First Baptist Church celebrates 150 years in Spring Valley
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 3:18 AM
One of Spring Valley's oldest church fellowships can be attributed to First Baptist Church, now located at 701 Kasten Drive, along West Tracy Road. Celebrating 150 years of "laboring together with God," this congregation looks back to its founding in 1863. The church history was compiled by George and Grace Bly in 1988 on the occasion of the congregation's 125th anniversary, and is available in print. This column has commemorated the First Baptist Church twice, but a brief history is here presented for this special occasion.
Local artist George Bly was a gifted painter of countless subjects, but especially historic buildings. Several of his paintings grace the walls at the Spring Valley Historical Society's Methodist Church Museum. Here we see first location on East Franklin Street.
Early prayer meetings were held in homes, and then the congregation was organized under the direction of Rev. J. G. Gravens, C. C. Thayer, and Nehemiah Dodge, assisted by Rev. B. T. Bly. A small building on East Franklin Street was used until membership required more space. Land at 115 North Section Avenue was purchased in 1885, and a beautiful church was erected by builder M. P. Lower at a cost of $3,800. An "artistic landmark," it was used for about 70 years, and a new parsonage was built next to the church about 1950.
In the early 1950s, while Rev. Copham was here, it was decided to demolish the old church and the material was used to erect a new building. While the project was in progress, services were held across the street in Trinity (Norwegian) Lutheran Church or at the high school auditorium.
The church's 100th anniversary was celebrated in September 1963, while David Pfaffe was pastor. This event was highlighted by an historic pageant with costumed participants, and a bountiful banquet at the local high school, where Fern Liverance's centennial cake with 100 candles caused quite a stir! In July 1988, the Tribune carried the news of the 125th anniversary of First Baptist Church's "gospel ministry" in Spring Valley. Two young men who had grown up in the church had become pastors and were scheduled to speak on this special occasion - Rev. Curly Werth of Morris, Minn. and Rev. Tobe Bolles of Pengilly, Minn.
This column, Glimpses of Yesteryear, carried a story in June 2009 that told of a major change for the Baptists. Countless floods along Spring Valley Creek had caused considerable damage to the basement of the church. In the fall of 2008, the decision was made to participate in the city's flood buyout program, allowing the church to sell this vulnerable property and relocate to a new site away from the flood plain.
Groundbreaking at 701 Kasten Drive was held Sept. 21, 2008, and construction began in December. In November 2009, the $400,000 building was dedicated to the glory of God and a new era begun. However, empty spaces met our eyes on North Section Avenue where the church, a lumberyard, filling station, tire service and much more used to be situated. The parsonage remains, home for the present pastor, Joe Haynes, and his family.
One of the stories on file at the historical society is that of Charley Jim, the Chinese laundryman, who was a devoted member of First Baptist Church. He took over a laundry service established by Charles Spaulding, once located where the old creamery stood on East Jefferson. Charley Jim came from Chicago about 1900 with a letter of recommendation from his church there. Living only a block away, he timed his entrance to church with the opening doxology (song of praise), and while it was being sung, he walked down the aisle to the front row, removed his coat and placed it on an adjoining chair, then, with a handkerchief, carefully wiped down the back, seat and arms of his chair before he was seated. The pastor and choir found it difficult to keep a straight face at this regular procedure. For the annual Fourth of July celebrations, Charley Jim, a very friendly chap, was most pleased to donate funds for the community fireworks display.
We encourage readers to visit the church Saturday, Sept. 7, for the open house. Photos, church history and memorabilia will be on display for your enjoyment. Their theme: "150 Years of God's Faithfulness Moving Us Forward." Sunday worship service is Sept. 8 at 10 a.m.