First Baptist Church
Thursday, December 18, 2014
To Make Disciples, United in Worship and Service
Detailed Historical Highlights of First Baptist Church
By Bruce Briggs
‘Waynesville church was constituted 1st August, 1823 by Humphrey Posey, Joseph Byers, and Adam Corn, presbytery, with Twenty-seven Members…” - from early minute book. Joseph Byers was probably the first pastor. No conclusive evidence exists but we find strong indications that Elder Byers, formerly pastor of Mud Creek Church in what is now Henderson County, was pastor when the church was organized in 1823. John Haynes, William Haynes, Thomas Henson, and R. H. Moody are known to have been pastors during the pre-Civil War period. Humphrey Posey, Billie Crawford, R. H. Dabney, and C. B. Mingus (who was pastor following the War) are held by tradition to have been pastors or preachers for the Waynesville church in those early years. Records exist from 1864 giving the succession of pastors from that time to now. Some served more than one period of time; other men have served as associate pastors or in other staff positions.
The first meeting place was a log structure located on the east bank of Richland Creek, very near where the present bridge crosses from Commerce to Smathers Street, and very near the large rock just above the bridge. The records show that the lot on which the old log house was built was deeded on August 6, 1825 to Bannister Turner, William Welch, and Ninian Edwards, trustees of the church. Sometime in the 1850s the Baptists moved to a new meetinghouse on what is now Church Street, about where the Catholic Church now stands. Extensive remodeling was done or a new structure erected on the site in the 1880s. Worship continued there until the sanctuary on the corner of Main and Academy Streets was occupied in 1905. The Lucious M. Welch Sunday School Building was erected in 1935. The present sanctuary was dedicated in 1952. The three-story educational facilities were first used in 1963. The ‘Twenty-Seven Members’ most likely held membership in Locust Old Fields Baptist Church, which was the first (1803) to be organized in what is now Haywood County, and which is now First Baptist Church, Canton. Crabtree Church (1848) is the only other Baptist congregation to pre-date the Waynesville Church. The earliest church book known to exist has minutes of church conferences, usually held on Sunday mornings, from 1863 to 1886. In the front of this book are copies of the original Articles of Faith and Covenant, as transcribed in 1844 by Elder William Haynes, one of the early pastors of the church. No definite list of the charter members exists, but tradition and current research suggests that the first members were among these persons:
William Welch & Mrs. Mary Ann Love Welch
Bannister Turner & Mrs. Susannah Hefner Turner
Ninian Edmonston & Mrs. Polly Strother Edmonston
Henry Plott & Mrs. Lydia Osborne Plott
John Liner & Mrs. Naomi Massery Liner
Samuel Fielding Underwood & Mrs. Elizabeth Land Underwood
William Allen & Mrs. Alicia Hyatt Allen
David Mehaffey & Mrs. David Mehaffey
W. T. Clark & Mrs. W. T. Clark
John Howell & Mrs. John Howell
John N. Howell & Mrs. Essena Osborne Howell
Rev. Joseph Byers & Mrs. Joseph Byers
Eli Barker Herren
The Waynesville First Baptist Church was a member of the French Broad Association from 1823 to 1829. Tuckasegee Association from 1829 to 1886, and Haywood Association from 1886 to present. Prior to 1900 five daughter churches were organized from this church: Mt. Olive (Waynesville) in 1867, Antioch in 1875, Pleasant Balsam in 1879, Allen’s Creek in 1883, and Ratcliffe Cove in 1897. An early association report indicates a Sunday School at the Waynesville Church in 1867, with 115 persons enrolled. It must be assumed that this was an interdenominational school using the Baptist meetinghouse and probably under the leadership of Lucious M. Welch, who is known as the “Father of Sunday School at Waynesville First Baptist Church.” The church in early history was quite strict in discipline. For example, the records reveal that in August 1867, a resolution was passed that all male members of the church should be called to account if they were absent from two consecutive meetings of the church, without a good reason, and in case they were absent from three consecutive meetings they were excluded. The sisters were allowed slightly more indulgence. If they were absent for as long as six months they were excluded.
In 1977 the church approved a plan to renovate the sanctuary, install air conditioning and the stained glass window above the baptistery.
In the past two decades the church has been faithful to ordain those called to full-time Christian service and the gospel ministry.
1981 William Ross, Jr. ordained to the gospel ministry.
1982 Anna Marie Nobeck ordained for the gospel ministry through chaplaincy.
1983 Mike Green, Executive Director of Youth for Christ, ordained to the gospel ministry.
1987 Jeff Norris, ordained to the gospel ministry.
1992 Marty Dupree, Associate Pastor of Ministries, ordained to the gospel ministry.
The Waynewood and Central Avenue houses were sold in 1982 with monies placed in endowment and housing allowances provided.
In 1983 the church voted to name the former Haywood Saving and Loan building in memory of Hatsie Siler Freeman. Faith of Our Fathers, a history of Waynesville First church by Dr. Evelyn Underwood, was published in 1984.
In 1986 the old Haywood Auto Parts building and lot was purchased for additional parking from J.R. Boyd and Dick Boyd for $145,000. This same year a memorial chapel fund was created.
In 1997 the church accepted a bid of $2,819,240 from Burgin Construction Company to construct a chapel, fellowship center, and make improvements to existing structures. Groundbreaking Day was held April 20, 1997. In the same year the church authorized the beginning of a Child Development Center program. In 1997 the church conferred title of Pastor Emeritus on Dr. Hugh P. Garner.
In 1999 the church voted to adopt by-laws and incorporate. In 2000 the church purchased the Nancy Dodd property on Main Street for future parking. In May 2000 the church celebrated an open house for the new Chapel and Fellowship Center completed at a cost of over $3,660,000 debt free.
As of June 2012 the total church membership was 1,324 with 1,083 resident members. The Sunday School enrollment was 518 with average attendance of 263. The 2012 budget was $917,101.