First Baptist Church celebrates 175 years in Marshall | New


The First Baptist Church, located at 405 W. Austin St., has been active in Marshall since before Texas officially became a state. This year the church is celebrating 175 years of worship with a celebratory dinner.

“It’s always the people,” said Pastor Ryan Berryhill. “We have such wonderful people here who work so hard for our community. That’s what makes the church, it’s our congregation.

The First Baptist Church congregation began to meet in 1845, with only 12 members and no roof over their heads. Services have been held for years in the brush arbor or at a nearby log school, with baptisms performed at Cold Water Creek.

The first structure was built on the Austin Street site in 1849, the Marshall News Messenger previously reporting that an increasing number of attendees, consisting of both local families and enslaved people, created a need for the congregation to ‘have a formal home.

The land for the first church site was donated by one of the founding members, James McCown, and the construction of the first building marked the first denominational church to be built in Marshall.

The original building was replaced in 1892 by a new stone building. During the construction of the second building, News Messenger reported that while the church was working to repay money bills from a local money lender, it ultimately insisted that the sum be repaid in full immediately.

With no funds available for the church, the congregation came together to consider their options, remembering the Bible quote Romans 13: 8, “Do not owe anyone anything but love one another.” The group felt that it could not borrow the necessary funds from a man. Instead, they chose to borrow the money from a woman.

Funds were raised and borrowed from local women, with the church eventually able to repay its debts.

The church that stands on the grounds today was built in 1953, with an additional children’s building added to the property in 1955.

In 1975, the church was honored with a historical marker celebrating its role in the history of East Texas and Harrison County.

“It’s amazing to be part of a church that has such a powerful history of serving the community,” said Berryhill.

The church was also instrumental in the creation of East Texas Baptist University, originally The College of Marshall, which was founded in 1912. The church supported the establishment of the university and still supports school today over 100 years later.

The Reverend William Tardy, who served in the First Baptist Church, is recognized more than anyone as a founding member of the community in the founding of the institution. After a few community members come forward to fund the new school, Tardy is credited in a News Messenger article as researching the new school’s site and organizing to make it a reality in Marshall.

He said, “The idea of ​​college in Marshall filled my thoughts as I woke up and my dreams as I slept.”

General Sam Houston also has a history related to the church, delivering a speech in 1849 at the church’s original site.

Over the past few years that Berryhill has served as the church’s pastor, he said they have worked to build relationships with local elementary schools, offering a number of programs to support Marshall’s youth.

The church worked to create a mentoring program with two local elementary schools where volunteers would spend their time working with students, doing crafts and being active with their lives.

“It’s about being a constant, positive presence in the lives of these children,” said Berryhill.

The church has also worked to create a children’s theater program that offers workshops, and even a full production, for local youth to get involved in the arts.

“There is definitely a need in the community for our programs, and we are always looking to reach out and do what we can to support Marshall,” Berryhill said.

Church member Elizabeth Ponder also said the church was able to renovate the chapel, start a Spanish language ministry and care for children and families thanks to the holiday Bible school , summer music camps and more.

Although many church-run outreach programs have been put on hold due to COVID-19, Berryhill said the congregation was working hard to get them back up safely, in order to continue serving the Marshall community.

Ponder said the church is also working to support women in ministry, recognizing its associate pastor for the life of the congregation Minda Purdie and minister of worship Deborah Gilbert.

Today, the influence of the First Baptist Church on the growing Marshall community over the years is still felt today. The church and its current congregation plan to celebrate this story on November 6, with a dinner planned in the church’s community hall to commemorate the occasion.

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