First Baptist Church, Palestine
First Baptist Church
The First Baptist Church. From Mrs. Caddie Winston Dean's excellent church history, "Looking Back," the main facts in this account are gleaned:
"The very first Baptist church was organized March 20, 1851, the presbytery of the organization consisting of Elders McKane and Zachariah Worley. Those constituting the new church were: Deacon John Smith and wife, Sarah Smith; J. E. Teague and wife, Rachel T.; Thos. V. Smith; Theresa Stevens; Annie Harris; Z. Worley, an ordained minister.
For more than a year the new church met at stated intervals in the M. E. Church. By 1854 a humble church home had been erected on Perry and Murchison streets in Old Town, the occupants evidently so proud and happy that in June of that year we hear of them entertaining the Baptist State Convention! Rev. Z. Worley was, presumably, the first pastor. In 1856 records show the election of delegates to an association meeting to be held at Mound Prairie. Following this a long gap occurs. The Civil War came on in 1861 with its suffering and sorrow, its disruptions of all organizations. One record which gives evidence that the church had survived the Conflict is dated 1867. The first pastor named was in 1876, when Rev. W. G. Caperton re-organized the church. The first two deacons, Cyrus Helm and J. J. Ligon, were ordained by Rev. Mr. Caperton. Also at this time, 1876, the first recorded prayer meetings were held, and Sunday School organized. In 1878 Rev. J. A. Bell served as pastor. In 1879 Rev. W. J. Collins of Tennessee Colony was called--continuing to preach through third Sunday in October 1881. Salary was five dollars each Sunday.
The first revival of note held in Palestine was conducted by Rev. W. E. Penn of Jefferson, Texas, in 1881. Originally a lawyer, he had became a renowned evangelist. The town generally joined the Penn meeting, which resulted in widespread benefits, spiritually and numerically to all denominations. It was W. E. Penn who originated the idea of building the Avenue A. Baptist church with nickel contributions.
On January 26, 1882, Rev. W. H. Wallace of Tennessee accepted a call to the pastorate of the church, at $50.00 a month salary. He preached twice every Sunday, besides conducting prayer meeting on Wednesdays.
From an old church record the following extract is taken: "At a regular conference on January 14, 1884, for the purpose of organizing a new church, letters were granted to Brother and Sister W. E. Penn, Brother J. G. Winston and wife, Mrs. Caddie W. Winston; Brother Geo. N. McKay, Sister Augusta Grigsby, F. B. Bailey, Annie Royall, and Gibbon Killough. This was to procure a charter, and for business purposes in the buying of the Ave. A. lots and building the Ave. A. Baptist Church, known as the Nickel Baptist Church. One evening in March 1884 these members met in the home of Rev. and Mrs. W. E. Penn, which is now the W. B. Robinson home on South Sycamore Street. With the addition of J. W. Duncan and wife and sons, J. C. and Robert Duncan, recently of Tennessee, the new church was. organized. Rev. Mr. Bledsoe of Sabine Pass was next called to serve as pastor and the officers of the new church were chosen as follows: Church and Sunday School Treasurer, J. C. Duncan; first trustees after charter was received, Rev. W. E. Penn, J. C. 'Winston, N. R. Royall, J. W. Duncan, and J. C. Duncan. Rev. J. M. P. Morrow succeeded Rev. Bledsoe—services first and fourth Sundays at five dollars a Sunday. Rev. B. S. Gay of Mississippi was the next pastor.