HIS STORY OF GLORY
The history of the First Baptist Church of Petersburg is really a story of God’s glory in and through the church.
The First Baptist Church was organized on September 17, 1854, where services were first conducted in the Menard County Courthouse. Later the church met at a two story clapboard house that stood near 206 North 6th Street. In 1856 a brick building 35’ by 60’ was erected on a corner lot later to be inhabited by the Harris High School gymnasium.
Rev. Henry Preston Curry and Rev. Nathan Jackson Coffey, Sr. were the leaders in the church and started with 14 charter members, the last known of whom was Mrs. Amanda Faith, who passed away on July 27, 1925, at 87 years of age, having been a member for 70 years. Rev. Curry used the Sangamon River for baptizing converts. And from the beginning God was using His church to reach the community for Christ.
In 1895 a remodeling of the church took place. The building was divided into three rooms. A furnace and a baptistry were installed. A bell tower was added to the front creating a vestibule. Electric lights were installed, and a new roof was put over the old roof. Rev. Anderson Clark led a dedication service December 22, 1895.
On December 12, 1912, a fire burned a large hole through the floor and another in the ceiling. The church then began meeting in the Central Presbyterian Church, built in 1879 on the corner of 7th St. and Sangamon Ave., and they let us use it free of charge for six months. The last service upstairs in the old building was on Watch Night (New Year’s Eve). The end of the service was the last time the bell would ring.
In June 1915 the Central Presbyterian Church sold us their church building for $2,500. Extensive remodel and construction of a baptismal work finished with a dedication service on October 31, 1915. The lower half of the Rutledge Memorial art glass window from this “Old Town Clock” church was donated to First Baptist in 2001 by L.G. Hinds in memory of Nina Hinds and Nellie McLaughlin. This lovely window is on display in our prayer chapel.
Our current building stands on the former Ella Grosboll property, on the opposite corner of the previous church, which First Baptist purchased in October 1958 for a sum of $12,000. Rev. Odell Bell, who was instrumental in the planning and construction of the new church, and his wife Opal served the church at this time. Construction on the new building began August 15, 1967, and the first Sunday service was held February 2, 1969.
As the Lord continued to grow His church, an addition including classrooms and office space was completed and a dedication service was held on September 17, 1972. In the summer of 1974 the church bell was installed in a brick housing in front of our building. An elevator was installed on April 29, 1999. On August 26, 2004, the church purchased J & N Bowling Lanes and demolished the building. The lot has been used for block parties, Vacation Bible School and other activities.
God has indeed blessed the First Baptist Church through the generations, and continues to display His glory in and through us today. We are looking forward to what He has yet in store as we strive to shine the light of the gospel and glory of Christ Jesus into our community and throughout the world.