History of First Baptist Church
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First Baptist Church was organized in 1866 under the leadership of Chaplain Van Home and a small group of Federal Army soldiers who served during the Civil War. The organization was called Shiloh Baptist Church and the services were held in a blacksmith shop; later, they met in homes. The membership increased rapidly and soon the Church leased a lot and built a church on Tenth and Lindsay Streets. The first pastor, Rev. Alan Nickerson, was ordained by Chaplain Van Home. He served for 19 years-during a period of great growth-before his resignation.
In 1885, Rev. A. B. Cross was called to serve as the second pastor. A division of the Church occurred during this period: St. James Baptist was formed. Rev. G. D. Olden was the third minister. Under his leadership, the present church site was purchased, the cornerstone laid, and Shiloh had a new home. Construction of the present church building was done by former slaves. They completed a magnificent Gothic-Cathedral building which had a seating capacity of 1000.
But difficulty arose again; many members left the Church and formed another church: New Monumental Baptist Church (which is now located one block away from First Baptist). According to the records, Rev. Michael Vann was the forth pastor. Rev. Vann changed the name of the Church from Shiloh to the "First Baptist Church;" he died soon after during the third year of his pastorate. Following his death, Rev. A. R. Griggs was called as the fifth pastor. His tenure was brief. Subsequently, he was followed by the sixth pastor, Rev. G. W. Parks, who resigned in 1905 to accept a call to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rev. C. A. Bell of Knoxville was the seventh pastor. He was called in 1905, retired in 1944, and named "Pastor Emeritus" after having served the Church in an exceptionally successful way for 39 years. He was succeeded by the Rev. W. H. Harris, the eighth pastor who remained only 15 months, followed by Rev. Percy Williams who resigned in 1953.
Rev. Herman H. Battle was called to the Church by unanimous vote of membership on March 5,1954. He served this Church, this community, and State in a distinguished manner until his retirement on December 31, 1995, at which time the Church named him "Pastor Emeritus". During his tenure, the Church was remodeled to have pews of carved oak and crimson that accommodate the soft cream ceiling, brick walls, and magnificent stained glass windows. Rich in history and appearance, the Church was placed in the National Register of Historic Places on January 7, 1979.
In December 1995 the Church appointed a Pastoral Search Committee. After ten months of searching the committee recommended six leading candidates which were evaluated by the Church. For most of the search and evaluation period, Rev. Joseph Harper acted as interim Pastor.
1997 - Present
On the first day of January 1997, Rev. Adam E. McKee III became the eleventh (11th) minister to serve First Baptist Church as Pastor. Rev. McKee brings with him a wife, Charlotte B. McKee, and a daughter, Chelsea Y. McKee. His goal is "through Jesus Christ, to have a ministry that transcends all barriers."
Based on information from G. L. Williams - Historian.
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