For the past 175 years (1843-2018), First Baptist Church has existed on the corner of Francis and Collins Street and has enjoyed a rich and fruitful history.
Madison Campbell, the first pastor and organizer, was brought up in a Christian atmosphere and converted in 1841 and 1842. After his conversion, he began exhorting at prayer meeting held in his neighborhood. Community members encouraged him to go with them and open other meetings in different areas of Madison County. In 1843, he and a group of consecrated individuals established themselves as a church. Feeling the need for a house of worship and with the hand of the Lord upon them from the beginning, they built a log church, of which the current First Baptist Church stands upon its foundation.
In 1852, he was licensed to preach by a white Methodist preacher and was baptized in 1856 by Jacob Bush into the Baptist faith. In June 1858, he was called to pastor the United Baptist Church, Colored of Richmond, which later became the First Baptist Church in Richmond. The ground where the church stood was bought and Edmond Martin had it deeded to the Baptist denomination. After the first church began to grow, not only in number but also spiritually, Rev. Madison Campbell and his congregation began to gather bricks and other materials needed to build a new church. In 1859, the first baptizing was held. Rev. Madison Campbell baptized 59 converts. There were over 2,500 candidates later baptized in the Bronston pond.
In 1866, Rev. Madison Campbell and Brother David Tribble, the leading deacon in Richmond, started building other churches. The churches at New Liberty-Bobtown, Kirksville, Otter Creek and others were brought into existence by these two men. Rev. Madison Campbell became pastor of the First Baptist Church with 173 members and by 1873, the membership had increased to 500 members. With the growing membership, it was agreed another church needed to be built. Money was raised for the construction of the church and members opened a brick yard on the church grounds, from which they made and burned the brick. In 1874, they tore down the old church and built a third church at the cost of approximately $9,000.00.
When the Mt. Pleasant District Association was organized, Rev. Madison Campbell was made Moderator. In 1892, he was elected Assistant Moderator of the General Association. Through his efforts in the General Association a college for training ministers was established in Louisville, Kentucky (Simmons College of Kentucky), from which Rev. Madison Campbell was conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity in that same year.
Rev. Madison Campbell was pastor of the First Baptist Church, Richmond for over 35 years. It has been noted that during his ministry, he walked 6,000 miles, rode horseback 9,600 miles, rode a buggy 1,940 miles, and rode the train 14,300 miles. He and his wife were the parents of 14 children, with some of his descendants being Maud Campbell, Ruth Miller Hill, Cordia Embry Turner, Jordan Embry, and his grandchildren.
Of all the auxiliaries of the churches, the Sunday school was the first one organized in the early churches. Among the many superintendents were Rev. G. B. Miller, Rev. J. O. Whittaker, Prof. James A. White, Prof. A. R. Cobb, Dr. J. A. Gwynn, Rev. R. T. Kennedy and Miss Georgia Walker. These, along with the other officers and teachers, served faithfully and willingly in the work of the church.
The earlier Trustee Board began in 1849. One of the first trustees to serve was Thompson Burnam (a white man). He served from 1849-1949, along with Nelson Rhodes, John Pierson and Adam Williams (colored). After the death of Thompson Burnam, Burr Deatherage (white man), served on the trustee board. These members served during the pastorate of Rev. Edmund Martin and Rev. John S. Irvine and Matt Campbell. During this time two brick churches were built. Richard Walker, Frank White and Richard White served as trustees under the pastorate of Rev. T. H. Broaddus. During this period the old church was torn down and materials bought for the past church.
The Senior Choir was organized under the pastorate of the late Rev. Madison Campbell and under the direction of Mr. Wylie Embry after the passing of the earlier chorister. Mr. Andrew Miller became chorister and organist. Mrs. Ruth Hill was the first sponsor of the junior choir that was formed from the Baptist Training Union (B.T.U.) group under the pastorate of Rev. J. Welby Broaddus.
The Baptist Training Union (B.T.U.) began in 1906 under the pastorate of the late Rev. T.H. Broaddus. The first officers were J.H. Moberly, president and G.L. Walker, secretary. In the later years, the officers were B. M. Willis, President; Lucy F. Mundy, Vice President; Aurelia Howard, 2nd Vice President; Donald Fields, Adult Leader; and Juanih Campbell, Youth Leader. The purpose of this organization was to train the youth of the church.
In November 1915, the Church Unit Convention was organized to give members of the church proper convention instructions and strengthen the church financially. The organizer and president was Miss Maggie B. Hall.
The Senior Church Aid (S.C.A.) was organized April 1, 1917. Sis. Mary Broaddus suggested this project. When the women of the church felt the old church had become too small and unsafe, this organization was formed. With 50 active members on the roll, they became busy with projects to raise money for the new church. Electing Miss Estella Yates, president; Miss Maggie Hall, vice president; Miss Lena Miller Shearer Reed, secretary; and Lena Newman, treasurer, perfected this organization. In 1919, Maggie G. Hall was elected president and club numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 were organized.
The Men’s Club was organized in 1920 during the pastorate of Rev. J. W. Broaddus. Now under the pastorate of Rev. Robert R. Blythe, First Baptist Church has two existing fellowships serving the same purpose as the Men’s and Women’s Clubs in the earlier church.
In 1934, a club was organized for the Primary Children of First Baptist Church under the direction of Mrs. Katherine E. Taylor. This became a great success. Under the pastorate of Rev. T.A. Bennett, the church organized these small children into a club. Miss Beulah M. Willis gave the name “Buds of Promise” to this group of children. Each year, new members were added and it grew spiritually and financially in the earlier church. Now, the Children’s Fellowship serves the same purpose as the “Buds of Promise” in the earlier church.
In 1940, the usher board was organized under the direction of Mrs. Dovie C. Newman. For nine years the usher board, along with the late Rev. T.A. Bennett and Rev. Oliver A. Williams, strived to make worshipers and visitors feel welcomed and at home during the church service. The ushers of First Baptist consist of male and female adults, teens, and children, each of which has a coordinator who helps the head usher plan each Sunday.
To date, the church has been under the pastorate guidance of nine devoted pastors who were called by the Holy Spirit to lead and direct First Baptist Church.
The first pastor was Rev. Madison Campbell (discussed earlier) who served from 1858-1896. Under his pastorate, three churches were erected at the same site due to growth in membership.
Rev. Thomas H. Broaddus served as the second pastor from 1897-1921. Under his pastorate, a fourth church was erected on the same site. Rev. Broaddus also served as Moderator of the Mt. Pleasant Association for more than twenty-five years. He served as trustee of Simmons University, and because of his outstanding ability and service to the University, was conferred with a Doctorate of Divinity. He was also an advocate of the Chautauqua movement that brought him to Richmond educators such as Carver, Dubois and other renowned individuals.
Rev. J. Welby Broaddus, son of Rev. T. H. Broaddus, was the third pastor who served from 1922-1933. He was a graduate of Simmons University, where he received a Doctor of Divinity degree.
The fourth pastor, Rev. Rogers (1934-1935) and the fifth pastor, Rev. Grandison (1935-1936) served for a short period of time. Each of these pastors were faithful servants to their Christian calling.
Rev. T. A. Bennett, the sixth pastor, served from 1938-1947. He was an outstanding evangelist and baptized more than one hundred persons in one day. He was a graduate of Simmons University and elected in 1941 to serve as trustee for the University. In addition, he served as Moderator of the Mt. Pleasant District Association. Rev. Bennett cleared First Baptist Church of debt and redecorated the church and under his leadership, First Baptist Church stood at the forefront for its creditable work in Kingdom building.
The seventh pastor of First Baptist Church was Rev. Oliver Williams, who served from 1948-1954. He received a Bachelor of Theology from Simmons University and was an active leader of the church. Under his pastorate, the church continued its onward movement.
Rev. A. C. Goodloe served as the eighth pastor from 1955-1981. He was pastor of First Baptist Church for 26 years and served as pastor emeritus until his death. For more than 40 years, Rev. Goodloe served as a member of the State Mission Board of the General Association of Baptist in Kentucky. He also served on the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Conventions of America. Under his pastorate, the first Easter Sunrise Service (which continues to be an annual event) and baptismal service were held at First Baptist Church. Rev. Goodloe took a major part in the Civil Rights Movement and took interest in the youth of the church and community.
Rev. Robert R. Blythe, the ninth pastor of First Baptist Church, has served since 1981. Under his pastorate, church membership has increased-not just in numbers, but also spiritually. Several other fellowships exist in the church that include Pastor’s Elite Club (Seniors 80+), Senior Adult Fellowship, Middle Adult Fellowship (ages 36-55), Young Adult Fellowship (ages 25-35), Young Peoples Fellowship (ages 18-24), High School/Teen Fellowship (ages 14-17), Middle School Fellowship, Church Nursery, and the Alma Kavanaugh Missionary Circle.
Creative ministries, such as the FBC Drill Team, Puppet Ministry and Liturgical Dance Group, were organized under his pastorate. The ministries of the church have expanded to include weekend meals for senior community members, transportation to allow individuals to attend church services, outreach program for homebound members through videotaping of church services, prison ministry, nursing home ministry, church nursery, and an elevator was installed in the church to meet the changing needs of the congregation. A church directory was also created in 2002 to strengthen communication among church members.
First Baptist Church (FBC) leadership has grown over the years. Rev. Blythe and FBC membership has been blessed to license the following men to preach the word of God: Rev. Mitch Brown (subsequently ordained and current pastor of the Pleasant Run Baptist Church at Buckeye), Licentiate Henry Kenney, Licentiate Marshall (Tony) Crawford, Licentiate Michael Downs, and Licentiate Ruben Minter. Additionally, Rev. Derrick Cantrell and Rev. Michael Jackson (current pastor of the Uttingertown Baptist Church), both joined by letter. Other dedicated men have served in the leadership of the church: Deacon Otha Chenault (deceased), Deacon Pleas Broaddus (deceased), Deacon Dean Jenkins, Deacon Eugene Estelle, Deacon John Black, Deacon Otis Ballard, Deacon John Barnes, Deacon James Ray Mason, and Deacon Charles Headen.
Through inspired vision and leadership of Rev. Blythe, the fifth (current) church was constructed in 1995 on this historical site, and due to many faithful church members, the mortgage was retired 17½ years early. In March 2008, a mortgage burning service took place where a time capsule was buried for future generations. A Historical Marker Unveiling and Dedication service will be held in September 2018 to display a portion of the rich history of First Baptist Church.
“To God be the glory!!”