the story of first baptist church salado
By Charlene Ochsner Carson
The year was 1864. President Abraham Lincoln was steering the country through the third year of the Civil War. The Confederate flag flew over Texas; and Sam Houston, the Governor of Texas, had recently been replaced for his refusal to take the oath of loyalty to the Confederacy.
On May 28th of that turbulent year a group of eleven men and women, under the leadership of Elder W. W. Harris, met in the Chapel of Salado College for the purpose of organizing a Baptist church. One of the three men present was James Lowry Smith formerly from the Independence Baptist Church of Independence, Texas. Professor Smith had moved to Salado in 1863 to become principal of Salado College, a position he held for several years. This small group of believers named the church Salado Baptist Church of Christ. It was later named First Baptist Church. The Sunday School was organized on October 20, 1878, fourteen years after the organization of the church. Seventy-seven people enrolled on that first Sunday.
The church met in the Salado College building for a number of years. In May 1877, a committee was named for the purpose of selecting a building site for the erection of a permanent place of worship. The search ended when church member Judge O. T. Tyler donated a choice plot of ground on the north bank of Salado Creek. Another member, Dr. Welborn Barton, purchased and then donated the adjoining lot on the west. Upon the donation of those two lots, church members agreed to move the church to the corner of Salado Creek and Main Street.
A year later, 1878, the first building of Salado Baptist Church was ready for occupancy. It was a wooden, two-story building that had been built jointly by the church and the Masonic Fraternity of Salado. The lodge used the top floor as their meeting place, and the church used the bottom floor. This humble structure would be the first of three sanctuaries that the church would build. The second sanctuary, a yellow brick building designed to seat 250 people, was constructed in 1958. The third, a large, beautiful worship center designed to seat over five hundred people, was completed in 2001. In addition to building three worship centers, the church has also built two education buildings. The first building was completed in 1962 and the latter in the early 1990s.
In July 2013, the congregation voted to purchase the property formerly owned by the Salado United Methodist Church. The Methodist church had occupied this choice piece of property, located at the corner of Thomas Arnold Road and Church Street, since 1890. In 2005, the Methodist congregation moved to their new location on Royal Street, taking their historic chapel with them. In 2013, the Baptist church purchased the property and converted the buildings remaining on the property to a youth center. The First Baptist Church Youth Ministry Building provides an adequate and comfortable meeting place for the youth of the church and the community.
Church history shows that from the very beginning Salado Baptist Church has been blessed, chosen, and privileged to do God’s work in Salado and around the world. During the past 150 years, the congregation has grown in membership from its original eleven members to over eight hundred members. The church has also grown in the ways in which it serves the community. The Sunday School which began with 77 members now reaches over 300 people each Sunday. In order to accommodate even more people, the church began conducting dual worship services in September 1992.
Recently, the church adopted a strategic plan called Imagine FBC Tomorrow. The first concept of this plan calls for church members to make the worship of God their first and greatest priority. The plan also calls for the membership to be a caring fellowship of believers, taking care of both the physical and spiritual needs of the community. The third concept of the plan is to equip or teach church members how to share the gospel with others, and the fourth concept is for the church to be actively involved in sharing and spreading the gospel through local, state, national, and international mission efforts.
As the congregation looks to the future, it is their desire and prayer that the church will continue to be blessed, chosen, and privileged to do God’s work in Salado and around the world.