History of the FBC West Church
What we now know as the First Baptist Church of West was organized in 1858 as the Bold Springs Baptist Church. Their first place of worship, a tiny frame building with none of our present conveniences, was built on the farm of W.C. Hurlock in McLennan County, about one mile south of the present town of West. Grass was plentiful and cattle were roaming everywhere at will and the rich fertile soil promised an abundance of good crops to the families settling in Central Texas - few spots in Texas were more inviting to the settlers who began to arrive in large numbers. Under the leadership of Alberto Vaughan, Postmaster at Bold Springs, and one of the first Baptists to settle here, a church was organized with 32 members. The names of S.G. O’Bryan, Thomas Horseley and Clay Cobb as well as W.C. Hurlock and A. Vaughan stand out as leaders of this early congregation. With the love of the Lord in their hearts and a willingness to work, these pioneers of the Cross of our Lord laid the foundation for the church in which we now worship. At this time there were only four other Baptist Churches in McLennan County: First Baptist Waco, Bosque, White Rock and Union Springs.
The years of 1859 to 1860 were the hottest, driest years Texas had ever known. The church continued to grow and in October 1859 had 42 members. In November 1860 the Waco Baptist Association was formed, with Bold Springs and White Rock, located in the northeastern part of McLennan, as two of the nine organized churches that formed the association. N.W. Crain was pastor and delegates to the Association meeting were: M.R. Carroll, J.Y. Riddle, M.A. Bates and W.R. Bird. In 1861 White Rock united with Bold Springs and they became a single congregation. In 1875 the church left the Waco Baptist Association to be a part of the Towash Association, but returned in 1884.
During these early years there were several different pastors, whose names are unknown to us today. In 1882 Brother T.P. Speakmon was their leader with a membership of 174. At this time the church moved to West, and as soon as practical, a new and larger church building was erected on the corner of Davis and Spruce. In 1896 the name of the church was changed to West Baptist Church, then later to First Baptist Church. The church had several outstanding men as pastors, one being Brother Puthuff and wife who were returned missionaries from Brazil.
During the year that they served this church, Mrs. Puthuff organized our first Ladies’ Aid Society, which has grown throughout the years and is now known as the Woman’s Missionary Union. Also, the Sunbeam Band was organized and today is called Mission Friends. The Deacons did not allow this organization to meet in the church, so the ladies met in their homes. During worship services the men sat on one side of the church and the women and children on the other side. Today all that is changed and the men have gladly accepted the women and their work for mission causes. Great things have been accomplished through the W.M.U. and the Baptist Women are very proud of it.
On December 10, 1897, Brother Holmes Nichols was called to be our pastor. He served this Church about ten years, and under his leadership we grew spiritually and financially. One of the records of this time gave a membership of 625. The church worshipped in the building on the corner of Davis and Spruce for 16 years. After much prayer and deliberation, the members decided to build a new and larger church in another part of the city. Mr. Z. Davis and his wife donated the land on which the present building now stands. A beautiful frame building was erected on the corner of Marable and Virginia with a tall steeple and bell. On December 24, 1899, this building was dedicated with a sermon by the late Dr. George W. Truett of Dallas. Some of the pastors who followed Brother Nichols were: Brothers Loveless, Frazier, White, and J. Matthews who was probably pastor in 1908, when the church celebrated its 50th anniversary. Brothers McNew and Little were followed by Brother L. L. Burkhalter in 1915. In 1917 he entered the armed service as a chaplain and served there until the end of World War I in 1918. Dr. B. O. Herring served this church about two years when he was called to the Bible Department of Baylor University. He was the last pastor to live in the old parsonage which was located on Marable Street. Brother Oscar Grant was the first pastor to live in the parsonage which now serves as the “Youth House”.
On September 21, 1938, during the ministry of Brother Lee Roy Byrd, the church and all of its records burned. We were a people without a home, but not for long, for the Presbyterian Church generously offered us the use of their building.
A little over one year later, November 12, 1939, the present brick structure was dedicated with Brother Byrd preaching the dedication sermon. After the death of Brother Byrd, the church called Brother Odell Lene, who served as pastor for about 2 years.
Brother Wright was the next pastor, but served less than one year, due to failing health. Brother J.E. Roth pastored the church for two years before going to Latham Springs as Camp Manager. During his pastorate a one-story frame building and a two-story frame building were added for Sunday School space. Brother J. A. Haley served the church for two years, followed by Brother J. O. Young who was pastor in 1958 when we celebrated our 100th anniversary. Members and former members joined in all-day activities of worship, singing, eating and fellowship. A picture of those present on this memorable occasion was taken by Danny Urbanovsky on the north lawn of the church.
From 1959 to 1962 Brother G. H. Bailey served the congregation as pastor, followed by Brother Henry Apperson. During this time Burlington Mills came to West and many new families moved to town.
In 1965 the church could foresee the need to replace the one story frame building and provide more space for a growing Sunday School. It was necessary for the church to borrow money to build this new educational building. The church property had been given by Mr. and Mrs. Z. Davis with the restriction that it could not be mortgaged or a lien put against the property. It was necessary to obtain a release from the heirs of Mr. and Mrs. Davis so that the church could borrow the needed money. At this time the congregation passed a resolution authorizing Jake Ward, Chairman of the Deacons and Alvin Payne, Secretary of the Deacons to negotiate the construction of the new educational building; to borrow money not to exceed $60,000; and to execute the building contract. Work was completed at a cost of approximately $63,000 and the building was occupied in 1966. A note for $53,000 was signed with West Bank & Trust on February 1, 1966 and was paid in full on January 28, 1975. Also, during the pastorate of Brother Henry Apperson, a new Baldwin Organ was purchased for the church sanctuary.
In 1975 the congregation voted to remodel the church auditorium. In February of that year, the church authorized B. C. Christian, Chairman of the Deacons, and Alvin Payne, Secretary of the Deacons, to sign a note not to exceed $28,500 for remodeling our main building. The balance of the note on the educational building was added to a note covering the cost of remodeling to make a note of $25,000 at 8% interest. This note was paid in full February 28, 1977. We moved back into our newly redecorated sanctuary in April, 1975 when Brother Jack Gardner was our pastor.
In 1977, under the leadership of Brother Mike Milburn, a committee was appointed to study the needs and make recommendations for replacing the old wooden two-story annex. Plans were approved by the church and a bid was accepted by the church for $125,528. The new building would accommodate our nursery and children’s department as well as office space for our Pastor, Music Director, Youth Director, Church Secretary, Sunday School Office and the Amon Cook Library.
The Lord continued to bless the church both spiritually and physically and in 1978 we purchased a 15-passenger van to be used for Sunday School, Bible School and other church activities for all age groups.
In 1981 the church purchased the property on the southwest corner of Marable and Virginia Streets. The size of the property was 150’ X 165’, the cost $15,000. That same year, the lot was cleared and a portion was asphalted for additional parking. Also the drive on the south side of the church was asphalted. On April 25, 1982, a new 3 bedroom brick parsonage, built on the remaining portion of these lots, was dedicated. It was given in memory of Mr. & Mrs. T. W. Tucker by their children and families: Dick and Jane Tucker, Jake and Bettye Tucker and Gene and Martha Tucker Hix. The old parsonage is presently used as a youth annex. In March, 1983, Bro. Barron Harris accepted the pastorate of the church; in June of that year Brother Bill Preston presented a 1966 Chevrolet fifty-four passenger bus to the church as a gift.
In 1983 the Texas Historical Commission approved the church for an historical marker and on June 26 the church dedicated the marker and celebrated its 125th anniversary. The permanent marker was placed in front of the church several months later, designating the First Baptist Church as the oldest established church in the community of West.
In 1988 an anonymous gift of $17,000 allowed the church to purchase a new 15-passenger van for the church to use. In 1990, under the pastorate of Brother Albritton, a new Kawai ebony grand piano was purchased for use in the church sanctuary and dedicated July 8 with a concert by Bruce Greer.
The church came into the computer age in the latter part of 1992 with a donated Apple computer and a new dot matrix printer. The following year, we updated our sound system throughout the church with additional speakers, microphones and control center. Both the sound system and the computer were updated in 1995 and were regularly obsolete and required replacement.
In January of 1993 the church began the Mother’s Day Out Program for preschool children under the direction of Gayle Gardner and continues in in operation well in to the 2010’s.. One of our own members, Marian Cune was accepted by the S.B.C. Home Missions Board to be a volunteer missionary and teacher in American Samoa. In October 1994 Brother John Crowder became our pastor and the following year the church published a new pictorial directory and licensed our Music Minister, John Jennings, to the ministry. Under Brother Crowder’s leadership and the assistance of his wife, Lisa, our members have been very active. The men of the church have become involved in Promise Keepers. Our pastor is active in the West Area Ministerial Alliance, which has brought new understanding and concern for other Christians in our community. A new organ was purchased and placed in the sanctuary in memory of Alvin Payne. The pastor had a series of Sunday morning broadcasts on KBBW radio for a year. In January of 1997 the church felt the need to reach out to the Spanish speaking people in our community with the O.L.E. (Outreach for Learning English) Program.
New playground equipment was installed in two separate areas and a new portable Kurzweil electronic keyboard purchased to enhance our music program. On Easter Sunday 1997 the church began a second worship service at 8:15 every Sunday morning. In October, the home and property of Mary Sears Herring and the late Evelyn Herring was deeded to the church for a possible staff residence or to be sold by the church, with proceeds added to the building fund. The latest addition to the church was the Tennison property just south of the church building facing Virginia Street, which was purchased in March of that year, to be used for future expansion.
In 2013, the entire community of West was devastated by the explosion of the fertilizer plant. Under the direction of Pastor Crowder, the church ministered to anyone in the area in need in the months that followed. Brother Crowder took leadership in many areas and was a shining example of Christian servanthood.
The many years of the church’s history have seen hundreds won to Christ and many sent forth as witnesses of Christ’s love and saving mercy. At no time, whether the years were prosperous or lean, did the church fail to contribute to the objectives for which our denomination so proudly stands, namely: Home, State and Foreign Missions.
The lives and the faithful service of the people who have gone on before us and those who are now serving, bring to mind memories of many wonderful times together: Wednesday evening suppers, Vacation Bible Schools, church camps, youth trips, missions banquets, dramas, cantatas, conventions, retreats, workshops, outreach, crisis closet, ministry to the sick and shut-ins, fifth Sunday singings, community church services and events, radio ministry, 4th of July picnics, rest home services, care packages to missionaries, roses to new babies, Sunday School class parties and trips, choir rehearsals, W.M.U., R.A.’s, G.A.’s and many, many more.
May God richly bless this fellowship of believers as we continue to make history - history that only eternity can really know, for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.