Early baptism in the Skunk River near Sopers Mill
Before Ames was settled, a group known as the Squaw Creek Church met together for worship. The pastor was Reverend Ira H. Rees, a Baptist mission minister who located in Story County in 1855. He was appointed by the Baptist State Convention to serve both Boone and Story counties. There was no church building, so their meeting place was the Hoggatt school house located on the east bank of Squaw Creek. The small group joined with other area churches to form the Upper Des Moines Association in 1860. The organization included Great Bend (23 members), Mt. Pleasant (39), North Union (35), Swede Bend (25), Squaw Creek (8), and Webster City (48). Writing of the 1862 Association meeting held in Father Sparks' barn near today's Ledges State Park, Reverend Rees said, We are now laying the foundations upon which future generations are to build and we hope, under God, to lay them in the right direction upon the missionary questions. We have spread upon our minutes, a request for each member to do something each year for missionary purposes.
In 1863, the Squaw Creek Church reported three baptisms. Reverend Rees, after suffering hardship and poverty, moved west to try to establish another settlement. Without a leader, the church faltered until 1867, when the Upper Des Moines Association reported, Squaw Creek is again put on the list with 19 members but no statistics. Many of those in the Squaw Creek Church appear later on the membership rolls of the First Baptist Church of Ames.
(Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive)
Reverend S.H. Mitchell, first resident pastor
In May of 1868, Reverend J.F. Childs from Oskaloosa, serving as secretary of the Iowa Baptist State Convention, drove to Ames. K.W. Brown, the son of a New York Baptist minister (and the grandfather of Farwell Brown), joined him in the task of reorganizing a church. They went out from Ames north, northwest and northeast looking for Baptist families. They find five, the Hunters, Keigleys, Alfreds, Gilmores, and Arrowsmiths. Soon after this time, an announcement is heard in the Methodist and Congregational churches that, The Baptists will hold a prayer meeting this aftenoon at 3 o'clock in the rear room of the building occupied by Brother Frank Hays as a harness shop.
Eight people met in prayer that Sunday afternoon, and the decision is made to form a church. On July 11, 1868, the eight charter members signed their names on the rolls of the new church, the First Baptist Church of Ames. W.H. Pollard and Frank Hays are named as deacons. K.W. Brown is selected as church clerk. By October of 1868, the new church with 23 members joined the Upper Des Moines Association. Laymen in the new church sustain the operations until January of 1870, when Reverend S.H. Mitchell is called to become the first resident pastor.
When Rev. Mitchell began his service, the 30 church members have no place of their own to worship. The congregation at that time rented the second floor of the Tomblins Building (the Old Regulator Building), located near the southwest corner of 5th and Kellogg. It is a tall building, exposed the the winds which threaten it so much it must be braced at the sides with timbers. In June of 1872, K.W. Brown bought two lots on the northeast corner of 5th and Kellogg, and gave the land to the Baptists as a gift. A wood frame church is built that year, paid for in cash.
(Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive)
First Baptist Church Sunday School children enjoy a game during a 1907 picnic in an Ames park.
(photo courtesy of Roger Nichols)
1910 Cornerstone laying ceremony for the new church building at Fifth and Kellogg.
Image from 1912 postcard
As membership grew through the years, plans for a new larger church were made. When the old parsonage was sold, the proceeds were set aside to help fund a new building. In 1908 the new building, costing $18,000, was begun. The dedication was held May 22 of 1910. View more images of this Baptist Church corner.
The 2nd church, 1909-1949
In 1950, First Baptist Church congregation moved into their third church building at 200 Lynn Avenue.
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