175th Anniversary Celebration

The year was 1843. The first major wagon train with 1000 people was set to travel to the American Northwest via the Oregon TrailMexico and the USA were on the verge of war over the annexation of Texas.  John Tyler, the President because William Henry Harrison had died in office, had fought off an attempt to impeach him.  The American pastor, William Miller was preaching the end of the world for March 21, 1843.

 On June 9, 1838, sixteen individuals had met under an apple tree at the home of Oliver Harris – located two miles east of New Market – for the purpose of officially organizing what was first called Little Rocky Fork Baptist Church.  In time, the congregation changed its name to New Market Baptist Church.  As county seat, Hillsborough (later changed to Hillsboro) had prospered and grown.  At the same time, New Market dwindled in size as many of its residents moved to the Highland County seat of justice.  Many of those who moved from New Market to Hillsboro were members of the Little Rocky Fork Baptist Church.  Finding no Baptist congregation in their new hometown, ten of these faithful followers began holding worship services in the home of Albert Wedge under the leadership of Reverend Isaac K. Bronson.  Deciding they could establish their own church, they officially organized their new congregation on April 14, 1843.

 In the not too distant future, the fledgling congregation received permission to use the courthouse for services. Within a short time, though county officials closed the courthouse to such meetings. Never discouraged, the growing congregation met at the village school on East Main Street for the next few years.

 God’s blessing was upon them, and the membership had grown to the point where a permanent House of Worship was needed.  In 1845, a city in-lot was purchased on the east side of South West Street.  Not only had the 37 members given generously to the project, but others from the community did as well, including donations of bricks from prominent people such as Judge James, husband of “Mother” Eliza Jane Thompson (temperance crusader) with other substantial contributions being made by such noted men as General Joseph J. McDowell, Colonel Adam Miller and Governor Allen Trimble.  A Greek-Revival style brick church was erected.

 First Baptist Church experienced many ups and downs in the following years and in 1862, due to the Civil War, for the first time they became pastor less. This persisted until about 1872, with no leader, no regular worship services, the future looked bleak. God was not finished with the faithful followers at First Baptist, and finally in 1873 the Church called Reverend Gardner. Repairs and renovations to the physical structure were begun and in 1874 the church was rededicated to its mission.

 The turn of the century brought great blessings to membership growth so the present structure was built and dedicated in 1906. This time the structure was built on the northwest corner of South West and Walnut. Membership had grown to 149.

 The community of Hillsboro and First Baptist Church had continued to have partnerships together and the generous donations to the project continued, including a large # 40 bell given by industrialist, CS Bell.

 Being faithful to the God who had blessed them through triumphs and trials, and being called to be good stewards of the ministry and buildings, there was continual growth of membership which led to more renovations as needed.

 A home was donated for the parsonage until a new one was built next to the church in 1952. Ten years later the basement of the Church was renovated for full use, including classrooms, and fellowship hall with a kitchen.

 The church has always felt God’s blessing upon them, yet there were various trials which challenged them.  In 1977, lightning struck causing a fire and great smoke damage at a cost of $80,000. Repairs were completed in 1978. Even today, updates continue to be made as a need arises.

 First Baptist has been blessed over the years with strong spiritual teaching and preaching through the ministries of 39 pastors or interim pastors. Recent pastors since 1951 have been:

                 1951-1956            Albert Rodenhauser

                1956-1959            Billy Lucas

                1959-1988            J. Robert Gallagher

1989-1999            Larry W. Stewart

2001-2008            Todd Toole

2008-2010            Dave Hanson-Interim

2010-2012            Josh McFarland

2014-2016            Eric Swenson

2016-2018            Larry W. Stewart-Interim

 Now in this 175th year, we are very excited about the calling of Pastor Clay Self who will begin his ministry at Hillsboro First Baptist Church on September 30, 2018.  He is coming to us from the Seattle Washington area, having most recently served for fourteen years at Faith Fellowship Church in Mill Creek, Washington.

 The community is invited to an Open House on Sunday, September 30th from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. to welcome Pastor Self as well as to join the church in celebration of 175 years with God’s Blessings.  We continue to believe that God is at work here at First Baptist, in Hillsboro, and all over the world.