History of First Baptist
In the mid-19th century, the Baptist State Board considered Stanly County a destitute area and missionary activities were encouraged and begun. It is reported that Baptists were not liked nor welcomed in Albemarle, the newly established County Seat. As late as the fall meeting of the Stanly Baptist Association in 1888, there is no mention of any effort to establish a Baptist church in Albemarle. However, a resolution was adopted ordering the Executive Committee to confer with the Baptist State Convention and with them employ a missionary to be located in Albemarle to preach there and at such other places as may be designated by the Committee. In November 1888, the Executive Committee, meeting in Palmerville, employed Rev. J.M. Bennett to labor three-fourths of his time during 1889 as a missionary with his field of labor Albemarle, Gold Hill, China Grove and vicinities. According to the original church book of the Palmerville Baptist Church, On Saturday before the 4th Sunday in June 1889, Brother J.M. Bennett was granted a letter to join another church of same faith and order TO BE ORGANIZED at Albemarle. A letter sent to the Biblical Recorder by Rev. Bennett and published in the July 31, 1889 edition, officially set the organization date of the church as Saturday, July 20, 1889. The church was admitted to the Stanly Baptist Association on October 31, 1889.
Rev. J.M. Bennett was the first pastor. There were seven charter members: Mrs. Sidney Austin, Mr. and Mrs. H.J. Pennington, Mr. and Mrs. Davis Sego, Ephram “Uncle Doc” Burris and Pastor Bennett. Two dollars and fifty cents was the total amount spent in 1889. In 1890, Mr. Bennett resigned as pastor and went to Lexington.
The church was without a pastor during much of 1890. In 1891, Elder John C. Denny, who had assisted Rev. Bennett with the founding of the church, was employed by the state board as pastor. The church struggled and ended 1891 with a membership of 10. But the tiny membership had faith and dreamed of a new church. On May 19, 1891, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Austin conveyed to the church trustees a part of Lot No. 37 at the corner of North and Third Streets, for a consideration of $150. Contributions were solicited from anyone who would give. Denny, it was reported, carried a subscription list with him all over Stanly, Rowan and Cabarrus counties, begging anyone who would listen to contribute to the lot and church building. Before Denny left, he handed Mrs. Austin a quarter saying, Take this and build a church.
Rev. G.O. Wilhoit became pastor in 1892 and soon the first church was erected on the southwest corner of North and Third Streets. It was during Wilhoit’s pastorate that the first WMS was organized and the church experienced more growth with a membership of 26 before he left in 1893.
When Rev. Wilhoit left, the Associational Executive Committee again appealed to the Baptist State Board for aide and Rev. John W. Suttle was employed as pastor to be paid quarterly by the State Board and the people when they can. He served five other churches, but was the first resident pastor. As membership increased, the need for a convenient place to baptize became apparent and, under the leadership of Rev. Suttle, the first baptistry in Stanly County was added to the rear of the wooden church behind the pulpit. At first, water was hauled to the baptistry in barrels, but, later, troughs were hewn and erected around the church building and extended to the baptistry, making it necessary to hold baptisms in the wet season. In 1895, land was purchased in East Albemarle for a parsonage. The property was bought for $30. Rev. Suttle, his wife and young child moved into the parsonage before it was completed. When Suttle resigned in 1897 the membership had grown to 100.
It was during the ministry of Rev. J.A. McKaughan, between 1898 and 1901, that our church first became self-supporting. During that period membership increased from 132 to 229. Through this time, 42 baptisms were reported.
doorsIn December, 1901, Ralph H. Herring was called as pastor. He, his wife and children moved from Wilmington to the new parsonage and he remained pastor for three years. His wife was organist for the church. It was during his pastorate that the Albemarle church assisted in establishing the West Albemarle Church, the second Baptist Church in Albemarle. He resigned to attend Southern Baptist Seminary in Lousiville, Kentucky.
A ministerial student, J.M. Arnette, became pastor in January 1904. Reportedly, he was scholarly and doctrinal and was loved and respected by the congregation. One church historian has said, however, that he lacked leadership experience. As a result, attendance declined. Some left to unite with the West Albemarle Church and others began to attend preaching elsewhere. There seemed to be a period of confusion resulting in the dismissal of some members. When he resigned to attend seminary, the membership had declined from 258 to 186.
B.W.H. Sims became pastor in 1906. Members recall that he worked hard to build the membership and, by the time he resigned in January 1909, the church had 241 members. He also let it be known that he expected to be paid rather than pounded and he began the drive for a new church building.
During the first week of January 1907, the janitor, a Mr. Agle, gleefully told the pastor, W.H. Sims, that he had destroyed all that junk in the back of the church. To the dismay of Rev. Sims, Mr. Agle had destroyed all the records of the church. On the next Sunday, the pastor asked a new member, Mr. A.P. Harris, to begin the process of re-enrolling members and to reconstruct what records he could. It was an impossible task to complete. Some of those who had been enrolled were never placed back on the Sunday School and church rolls.
On November 8, 1908, Pastor Sims submitted his resignation in writing, pointing out the failure to achieve his financial and spiritual goals. the church still could not pay the pastor on a timely basis.
Rev. Albert H. Wynkoop preached a trial sermon and the congregation was so impressed that, on that very afternoon, he was extended the call as pastor, which he immediately accepted. he is believed to have been well educated and was highly interested in erecting a new church building. He was, in fact, the originator of a serious plan to construct a new building. A new Finance Committee was electd, consisting of Lindsey Lowder, J.M. Calloway, W.A. Calloway, Daniel P. Morris, O.D. Morris, Marion Morrison, A.M. Morton, C.M. Parker, A.C. Parker, C.W. Gaddy, S.T. Gaddy, Sidney Austin, E.C. Kirk, M. Watson, B.A. Foreman, r.L. sibley, W.G. Reynolds and W.C. Russell. The committee was authorized to seek out a suitable building lot. Interest, however, began to lag and the pastor’s salary was in arrears. But an interest in building had, at least, been sparked.
From 1912-1914, Rev. Alexander Miller was pastor. The Woman’s Missionary Society was re-established during this time.
Plans were begun by the leaders of the congregation for a new and larger church building. On Sunday, May 12, 1912, A.P. Harris, committee chairman, reported favorably on the choice of a lot then occupied by the Presbyterian manse, which could be bought for $3000. Approval was given and the following named as additional trustees: B.A. Foreman and R.L. Sibley. C.W. Gaddy was the church clerk at this time.
On June 8, 1912, a motion was made by C. M. Palmer and approved by the church that a new church be built. the following committee was named to secure funds for the new church: R.L. Sibley, W.C. Russell and E.C. King. The committee on plans for the new church was O.J. Sikes, A.P. Harris and B.A. Foreman. The lot on which the sanctuary now stands was purchased and plans begun for the new church. Events moved slowly, however, over the next four years due to lack of finances.
Rev. Robert P. Walker, pastor from October 1, 1915 to May, 1918, inherited the embryo plans for the new church and, under his leadership, more efforts took place. In March, 1916, the building fund had reached $11,000 in cash and pledges. On April 22, 1916 the church gave the trustees permission to borrow money for construction of the new church. Mrs. Sidney Austin, a charter member, laid the first brick in July 1916. D.A. Holbrook, an Albemarle contractor, was employed to build the new church.
The building was completed and occupied in January 1919. In a conference on February 10, 1918, the congregation gave its committee the power to purchase seats for the new building.
It was Rev. Walker who wrote a brief history of the church in which he relied on remembrances of the people. It was at this time that the date for organizing the Albemarle Baptist Church was set on a Friday night in April 1888. Meanwhile, Mr. Walker resigned as pastor and, on August 1, 1918, Rev. Q.C. Davis came as pastor. Mr. Davis was fondly remembered as an outstanding and beloved spiritual leader. The Davis Bible Class carries his name.
Mr. Davis resigned on August 1, 1925, to accept a call to work in Florida, partly because his health was failing. Mr. Davis was remembered as a scholarly minister whose sermons were very inspirational.
Rev. Fred A. Bower of Morganton was called and began his ministry here in December 1925, serving until December 1936. Mr. Bower was pastor during the Great Depression. However, the church paid off most of its indebtedness on the church and contributed to the Seventy-five Million Dollar Campaign as well as other denominational programs.
The Sunday School conducted an organizational and training program aimed at meeting the requirements of the Standard of Excellence and at becoming a church doing everything possible to advance the Kingdom of God. Mr. Bower’s pastorate is remembered as a time of financial hardship, sacrificial giving, spiritual growth and the expansion of Christian living.
In 1931, during Rev. Bower’s ministry, the average attendance in Sunday School was 440 and there were 86 baptisms –the most baptisms in a single year in the history of the church.
After Mr. Bowers resigned to accept a call to Kannapolis, Rev. W.J. Bradley of South Carolina was called and became the leader of the church, serving from June 1, 1937 to October 15, 1949. One of the first major events of Mr. Bradley’s pastorate was the dedication of the church on October 24, 1937. He was beloved for his piety and sympathetic Christian ministry to the sheep of his flock. During World War II, his words of kindness eased many an aching heart. Under his ministry the plans for an educational building progressed but, because of the war, they were never brought to fruition.
A.P. Harris, prominent Albemarle business and layman of the church, was honored by a special service commemorating more than 40 years of service as Sunday School Superintendent and also deacon of First Baptist Church.
Rev. J. Boyce Brooks of Roxboro accepted the call to become pastor of the church on April 1, 1950. During his ministry, he led in a tremendous period of growth and expansion, resigning July 28, 1957 to accept a Greensboro pastorate.
The church purchased the Whitworth property, constructed a modern education plant, enlarged the sanctuary, purchased a pipe organ, employed an assistant to the pastor, a full-time minister of music and an educational director. For the first time, the Sunday School was fully graded organized. The financial program of the church almost tripled as members cooperated in the task of paying for the expansion program and the improved program of Christian advancement in which the church took an active part. All the while, the church paid off its debt rapidly and expanded its support of the denomination’s mission program of world outreach. In 1956, the Sunday School had its largest enrollment – 864 and in 1957, its highest average attendance – 478.
Dr. T.L. Cashwell, Jr., pastor of College Avenue Baptist Church, Lenoir, N.C., accepted the call as pastor of First Baptist Church and preached his first sermon on March 9, 1958. Under his ministry the indebtedness of the church was fully paid. Spiritual advances so nobly and prayerfully made under previous pastors continued unabated. The entire church plant was air conditioned and financial support of the denominational program advanced rapidly. Visitation of the sick and elderly became an outstanding aspect of the ministry of this caring pastor.
It was during Dr. Cashwell’s pastorate that the church celebrated their 75th anniversary. Dr. Cashwell lead the program for this celebration in a magnanimous manner. Dr. Cashwell presented a quiet, dignified and compassionate ministry. Powerful from the pulpit and dynamic in group leadership, he led through nearly six years of sustained Christian growth. The Lottie Moon Offering increased to $9000 and the church membership to 930.
It was also during Dr. Cashwell’s ministry that the church music program surged upward. Mr. Evans Gremillion was primarily responsible for this. The pastor’s wife, Mrs. Helen Cashwell, contributed much through the sharing of her beautiful soprano voice and her strong support of the church choir. Dr. Cashwell resigned January 12, 1964, to accept the pastorate of the Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.
In July of 1964, a new pastor was called – Dr. Elroy Lamb of the Parkway Baptist Church, Miami, Florida. He moved to Albemarle in late July and preached his first sermon on Sunday, August 16. Dr. Lamb was well-known and highly respected in the Southern Baptist Ministry. He was a native of Kentucky and was reared in Frankfort. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Baylor university in Waco, Texas, and his Th.M and Th.D degrees from Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
A soft-spoken, good and kindly man, Dr. Lamb presented a concerned and pious ministry. Somewhat subdued in demeanor and powerful, strong and stalwart in Christian faith, he possessed an amplitude of that constant flow of love an innate goodness. He was instrumental in establishing the popular Youth Breakfast programs. He was Chairman of the Concerned Citizens Organization, which led to the defeat of ABC stores in Albemarle. He enlarged and expanded the educational programs, youth ministries, acquired the Biddix property next door to the church, acquired the home on N. Ninth Street (since sold) as a staff residence and improved the old Copple residence on N. Third Street. He also served as a trustee of Meredith College.
In the winter of 1968, the Ed Whitley Bible Class (then known as the Young Men’s Bible Class) began an effort to provide a worship service for campers at Morrow Mountain State Park. Led by Bob Mauney, Ed Whitley and Max Kinlaw, the class organized their effort and held their first service on Memorial Day Sunday in 1969. This mission activity has continued till today. The first service found 125 campers in attendance. Attendance has ranged from 12 campers to 354. In 1980, Governor James B. Hunt honored this class with the Governor’s Volunteer Award for outstanding accomplishments as a religious group. At the end of a nine-year ministry, Dr. Lam resigned, effective September 15, 1973.
On Sunday, March 24, 1974, Rev. Harold L. McDonald began his ministry as senior pastor. Over the past 14 years, the Deacon Family Ministry Plan has been activated, an organ purchased, the sanctuary renovated and a new fellowship hall built. The Lottie Moon Offering goal has been exceeded with the exception of four years. In 1985, the goal was set at $13,000 and the membership responded with monetary gifts totaling $21,600. A renewed emphasis was placed on the youth ministry, with young people participating in Inner Cities Ministries during the summers of 1978, 1979, 1984 and 1988. Two properties were bought – the Crotts property in 1976 and the J.H. Hill property in 1983. A church van and bus were purchased. A MasterLife Discipleship training program was held for 26 weeks in 1983. Wednesday Family Night and Bible Study have grown tremendously. In May 1985, the Youth-in-Missions group was awarded the Volunteer of Stanly County award for their outstanding service to the people of Stanly County. On September 11, 1985, the group received the Nine Who Care award given by WSOC-TV in Charlotte.
On January 7, 2001, Harold McDonald tendered his resignation after twenty-seven years as pastor of the church. The effective date of his retirement was Jun 24. A Pastor Search Committee was named and Roger Thomas was called as the Senior Pastor and preached his first sermon on May 11, 2003.
Dr. Thomas served for 9 years as senior pastor. In April of 2012, he resigned to become the executive director of Stanly Community Christian Ministry, the local non-profit that assists people in need. Rev. Freeman began serving as our intentional interim senior pastor in 2013.
On August 17, 2014, Dr. Andy Jung, an energetic, young pastor began his ministry at First Baptist. His ministry of renewal-leadership which shall excel in fulfilling the purpose and mission of the church.
First Baptist Albemarle Pastors
- J. M. Bennett 1889-1890
- J. C. Denny - 1890-1891
- G. O. Wilhoit - 1892-1894
- John W. Suttle - 1894-1898
- Jessie A. McKaughan - 1898-1901
- Ralph H. Herring - 1901-1904
- J. M. Arnette - 1904-1906
- B. W. H. Sims - 1906-1909
- Albert H. Wynkoop - 1909-1911
- Alex Miller - 1912-1915
- R. P. Walker - 1915-1918
- Q.C. Davis - 1918-1925
- Fred A. Bower - 1925-1936
- W. J. Bradley - 1937-1949
- J. Boyce Brooks - 1950-1957
- T. L. Cashwell – 1958-1963
- Elroy Lamb - 1964-1973
- Harold McDonald - 1974-2001
- Roger Thomas - 2003-2012
- Dan Freeman - 2012-2014
- Andy Jung - 2014-present