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Church history

First Baptist Church of Middletown, Ohio, celebrates its founding as Aug. 9, 1808. Click the links below to explore selected items from our history:

1700s

1800s

1900s

2000s

For an in-depth look at the history of First Baptist Church of Middletown, check out our 200th anniversary program (pdf) >>

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1700s

* 1791: Daniel Doty, a Baptist farmer from Essex County, New Jersey, scouts the Miami Valley. He builds a a cabin on the banks of the Great Miami River, then returns home to Boundbrook, NJ, to tell his friends of the land available in Ohio.

* 1795: Doty returs, bringing wife Betsy and their sons. Finding his first cabin washed away, Doty builds a new cabin further back from the river (believed to be in the modern-day vicinity of 11th Avenue and South Main Street in Middletown).

* 1796: Doty is joined by friends from New Jersey; they soon desire a place to worship.

* 1799: Doty rides on horseback to Danville, Ky., where he persuades the Rev. Dan’l Clark to go to Middletown.

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1800s

* 1800: Rev. Clark (see 1799, above) establishes the forerunner of First Baptist Church of Middletown. The small building, called "The Little Prairie Baptist Church," is built on the banks of the Great Miami River. The river, regardless of the weather, is used as the congregation's baptism font.

* 1804: Church building damaged by flood.

* 1805: Little Prairie Baptist Church is disbanded.

* 1808: Men from Little Prairie Baptist Church organize the Salem Baptist Church, at the home of James Heaton and his father David.

* 1811: Members of the Salem Baptist Church decide to build a church building. This building, considered to be the original First Bapist Church building, cost $160 to build. It was located in the modern-day vicinity of Enoch Drive and Tytus Avenue in Middletown.

* 1826: The Salem Bapist Church building is sold and converted into a school building.

* 1826: In October, the congregation meets at the home of Thomas Royal, which was situated on part of the modern-day location of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ parking lot (facing 1st Avenue in downtown Middletown).

* 1828: On Aug. 9, a resolution is passed to change the church's name from Salem Baptist Church to “The First Baptist Church of Middletown, Ohio.”

* 1828: In the winter, a 100x200-foot lot on North Main Street is purchased for $250.

* 1829: In the spring, FBC builds a 40x60-foot church; the second in its history.

* 1832: Construction of the North Main Street church finishes. Total cost is $3,000. According to a church history written by Lydia Vail Doty (circa 1899): “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.” No photos exist of this building.

* 1854: North Main Street church building is razed. A new church, the third in FBC's history, is built on the same foundation. This building, unlike the original North Main church, contained wooden chairs with backs, a grand piano, fireplace and electric lights. The building also had an indoor baptismal font in the sanctuary, as well as an impressive organ. The buildng's total cost was about $10,000.

* 1861: A parsonage is built on the same lot, with 10 sheds in the back to house the horses and carriages of those who attended worship.

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1900s

* 1902: The North Main Street church building is sold to the Elks temple and the parsonage is sold to the Manchester Hotel.

* 1902-04: Sometime during this time frame, FBC builds a church at 119 S. Main St., the fourth in its history. Financial assistance is provided by Paul Sorg (one of Middletown's first multimillionaires) and his wife Jennie. (Did you know? This building was just down the street from the Sorg Mansion.)

* 1904: On Oct. 11, a shield-shaped, “First Baptist Church 1854,” marble stone is removed from the gable above the North Main Street Baptist Church’s doors, and placed on the back wall of the side porch of the stone South Main Street church.

* 1906: Stone church building at 119 S. Main St. is dedicated on Jan. 21.

* 1908: FBC celebrates it centennial.

* 1947: FBC airs its first worship service on the radio (WPFB-AM) on Sept. 7. (Did you know? FBC now livestreams its worship services online >>)

* 1967: Curch members dedicate a seven-acre site on the corner of Riverview Avenue and Breiel Boulevard for its fifth house of worship. Total cost: about $1,000,000,00. (Did you know? The original building used 265,000 bricks.)

*1969: Women are elected to serve on the Board of Deacons for the first time. Soon thereafter, women are able to serve on the other boards of the church, as well as being able to usher on Sundays.

* 1971: FBC's daycare ministry begins with eight children at the South Main Street church.

* 1972: The church's current building at 4500 Riverview Avenue, the fifth in FBC's history, is dedicated on Palm Sunday (March 26), as the congregation gathered around the Crusader’s Cross, which is located in the center of the traffic circle at the church's front entrance. (Did you know? The Crusader’s Cross came from the top of the front entrance of the South Main Street stone 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 church.)

* 1983: FBC celebrates its 175th anniversary.

* 1990: Air conditioning is added to the entire Riverview building.

* 1991: The original Riverview building's mortgage is paid off, and the congregation celebrates with a burning of the mortgage.

* 1999: A rebuilt 1932 Kilgen pipe organ (from St. Louis, Mo.) is added to the sanctuary. It replaces a 1976 Allen electric organ.

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2000s

* 2000: Church's main kitchen is remodeled; dedication takes place Aug. 29.

* 2004: Groundbreaking for the church's addition (Celebration Center) takes place after Sunday morning worship on Oct. 24. Members are invited to bring shovels to take part in a ceremonial digging.

* 2006: Construction of the 19,000 square-foot Celebration Center is completed. The two-level facility includes a second kitchen, music suite, classrooms, walking track and carpeted basketball court. Dedication takes place Feb. 19.

* 2006: Stained-glass artwork ("Shine Jesus Shine"), designed by Beau Berre Studios in Middletown, is installed in the entrance canopy. Dedication takes place Oct. 29.

* 2006: FBC begins partnership with SHALOM.

* 2007: Serenity Garden (adjacent to the Prayer Room on the upper level of the Celebration Center) is dedicated Oct. 7.

* 2008: FBC celebrates its bicentennial.

* 2016: The Celebration Center's debt is paid off, and the congregation celebrates with a burning of the mortgage on May 23.

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