180 Years of History
Collected from All Available Sources by Members for the 180th Anniversary of the Church
In 1920, E. L. Enslow became pastor until 1925, when John R. Carstens became pastor until 1930. Not much is known about their ministries except that in 1919, the church celebrated its centennial; and the Sunday, April 7, Commercial-News devoted a full page to the celebration.
From 1930 to 1938, the pastor was Rev. J. M. Newsom.
A lengthy article July 7, 1936, gives a summary of the church history and entitles it“Church Has Fine Record for Valor.” On April 5, a Commercial-News article proclaimed,“Three Months of Tithing Wipe Out Church Debt; To Burn $7,200 Note Today.” At his resignation, a Commercial-News article on October 6, 1938, called Pastor Ensl “one of the best loved and most popular ministers this city and of the state.”
It was in 1938 that the church chimes, which are still in use, were donated by a Nancy Lewis. No information, except her picture with the notation of the gift, has been found about her.
Not much has been found about Pastors C. M. Phillips (1938-39) and Lawrence Tucker (1939-1943).
From 1943-1955, the pastor was Mitchell S. Seidler, who became one of the best-known pastors; and many developments occurred during his ministry. A Commercial-News article on December 22, 1944, reported that the final check was turned over to pay off its mortgage. Wesley R. Potter was ordained in March 1949. A July 30, 1949, reported that the church completely renovated its auditorium. February 7, 1950, an article reported that the auditorium was being enlarged, with one wall being removed and providing seating for 100more persons, bring the seating capacity to 345 seats. On November 20, an article reported that First Baptist paid $15,000 for a four-apartment building at 444 N. Walnut, and was considering future expansion.
In May 1948, the church affiliated with the Conservative Baptist Association of America.
In May, 1949, the Church helped in purchase of Conservative Baptist Assembly grounds for Camp Assurance.
An article on August 20, 1951, said, “A church tent, called the ‘Canvas Cathedral,’ was put in use for the first time on the recently purchased lot on Fowler Avenue. [A building was later erected on the site, and the name became Edgewood Baptist Church.}
May 1952, lot purchased for the new church building on the east side of NorthVermilion Street, just south of Voorhees Street (306×390 feet) for $13,000.
September 30, 1952 Christian kindergarten opened with 16 students.
On May 28, 1953, the first kindergarten graduation was held with 31 students in whitecaps and gowns. Mrs. Marge Pettegrew was the teacher, assisted by Mrs. Juanita Filler. InJuly, 1953, Church voted to establish a Christian Day School with 8 grades to begin with a first grade in addition to kindergarten.
In December 1954, Pastor Seidler resigned to move to Ohio.
Pastor Charles Harnden served as pastor from 1956-1958. Pastor Harnden left in September 1958.
On April 29, 1959, the Church voted unanimously to present Fowler Avenue BaptistChurch with the deed and all personal property.
On August 12, 1959, Dr. Franz W. McKnight became pastor, and on January 30, 1960, the church voted to go ahead with plans to construct a new edifice on property owned by the church in the 1200 block of North Vermilion, with plans to sell the church at Walnut and Williams when the new structure was completed. In October 1960, ground was broken for the new church. The new church was to have Bible School accommodations for 700, modern classrooms for nine grades and kindergarten in the day school. The sanctuary would seat 700 and would be at ground level with the pulpit near the center. Other features were to be a modern nursery, an ample kitchen, and offices for the pastor, secretary, and school principal. It would also have a board room, a work room, and miscellaneous room.
Church construction was underway in May 1961. A picture in the August 16, 1961, Commercial-News showed that the foundation and sidewalls were shaping up. The cornerstone was unveiled in November 1961.
In January 1962, Pastor McKnight resigned, and on April 2, 1962, Pastor Harris Stuermer became pastor, and took over completion of the unfinished church building. It was soon evident that Pastor Stuermer was a hands-on pastor, and could be found doing manual labor along with other members. It was a common sight to see him lying on his back on a scaffold as he helped to put the finish on the beams or on his knees laying tile. In May 1962, the church had an open house with a tour of the Christian Day School on the site of the new building 1211 N. Vermilion Street. At that time there were 140 students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. The first services in the new church were Thanksgiving Eve 1962.
The auditorium was dedicated on May 3, 1964. The church building on Walnut and Williams was sold in December 1964.
In 1973, the church constructed an 11,000-square-foot addition. The $200,000 project included a 30-foot-by-80-foot structure and a one-story building, which would be used by both the church and the school. It was completed in 1974.
On April 12, 1989, the church commemorated its 150th anniversary in 1989 with a two-day celebration.
Pastor Stuermer was the longest-serving pastor to date, and led the church for 29 years.It was due to his enthusiasm, hard work, support by the membership, and his never-failing love for the church and its doctrine that in a major part kept the church on the pathway started in 1920.
In 1985, groundbreaking for gym. Two houses were demolished for parking.First basketball game in gym on January 13, 1986.
1988, officials of Hope Christian School asked First Baptist to take over the responsibility for the high school. Classes were started in the fall.
September 1991, Pastor Stuermer resigned, having served 29 years.
February 5, 1992, church issued call to Rev. Jerry Cummins. He was installed as pastor on March 15, 1992.
In 1999, the church celebrated 170 years of existence, and in 2004, its 175th year.
In 2009, a church history was collected and presented to the church.
In his 18 years of service, Pastor Cummins never failed to preach thought-provoking sermons and to carry on the doctrine for which the church had been established. We are grateful for his influence, steadfastness and heart for missions.
From the resignation of Pastor Cummins to the coming of Pastor Paul Rebert in 2012, the church worked to find a pastor who would maintain doctrinal purity and help the church grow.
With great joy, the congregation welcomed Pastor Rebert as the new pastor in 2011. Since 2011, the church has grown and have completed several renovations including the Auditorium, Activity Center, Church lobby and offices, and other school rooms.
We are grateful for the faithfulness of God to our Church begun in 1829, and we look forward to laboring together for the Lord in the days ahead.
From The History of First Baptist Church of Danville
The following information (up to 1919) was quoted from the History of First Baptist Church of Danville, Illinois, 1919, by Rev. Edward L. Krumreig, D.D:
“Let us for a moment imagine that the massive steel bridge with its paved floors which spans the ‘Big Vermilion’ at the foot of Gilbert Street has vanished, and no house to be seen, no paved streets, no street lights, nothing but fields and forests with here and there a little log house, the white man’s dwelling. But on the slope of the Vermilion from the foot of Gilbert Street bend to where Ellsworth Park now is, you find an Indian village.” This is how Danville looked in 1822…. The old Indian trail is now West and East Main Street, having undergone but few changes as to its running line…. These Indians were believed to be of the ‘Miami Tribe.’”)(Page 13)
“In 1828 Hezekiah Cuningham erected a large frame building on the southwest corner of what is now known as the old public square, and in the upper story of this building court was held and religious services conducted.” (Page 14)
“On the 12th day of April, 1829, the first Baptist Church of Danville was organized with eighteen members. Following is the list of Charter Members, as gathered from early church papers and from the Court records of Vermilion County.: Elder Freeman Fmalley, Abslom Starr, Maria Starr, Henry Johnson, Henry Martin, George Brock, Nancy Brock, William Reed,Harvey Luddington and wife, Hezekiah Cunningham and wife, James Butler and wife, AsaElliott, Sadit Butler, John M. Vance and Nancy Vance. (Page 14)
“Elder Freeman Smalley acted as Moderator and Hezekiah Cunningham served asClerk. It was then voted that the name of this church shall be “The First Baptist Church ofDanville.” (Page 14)
“Voted that Brother Freeman Smalley, minister to this church as pastor.” (Page 15)
“The room over Cunningham’s store remained the permanent meeting pace of the congregation until 1834, when October the Church entered into their new and first Meeting House. This structure, a small-frame building, 28×36, was located on the first Sunday in northeast of what is now East North and Jackson street…. It was after the style and size of the many white painted church buildings still to be found in this country.” (Page 17)
“In 1836 the Mission and anti-Mission question arose, which caused a division in many churches in Illinois, and the First Baptist Church of Danville, in common with the times, had its share of trouble over the worrisome question. It appears, however, that the missionary portion prevailed, and the anti-mission faction has long since been dead and buried.” (Page 17)
“In 1850, the church reported 50 members….” (Page 21)
“The strength of the church was materially decreased during the troublesome times oft he slavery agitation and the war of 1861-65, in which the Baptist Church took a decided stand against slavery. This caused the church to suffer greatly, together with removals and death, further depleting the ranks, to the extent that the church in 1865 discontinued holding services in the old meeting house; it being a frail frame structure to begin with, in 1834, and much out of repair at this time, the building was sold. Then followed a period of five years of lethargic state, during which some of the members died, others moved away, and still others, more indifferent, united with the other churches not of Baptist faith.” (Page 23). (The church, however, was not dead, and continued receiving members. Visiting pastors filled the pulpit as they met in homes.)
“. . . Rev. [E. S.] Graham accepted the call and began his work as pastor of the church on the first Sabbath of January, 1873.” (Page 26)
“With the coming of the new pastor and the opening of the new effort to revive the work; the pastor on the first Sunday called the church together, all that were left of the members and others reading and willing to sustain the work, to subscribe to a ‘Covenant’ and pledge their support. Pastor Graham, having prepared articles of incorporation with a view of buying a lot and erecting a church edifice, laid the proposition before the church, which after careful consideration, was approved by a unanimous vote. The following members of the church signed the corporation paper: Rev. E. S. Graham, Mrs. E. S. Graham, Mrs. F. B. Freese, Mrs. F. C. Wilber, Mrs. Kate Bayle, Mrs. H. L. Holton, Mrs. S. Kimball, J. W. Parker, Mrs. J.W. Parker, Mr. and Mrs. B. Wilkinson, and Mrs. Emma W. Davis. These twelve members became the corporate members of the First Baptist Church of Danville. The forming of this voluntary religions corporation led to the belief, on the part of some, that this was the beginning of the Baptist church, and the date (1872) crept into the Association minutes as theta of organization. This, however, is not the case, as the church has existed ever since April12th, 1829, though often its light was dim, it had never been extinguished and this noble act ofRev. Graham and the Baptists of 1873 was not an organization, but rather a reviving of the work and the incorporating of the church. (Page 27)
“The Church Covenant was adopted on March 23, 1873.” (Page 28)“After the coming of the Rev. Mr. Graham, great interests aroused among the Baptists and within a short time after the formation of a corporate body a lot was purchased by the church on the corner of Walnut and Madison streets, for which $2000 was paid and without delay work was begun on a church building… It was completed and dedicated in 1874 and remained the church house of the Baptists until March 25, 1915, when the new and more up-to date church was dedicated.” Page 29)
“In 1878 the church reported 114 members.” (Page 30) “In 1888 the church reported 366 members.” (Page 35)
“In 1895 the church opened a Mission in South Danville with the assistance of several First Baptist members teaching Sunday School. (Page 31)
“In 1898 First Baptist reported 366 members. . . Some living in South Danville believed that the time had come for the formation of an independent church and recognize the Mission as the ‘First Baptist Church of South Danville, Illinois, and on the 14th day of May, 1900, forty-three members of the First Church were dismissed to form the new church. (Page 35) After a trial of eight months they ‘found the task too much and realized that a serious mistake was made in organizing the church.’ The church was disbanded and most of the members returned to First Baptist. . . The Mission at South Danville was re-established and again maintained by the First Church.” (Page 37)
“During the ministry of Rev. W. H. Breach, the Calvary Mission (South Danville) was strengthened and became self-sustaining and was recognized as a church.” (Page 39)
“The First Church bought a lot for a new church on the corner of Walnut and Williams Streets at a cost of $8,500.” (Page 39)
“In 1913 Dr. Edward L. Krumreig, D.D., accepted the call to become pastor of First BaptistChurch.”
All debts were cleared up, and by the first of February 1914, plans for the new church were completed and accepted by the church…. Services for groundbreaking were held on Wednesday, April 1, 1914, at 2:30 p. m. (Page 43) On the last day of March, the trees were removed from the site at the corner of Walnut and Williams. Immediately following the ceremonies, the actual work of the construction was begun…. The cornerstone was laid on the 6th day of June, 1914. The stone contains a copper box with a number of articles [church records] deposited therein. Three sides of the stone are exposed to full view. The side facing the east is engraved ‘First Baptist Church.’ On the side facing north are the dates of the three important historical periods: Organized 1829, 1874 when the church was incorporated and the second building was dedicated; and 1914 when this new church was erected. The third side bears a Latin inscription, ‘Animo Et Fide,’ the motto of the church ‘With Courage and Faith.’” (Page 44) The church was dedicated on Sunday, March 28, 1915. (Page 47)
Dr. Krumreig did extensive research on the history of Danville and First BaptistChurch, and it is to him that we owe the credit for almost all the information about the first ninety years of the church. Shortly before he resigned on September 1, 1919, Dr. Krumreig published his History of First Baptist Church in 1919. At that time the church was 90 years old.]