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First Baptist Church
201 Commercial Road
Tahlequah, OK 74464
Phone: 918-456-0668
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History

First Baptist Church of Tahlequah, OK
Table of Contents
The following is taken from the booklet entitled "History of the First Baptist Church of Tahlequah" by T.L. Ballenger printed in January of 1946 by The Star Printery, Muskogee, Oklahoma and dedicated to the Pioneers who made this church possible.
Baptist Missions Among the Cherokees East
The Baptist Mission in Tahlequah
Daniel Rogers, Founder of the Church
General Missionary Activity
The Pastors and Their Work
Recent Accomplishments of the Church
History After Mr. Ballenger's Book

Baptist Missions Among the Cherokees East

The First Baptist Church of Tahlequah has a background extending far back into the early missionary efforts among the Cherokee Indians. It was started as a mission church and continued for many years as such. The Baptist denomination conducted a mission at Valley Towns, North Carolina, among the Cherokees, from about 1818 to 1839. It was established by the Reverend Humphrey Posey of South Carolina. Here the Reverend Thomas Roberts had active charge, assisted by Evan Jones. Evan Jones was born in Wales in 1788 and was ordained to the Baptist ministry in this country in 1825. Daniel Rogers said of him: "The name of this devoted and faithful man of God is worthy of being held sacred in the history of the Cherokee people, for no man has been a truer friend than he to the Cherokee people and no one has been instrumental in accomplishing for them greater benefits." In a short time after this mission was started Jesse Bushyhead and a native Cherokee, John Wycliffe, were ordained to the ministry and became helpers in the Valley Towns Mission.

By the year 1829 thirty-seven Cherokees and one white person had been converted and baptized. By 1835 the membership of the church had increased to 260, fifteen of whom were whites. By the time of the removal to the Indian Territory in 1838 the membership had grown to 500.

When the Cherokees moved to this country in 1838 and 1839 Jones and Bushyhead accompanied them, in fact, both of these men had command of groups of one thousand, into which the Cherokees were divided for the purpose of removal. On this removal journey religious services were conducted every day, with regular preaching on Sunday. During the entire journey 170 people were converted and baptized.

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Early Baptist Missions in the Cherokee Nation

Upon the arrival of these Indian refugees within the eastern border of the Cherokee Nation they set up a church at Baptist, in Going Snake district, about midway between the resent towns of Westville and Watts. The Indians frequently referred to this place as "Bread Town" because the Federal Government issued rations to them here for some time after their arrival. Here they maintained a mission from 1839 to 1866. It is said of Jesse Bushyhead that he was one of the few men who could come and go freely among the Cherokees, during that period of intense factional hatred, with no weapon of defense save his Bible. He died and was buried at Baptist in 1844, but Evan Jones kept the mission going until the outbreak of the Civil War. He was joined here, in 1855, by his son John B. Jones. John Buttrick Jones was graduated form the University of Rochester, New York, in 1855. Immediately after his graduation he married there and he and his wife came to Baptist, Indian Territory, to enter upon their work as missionaries. They had a printing press at Baptist and published a little monthly paper, called the Cherokee Messenger. It was printed part in Cherokee and part in English. This was the first Baptist paper to be published in Oklahoma. At the outbreak of the Civil War there were 1300 members of Baptist churches, with four native ordained ministers, several licensed preachers, and thirteen meeting houses.

The Joneses were not in sympathy with the Confederacy, hence they found it necessary to leave the country while the war was at its worst. Although the war did not completely stop religious work among the Cherokees it very greatly demoralized and disrupted it. As soon as the war closed, however, Evan and John Jones returned, were admitted to full citizenship in the Cherokee Nation, and resumed their missionary activity.

Since their buildings and printing press were destroyed during the war, they decided to move the mission to another locality. It was about 1867 that Evan and John B. Jones received from the Cherokee government a grant of a tract of 160 acres of land adjoining the city of Tahlequah on the northwest, and established the Baptist Mission here. They first built a log house about where Miss Holland's hospital now stands. Then a few years later John B. Jones erected the more commodious brick building where Mr. W.B. Wyly now lives, and used it for a home and mission. A separate frame building was constructed for a school. Evan Jones died in 1873 but the mission work was continued by his son, John, until he himself passed away in 1876. Under pressure of heavy work, together with his numerous mission duties, he contracted tuberculosis and was never able to throw it off. With the hope of effecting a cure he traveled in a wagon through the dry regions of the west but finally succumbed to the disease while in Denver, Colorado, in 1876. His remains were brought back to Tahlequah and now rest in the city cemetery. In grateful appreciation of the noble work of these two men in laying a firm foundation for this church the least that this congregation could do in perpetuation of their memory would be to restore the broken and dilapidated stones at their graves

 

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Daniel Rogers, Founder of the Tahlequah Baptist Church

Daniel Rogers
Founder of the
First Baptist Church of Tahlequah

After the passing of John B. Jones the Baptist Home Mission Society of New York sent the Reverend Daniel Rogers here to carry on the work of the mission. He was at this time a young minister from the state of New Hampshire. He had just graduated from the Theological College of Colgate University in New York, with the Master's degree, when he and his young bride, the former Miss Harriett A. Jones of Northampton, Massachusetts, came here to do mission work among the Cherokees. The first Mrs. Rogers lived only a few months after their arrival in Tahlequah. Mr. Rogers later married a sister of his first wife, Miss Julia J. Jones. He pursed this work for eighteen years and is largely responsible for the establishment of Baptist doctrine among the Cherokee people in general. He is the man who founded the First Baptist Church of Tahlequah.

In the year 1877, the next year after his arrival in Tahlequah, he organized this Baptist church and had a small frame building erected immediately north of the present church site. (Darius Ward did the carpentry work.) He served as pastor here as long as he remained in charge of the Mission. Under later pastors the building was revised and enlarged and served the church until the erection of the present stone building in 1927.

Mr. Rogers was the father of our fellow church woman, Mrs. F.L. King, and was in reality one of God's noblemen. His religious work took him to all parts of the Cherokee Nation, and at times to the Choctaw and Creek Nations. Through many years he and his wife toiled conscientiously, gladly giving their very best for the Indian people whom they loved. Making long trips in buggy or on horseback, fording swiftly flowing streams, enduring countless privations and hardships, using every means possible to reach the hearts of the people, their lives were filled with busy, useful service.



The First Church Building
Erected by Daniel Rogers
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General Missionary Activity

In his reminiscences Mr. Rogers wrote: "We soon went to Tahlequah the capital of the Cherokee Nation and established our home at the Baptist Mission at that place. I commenced visiting churches among the Cherokee and Delaware Indians. My journeys to these were on horseback. Some of these churches were seventy-five and an hundred miles from the Mission station. I usually occupied two Sundays each month preaching at Tahlequah... I found eight Baptists residing at Tahlequah, and soon organized a church which continued to grow until before I left it numbered 100 members. There were additions by baptism nearly every month. At one time, after a meeting of two weeks, 35 were added. A church edifice was needed and then by the aid of the Home Mission Society and what we could do ourselves a neat and comfortable chapel was erected."

Between his Sundays at Tahlequah Mr. Rogers made long journeys through the country, regardless of weather or other obstacles, preaching to Indians, Negroes, and Whites and visiting churches which he had formerly organized. Traveling either on horseback or in his buggy, drawn by two ponies, he encountered many pioneer hardships. Occasionally he lost his way and had to tie his horse and sleep under the trees, with only a blazing fire to keep the panthers away. He tells on one occasion of fording a stream, in the winter time, when his ponies were forced to swim for fifteen yards pulling the buggy with him in it and the water up to his neck. With regard to a Cherokee Baptist Association at Fourteen Mile Creek he said: "At the commencement of the meeting there was a good deal of disturbance on account of drunkenness, whooping, and firing pistols." He slept there two nights on the meeting house floor. On another occasion he and his interpreter, Adam Lacie, were compelled to sleep all night sitting up in their chairs on account of the ferocious bed bugs. At another time he was pestered with fleas and relates that, between naps, he managed to capture and execute thirty-five of them.

A few direct quotations from Mr. Rogers' diary will give the reader a fair idea of his diversified activities.
Apr. 3rd Reached home after an absence of two weeks during which time I traveled with my pony team 275 miles, preached ten sermons and delivered several addresses.
May 13th Preached in the forenoon at Tahlequah, in the afternoon at the Female Seminary, three and an half miles distant and again at Tahlequah in the evening - large congregations.
May 18th Started in the morning for Lightning Creek a neighborhood among the Delawares 75 miles distant. Reached Cherokee Orphan Asylum at 5 o'clock P.M. Was cordially received. Preached at night to the children. Next day drove on to Lightning Creek.
May 20th Preached the funeral sermon of a Delaware Indian woman.
May 27th Preached in the forenoon at a neighborhood school house and organized a Sunday School.
June 1st Attended Commencement of Indian University - (formerly Cherokee Academy). (Indian University was the present Bacone College. It was established here in Tahlequah under that name.) The first students, five in number, were graduated. The orations and essays were very commendable. This institution promises to be of great value and importance. The church house was crowded, all much interested. (Evidently this service was held in the Baptist church.)

On Saturday, June 2, 1883, the Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention for the Indian Territory was organized at the Baptist church in Tahlequah. Thirty-one delegates representing several Indian tribes were present. A constitution was adopted and permanent officers were elected. The meeting continued through Sunday and several of the visiting ministers preached. This organization published a newspaper, called the Indian Missionary. Mr. Rogers was president of this Convention for four years and edited this paper during the year 1885.

During the month of December, 1883, a very successful union temperance and gospel meeting was conducted in Tahlequah by a Mrs. Maloy. In this meeting the Methodists, Presbyterians, Moravians, and Baptists united. Mr. Rogers said: "I preached for several Sundays following at the Baptist church urging the importance of studying the Bible and following its teachings. On the second Sunday in January I baptized three converts. The next Sunday I baptized 12. On February 24, 23 again visited the baptismal water and I baptized 12 more among them one of the leading men in the Cherokee Nation; his wife and their children. Mar. 30 I baptized 4 young men. On June 1, 2 by baptism, and on the 7th 2 more were baptized. Between January 13 and Sept. 7, 1884, forty-nine were received into the membership of the Tahlequah Baptist church, 39 by baptism and 10 by letter and experience. From the little beginning of 7 members the church had now increased to 100."

In May, 1888, Mr. Rogers made a trip to Anadarko to assist the Cheyenne and other western tribes in organizing churches and schools. Her he found his former friend and under shepherd, Reverend G.W. Hicks, working among these Indians. Mr. Hicks was a graduate of Indian University and Rochester Theological Seminary. Mr. Rogers preached to a number of these western chiefs and aroused their interest in the establishment of schools for their people. When he returned to Tahlequah he sent a young Cherokee woman, Miss Jane Ballew, to work among these tribes as teacher.

It is interesting to note the route of travel and means of conveyance that were necessary in making this trip. He went by hack to Muskogee, then 150 miles on the Katy railroad to Atoka; then fifty miles on a branch line to a point near Gainsville, Texas; thence north one hundred miles on the Santa Fe to Oklahoma city; by hack forty-five miles to Fort Reno and Darlington; there a Menonite friend furnished him a horse with which he finished his journey of forty-five miles. His business finished, he returned by similar conveyance to Oklahoma City; then north by rail one hundred miles; thence east eighty miles to Chetopa, Kansas; thence south by rail to Muskogee; and returned to Tahlequah by hack. Today one can easily drive by car over paved roads from Tahlequah to Anadarko and return in one day. He described Oklahoma City of that day as consisting of "a railway station, on store, and two residence houses."

The Cherokee Advocate of August 15, 1888 carried this item: "Rev. Daniel Rogers, Pastor of the Baptist church at this place will preach his farewell sermon on the 1st Sunday in next month.." In order to rest awhile and recuperate from his arduous duties and to have more leisure for study he decided to take a pastorate in a more settle community. Consequently he resigned as General Missionary to the Cherokees and moved, with his family, in the fall of 1888, to Omaha, Nebraska. At the time of leaving he intended to be away only about four years but in reality he occupied pulpits in Nebraska, Illinois, and Iowa until 1896, when, upon an urgent invitation from the Tahlequah Baptist church, he returned to this pastorate and to his Indian missionary work which he loved so much. ( He shipped his horse and buggy by rail form Vinto, Iowa, to Fort Gibson He and his son then drove over to Tahlequah, arriving here just before dark on the evening , preceding Easter. He left his horse and buggy in John F. Wilson's livery stable and that night it was burned, with the loss of thirty horses and several carriages. This livery stable stood on Muskogee Avenue about where Purselley's store now is.) During the years of Mr. Rogers' absence, form 1888 until 1896, very little is known about the church at Tahlequah except that it seemed to be on the down grade. Upon his return Mr. Rogers said: "The church had not prospered well during the eight years." He began, however, with his usual enthusiasm to revive it. After tow years of further service here he again resigned and accepted the position of District Missionary to the Cherokees and Creeks, and, to be more centrally located for his new work, he moved to Muskogee. After two years in this field he again resigned and, in September, 1900, moved to Granville, Ohio, to have better educational facilities for his three children. And her he maintained his home for the rest of his life.

Aside form his pastorate of the Baptist church at Tahlequah and his general missionary and educational work throughout the Indian Territory, Mr. Rogers pointed with great pride to the part he played in the establishment of Bacone College. The Indian University had already been started here in Tahlequah by the Reverend Almon C. Bacone but its facilities were too restricted here. Consequently A.C. Bacone, J.S. Murrow, and Daniel Rogers presented a proposal to the Creek Nation for the transfer of Indian University to their nation with the hope making it a prominent institution of higher learning for the training of Indians in Christian service. The Creeks rejected the proposal at first but later accepted it, and the school was moved from Tahlequah to its present location. The name was later changed to Bacone College in honor of its original founder. In view of its growth and present outlook its founders may well be proud of their optimistic endeavor.

Under Mr. Rogers' fifteen years of instruction the Cherokee Baptists had organized, throughout the Cherokee Nation, five associations. Each association had a centrally located camp ground. At these camp grounds, in rotation, they entertained all the Baptist churches in the nation. Dr. Joseph C. Park ( now of Wellsville, New York), who was superintendent of the Cherokee Baptist Academy from 1896 to 1900, gives an interesting description of these camp meetings. These meetings were held once a year at their sacred camp grounds. These meetings, which were devoted both to religion and to business, rotated from year to year so that Antioch, for instance, would have the meeting one year, Fourteen Mile Creek the next year, and the other three associations in succeeding years. These meetings were usually held in October for five days. So, if Antioch was to have the meeting in the fall, the Cherokees who lived in that vicinity would meet in the spring, put in a crop of cotton on the public land, meet frequently during the summer to cultivate it and make a good crop, pick the cotton when it was ready, haul it to market, and sell it. With the money they bought beef cattle, hogs, flour, chickens, and vegetables - enough to feed five thousand people for five days. Thus, when the meeting time arrived, Antioch was ready to entertain the great crowd that would come from all parts of the Cherokee Nation. Three eating places were constructed. Each eating place consisted of two tables, each perhaps one hundred feet long, with a line of benches on either side. When eating, the Indian women and children sat on one side of the tables and the men on the other side. The tables were covered with a roof in case of rain. The cooking was done in large kettles, usually a different kind of food in each kettle. Under these large kettles pits were dug in which burned live coals covering large skillets of bread.

In addition to the religious services they also held business sessions at these gatherings. At these business sessions recommendations might be made to the American Home Mission Society, or recommendations to the United States Department of the Interior: matters dealing with Indian lands, allotment of lands, surveys, Cherokee citizen rolls, and many other matters. These camps in the woods were beautiful at night, lighted by many camp fires, around which groups of Cherokees would sing Christian hymns in the Cherokee language. After services at night the people would sleep in their covered wagons, or under the wagons, or would roll up in blankets near the camp fires.

In teaching the Indians some of the early missionaries used a simple catechism consisting of Bible stories, verses of Scripture, Bible references, and attractive instructional material. It was printed entirely in Cherokee. Mrs. Mollie Terrapin, a present active member of the church, has one of these catechisms, published in 1880, which she used years ago.

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Later Pastors and Their Work
When Mr. Rogers finally left Tahlequah for Muskogee in 1898, Reverend S.A. Evans succeeded him as pastor of the Baptist church. He was recommended by Mr. Rogers and chosen by the congregation. He was here a little less than three years. Mrs. Evans became ill and they were forced to remove her to another climate for her health. They had ten children, all of whom attended the Baptist Mission school. One of the church members of that time said that "Mr. Evans was a likeable man and well grounded in hardshell Baptist theology." The church was then without a pastor for several months until the arrival of Reverend Walter J. Pack form Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky.


The Second Church Building

In 1901 Walter J. Pack, who had just graduated from the Theological Seminary at Louisville, came to Tahlequah, bringing with him his new bride, to assume the superintendence of the Baptist Academy. The mission was at this time planning the erection of a more modern and up-to-date school building. It was erected on the exact site of the present Tahlequah high school. The American Baptist Home Mission Society of New York appropriated $5,200 for this building, which Mr. Pack supplemented considerably by public contributions. The corner stone was laid December 7, 1903, accompanied by appropriate exercises conducted by faculty and pupils. The original list of 208 students contains the names of several prominent people still residing in eastern Oklahoma. Mr. Pack continued in charge of the school until statehood, when the building was transferred to the city and became the city high school.

From 1901 to 1903 Mr. Pack, in addition to his school duties, filled the pastorate of the Baptist church. His brother, Henry Pack, was associated with him in the school for one year and while here he frequently filled the pulpit for Walter J. Pack. It was while Mr. Pack was pastor that the parsonage was built. For this purpose he obtained $500 from the Home Mission Society of New York and then added to this sum and additional $1,000 contributed by the people of Tahlequah.

An outstanding member of the church at that time was "Aunt Eliza" Alberty. She was an enthusiastic Christian worker and a loyal supporter of the Baptist Mission school. She was the daughter of the Reverend Jesse Bushyhead and sister of chief Dennis W. Bushyhead. She was born during the removal of the Cherokees to this country in 1838. She passed away in 1919. She owned and operated the old National Hotel here in Tahlequah for a number of years and was, in every respect, a highly esteemed citizen. Few church plans or policies were undertaken without first having the approval of "Aunt Eliza." Mr. Pack recently referred to her as the "hub of the Baptist church." She taught in the Sunday School, and some of our present church members point with pride to the uplifting influence she has exerted over their lives. She was quite a philanthropist, always looking out for some needy child whom she could help in either a material or spiritual way. It was at this time too, that the Richards, the Goddards, the McSpaddens, the Wilsons, the McGregors, and a few other present day families were obtaining their early training in Christian service.

O.A. Stewart served as pastor form 1903 to 1905. He married Miss Blance hunter. After Mr. Stewart left the church several ministers filled the pulpit for short periods. Some of these were A.D. Deeter, King, Wilson, and Esseck.

The Reverend David E. Gambrell came to the leadership of the church in 1908 and was here until 1917. He was ordained by the Spring Creek church in Marshall county, Mississippi in January, 1880. He preached in Lonoke County, Arkansas, in 1886. He was related to the famous J.B. Gambrell of Texas. Brother Gambrell was a very large, tall man and his sincerity of purpose and his spirituality were well in keeping with his physical build. He developed a very firm and orthodox organization and was able to maintain a high degree of unity, cooperation, and brotherly love among the members. On account of his general popularity and his wide acquaintance he won the sobriquet of the "marry parson" and frequently boasted that when he married them they stayed married. It was during his pastorate that the old building was enlarged by adding an ell, a lean-to room for the young people's meetings, and by the addition of a baptistry. The pulpit at this time was surmounted by a crude, hand made speaker's stand behind which sat an immense, high backed cushion chair almost as large and ornamental s the throne chair in which English kings sit when they are crowned. This large chair was flanked on either side by a smaller chair of similar design. The main auditorium was seated with home made pews, though they were fairly comfortable. The ell and the side room were equipped with folding chairs and the ell opened into the main auditorium so that the whole building, except the side room, was available for general church purposes. A small entrance vestibule on the south was surmounted by a steeple and belfry form which a large bell regularly called the people to service.

James Newton Edwards served the church from 1917 to 1919. He was ordained at Armstrong in the Atoka church September 6, 1891. He preached in Bryan County, Oklahoma, in 1914. He was succeeded as pastor here in Tahlequah by J.S. Weaver. Mr. Weaver was ordained at Big Springs, Texas, September 15, 1912, and came to preach at Okmulgee in 1915. T.C. Carlton and Mr. Brewer served short terms as pastor. Mr. Carlton had a crippled hand. Mr. Brewer left the church in the midst of some unfortunate circumstances for which his friends say he was in no way responsible. He later joined the police force in Tulsa, which position he held for a number of years.

The next pastor was Reverend E. D. Cameron who occupied the pulpit during the year 1922 and about half of the next year. He was ordained at Chickasha, Indian Territory, September 22, 1901. At statehood he was elected the first state Superintendent of Public Instruction. It was under his pastorate that this church , for the first time in its history, came to be self supporting. It was originally established as a mission church and its upkeep for a long time maintained largely by the Baptist Home Mission Society. Then, after statehood, the state Mission Board continued to pay part of the pastor's salary, while the church paid the balance. Mr. Cameron thought that the church had grown strong enough to support itself financially, hence he refused to accept money from the Mission Board but urged the church to raise all the money necessary for the pastor's salary as well as for all other local expenses. Another change effected by Mr. Cameron was bringing the church into closer cooperation with the college. He had been a school man himself and realized the advantage to both church and college of developing a closer feeling of friendship between the two. Mr. Cameron was a victim of heart failure and passed away suddenly one Sunday morning just before time to deliver his sermon. He felt no premonitory illness and had his sermon ready for delivery when the sudden and fatal attack came.

C.G. Carter was pastor of the church during 1924 and 1925. He was ordained at Fort Worth, Texas, May 2, 1917. He gave much of his thought and effort to evangelism. Upon leaving this church he entered the missionary field in South America.

After an intermission of about a year J.C. Hendrick of Sallisaw was secured as shepherd of the flock. He came in 1926 and remained in the pastorate until 1943, by far the longest term of service rendered by any pastor since Daniel Rogers, the founder of the church. He was ordained at Atkins, Arkansas, in 1910. When he came to the church it had a membership of about 150, while at the conclusion of his services the membership had tripled. Sunday School enrollment grew from 100 to 280. The affiliated church organizations doubled in number and improved greatly in efficiency and standardization. He is largely responsible for the creation of friendly and helpful relations between the church and the Sequoyah Indian Training School located five miles south of Tahlequah. He made regular trips to visit with the students there and to preach to them. During his pastorate hundreds of these boys and girls were won to Christ and brought into the membership of the Tahlequah Baptist church. He also placed great emphasis upon youth training and upon close coordination between church and college.

The old building had already become inadequate form our needs at the advent of Mr. Hendrick's pastorate. Consequently he immediately turned his attention to the erection of a more efficient religious plant. With very little funds in sight he soon began the demolition of the old building and the planning for a new one to take its place. Not only id he sit at his desk and plan a new building but he took his place alongside other volunteer workmen in the broiling hot sun to make his plans an architectural reality. The corner stone for the new building was laid in October, 1927. Through general contributions and voluntary labor a considerable start was made on the new building, then through a loan of $10,000 the building was sufficiently finished to serve the church well for a number of years while the loan was being repaid. The period of repayment of this loan happened to coincide almost exactly with the hard depression years of the nineteen thirties, and the membership experience many hard struggles. Yet the church managed to meet all payments and the pastor was enabled to burn the mortgage at the allotted time. The completed building of native stone and concrete stands today, free form all indebtedness, as a living memorial to the faith, and devotion, and Christian fortitude of the loyal members and pastors who have had a part in it.

Brother Hendrick had a very wide, as well as popular acquaintance with the Indians and people in general over this eastern portion of Oklahoma. As their friend and helper he made many visits among the country people and was called upon to conduct a great many funerals for them.

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Recent Accomplishments of the Church

In recent years this church has expanded its influence considerably into the surrounding communities. The Sequoyah Indian Training School has been brought into closer touch with the church and several hundred Indian students have been baptized into this membership. Considerable missionary effort has been expended in the Woodall, the Carter, and the Boudinot communities. A new Baptist church has been organized at Boudinot. A Sunday School was organized at the Carter school house, south of Tahlequah. The late Mr. F.L. King conducted religious services in the schools at Eldon, organized a Sunday School there, and did a great deal of personal work among the people of this vicinity. This work has been continued by Mrs. King after the passing of her noble husband. Mrs. King has been instrumental in organizing a young people's union among the girls of the Cherokee Baptist Church here in Tahlequah. Miss Lillian Rutherford and others have helped the Negro children of Tahlequah by conducting Vacation Bible schools among them.

Out of this church and through its encouragement have come several young ministers and other religious workers whose influence for good seems to offer great future promise. Eugene Stockwell, who is a student at Northeastern and an active member of this church, was recently licensed to preach and has now been ordained and is serving as pastor of the Hyde Park Baptist church near Muskogee. Kenneth Chaffin, also a college student, has done some special religious work at Park Hill and in the Carter community. He is now taking work at Oklahoma Baptist University at Shawnee in further preparation for the ministry. Felix Quinton is a promising young Indian minister, who has, in a way, been sponsored by this church. He has had several ministerial courses at Shawnee and is now actively engaged in the full time ministry.

 



1946 Home of First Baptist Church of Tahlequah

Miss Louise Tadlock, who grew up as an active student, teacher, and Christian worker in the church, has had two years of special work in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky. She was Baptist student worker for one year at Northeastern and has also served in a similar capacity during one summer session in the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. Her enthusiasm and devotion bespeak volumes for her future Christian influence in whatever work she engages. For several years the church has maintained a student worker on the Northeastern campus. This has undoubtedly had much effect in extending the influence of the church among the student body.

While the progress and status of a church depends very largely upon the consecration, ability, and leadership of the pastor, it is nevertheless a fact that there are some other assisting agencies that contribute materially to its success or failure. For instance, such officers as the Sunday School superintendent, the treasurer, the church clerk, the leaders of the various unions, the chairman of the Board of Deacons, and several other officers of similar import have much to do with the general progress of the the church. The first church treasurer, with the writer's knowledge, was James D. Guinn, now deceased. He served for many years during the pastorate of Mr. Gambrell and always kept a very careful record of the finances of the church. Others down the line have been T.L. Ballenger, George C. Ogle, Alden Dryden, W.S. Bishop, and Charles lemons. Some of the Sunday School Superintendents have been A.B. Showalter, W.C. Holt, Miss Alpha Graham, T.L. Ballenger, and Vaud A. Travis. The church as fallen short of its opportunity somewhat in its failure to keep sufficiently complete and continuous record of its membership. Especially that membership that has come through the college has become widely scattered to the four winds and many of them possibly lost permanently to the church because of our failure to keep in tough with the. Under the efficient leadership of President John Vaughan the Board of Deacons have, in recent months, rendered valuable and constructive service to the church. Many other worthy officers and devoted laymen, too numerous to mention, have by their loyal support, helped to make the Baptist Church of Tahlequah what it is today.

In preparation for the coming of a new pastor, in the fall of 1943, some fifteen or twenty men of the church met at night and worked over the entire interior of the parsonage. They worked for about three weeks papering, repairing, painting, sanding, and redecorating the building throughout. It was also insulated and equipped with butane heat.

The present pastor, the Reverend James A. Hogg, came to the church from Idabel in November, 1943. During his pastorate the congregations have grown to overflowing, the contributions have more than doubled, and the spirituality among members has become immensely deeper and more gratifying. The treasurer's financial report show in the Church Bulletin of August 12, 1945, is significant. I reads as follows: "Since October 1, 1943 to July 5, 1945, we have spent on our property as follows: Materials $2,632 ; Labor $3,300; Equipment $1,678; Total $7,610. These figures are only approximately correct. On some jobs it was impossible to separate the items under the above headings. The improvements include the following:

  1. Repair of the pastor's home.
  2. Installing of butane system in church and pastor's home, fully equipped.
  3. Improvement of entire building, basement, redecorating of auditorium, and grounds.
  4. Two major roof repair jobs on church building, and one on the pastor's home."

Before these last improvements were started the whole basement floor was simply one large room. Now it has been separated by permanent walls into well arranged departments, class rooms and finished closets, suitable for Sunday School use and for young people's assemblies of various kinds. On the main floor, in addition to the general decoration, a new pastor's study and secretarial room has been equipped with a good assortment of elegant office furniture. And to supplement this a regular full time church secretary has been provided. The position is filled at present by Miss Lillian Rutherford. Two new Sunday School rooms have also been finished and equipped on the third floor. Substantial rock and concrete steps have been built to the west entrance and this connected by a concrete walk with the street in front of the church. A number of new pews are badly needed in the main auditorium. These will doubtless be added as soon as the war is over and restrictions have been removed from such articles. Our next pressing needs, preparatory to greater growth, will probably be a church organ and a new and well equipped educational building. The total additions to the church during the past year have been one hundred nineteen.

In 1945 the church granted the pastor a year's leave of absence to finish his college course. During this intermission the pulpit is being ably filled by Reverend H.H. Burton of Oklahoma city. Mr. Burton formerly preached at Altus, Shawnee, and other prominent churches in the state. He is a consecrated servant of the Lord and is well liked by the congregation.

With sincere appreciation for the noble background of this church and will full realization of the glorious opportunity that lies ahead let us one and all resolve that, under God, we will each strive to do his part in enabling it to fulfill its destiny in reaching and enriching the lives of the greatest possible number of people. May we think in the words of the rhyme:

What kind of church would my church be
If every member were just like me?
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The History of First Baptist Church since Mr. Ballenger's 1946 Book
List of Pastors who have served the church
( from left to right )
Daniel Rogers A.D. Deeter S.A. Evans
Walter J. Pack O.A. Stewart J.P. Paden
F.L. King Rev. Wilson Rev. Esseck
David E. Gambrell James N. Edwards J.S. Weaver
C.M. Brewer E.D. Cameron C.G. Carter
J.C. Hendrick James Hogg H.H. Burton
Jack Gritz C.O. Bigbie Benny Bates
John W. Brill Wallace M. Hough, Jr. John Meadows
(interim pastor)
Ron Rice Buddy Hunt  

The church continued in the native stone structure built in 1927, under the leadership of Reverend J.C. Hendrick. Later additions of education space and offices allowed the church to grow until the dedication of a 500 seat auditorium in April of 1969. The planning began under the leadership of Reverend John W. Brill and came to completion during the pastorate of Reverend Wallace M. Hough, Jr.

In the mid 1990's, under the leadership of Reverend Ron Rice, the church made the decision to move to its present ten acre location on the Bertha Parker Bypass at 201 South Commercial Road. In September, 1997, the first phase of the building program was completed, and the church held worship services and Sunday School in its new $1,750,000 facility. The temporary auditorium sat approximately 300 people and necessitated the need to hold two worship services on Sunday mornings. The first service is a contemporary praise and worship service lead by the praise team. The second service is a traditional service lead by the choir. The Pastor delivers the same message in each service.

In 2000, the second phase of the building program began. This phase called for the construction of a multipurpose building, which would serve as a gymnasium, fellowship hall, and youth facility. Now referred to as the Activity Center, this building was completed in March, 2001.

The church entered phase three of the building program soon afterwards. Seeking the Lord's leadership, committees worked to design and finance the worship center, seating approximately 1,000 people. Construction is complete. At present, Sunday School attendance is approximately 400 and worship attendance exceeds 500 people each Sunday.

The future is certainly bright for First Baptist Church, Tahlequah, Oklahoma under the new leadership of Pastor Buddy Hunt..

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