Special to the Index

The membership of the First Baptist Church of Mineral Wells will host a 125th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-16.

The theme of the celebration is “Little Is Much When God Is In It.” The celebration will begin Saturday, Sept. 15, with a reception/fellowship from 4-6 p.m. Historical memorabilia will be on display.

The next day, Sunday morning, the 125th Anniversary Celebration worship service will begin at 10 a.m. Featured speakers will be former pastor Dr. Herb Garrett; Carolyn Porterfield, Executive/Secretary, Texas Woman’s Missionary Union, Baptist General Convention of Texas; and Dr. Alan Lefever, Director, Texas Baptist Historical Collection, BGCT.

Following the worship service a catered lunch will be served at noon. Tickets for the lunch are $8.50 for adults and $4.25 for children (10 and under). Deadline for the purchase of lunch tickets is Aug. 31. Tickets may be purchased at the office of the First Baptist Church, 100 S.W. 4th Ave., or by calling 325-2523. At 1:30 p.m., following the lunch, a Texas Historical Marker will be dedicated.



FBC history

Following the victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, Baptist pioneers exploded across the thousands of miles of Texas plains, hill country and barren flat land. From 1836 until 1871, immigration into Texas averaged 2000 persons a month. The earliest substantial growth took place between the Brazos and Colorado rivers in the fertile triangle whose top reached what is now Waco and whose base rested on Houston and San Antonio.

Palo Pinto County lay about 130 miles to the northwest of this territory. In 1857, Palo Pinto County was organized. In 1879, the Baptists of Palo Pinto County organized the Palo Pinto Baptist Association, believing they could do more work for the Gospel of Christ together than they could separately. In 1881, mineral water was discovered and a village began to spring up around those springs that were believed to possess medicinal qualities. In May 1882, Rev. George Slaughter said the population of Mineral Wells was “about 2,500 inhabitants” with “75 business houses, and several nice and commodious hotels” and “about 100 Baptists in the place”...and Baptist W.M. Gough adds, “but without effective organization.”

A Baptist church was needed in the newly incorporated village of Mineral Wells.



Organized in 1882

The Missionary Baptist Church of Christ at Mineral Wells, Texas, was organized the first week of September 1882. At the invitation of the Palo Pinto Baptist Association, meeting in its Fourth Annual Session at Lake Creek Baptist Church in Palo Pinto County, Aug. 4-6, 1882, Major W.E. Penn, Texas’ first full-time traveling evangelist, was engaged to preach “a series of meetings” (a revival) sometime in 1882. Arriving in the town of Mineral Wells on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 1882, Penn set up his big “gospel tent” and organized a church the “first week of September” with 54 charter members. Instrumental in organizing the church also was Rev. George Webb Slaughter, courier for Sam Houston to the Alamo and Goliad, veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto, and father of Christopher Columbus “Lum” Slaughter, “the Cattle King of Texas” and Baptist philanthropist.

Since 1882, many notable Baptist pastors have led this church, including the Rev. George Webb Slaughter, who in 1891, led in the “disorganization” of the church on Oct. 3, 1891, distancing itself from an anti-missionary spirit, and as Moderator, two weeks later, reorganized the church on Oct. 17, 1891, with 19 members. At the age of 80, Slaughter became the new pastor. For more than a century, the church has been mission-minded in its spread of the gospel worldwide.

The congregation first met in a school building (1882), then purchased a white frame Presbyterian church building (1883-1899) that sat on the southwest corner of what is now the Crazy Water Hotel block. In 1900, the congregation built a white frame church building with two steeples at the southwest corner of Hubbard and Pecan (now Hubbard and S.W. 4th Avenue) and used this sanctuary from 1900-1920. In 1920, a third sanctuary was built where the second church sat and worshiped in it from 1920-1967. The fourth and present sanctuary was built on the northeast corner of S.W. 5th Avenue and S.W. 1st Street in 1967 and the 1920 sanctuary was used as educational space until 1977, when it was torn down to accommodate a Family Life Center completed in 1979. The church has met in four different church buildings since 1882.



Hosts conventions

The church and the city have hosted the Annual Session of the Baptist General Convention of Texas four times (1925, 1928, 1936, 1946). The resort waters, as well as large accommodations of the Crazy Water Hotel (built 1927), the Baker Hotel (built 1929) and the Convention Hall (built in 1925, demolished in 1976) encouraged attendance at these meetings. In 1925 and 1928, the Annual Meeting of the Texas Woman’s Missionary Union met in the First Baptist Church sanctuary and in 1936 and 1946 met at the Convention Hall.



Revivals

Revivals led by notable evangelists have characterized this congregation including Major W. E. Penn (1882); controversial J. Frank Norris (1908); George Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas and President of the Baptist World Alliance (numerous revivals between 1900-1940 and at Lovers Retreat); professional baseball player turned evangelist Billy Sunday (around World War I); Mordecai Ham (1914 and 1927); converted Jew Hyman Appelman (1938); and international British evangelist Rodney “Gypsy” Smith (1947).



Missionary spirit

A missionary spirit has characterized this congregation across the years, motivating it to extend its ministry into Mineral Wells. New mission churches were started in 1909 (East Side Baptist Church [now Calvary Baptist Church]); in 1947 (Lawn Terrace Baptist Church); in 1959 (a Mexican mission, Mission Bautista Mexicana, now called Templo Bautista); in 1981-88, a Cambodian mission at Fort Wolters was co-sponsored with Dobbs Valley Baptist Church; and in 1997, a church was restarted (Eastridge Baptist Church [now Cornerstone Baptist Church]) with our church’s assistance. International missionaries are regularly housed on furlough in the church’s mission house. The church is committed to local, state, national and international missions.

Largest attendance in the history of the church occurred during the years of the Vietnam War, when nearby Fort Wolters was the largest helicopter training base in the nation, hosting the U.S. Army Primary Helicopter School.

Presently, the church is committed to preschool, children, youth, adult and senior adult ministries. It has active ministry programs in Bible teaching, Discipleship Training, music, Woman’s Missionary Union, Baptist Men and pastoral ministries.

For 125 years, the church has sought to worship Almighty God, nurture the souls of individuals, evangelize the lost, serve its fellowman in need and enjoy warm Christian fellowship. With a balanced approach to the Christian ministry, its members have had one foot in the church and one foot in the community. The church seeks to stay close to God, stay close to its fellowman and help bring God and man closer together.

Historical Committee members for the 125th Anniversary Celebration are Nancy Wallace, chairperson; Donalita Adkins, Marjorie Bailey, Leslee Barham, Anna Gilbert, Pat Harrington, Fran Morrison, Tammy Turner and Patsy Weaver.

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