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Church History

This page is currently being revised and updated. The Summary History of First Baptist Church below has been on our History Page since our Website was launched. It is a very good summary of our church beginnings, and with over 200 years of existance, First Baptist has a lot of history. The summary below is only lacking in that it ends with the relocation to our current location in 1972. Much has happened within the church and to the church in those 40 years. We Celebrated our 200th Anniversary as a church in 2008, we have made a major addition to our building during that time and we are working to bring the History Summary on this page up to date to reflect those missing years.

If you would like a more in-depth look at the history of First Baptist Church of Middletown, at the bottom of this page you will find a PDF file of our 200th Anniversary Program which offers an extensive documentation of the founding, relocations and changes at First Baptist.

A Short History of the First Baptist Church of Middletown, Ohio

By Gladys Atkinson

Our church celebrates the date of August 9, 1808, as the day of the founding of our Baptist Church.

In 1791, Daniel Doty, a Baptist farmer from Essex County, New Jersey, was the earliest to come to scout this Miami Valley. He liked it so much that he built a cabin on the banks of the Great Miami River. He then went back to his home in Boundbrook, New Jersey, to tell his friends of the rich lands available here.

In 1795 Doty returned to this region, bringing his wife Betsy and their two small sons. Finding his first cabin washed away he proceeded to build a new log cabin further back from the river at what is believed to be in the vicinity of Eleventh Street and South Main Street.

In 1796 Daniel Doty was joined by other friends from New Jersey and these settlers soon desired a place to worship and with a preacher.

So in 1799 Doty rode horseback to Danville, Kentucky where he persuaded the Rev. Dan’l Clark, an Old School Baptist preacher to return with him to preach God’s word to these settlers.

History1In 1800 the Rev. Clark established the forerunner of our Baptist Church. It was a small house of worship built on the banks of the Great Miami River in what was known at the time as the “prairie”. The men felled trees, squared and hewed them in to logs, dragged them to the site and erected a small rough house of worship. It was called “The Little Prairie Baptist Church” and the Miami River, regardless of the weather, was used as their Baptism Font. Unfortunately this early Baptist Church was severely damaged by the flood of 1804 and had to be disbanded in 1805.

It wasn’t until Tuesday, August 9, 1808, after many months of discussions about needing another place to worship, that these Baptist men finally got together in the home of James Heaton and his father David. At the meeting they organized the Salem Baptist Church.

History2In1811 these Baptists, tired of meeting in homes of members, decided to build another house of worship. The site selected was on the road from Middletown to Franklin, about a mile from their former place. It was a framed edifice 24X30 feet, built somewhere, at that time considered as out of Middletown, at what is now the vicinity of the corner of Enoch Drive and Tytus Avenue. This house of worship cost $160.00 to build and is considered as our first Baptist Church building.

In 1826, the little 1811 Baptist Church building was sold and converted into a school building. In October of that year they moved to Middletown and met at the home of Thomas Royal in his house which, at that time, was situated at what is now part of St. Paul’s Church parking lot that faces First Avenue.

On Saturday, August 9, 1828, a resolution was passed to change their name from Salem Baptist Church to “The First Baptist Church of Middletown, Ohio.”

In the winter of 1828, an appointed committee purchased a 100X200 foot lot on North Main Street at a cost of $250.00. In the spring of 1829 they erected a 40X60 foot brick house of worship as their second church. Although unable to finish it until 1832, they worshipped in it during summer months. With a terrible effort they raised sufficient money to finish the building at a cost of $3,000.00.

According to a church history written by Lydia Vail Doty about 1899 concerning this second church of which there is no picture available. She wrote:

“There were no luxurious surroundings, no organ no choir, no carpet to deaden the sound of moving feet, no cushioned pews. They had plain wooden benches without backs, and cheap candles instead of electric lights.”

History4In 1854 this second house of worship was taken down and a larger brick edifice, their third church, was erected on the same foundation at North Main Street.

History3The Sabbath School rooms were on the first floor. They now had wooden chairs with backs, a grand piano, a fireplace and electric lights.

This 1854 Baptist church building now had an inside Baptismal Font in the sanctuary upstairs as well as wooden pews with backs and an impressive organ and organist. This was a magnificent building and when all finished the entire cost was about $10,000.00 and ‘they were not in debt one dollar’.

In 1861 they built a parsonage on the same lot with ten sheds in the back to house horses and carriages of those who came to attend worship.

In 1902, for various reasons, one being that the steps to the sanctuary upstairs were too steep for the elderly to climb; they sold the parsonage and the church. The parsonage was demolished and the church was drastically remodeled, inside and out.

The parsonage was sold to the Manchester Hotel and the church building was sold to the Elks Temple, and torn down in 2000.

Sometime between 1902 and 1904, with great financial help from Paul Sorg and his wife Jennie, the members proceeded to build another church building, their fourth house of worship, at 119 South Main Street.

History5This beautiful stone church was dedicated on Sunday, January 21, 1906.

On Tuesday October 11, 1904, the shield-shaped, “First Baptist Church 1854,” was taken down from the gable above the North Main Street Baptist Church’s doors, and was placed in the back wall of the side porch of the stone South Main Street Church.

In 1967 church members, on the move again, dedicated a seven acre site on Riverview Avenue for their fifth house of worship. As in the past, because of a growing membership of adults and children, and now with the South Main Street Church building deteriorating, becoming too small, and with limited parking, a fifth church became a necessity.

It is a contemporary and flexible edifice of brick, wood and steel at a cost of about $1,000,000,00 and used 265,000 bricks.

History6This fifth First Baptist Church was dedicated on Palm Sunday, March 26, 1972, as the congregation gathered around the Crusader’s cross which had been placed in the center of the traffic circle at the entrance of the church.

The Crusader’s Cross had been taken down from the top of the front entrance of the South Main Street Baptist Church, and the 1854 Inscription Stone, which had been removed from the front porch of the South Main Street Church, is now imbedded on the hill in back of the Riverview First Baptist Church.



View Restored Photos from FBC History Files