The FBC Huntsville Story
Reverend Z.N. Morrell organized the Huntsville Baptist Church on September 16, 1844 with eight members in what was then the Republic of Texas. In "Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness," Z.N. Morrell says, "the church in Huntsville is the oldest in middle Texas." He adds, "But few churches in the history of Baptists have maintained their organization so long and amid so many trials as the church in Huntsville." The writer served as pastor one year after the organization and although the church has enjoyed the pastoral care of some of the best preachers that ever came to the state, the zealous J.W.D. Creath; the prudent and far-seeing G.W. Baines ; the clear-headed and warm-hearted S.G. O'Brien--yet at different times it has passed through ordeals that tested severely the faithfulness of its membership. under it all and through it all, it lived, and yet lives, to bear testimony for Christ. Of this first pastor who organized the church, J. Carroll in his history of Baptists says, "there was a man sent from God whose name was Morrell and to this man is due as much or more, than to any other man the right beginnings and right foundations of organized Baptist work in Texas." Carroll calls him "God's special gift to Texas," and says that for more than 40 years, his life was indelibly stamped upon our early Baptist history.
Z.N. Morrell tells us that J.W.D. Creath came to Texas in 1846 and that his first pastorate was in Huntsville, Texas. The minutes of our church show that in 1860, the church granted J.W.D. Creath a letter of dismissal which stated that he had been a member of this church for 11 years. J.W.D. Creath, J. Carroll says, did more for the Baptist cause than any other man who has ever lived in this state. He was General Agent of the Baptist State Convention in 1851. He held this position for about 20 years. He was a good singer, a wonderful preacher, and he was intensely evangelistic. Traveling so continuously on horseback, he probably endured more hardships that any other man among prominent Texas Baptists.
J.W.D. Creath was President of the State Convention, President of the Board of Trustees of Baylor University, and gave more to that institution than any other man, except Hoses Garrett. He died in 1887. J. Carroll says, "Of him, every organization for good in Texas has felt his influence and no man in our whole century of history served his day and generation more loyally, consecratedly, unselfishly, usefully, and successfully than he." This appropriate tribute to him is in the Hoses Garrett Chapel of Baylor University; "Joseph W. Creath, the Friend of Missions and Education, Lover of Souls and of our Saviour."
The was organized in the Dean's Schoolhouse. This schoolhouse was then located at the northwest corner of the present wall of the penitentiary and a bit of the old foundation may still be seen there. In the early minutes, we find references to meetings in another building, with meetings at the creek near the penitentiary, and to meetings at the pool near Sam Houston's home for the purpose of baptizing members. There are also references to special meetings in the penitentiary for the benefit of the prisoners. Rufus C. Burleson preached the dedicatory sermon using as his text, Proverbs 22:28,"Remove not the ancient landmarks which your fathers have set."
Some of the most famous members of the church were General Sam Houston and his wife, Margaret. They joined in December 1855 bringing their letters from the church at Independence where Sam Houston had been converted. He built a baptismal pool near his residence in Huntsville, and it was there that this church met to baptize converts.
General Sam Houston was a member of the convention, a delegate from the Huntsville church. He was made Chairman of the Committee on Indian Missions. He presented the report of the committee and discussed the subject before the body. The church and convention had shown their wisdom in selecting this great friend of the Indians to lead them in planning this important and difficult work. This far-seeing statesman recognized the state's responsibility in the educating and caring for the Indians.
They remained as members until July 1859 when Houston moved to Austin to become Governor of Texas.
|The second building was torn down in 1924 and a four-story red brick building was erected on the same spot. It was a large church with tall white pillars on the front and stained glass windows in the sanctuary, which was located on the second floor. Rev. C.F. Andrews was pastor when this building was erected and chose as his text for the dedicatory sermon, Proverbs 22:28.|
Many Huntsville residents still remember Sunday, January 24, 1954, when a tragic fire destroyed this third church building. Church members rushed to save whatever they could. Church records, song books, baby beds and nursery furniture and even the organ and some of the pews were carried out and saved. The Mason-Hamblen grand piano, still in use by the congregation today, was carried down the steep front steps leading from the sanctuary. Arrangements were made for the evening service to be held in the high school auditorium, and First Baptist Church continued to meet there until the fourth building was dedicated on December 11, 1955. Pastor Gordon Clinard preached the dedicatory sermon using the familiar text from Proverbs.
On May 5, 1985, dedication ceremonies were held for the Family Life Center, which was constructed on the northwest corner of 13th Street and Avenue J. The multi-function facility, features a full-sized indoor basketball court with second-floor walking track, racketball court, exercise room, locker rooms, kitchen, and parlor. A great celebration marked the paying off of the debt for the Family Life Center due to the generosity of the estate of two members, George and Jimmie Ellis.
On February 18, 1990, a church steeple was added to the present building and was dedicated in memory of Willis and Beulahree Floyd. The steeple had been a part of the building plans in 1955 but was omitted at the time because of cost. This steeple with a cross at the top is a visible landmark for all of Huntsville and is the present logo of the church.
For more information on First Baptist Church Huntsville's history, contact the Church Library. Library hours and contact information is listed on the ministries page.