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First Baptist Church of Beaumont Records

 Collection
Identifier: AC-630

Scope and Content Note

The First Baptist Church of Beaumont Records contain thirteen series and twenty subseries. A significant portion of the collection consists of photographs and slides, from all eras of the church's existence. These images document group meetings, special events at the church, the construction of new church buildings, the addition of new members, the choir and music ministry of First Baptist, and important individuals at the church.

The collection also contains Baptist publications, both internal and external to First Baptist Church. This series contains an extensive run of the Baptist Standard, from 1947 to 2007, with a few additional issues dating from 1914 and 1920. There are also worship service bulletins from First Baptist Church, ranging from 1912 to 2007. The set is incomplete, but still provides a detailed, weekly look at the events of the church. This series also contains issues of the First Baptist Messenger, In the First Place, First Family Focus, the Beaumont Baptist Banner, and First Family Update, all various newsletters issued by the First Baptist Church.

In addition, the collection includes many programs from special events in the church's history, such as programs commemorating the major constructions and renovations of the church, and the groundbreaking and opening ceremony for the Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas. Programs from the centennial celebrations and 110th anniversary celebration are included. Some programs from other organizations are also placed here, such as a program for the Spindletop Boom Days annual event.

A good number of early papers from the church have survived and are contained in the collection. Many of these papers were likely donated by Marjorie Carroll, a descendant by marriage of George W. Carroll, a founding member and leader of the church. Marjorie Carroll was in charge of First Baptist's Heritage Room for many years, and compiled much of the material that was housed in the room. George W. Carroll was also a close associate of Pattillo Higgins, the "Prophet of Spindletop", so early papers related to Higgins' entrepreneurship and his investments at Spindletop are included. In addition to the church papers, this series holds personal family papers of the Carrolls, such as their family photograph album, Underhill Carroll's diary, and their family Bible.

In the Membership series, papers on many of First Baptist's pastors have been collected, along with directories of the church and membership cards and reports. The collection contains the records of various church groups, including the Sunday School and the Vacation Bible School. Yearbooks from adult Sunday School classes are included, with the Theta Beta Class, the Baraca Class, and the Priscilla Class being particularly well-represented. The series also holds records from the Woman's Missionary Union, such as the society's yearbooks and minutes.

The collection also contains administrative records such as minutes from the meetings of the Board of Deacons, budgets, fundraising programs, and property and deed records from 1876 to 1953.

Many photographs, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks are oversized and have been placed in their own series. The scrapbooks document the activities of Sunday School classes, the Woman's Missionary Union, and general church events. Finally, audiovisual materials, such as recordings of sermons and choir performances, have been given their own series, subdivided according to format.

Dates

  • 1876-2013

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Restrictions

Some restrictions may apply.

Copyright

The Tyrrell Historical Library holds copyright for some, but not all, materials in the collection. The researcher must secure permission to publish. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to the Tyrrell Historical Library. The researcher assumes full responsibility for complying with copyright, literary property rights, and libel laws.

Items for which the Tyrrell does not hold copyright include: Issues of The Baptist Standard; any published books or sermons; and newspaper articles. Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list.

Historical Note

The First Baptist Church of Beaumont was founded in 1872 as the Beaumont Baptist Church. Beginning with just four members, the church was first organized on March 10, 1872, under the leadership of J. W. D. Creath and J. H. (M.) Fant. George W. Carroll and his wife, Underhill Mixson Carroll, were two of the first members, and went on to be important leaders in the church for decades to come.

At the time of its founding, the Baptists lacked a church building of their own. They met irregularly in the courthouse and in a school building. In 1876, they united with Beaumont Methodists to build a church that was to be shared by both denominations. This frame church, built at the corner of Main and Fannin in 1877, was officially deeded to the Methodists, with the understanding that the Baptists would use the structure until they were able to construct their own church. The Baptists helped pay for the building and also supplied its bell, which had previously served as the bell on Captain W. E. Rogers' river boat.

The permanent church building brought increased stability to the church, but it did not receive its first permanent pastor until 1882, when H. C. Weymouth accepted the position. Prior to this time, several men had served as pastor on an intermittent basis, including Jeff Rhodes, Sr., J. H. Fant, B. Beauchamp, and Joseph Mitchell. The church elected its pastors on a yearly basis for some time, and so its early pastors often served relatively short terms. After Weymouth's resignation in 1884, L. C. Kellis became pastor, and despite only serving for one year, he oversaw one of the most important revivals in the history of the church.

In 1885, Kellis brought in Major William Evander Penn, a famous Texas evangelist, to lead a revival in Beaumont. Held in the opera house, the ten-day revival drew many listeners and brought about many conversions. The most famous convert of the revival was Pattillo Higgins, the "Prophet of Spindletop." Higgins became a leader of the church, faithfully pledging whenever the church was in need of funds, purchasing land for the church, and becoming a Sunday School teacher and deacon. Gladys Bingham, for whom Higgins named Gladys City, was one of the pupils in his Sunday School class.

R. P. Davant was elected as pastor in 1886, and in 1887, buoyed by the revival's success and its continued increase in membership, the congregation began to plan the construction of its own church building. This new church, built of red brick, was constructed at the corner of Pearl and Forsythe Streets, and allowed the Baptists to begin meeting every Sunday for the first time, instead of twice a month. Around this time, the church also changed its name from the Beaumont Baptist Church to the First Baptist Church of Beaumont.

The church grew rapidly over the next fifteen years. In 1888, it helped form the Southeast Texas Baptist Association, along with the First Orange, Evergreen, and Orange Baptist Churches. The Association merged with the Orange Baptist Association in 1966 and became the Golden Triangle Baptist Association, with almost ninety churches as members. First Baptist also began to focus on evangelistic work throughout the city in the 1880's.

The regular growth of the church, combined with the oil boom that brought thousands of people to Beaumont in 1901, made evident the need for a larger church building. In 1902, the congregation resolved to construct a new building, while also not allowing this work to interfere with its offerings to missions and benevolences. In 1903, construction on the new church was complete. Built on the same site as the red brick church, the new church was built of grey stone in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, with some elements of the Victorian Gothic style.

The church continued to experience remarkable growth. In 1918 and 1919, its Sunday School, including long-standing bulwarks such as the Theta Beta Class and the T.E.L. Class, had almost a thousand members enrolled, and attendance sometimes came close to 600. By the early 1920's, the grey stone church could not adequately hold such a large membership. The congregation finalized the sale of the grey stone church to Captain William C. Tyrrell in 1923, but continued to worship there until construction of its new building was complete. Tyrrell purchased the building in order to donate it to the City of Beaumont for the establishment of a public library. Named the Tyrrell Public Library, in memory of Tyrrell's wife, Helen, it opened in 1926. It served as Beaumont's main library building until 1974, when a new Main Library building was opened. The Tyrrell was closed temporarily, until its reopening in 1975 as the Tyrrell Historical Library.

First Baptist Church's new building was constructed at the corner of Broadway and Willow Streets. It consisted of two buildings, the main auditorium and the educational building. Built of red brick trimmed with stone, the front of the main church auditorium featured Greek columns. The first service was held there on April 5, 1925. The educational building had over one hundred classrooms, a necessary amount considering that by 1924 the average Sunday School attendance was at one thousand members. The Sunday School superintendent at this time was J. Earl Mead.

The church paid off the loans necessary for the building construction by August 1943, and it then held a special Dedicatory Service in celebration of this accomplishment. The Financial Secretary of the church, A. C. Head, did much to ensure its financial stability during its time of indebtedness.

Under the leadership of L. E. Stagg, a deacon at First Baptist, the church spearheaded a campaign to construct a Baptist hospital in Beaumont. First Baptist pledged $100,000, while the rest of the Beaumont community pledged $54,000. The groundbreaking ceremony for the hospital, named the Southeast Texas Baptist Hospital, took place on September 14, 1947, and First Baptist remained a crucial supporter of the facility.

Thomas Armour Patterson accepted First Baptist's call to become its pastor in 1946. He remained at First Baptist for fourteen years, and helped the church regain its energy after the difficult days of World War II. Patterson oversaw a much-needed building renovation and new construction project. In addition to renovating the existing buildings, another educational building was erected in 1951, and an activities building was completed and dedicated in 1961. The Activity Building eventually contained a gymnasium and a bowling alley. First Baptist also established a Baptist Student Union at Lamar State College of Technology.

First Baptist experienced great evangelistic fervor in the 1950's. The Baraca Sunday School class began a practice of sending pairs of men to neighborhoods across the city, going door-to-door and witnessing to the people they met. The music ministry of the church also expanded rapidly, with ten different choirs and an orchestra, for a total enrollment of approximately 739 people in September 1957.

The Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) was an important part of the missionary activities of the church. Originally founded as the Woman's Auxiliary before changing its name to the WMU, the organization worked zealously in many aspects of missions work, including raising money for orphans, for foreign missions, for college financial aid, and other endeavors.

First Baptist experienced a decline in membership in the 1960's, along with other Baptist churches across the area. In the early 1960's, its membership was estimated at approximately 7,000 people, but by 1972, that number had declined to 3,639 people. Attempts to rejuvenate the church through a bus ministry, modeled after the bus ministry of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, were largely unsuccessful, probably due to the large number of Baptist churches already spread all across Beaumont. Additionally, in 1969, the Sunray DX Oil Company moved its Gulf Coast regional office from Beaumont to Houston, causing a further drop in First Baptist's membership.

First Baptist established a thriving Deaf Ministry sometime in the 1970's. The church employed deaf pastors who led special worship services for the deaf, and the deaf department of the Sunday School was staffed by volunteers who had learned sign language. It also began a successful Spanish ministry and Chinese ministry.

Another long-serving pastor of First Baptist was Dr. Ed B. Bowles, who served from 1971 to 1985. He oversaw the celebrations when the church celebrated its one hundredth and one hundred and tenth anniversaries. Along with Reverend George W. Daniels, he co-led a joint worship service attended by First Baptist Church and Sunlight Baptist Church, a historically African-American congregation, in 1983.

By the 1990's, much of the population of Beaumont had moved away from the downtown area of the city to the west side. In 1995, the church considered moving to a new location on land it owned on Major Drive, but rejected those plans at the time. The downtown area continued to lose population in favor of the west side of the city, however. Thus, in 2012, the congregation voted to leave its building at Willow and Broadway Streets, and construct a new church at Major and Folsom Drives. Its last worship service at the Willow and Broadway location was held on May 5, 2013.

Extent

45 Cubic Feet (45 cubic feet in 61 boxes)

Abstract

Founded in 1872, the First Baptist Church of Beaumont, Texas, and its members, have contributed immensely to the religious, social, economic, and political life of the city. The records of the church include photographs, publications, administrative records, records of the Sunday School, and membership records.

Organization of Collection

This collection is organized into 13 series and 20 subseries.
  1. Publications
  2. Special Events and Programs
  3. Early Papers and Carroll Family Papers
  4. Membership
  5. Church Groups
  6. Outreach and Evangelism
  7. Administration
  8. Photographs
  9. Oversized Items
  10. Audiovisual Materials
  11. Duplicates
  12. Items to Be Digitized
  13. Loose Items

Acquisition Information

Donated by First Baptist Church of Beaumont, 2013 February.

Accruals

Further accruals are expected.

Related Material

AC-606, Westminster Presbyterian Church Records, 1880-2009.

Bibliography

Estep, William Roscoe. And God Gave the Increase: The Centennial History of the First Baptist Church of Beaumont, Texas. Beaumont, Texas: First Baptist Church, 1972.

Processing Information

Processed by Tyrrell Historical Library staff, 2013 April.

Finding aid revised and encoded by Tyrrell Historical Library staff, 2013 April.
Title
Finding Aid for the First Baptist Church of Beaumont Records, 1876-2013
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Tyrrell Historical Library Archives Repository

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