The History of First Baptist Church of Chickasha

First Baptist Church of Chickasha began on December 12, 1892. The following is a historical account compiled from records, notes, minutes, and members over the past 125 years.

FBC History



         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 Jesus Christ.

         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” (Hebrews 6:10).

         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.



Chickasha, Oklahoma


         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.”

The 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.

On 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:

Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Claycomb          Mr. and Mrs. M. T. Barrier

Mr. and Mrs. S. G. Wilson                Mrs. Jennie Rose

Mrs. A. J. Kellogg                            Mrs. Mattie Adkisson

Mrs. A. Lancaster                             Mrs. P. B. Monicle

Since 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 Mrs. Thomas.

         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 follows:

         W. M. Claycomb, Chairman                       M. T. Barrier

S. G. Wilson

         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 1893.

         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 School Superintendent.

         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 service.

         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, Nevada, Missouri.

         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.

By June 1900, there were more than 100 named on the church rolls but only about 75 could be accounted for.

By 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. Wallace.

REV. 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.

DR. 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.

The 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.

The 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 1911.

         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 church.

         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 for years.

         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 owner.

         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 1914.

         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 fifteen months.

         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 1937.

         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 religious services.

         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, Oklahoma.

         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 31, 1942.

         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 plans.

         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.

A 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 $22,000.

         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 in 1960.

         When the West Wing was completed, the Fellowship Hall was used as the sanctuary and the Old Tabernacle Building was torn down.

         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 Ernest Sehon.

The 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.

Under 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.

Along 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.

     In 2010, Rev. Tims announced his retirement from the full-time pastoral ministry, and a committee was formed to search for a new pastor.

REV. 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 Chickasha.

In 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.

Under 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.

A 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.

On December 12, 2017, First Baptist Church of Chickasha celebrated its 125th anniversary.







First Baptist Church

Chickasha, Oklahoma

  1. Thomas E. Covington                                                  1893 – 1895
  2. Henry B. McGee                                                           1896 – 1897
  3. Henry K. Best                                                                1898 – 1899
  4. John Mare                                                                      1899 – 1900
  5. Edward L. Compere                                                     1901 – 1903
  6. George H. Thompson                                                  1903 – 1903
  7. J.H. Bennett                                                                   1904 – 1907
  8. William A. Freeman                                                      1908 – 1909
  9. Adoniram J. Holt                                                           1909 – 1910
  10. George W. Sherman                                                    1910 – 1914
  11. W.T. Rouse                                                                    1914 – 1915
  12. John A. Wray                                                                 1915 – 1917
  13. Allen S. Albright                                                            1917 – 1919
  14. Sam Taylor                                                                    1919 – 1922
  15. J.W. Bruner                                                                   1922 – 1937
  16. W.A. Criswell                                                                1937 – 1941
  17. Harold Graves                                                             1941 – 1945
  18. R. C. Miller                                                                    1946 – 1955
  19. David Hause                                                                1955 – 1961
  20. Jerold McBride                                                            1961 – 1964
  21. Charles Sullivan                                                          1965 – 1969
  22. David C. Hall                                                                1969 – 1971
  23. Mart Hardin                                                                 1971 – 1985
  24. Larry L. Thompson                                                     1985 – 1987
  25. Dan Stammann                                                           1988 – 1990
  26. Kevin O. Clarkson                                                       1991 – 1995
  27. Randy Johnson                                                            1996 – 1996
  28. C.F. Johnny Tims                                                          1997 – 2010
  29. Michael Allen Butler                                                    2011- Present


Section Title

Type the content for this section here. This is just example text to show you what it will look like when you enter text content into this section. Your unique, authentic, and appropriate text will be filled into this section. Once you click into this section, you will see the filler text disappear, and you can begin typing your real content. We’ve simply put in filler text in this area.