the preaching in our revival in 1932. There were 20 received by letter, 39 for baptism.

September, 1932, the following were elected deacons: A O Dean, T M Doyle, W M Fitgerald, D E Killam. From September, 1932 to September 1933, the church ordained four of its members to the gospel ministry. Billy Graves, Sept, 1932; W M Barber, November, 1932; Leon Gorsline, June, 1933; W E Morgan, September, 1933.

The 1933 revival was conducted by Dr Geo W Truett, February 5 to 16. There were 66 additions by letter and 64 for baptism. J E McKee and S H Howard were elected deacons, September, 1933. They were ordained November 22.

At this time the church sponsored a mission station in West Tyler, corner of Selman and Palace streets. After a few months it was decided that it was not well located and was abandoned. September, 1935, John H Gary was employed as Educational Director at a salary of $2100 per year.

On the 27th of May, 1932, Mr T O Wright executed an oil lease to a piece of land near Wright City, in the heart of the East Texas oil field, to this church, with an agreement that the income from the oil produced should be used to erect a Sunday School building, in memory of his departed wife, Mrs Lillie Belle Wright. The church immediately appointed a committee to secure a drilling contract. C C Crews, John Stephens, H M Eagle, J M Bonner, and W E McKinney were the committee. After a considerabele delay a contract was made with Barney Carter, on a percentage basis. The well came in June, 1933. The received the first check on oil run in September, 1933. This check was for seventy days run and amounted to $410.33.

On March 28, 1934, a committee was appointed to report on the advisability of starting the Sunday School building. W E McKinney, A R Wood, Russell Shelton, H M Eagle and W V Henson were this committee. This committee reported on April 8, recommending that the church appoint a committee to secure an architect to draw plans and specifications and estimates of cost. M J Harvey, T M Doyle, J R Moore, J R Shelton and Wiley Akins were appointed on this committee. Later when Wiley Akins moved away, J E McKee was added to this committee.

A canvassing committee of twenty-five was appointed with John Stephens as chairman. This committee was instructed to raise not less that $10,000. W E McKinney, W V Henson, and Judge J R Warren were appointed as a Finance Committee, to which H M Eagle and John Stephens were later added. When the estimate on the building was more than $60,000 it was thought best to raise $20,000 in cash before the work was started. On Jan 9, 193, the church approved a recommendation from the deacons that the church make every preparation to begin the building by April 1. February 24 a special offering was made. This offering amounted to $5,000 to which Mr Wright added $5,000. Mr Wright's total cash contributions amounted to more than $23,000.

April 3, 1935, the church authorized the Finance Committee to issue $35,000 in six per cent bonds, which the Peoples Bank had agreed to take.

April 8th, the 87th anniversary of the organization of the church, the ground breadking service was held. To R B Long, who had held membership in this church longer than any other one, was given the honor of spading the first dirt. The corner stone was laid July 24, 1935.

The building was firsts occupied Dec 8, 1935. The total cost of building and equipment was $74,000. By November 1937. The debt was all paid and the building was dedicated November 14. The following program was given: Invocation by J R Moore; W V Boone read the Scripture; M J Harvey, chairman of the building committee, spoke of the work of that committee; R A Dean gave report of the building program. Dr L R Scarborough, who baptised Mrs Lillie Belle Wright when a girl and for whom the building was named, preached the dedicatory sermon. The pastor led in prayer and Bro John H Gary led the singing.

With the completion of this building the church has a most modern Sunday School equipment, with eleven assembly rooms and one hundred seven class rooms. At this time steps have been taken to remodel the auditorium of the church. When this is done it will give to this church East Texas' largest and most beautiful auditorium.

J L Cook was elected as a deacon September 1934; Howard Pittman and John Gary in 1935; H Y Haggard, R L Tippit and John W Davis, 1936; E L Pinkston and J S Magee, 1937. March, 1938, R L Tippit resigned and Dugger Ray was elected.

The 1935 revival was held March 17-31 with Dr W R White, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church of Ft Worth, doing the preaching. There were 43 additions by letter and 45 for baptisms. Dr R G Lee of Memphis, Tenn, did the preaching in the meeting, Feb 2-9, 1936, with 12 additions by letter, 26 for baptism. Dr. Marshall Craig, pastor of the Gaston Ave Baptist Church of Dallas, did the preaching April 18-25, 1937. There were 24 received by letter, 39 for baptism.


In the early days the church was very strict in its discipline. At almost every conference some member was up for being intoxicated, swearing, fighting, dancing or some other offense that was considered unbecoming to a Christian. If they did not express themselves as sorry for their sins and promise to try to do better, church fellowship was withdrawn, and this was done regardless of their social or financial standing. On the first page of the record that we have, 1877, a communication was read from a member of a very prominent family stating "that he had indulged in dancing and profanity and asked that he be forgiven.' Action was deferred until next conference and a committee was appointed to ask that he appear in person. At a later conference the church accepted his written acknowledgement and restored him to full fellowship.

Another brother was charged with having been intoxicated and fellowship was withdrawn from him. At another conference a member was charged with renting a business house for the sale of intoxicating liquors. The deacons were appointed to wait on him. One of the deacons stated that he could not serve on the committee as he was renting property for the same purpose, but promised that when the present lease expired he would not do so again. One member was charged with fishing and hunting on Sunday. February 12, 1893 the following resolution was adopted. "That it be considered discourteous for any member to speak of another member's misconduct except to a deacon." At a conference in 1877, a committee that had been previously appointed made a report stating the church's attitude on worldly amusements that dishonor God, such as modern dance, card playing for prizes, liquor drinking and selling for beverage purposes. These resolutions were reaffirmed in 1888, and again in 1904. The following is as adopted January 4, 1904, which is practically the same as the other two.

Whereas, the fathers and mothers of blessed memory defined the position of this church with reference to worldly amusements, and whereas we believe that their position is in perfect accord with the Word of God, and whereas the prosperity of this church depends upon its harmony with the Divine will, therefore be it resolved:

1st. That this, the First Baptist church of Tyler, Texas in conference assembled do hereby reaffirm with emphasis its unalterable opposition to all forms of worldly amusements, that dishonor God, and destroy spirituality, such as the modern dance, card playing for prizes, liquor drinking and selling for beverage purposes.

2nd. That this church will not consider the name of any man for its pastor, whatever be his qualifications, who is not in heart and purpose fully committed to the rules of this church and who will not courageously oppose all social evils, in the Spirit of Christ.

3rd. That the deacons, as well as each and every individual member, of this church are hereby instructed to without fear or favor, see to it that the covenant and rules of this church are honored by each individual member.


This church has always cooperated with the organized state work, electing messengers to the Cherokee Baptist Association from its organization up to 1898, when it withdrew because the association was not in harmony with the work of the state convention. It worked with the general body that covered this part of the state before the consolidation.

The Baptist Convention of East Texas met with this church as early as 1855 and again in 1860. Prof J T Hand, one of our members, was secretary of this convention in 1867. The Baptist General Association met here in 1869. Prof Hand was secretary of this body, 1868-1876 inclusive.

The East Texas Baptist Convention was organized in 1877. George Yarbrough, one of the members of this church, was secretary of this convention through its entire existence until 1884. This convention held three sessions with the Tyler church, 1880, 1881, 1884. The five conventions consolidated into the Baptist General Convention, 1886, to which this church has ever been loyal.

On June 20, 1886, the following brethren were elected messengers to the Baptist General Convention to meet in Waco, June 29: Rev R T Yates, Deacon George Yarborough, Morgan Oden and E B Willis.

May, 1878, the church elected George Yarbrough and E H Callahan delegates to the East Texas Baptist Convention meeting at Henderson. It then voted to elect three on a money basis of ten dollars each. Dr J H Stribling, E H Callahan and E H Wells were elected. At another time they elected messengers and instructed them to pledge this church sixty dollars for the work of the convention. Last year, 1937, this church contributed $10,483.50 to the cooperative program and $4,738.08 to other benevolences.

This church has had organized B Y P U work for the past forty years. At present we have nine unions, from Primary to Adult, with an enrollment of 190. Cecil Wilkerson is the efficient director.

The following table of membership for the first forty years is taken from a table in the Manual printed in 1888. Sixteen years of this period are not reported. For the next twelve years we have carefully checked the church minutes and got the number received and dismissed. From 1900 the figures are taken from the minutes of the Smith County Baptist Association. This table shows that there have been 2244 received by baptism and 446 by letter. The present membership is 2494.

There is no record of the church finances prior to 1900. We give here what is recorded in the Smith County Association minutes from 1900 to April, 1938:


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