First Baptist Church of Chickasha
traces its beginnings to late November of 1892, when a handful of settlers in
Chickasha determined to establish a Baptist work for the advancing of God’s
kingdom. From that little beginning, God has brought forth much.
In the years since then many advances
have come, faces have changed, buildings have been constructed and refurbished,
pastors have served and moved on, but the mission of the church remains ever
the same: we are here to glorify God through worship, train His people for
witness and ministry, proclaim the gospel, and bring people to salvation in
Through over a century of ministry,
First Baptist Church has been God’s instrument to touch innumerable lives. The
following account details some of that history, and yet there is no adequate
way to tell the full story of God’s grace in this place.
The church history involves countless
exploits of faith, love, endurance, and sacrifice. The real heroes of the faith are the many
men, women, and young people who have found the Lord here and served Him
faithfully. Only Heaven will tell the full story, where “God is not unjust to
forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name”
The story to be told is really a chronicle
of God’s grace and mercy working through human imperfection and frailty to
achieve His marvelous purposes. May the
following account stir you to greater faith and courage in the Lord.
HISTORY OF THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
The following is a brief historical
record of the First Baptist Church, compiled from notes provided by Irvin Munn
and the late F. M. Luginbyhl, also information taken from past issues of the
First Baptist Church Edition of the Baptist Messenger, a weekly paper published
by the General Convention of Oklahoma, and other sources.
On April 22, 1892, the Rock Island
Railway Company laid its rails into the area which was to grow into the city of
Chickasha. There were only two homes (no stores at all) in the town site
area. The George Beeler house stood on
Line Creek and the future north Ninth Street. The other house stood on the
crest of the hill on Kansas Avenue, between Tenth and Eleventh Streets. It was
owned by James L. Speed, who owned the land on which Chickasha was to grow.
On this day, also, the Rock Island
Railroad Company set upon the ground, beside the tracks, a box car without
wheels which was to serve as the first depot for the town site.
Almost overnight, there sprang up a
town. The community which was 2 and ½ miles north, on the banks of the Washita
River, had expected to be the terminal point, did the same in reverse. It was
originally called Waco, and later Pensee.
Overnight, Pensee disappeared and was vanished from the map, because the
few shacks and tents were moved to the new town site. With the move, the name
was changed to Chickasha, Indian Territory.
An early day pioneer, Mr. W. H. Gilkey,
when writing about this experience, said, “Those settlers sure wrecked a good
corn field when they settled here! Corn
was up to a good stand and sure looked fine.”
first year found Chickasha to be largely a tent-town. These tents sheltered the
gambling houses, which usually followed the construction crews, eating places,
and other facilities. The wooden buildings
which were erected were mostly of “box type” construction: the 1” x 12” boards
were placed on end and nailed into that position. The cracks were usually covered
with a smaller 1” x 4” board.
December 12, 1892, a small handful of Baptists met at the home of Mr. and Mrs.
W. M. Claycomb, 203 Iowa Avenue, and organized the First Baptist Church of
Chickasha, Indian Territory. Charter
members were as follows:
and Mrs. W. M. Claycomb Mr. and
Mrs. M. T. Barrier
and Mrs. S. G. Wilson Mrs.
A. J. Kellogg Mrs.
A. Lancaster Mrs.
P. B. Monicle
different notes were used, the following people were also listed from one source
as being charter members: Mr. O’Neal, Mr. Fanis, Mrs. Riddle, Miss Mollett, and
This group was assisted in their
organization by Rev. Lodire Judson Dyke, General Missionary for the Oklahoma
American Baptist Home Missionary Society. Later he was given Indian Territory,
also, as his responsibility.
At this organization three men were
appointed to serve as deacons and to plan for the future development. The first board of deacons elected was as
W. M. Claycomb, Chairman M. T. Barrier
Later, during the winter of 1893, the
deacons were authorized by the newly formed church organization to purchase a
lot for the future home of the church.
The church, also, voted to “look around” for a pastor. Acting on such
instructions, the board of deacons, shortly thereafter, purchased a lot, 150 by
165 feet, fronting the west and south on Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue,
where a small one-room frame church building was started a few months later. Before starting construction of the first
church building, hitching racks were put up to accommodate those who came to
church on horseback or in wagons or buggies. The parsonage was a brick building
that was located next to the church. A blacksmith shop was located behind the
church building and was later torn down or skidded to the north when it became
necessary to move the church building and to rebuild it with #2 church
building. The first frame building was used until 1911, at which time the
basement and a part of the #2 church building were erected.
In the spring of 1893, the first pastor
was called. THOMAS EDGAR COVINGTON, who served from May 1893 (following the
organization of this church on December 18, 1892) to May 1895.
He was born at Fort Wayne, Indiana, in
1863, and attended the Hamilton Theological Seminary (now known as the
Colgate-Rochester Divinity School) at Rochester, New York. He graduated from
this school in 1893 and came almost immediately to Chickasha. Since the
organizer of the Baptist group was from the same school, this would probably
explain how he came so soon after graduation into the work of this local
church. He arrived here as a Home Missionary from the American Baptist Society.
Bro. Covington was licensed to preach
in September 1891, by the First Baptist Church of Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was ordained by the same group in October
Since the local church here held
services only three Sundays a month, this left the pastor free for other
engagements. From the Chickasha papers of that time, we find that he traveled
by train both to Minco and to Ninnekah at different times to preach to those
people on the “off-Sunday.”
Soon after arriving on the field, Bro.
Covington led in the organization of a Sunday School. A notice was published by
the Chickasha Express urging all who were interested to attend this meeting,
which was to be held in the private tuition school, a large two-story building
on the block that is now owned by the Catholic church. (There were no taxes
under the Indian Territory organization—there were no free schools.)
Professor C.T. Wilson, who directed the
activities of this educational institution, was elected to serve as the Sunday
There were 37 people present for the
organizational meeting. The time set for the Sunday School was at 2:30 p.m.
each Sunday. The preaching services were held at 10:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and
were conducted in the same school rooms.
Bro. Wilson was also the teacher for
the adult members of a Bible Class, with some 15 members. Bibles were used
entirely in the early Sunday School.
Regular Wednesday evening prayer services were also inaugurated during
the early days of the church.
By December 1893, plans were made (with
the assistance of Rev. L. J. Dyke) and construction of the first place of
worship was begun. The Northern Baptist Convention Society gave $500 to help
start the construction of the church.
They kept up the aid throughout the building process. It was from a
church in New York that First Baptist received the original Lord’s Supper
By December of the following year, the
building was sufficiently completed so that worship services were being held in
it. The white wooden church building was built on the site, where the old auditorium
stood at Fourth and Colorado.
In May of 1895, with the building
largely completed, T. E. Covington resigned and returned to his family in Fort
Wayne and spent the rest of his life in that area.
The church was then without a pastor
until December 22, 1895, at which time REV. HENRY BONNER MCGEE (age 42) was
called as pastor. He served from January 1, 1896 to June 30, 1897, during which
time the church and its furnishings were completed. The church increased during
this time in numbers and influence. Bro. McGee was a devout and determined
Christian. He suffered from ill health all of his life. From the recordings of
his work, it is quite apparent he would feel that he had to preach and then get
involved in construction work wherever he went. His strength would apparently
last just long enough to get the job completed, then he would be forced to
resign. Frequently, he would remain at the same location, worshipping with the
same people, under a new pastor, until his strength returned, then he would be
found again somewhere else continuing to serve in the ministry.
Within some three years after its
organization, First Baptist had grown to more than fifty members and added to
the original board of deacon’s two members:
G. W. Charleville and R. M. Cochran.
During the first three years, the
church had no musical instrument, and an important event in the progress of the
church was the purchase of a church organ in the year of 1895. It was at this
time that J. C. Eisfelder became the first musical director and his wife, Laura,
was the first church organist. Two years later a young doctor, S.O. Marrs, and his
wife, moved to Chickasha and shortly thereafter succeeded the Eisfelders as musical
director and church organist. Many years
later their accomplished daughter, Miss LaRue Marrs, was church pianist, a
position she held for several years.
The women’s work in the church began at
an early date. In the February 14, 1894
issue of the Express displayed a notice that “The Baptist Ladies Aid Society” (referred
to later as the Women’s Missionary Union or WMU) will give a social Friday
evening, February 22, at Mrs. Kellog. The newspapers carried frequent
references to the meetings of these women.
The ladies of the church had been
active in all phases of church work, especially in sponsoring pie suppers,
dinners, rummage sales, and other activities, in order to raise much-needed
funds for the church. However, the organization of the Ladies Aid marked a new
era in the history of the church.
The church was without a pastor until
January 26, 1898 when HENRY R. BEST was called as pastor. He began his work on
February 1, 1898 and served one year until he went to First Baptist Church,
By 1898, the church membership had
increased to 70 members. According to the church directory in the local
newspaper, First Baptist had services on the 1st, 2nd, and
4th Sundays in each month, morning and evening. Sunday School was
held at 9:45 a.m. and prayer meetings were held on each Wednesday evening.
In November 1899, REV. JOHN MARE became
pastor and served for six months. He was born in England, very small of
stature, and seemed to bounce when he walked.
From the date of the birth of the First
Baptist Church late in 1892, until June 1900, the little church had called four
pastors. Although the church had more than a moderate growth during its early
years, it, also, had financial difficulties, which was the primary reason for the
frequent change in pastors. But despite the severe droughts, low prices, and
hard times, the early years of the church were fruitful.
June 1900, there were more than 100 named on the church rolls but only about 75
could be accounted for.
the year of 1901, REV. EDWARD L. COMPERE was unanimously called as pastor and
the membership had grown to approximately 135, and three additional names were added
to the board of deacons. They were J. D. Buie, W. S. Kilgore, and R. L.
GEORGE H. THOMPSON was called to be pastor of the First Baptist Church in
1903. He came to this country from
England and became known as the “Harp Evangelist” or the “Golden Harpist.” He
had a deep concern for the lost; was powerful in speech and persuasion,
superior in illustrations. His delivery was in a plain and simple language that
a child could understand. He did not stay long as pastor (only about six
months) and then he resigned. It was during the time Bro. Thompson was here
that the new two-story brick parsonage opposite the church was completed and
was occupied by the Thompson family for a short time.
J. H. BENNETT came to the First Baptist Church, as pastor, in 1904 and stayed
until 1907. His aggressive leadership advanced the cause of Christ and soon the
frame building was inadequate for the needs of the church.
church maintained a strong missionary spirit, not only in Chickasha and Grady
County, but, also, in the state, regional, and foreign missions. During the pastorate of Bro. Covington, the
church, through this missionary spirit, saw a need to start a mission. This
mission was organized and became the Second Baptist Church of Chickasha, and
carried this name until 1920. The First Baptist Church gave them a full deed to
the property which they occupied, and the Second Baptist Church of Chickasha
became the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church. Another mission was organized in the
eastern part of the city; a suitable house of worship was bought and formed the
beginning of another church.
church continued to have serious financial difficulties. The task of raising sufficient funds to pay
the pastor’s salary and meet other church obligations increased year by year. The
membership had increased from a mere handful in 1892 to 359 by 1905 and a few
more members by 1906, and the original one-room frame building was entirely
inadequate for the congregation. The Ladies Aid decided to do something about
it. At the close of one of their meetings, at which time they discussed the
urgent need for a new church building, all members present vowed that none of
them would purchase new spring hats, and pledged that amount of money they
usually paid for their hats, to start the church building fund. Those loyal
ladies kept their vows and their zeal and sacrifices imbued their husbands and
others, also, to make sacrificial offerings. After several all-night prayer
meetings, followed by a fund-raising campaign, it was not long before a new
church building program was started, which, however, was not completed until
As the fund-raising program got under
way, the first house of worship of the local Baptists was moved some 250 feet
north to permit the construction of the new (second) house of worship. Later
excavation was begun on a basement for the new church building. The new church
was to have the building erected under the direct supervision of the architect
and was to be a handsome church of the Grecian style of architecture (it is
noted that the building was built on the same architectural design as the then
Gaston Avenue Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas), and would cost not less than
$20,000. In the meantime, Sunday School and church services were held in the
old court house, in tents, under brush arbors, and in private homes.
During the construction of the second
house of worship, there were many problems to overcome besides the perennial
problem of raising sufficient capital to do the work. There were numerous
periods of great floods. The flood of June 1908 was perhaps the worst. The
partially completed basement was kept full of water by the frequent deluges. Sump-pumps
were used to try to keep the basement dry and these pumps remained until the
building was torn down. The church was built on the area of an old Washita River
bed with quicksand which led to many problems. Not only was the shifting nature
of the quicksand a complication, but it seemed almost impossible to prevent the
water from seeping through the concrete walls after they were erected. This
river bed ran through this site and continued on north-eastward partly under
the Citizen’s National Bank (now First National Bank and Trust). The church
basement was finally completed in 1908.
The headline of the Chickasha Daily
Express, August 24, 1909, read, “A Great Church Structure Was Erected By The
Baptist Denomination.” The new auditorium was first used in a worship service
on Sunday, September 12, 1909. The new
auditorium was not entirely completed, but it was sufficient for occupation by
the members. By November 3, 1909, the Clements Construction Company finished
the floors in the basement. They had just completed the installation of the
concrete steps leading to the Colorado Avenue and the Fourth Street entrances.
At the same time the A.F. Bock Company installed
two large furnaces to heat the church. These furnaces, which were of the round
Oak pattern, were said to be the largest by far installed in the city and
arrived from Dowaigiac, Michigan, where they were made especially for the
In order to raise money, the Baptist
Ladies Aid Society held community suppers, for the Daily Express carried this
announcement in the Friday, December 10, 1909 paper, “The Baptist Ladies Aid
Society will serve oysters at Brownson’s Drug Store, afternoon and evening,
instead of the church parlors as previously stated.” This drug store was in the
Two Hundred block of Chickasha Avenue, approximately where Harry’s Café stood
REV. WILLIAM A. FREEMAN became pastor
on January 19, 1908 and served until April 1909. He was born in Little River County, Arkansas.
He was a pastor, evangelist, and missionary. When the church called Bro.
Freeman, it was quite apparent from records that he was called for leadership
in completing the new building. The church building was almost completed during
his stay and was used for services much of the time, though it was not
furnished until the coming of Dr. A. J. Holt.
In 1909, DR. ADONIRAM J. HOLT had
accepted the call as pastor. Rev. Holt had served as a missionary among the
Indians of this country. He was a scholar and a man of wide experience, as well
as a gifted speaker. Rev. Holt had a very difficult and poverty-ridden
childhood. His father and mother were
separated by the issue of slavery. His mother was not well most of her adult
life and could not properly support the family. At the age of 15½ years,
Adoniram agreed to help a Southern soldier by answering roll call for him,
which was then permitted, and ended up in the Southern army, much below 17
years of age, when the soldier he was answering roll call for was killed. When
the Confederate Army finally discovered that he was only 15½ years of age, he
was discharged (September 1863). He went bare foot much of the time so that he
would not wear out the shoes that he got while in the Confederate Army. He even
told of his experience, while plowing in isolated fields, of removing his
trousers while working so that he would be able to save them.
The State Convention of Baptists had been
invited to come to the new building in 1909 but the building was not completed
for seating. They borrowed all the chairs they could get from other churches in
order to have the state meeting. Much
excitement surrounded the new building, even though the desired cost of $20,000
became an amount over $100,000, due largely to the Washita River issues.
In the year of 1909, some of the first
classes of a newly established state school for girls, Oklahoma College for
Women (now University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma) were held in the basement
of the First Baptist Church. The first house of worship was sold and
disassembled on the site. The materials that were salvaged were taken to 717 W.
Minnesota, and constructed into a two-story building to form a dormitory for
some of the girls of Oklahoma College for Women. This was used during the
construction of the college. Unfortunately, typhoid fever was found to be
infecting one of the girls and the rest moved out. Later this building was sold to a Mr. A.M.
Atwood and converted into a home. Mr. Atwood’s
daughter, Mrs. Blanche Hudson, lived there after the death of the original
The years of 1907 to 1911, when the new
church was finally completed, marked a period of even greater financial
hardships for the church. By then, the
church had incurred an indebtedness of approximately $40,000. This large debt
was finally financed by a special plan of an insurance company, whereby
practically all heads of families among the church members, purchased life
insurance policies for themselves and their families, a percentage of the
profits on such policies, finally liquidating the church indebtedness.
During the great drought of 1910, in
the summer months, REV. GEORGE W. SHERMAN became pastor. The drought was very
extensive. Under the leadership of the new pastor, the church went to its knees
in prayer. Several prayer meetings went on day and night for weeks, and then the
rains came! Rev. Sherman resigned in
During 1914, REV. W. T. ROUSE was
called as pastor. Many of the women recalled of this period that Rev. Rouse had
them working much of the time sewing clothes to give to the poor. He remained around
REV. JOHN A. WRAY was called as pastor
in 1915 and served until 1917.
REV. ALLEN S. ALBRIGHT was called as
pastor during 1917 and served until 1919. This was the period of great distress
due to the large number of people who died from the flu. It was a regular event
for Rev. Albright to conduct some 6-8 funerals a day. The strain became too
great for him and he became exceedingly nervous. The young sympathetic pastor
felt everyone’s burdens were his burdens.
Many years after leaving First Baptist, and after recovering from his
illness, he became a chiropractic physician.
From 1911 to 1919 were fruitful church
years. Several well-known evangelists led in revival services during that
period and later. Among them were “Cowboy” Crimm, Mordecai Hamm, Lincoln
McConnell, Dr. John A. Held, Dr. Charles Forbes Taylor, Dr. Lee R. Scarborough,
Dr. M. E. Dodd, Dr. R. G. Lee, and Dr. Roland Leavell (former president of the
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary).
Between the years of 1911 and 1921 was
the organization of the men’s Sunday School class with the late Dr. George W.
Austin, then President of Oklahoma College for Women, as the teacher. Under his
dynamic leadership, the men’s class grew from a mere handful to more than 125
in average attendance.
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma met again in this
Church on November 18-23 in 1913. In the 1914 directory of the church, the
parsonage was listed at 320 Colorado; there were 428 resident members listed
and 105 non-resident members.
REV. SAM D. TAYLOR was called as pastor of the First Baptist
Church in February 1919 and served with distinction until his resignation
September 1, 1922. The largest
attendance in Sunday School while Rev. Taylor was pastor, was 999.
Rev. Taylor held a revival at every church in Grady County
during his pastorate at First Baptist. Many children growing up while Rev.
Taylor was pastor went on to serve the Lord over the world. Some had children
who became preachers and missionaries. The church saw substantial growth,
especially among the young people, during this time.
Judge Jed Johnson, who was then a young lawyer and later
congressman, was an inspiration to the Baptist Young People Union (or BYPU), to
church scout work, and to Rev. Taylor, personally in those days. The Chickasaw
Baptist Association had been organized just prior to the beginning of Rev.
Taylor’s pastorate. A laymen’s group,
with only a few Grady County churches represented, organized the Baptist
Laymen’s Organization in the year 1920. Fred Luginbyhl was the first president,
and it was largely through his efforts that the Baptist Laymen were organized. The
late Rev. Roy McGregor, who later became a very effective country missionary,
assisted Mr. Luginbyhl a good deal in this laymen’s work. Mr. Luginbyhl took
five or six laymen to Alex in Grady County and rounded up some of the brethren
in the country for a laymen’s meeting one night. The little church at Alex was very weak then,
but after a prayer meeting and enlisting the active support of the laymen, that
church took a new lease on life, called Roy McGregor as pastor, and it was not
long until that struggling little church became one of the strongest in the
Chickasaw Association. A laymen’s group was, also, organized at Rush Springs
and Tuttle. Another country church organized about that time was at Vimy Ridge.
DR. J. W. BRUNER became the pastor on December 1, 1922, and
served for fifteen years, resigning June 20, 1937 to accept his election as
associate to the late Dr. L.R. Scarborough, the then-President of the
Southwestern Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. Upon the coming of Dr.
Bruner as pastor, the church began to develop plans that would be necessary to
remodel the 1909 building and to enlarge it. This work was pushed along
rapidly, for by February, 1924, Dr. Bruner delivered a message titled “God’s Glory In Church Buildings.” This
message was delivered at the formal opening of the new auditorium.
There were 2,724 people added to the membership of the
church under his ministry, with 804 of those coming by baptism. In 1922 when
the call was extended to Dr. Bruner to come as pastor, there was a membership
of 776 and the membership roll showed 1,480 when he left. There was an average
of four additions for every Sunday of his pastorate. The church property was
valued at $41,550 in 1922 and valued at $181,912.65 and only had an
indebtedness of $4,600 against it in
Dr. Bruner preached from the pulpit of the First Baptist
Church in Chickasha 1,722 sermons and delivered in Chickasha 401 special
addresses; preached 370 funerals and married 342 couples; he preached in 19
revivals in the home church during those years. The Sunday School was
recognized by the Baptist Sunday School Board of Nashville, Tennessee, as A-1,
or Standard, for the 15 years Dr. Bruner was here. On the last Friday night of
the 14th annual Vacation Bible School, the School closed with a high
record of registrations and attendance.
The above does not tell the entire story of Dr. Bruner’s
accomplishments as pastor of the First Baptist Church, Chickasha. Before he had been pastor long, it was soon
discovered that he was unusual in many ways.
He believed that a church, like any business institution, should be
operated in businesslike manner. He was
meticulous in urging that all church, Sunday School, and other records be kept
current and intact. He soon discovered that there were many people named on the
roster who seldom, if ever, attended church services. Many of these absentee
members had left for parts unknown and some had not been heard of for
years. Through his persistent efforts,
many such members were located and brought back into the church. Also, because
of Dr. Bruner’s financial ability, he was in great demand on various state
boards and committees and was named as leader of several financial drives to
rid the Baptist denomination of debts and to raise money for various state-wide
church needs. His unusual success and financial skill undoubtedly led to his
appointment at the Southwestern Theological Seminary.
The first Vacation Bible School was held in 1924, with an
attendance of less than 100. The school continued to grow in efficiency and in
enrollment, and in 1935 it reached a registration of 1,506. It was held at and
above this mark until the last school was conducted, just before Dr. Bruner
left the pastorate in August 1937. The
four years preceding his resignation, Chickasha enjoyed the distinction of
having the largest Vacation Bible School in the world. Dr. Bruner was
superintendent and general manager of the work most of the time and the school
lasted four weeks each year. It was used for extensive Bible training and for
evangelism. For some years preceding the close of his pastorate, the average
number of conversions during the school term was above 200. The public school
teachers and city officials repeatedly declared that the influence of this
school revolutionized the child life of the city.
The first Falls Creek Cabin for First Baptist Church was
started in July 1936.
It was in December of 1937 that DR. W.A. CRISWELL, a young
minister, came to the First Baptist Church as its sixteenth pastor. It was his
first full-time pastorate.
Although born of humble parents in southwestern Oklahoma and
reared largely in western Texas, Dr. Criswell, with his charming bride of a few
months, came from Kentucky, where he had held part-time pastorates while
pursuing his studies at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville,
Kentucky. Their beautiful daughter, Mabel Ann, was born in Chickasha on June
27, 1939. Before obtaining his doctorate from the Baptist Theological Seminary,
his previous training had been in the state of Texas, including a B.A. Degree
from Baylor University.
After coming to Chickasha, the young minister soon
established himself, not only as an eloquent pulpit orator, but his deep
concern for the unsaved and his evangelistic emphasis in every department of
church activities were, also, apparent.
The eloquent and sincere messages of the youthful preacher attracted
large crowds. Soon he began preaching on
the Grady County Court House lawn each Saturday evening, where huge crowds
attended and where there were many conversions.
The regular Saturday evening services were unprecedented on the part of
the church and reached many people who seldom if ever attended any other
Later, at the pastor’s urging, the
church constructed a large tabernacle adjacent to the church building, where
all preaching services were held during the summer months. Some of the brethren
had feared that the young pastor, in his zeal and enthusiasm, had overstepped
himself, that the tabernacle, when finished, would never be half-filled; but
such was not the case. From the first service, the tabernacle was filled to
overflowing, and great crowds continued during Dr. Criswell’s ministry. It is
interesting, also, to record that at the first offering taken by the church to
pay for the tabernacle, the sum of more than $10,000 was raised.
Although the new tabernacle was a real
blessing to the church, not only in increased attendance and the ingathering of
new members, greater significance was seen in the deep spiritual awakening of
the church. Evangelism became the central theme of the church program under the
able and dynamic leadership of the devoted and greatly beloved young pastor.
During his four-year pastorate at the
First Baptist Church, Dr. Criswell was in much demand for addresses and
evangelistic services in various parts of Oklahoma and surrounding states. In
1941, Dr. Criswell resigned to become pastor of the First Baptist Church in
Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he served with much success until his call to First
Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, September 27, 1944, succeeding the late Dr.
George W. Truett.
Dr. Elbert H. Sawyer was elected by the
church to serve as Associate Pastor on July 16, 1939, at the age of 96
years. He was still writing books,
writing letters, visiting distant places, and active in church work. He was, in his advanced years, a great
monument to what Christ can do in a person’s life and was a devoted servant to
the Lord. Much of his best writing was
done after he was 90 years old. Among
some of the things he wrote are Compendium
of History; National Battlefield Parks; Commemoration of Gettysburg; The Pathos
of Missions; Studies in Eschatology; American System of Education; Biography of
Jesus; Science of Religion; The Life and Teachings of Sawyer. This last book was published in 1942.
In addition to his preaching, teaching,
and writing, Dr. Sawyer had lectured throughout the United States and in
Europe. He was, also, very active in
politics, both local and national, and, also, in the work of the G.A.R. He was given serious consideration for
diplomatic appointments by President Harrison, but the fact that Dr. Sawyer was
a Baptist minister aroused too much opposition. Wherever he was or whatever he
was doing, he gave of his best to his country, to his community, and to God.
On Sunday, April 27, 1941, the church
extended a call to the pastorate to DR. HAROLD K. GRAVES. He accepted this
invitation and began his ministry in Chickasha, June 15, 1941. Although Dr.
Sawyer was then Pastor Emeritus, the Welcome
(the church bulletin) of May 28, 1942, referred to Dr. Sawyer as “our honorary pastor” in announcing that he would preach the Memorial Day sermon the
following Sunday morning. At that time, he was 98 years old.
On November 12, 1942, Dr. Sawyer had as
guests, for lunch in his home, Dr. Graves and family and some others from the
church. He was in good health and
spirits, having just published his book, Life
and Teachings of Sawyer.
On December 18, 1943, Dr. Sawyer was
one hundred years old. The next day, Sunday, December 19, was designated Sawyer
Day in the church. Dr. Sawyer preached
an eloquent sermon to a large congregation. Radio Station WKY of Oklahoma City
ran a special wire to the auditorium and carried a live broadcast of the
morning services. The Chickasha Daily Express, the Daily Oklahoman, and the
Baptist Messenger gave wide and favorable publicity to Sawyer Day. Feature stories with pictures were given
generous space in the newspapers. It was
truly an eventful day in the life of the church.
Dr. Sawyer continued his activities in
the church until nearly the end of his life.
He was in good health and mentally alert almost to the day of his
passing on May 1, 1945.
Dr. Graves, the pastor of the church,
was in Florida attending the Southern Baptist Convention when Dr. Sawyer died. At
the request of the family, Dr. Howard Taylor, then the Dean of Oklahoma College
for Women (now USAO), conducted the funeral service for Dr. Sawyer at Minco,
The First Baptist Church of Chickasha
saw DR. HAROLD K. GRAVES for the first time on April 20, 1941, when he came to
supply the pulpit. The Sunday following, he was called as pastor. He resigned
as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jeffersonville, Indiana, effective
June 1 and began his ministry in Chickasha on June 8. His family moved in July
when his son, Keaster, was six weeks old.
Miss Zelia Sipe of Tennessee came in
July as church secretary and worker with students. July, also, marked the
beginning of the “300 Club” – an effort to enlist 300 people paying $1 per
month for debt reduction in the hope of having the church debt-free by December
A total stewardship program was
launched in the fall, including the adoption of an annual budget and a pledge
Sunday. December 7 was the conclusion of the four weeks emphasis when the
budget was approved and pledges taken.
This was the first budget with pledging in several years.
Edgar Cabbiness was elected Sunday
School Superintendent for 1942, succeeding Dwight Bowen, and Jack Griffin
succeeded Clyde Spaulding as Director of the Training Union. W.O. Vaught of
Kansas City led in a youth revival during the spring and the well-known
evangelist, Charles Forbes Taylor, and his brother, Laurie, led in a successful
citywide campaign in June.
March saw the culmination of a
ten-month study of the adult Sunday School program with the establishment of
two adult departments properly graded and with assembly programs.
In September, the debt-paying program
was given an extra push with plans to complete the debt paying and building
redecoration by the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the church in December.
The Anniversary Celebration Committee
was chosen in November and plans were made for the big week December 13-20 with
a historical pageant on Friday, December 18, and the final activities on
Sunday, December 20. Dr. J. W. Bruner of
Dallas, a former pastor, preached the dedicatory sermon for the debt-free
property. Dr. Andrew Potter was the 11:00 a.m. speaker.
Missions was the emphasis that year,
with the adoption of Rev. and Mrs. Joe R. Townsend as missionaries to China and
the projecting of a city missions project on North Fourth Street with Rev. Joe
Pask Van as missionary.
The year 1944 began with the church
designation 25% of its receipts for the Cooperative Program of Southern
Baptist. Rev. Charles Knight, missionary to Africa, led in a January revival. Land
for the new mission on North Fourth Street was purchased in March and, with a
building completed, work began there in July.
Rev. Jonathan Jordan of Fort Worth, Texas, was called as mission pastor. Rev. Joe Pask Van had resigned to accept the
Michigan Avenue Baptist Church as pastor.
Walter Kallenbach, a blind evangelist,
held an August revival in the tabernacle. August, also, witnessed the
appointment of the Future Planning Committee for the church. This committee
consisted of the heads of the various church organizations and department heads
and had as its responsibility, the projecting of building and organizational
October business meeting was truly
historic in the decision to approve a recommendation of the Future Planning
Committee to purchase the old blacksmith shop and lot north of and adjacent to
the church and to redecorate the entire plant.
It was interesting to note that the same lot that the church purchased
in 1945 for the sum of $5,000 was a part of the original property of the church
and was sold for the sum of $50 shortly after the turn of the century to meet
pressing financial obligations of the then struggling little church.
The remodeling plan was carried out
with enthusiasm and not only changed the whole appearance of the church corner
of the block by the summer of 1945, but, also, included the nursery enlargement
to care for 64 babies and small children.
But outside appearances were not the
only changes. The records of the new
year disclosed some inner changes for the better, especially in mission
giving. Total mission gifts in 1942 were
$5,755; in 1943, $10,365; and in 1944, $15,397. Baptisms per year had gone from
41 to 83. The entire Sunday School had been reorganized with multiple departments
and the building changes which made this possible.
On September 2, 1945, Dr. Graves
resigned the pastorate to become pastor of the First Baptist Church in
Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where he remained until his election as President of
the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. His final
service at Chickasha was Sunday evening, September 30, 1945.
On Sunday, February 17, 1946, the
church voted to call REV. R. C. MILLER, JR., as pastor. He accepted the call
and was installed as the pastor on February 24, 1946. At this installation
service, Dr. Howard Taylor, chairman of the Board of Deacons, presided; and
addresses of welcome were given by Dr. T. P. Haskins, then Assistant Executive
Secretary of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and Dr. J. W. Bruner,
former pastor, of Dallas, Texas. The next nine years saw a splendid growth,
especially of the Sunday School, under the leadership of Rev. Miller. For seven
straight years, beginning in 1946, the Sunday School was standard. Reflecting
this good work was the increase in average Sunday School attendance from 560 to
926. During this same period, the record of total gifts each year increased
from $40,000 to $73,000.
In 1949, the Tabernacle building,
constructed under Dr. Criswell’s pastorate, was enclosed and conditioned for
much-needed additional rooms and departments at a cost of $30,000. This made
possible a substantial growth in the Sunday School.
In 1951, a two-story building was
constructed at Falls Creek Assembly at a cost of $8,000. In 1953, a church
parsonage was built. Extensive remodeling of the church auditorium building
must, also, be included in the story of the growth of the physical property
during the nine-year ministry of Rev. Miller. One of the truest indications of
growth during this nine-year period was the evangelistic emphasis of the pastor
and the church. The church records
indicate that from 1946 to 1954, additions to the church averaged 260 annually;
baptisms averaged 97 annually.
long-to-be-remembered date in the history of the Sunday School was March 7,
1954, when there were 2,264 in attendance—a record, not only for the First
Baptist Church, but, also, for all Oklahoma. Guest speakers that day were Dr.
C. Y. Dossey and U. S. Senator Robert S. Kerr, noted Baptist layman.
Rev. Miller resigned in the early
summer of 1955 to accept a young, growing Baptist church in a fast-growing
community in California.
In September 1955, DR. DAVID G. HAUSE
was called from the Maywood Baptist Church of Independence, Missouri, to become
the nineteenth pastor of the First Baptist Church, Chickasha. Soon after his
arrival, with his wife and three small children, the need for further church
expansion became apparent as crowds filled the church to overflowing. Although
Dr. Hause was numbered among the youngest of the nineteen pastors in the
64-year history of the First Baptist Church, he soon established himself as an
outstanding minister and leader. Church attendance, both morning and evening,
as well as Wednesday evening prayer services, were steadily increased under the
dynamic leadership of this greatly beloved young minister.
As an important step in the church
expansion program, in March of 1956, three houses on Third Street in the church
block were purchased. This gave the church a block of property facing Colorado
Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets.
Two of these houses were remodeled and used by the high school departments
of the Sunday School. The church then entered the most important expansion program
in several years. After consultation with the Architecture Department of the
Sunday School Board, Nashville, Tennessee, the church planned to build a
three-story educational building in 1957. The year, 1956, was a year of painstaking
preparation for advance. The church has paid off its debt ($20,000) and placed
over $10,000 in the Building Fund. The
next year’s budget, inclusive of the Building Fund, totaled $86,464.78.
During this time, First Baptist sponsored
two mission churches: The Fourth Street Chapel and the church at Middleburg in
northeast Grady County. The work in the Middleburg community was the result of
a revival held there in the fall of 1956 and sponsored by the Baptist
Brotherhood. First Baptist gave 31 percent of the budget to the Cooperative
Program for world missions. This mission giving in 1956 totaled more than
Sunday, October 30, 1960, was the
dedication for the East Educational Unit.
The East Education Building contained 22,500 square feet of floor area.
Included in the first unit were six Nurseries, four Beginner, six Primary, four
Intermediate, the Married Young People, and the Adult I Departments. Also,
planned was an acoustically-conditioned choir room with music director’s
office. A small Chapel, appropriately furnished, was available for meditation
or group worship. The Roof Garden of 5,000 square feet was provided for
fellowship activities. The “Garden Under the Stars” was furnished with kitchen
and barbecue to be used by all age groups.
The building was a two-story structure
of brick and concrete. Both floors were completely air-conditioned and of
fire-proof construction. This modern unit for Christian Education replaced the
old youth houses and barracks building. It, also removed the Nursery, Beginner,
and Primary children from the old building and allowed for adult expansion.
The Building Committee consisted of:
Emmert Mayo, Chairman; Louis Pitts; Jack Davis; W.H. Southerland; Estel
Shoemake; and Dr. B. B. McDougal.
DR. JEROLD MCBRIDE was called to serve as
pastor in 1961 and resigned in 1964.
DR. CHARLES SULLIVAN was called to
serve as pastor in 1965 and resigned in 1969. Under his leadership, the West
Wing Education Unit was completed, with dedication services held on Sunday,
November 5, 1967. The West Wing had
32,000 square feet of floor space, almost twice as large as the East Wing which
was constructed first. Occupancy of the educational portion, the East Wing, was
When the West Wing was completed, the
Fellowship Hall was used as the sanctuary and the Old Tabernacle Building was
The West Wing was used for Sunday
School classrooms, Fellowship Hall, Chapel, the Church Offices, Music
Department, Educational Department, and had an area for Christian education. Young
People and Adult Sunday School classes met in the West Wing. The Building
Committee on this unit consisted of: Claude Dawson, Jack Griffin, J.W. Loftin,
Ernest Sehon, and M.T. Shelton.
DR. DAVID C. HALL was called as pastor
in 1969 and resigned in 1971.
REV. MART HARDIN was called as pastor
in 1971 and served fourteen years, resigning in 1985 to accept a position with
the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma.
The first live TV program and the first
regular telecast of any program origination from Chickasha, was broadcast on Cablevision
Channel 8 from the First Baptist Church, on Sunday, January 25, 1976. The
church had purchased its own Panasonic Color-TV cameras, video tape recorder
and production equipment in order to produce the broadcast of the Morning
Worship Service each Sunday. Bill Card
and James Elston were in charge of the production of the program and all
production, direction, and camera work was done by members of the church.
It was under Rev. Hardin’s leadership
that the new sanctuary was built.
Dedication week of the new sanctuary was April 10-17, 1977. This new
facility has 20,000 square feet of floor space which was built and furnished at
a cost of $775,000. It seated 585 on the lower floor and 275 in the balcony. It
was equipped with a complete audio and TV recording booth, as well as movie
projection. The choir area would seat around 50 and would be equipped with a
Kawai Concert Grand Piano and an Allen Digital Computer Organ.
The Building Committee was: Don Dunn,
Chairman; Charles Allen; Larry Sevier; Emmert Mayo; Owen Vaughn; Jack Brewer;
Jack Griffin; Thurman Cavin; James Elston; Louise McDougal; Marilyn Lair; and
new facility completed the three-phase construction of complete church
facilities which began in 1959 with the first phase, the construction of the
Educational Building at the corner of Third and Colorado. The West Wing was
completed in 1967 and included a small Chapel and Worship Center.
On November 3, 1985 DR. LARRY THOMPSON
accepted the call as pastor of First Baptist Church and served until December
9, 1987 when he resigned to accept the pastorate of the Merritt Island Baptist
Church, Merritt Island, Florida.
DR. DAN STAMMANN accepted the call as
pastor on June 12, 1988 and served until November 18, 1990 when he resigned to
accept the pastorate of the First Baptist Church, Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
DR. KEVIN CLARKSON accepted the
pastorate on September 15, 1991 and served until 1995. During the tenure of Dr.
Clarkson, First Baptist celebrated its 100th anniversary as a church on
December 12, 1992 with a centennial celebration.
REV. RANDY JOHNSON served as pastor
from March to December of 1996.
REV. C.F. JOHHNY TIMS served as Pastor
from July 20, 1997 to February 28, 2010.
the leadership of Rev. Tims, First Baptist began to make plans to renovate the
sanctuary, updating the styles of the room as well as the technology for
worship. A special building committee was commissioned to oversee this work.
Renovations to the sanctuary began in 2003 and were completed in 2004. During
this time, the church met for worship each week in the Fellowship Hall.
with the sanctuary, the church parlor and offices were renovated. An old gas
station, referred to as the McConnell property was also purchased to house
church vehicles. These renovations and financial commitments were referred to
as the “Building on Faith” campaign.
2010, Rev. Tims announced his retirement from the full-time pastoral ministry,
and a committee was formed to search for a new pastor.
MICHAEL ALLEN BUTLER was called as pastor on January 16, 2011. He and his wife
Raylee came from Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, along with his
four children Pike, Emery, Lindy Kate, and Nixon. Michael had served as a
student minister at Council Road Baptist for 10 years prior to his move to
late 2011, the note from the loan that covered the renovations to the
sanctuary, as well as the purchase of the McConnell property, was paid in full.
As the Building on Faith endeavor was completed, the church began praying over
the next steps in building renovation and expansion.
the leadership of Rev. Butler, the Long Range Planning Committee distributed a
survey to the church in June of 2013 to assess possible building projects. The
committee met and examined the results of the survey. From this, a plan of
action was determined, with renovations of the Fellowship Hall, Kitchen, and
Elevator being the first phase. After this work was completed, then the church
would look to renovate the East Wing and Children’s area. Other projects were
also considered in the long-term future plans, including the Falls Creek cabin,
a vehicle barn, and possibly a recreation area.
committee was commissioned by the church to oversee the renovations to the West
Wing and began the “Legacy Builders” project. This committee worked with the
staff and began meeting in 2015 to select an architect (MA+ Architecture),
construction company (CMS Willowbrook), and plans. This committee’s work
spanned several months until renovations began in May of 2016. Renovations
included a newly designed and outfitted kitchen, expansion of the Fellowship
Hall and removal of the old chapel, and a new elevator. Work was completed in
late February of 2017.
December 12, 2017, First Baptist Church of Chickasha celebrated its 125th
First Baptist Church
- Thomas E. Covington 1893 – 1895
- Henry B. McGee 1896 – 1897
- Henry K. Best 1898 –
- John Mare 1899
- Edward L. Compere 1901 – 1903
- George H. Thompson 1903 – 1903
- J.H. Bennett 1904 – 1907
- William A. Freeman 1908 – 1909
- Adoniram J. Holt 1909 – 1910
- George W. Sherman 1910 – 1914
- W.T. Rouse 1914
- John A. Wray 1915 –
- Allen S. Albright 1917 – 1919
- Sam Taylor 1919
- J.W. Bruner 1922
- W.A. Criswell 1937 –
- Harold Graves 1941 –
- R. C. Miller 1946
- David Hause 1955 –
- Jerold McBride 1961 –
- Charles Sullivan 1965 – 1969
- David C. Hall 1969 –
- Mart Hardin 1971
- Larry L. Thompson 1985 – 1987
- Dan Stammann 1988 –
- Kevin O. Clarkson 1991 – 1995
- Randy Johnson 1996 –
- C.F. Johnny Tims 1997 – 2010
- Michael Allen Butler 2011-