The First Baptist Church of Waukon, Iowa dates from June 17th 1854. On that day Azel Pratt and his wife Mary,
John G. Pratt, Lathrop Abbott and his wife Emily, Miles Nichols and his wife Hannah, Phoebe Hersey and C.J. White
assembled at the residence of Azel and Mary Pratt in the New England settlement called MaKee. This was known
as MaKee Ridge and was two miles north of Waukon. They organized under the name of Allamakee Baptist Church.
Reverend James Schofield extended the right hand of fellowship to the members of the little church. By the end of the year 1854 six more members were added. In July 1855 seven persons were baptized, the first baptisms in the newly organized church. Within the next two years thirty-one memebers were added to the church.
Worship was held in the MaKee schoolhouse, but because of the moving of many of the members into Waukon, which was growing, it was necessary to have services there also. In March 1855, Samuel Hill Jr. was engaged to preach at MaKee in the morning and at Waukon in the evening. By the year 1859 the church had assembled in Waukon and during the year 1860 services were held in the Methodist Church every fourth Sunday. Here follows a few years of scant records as the services were interrupted by the Civil War.
In July 1868 the old church society was reorganized and incorporated as The First Baptist Church of Waukon. A frame building was erected on the north side of what is now Third Avenue NW, in which the first services were held January 17th 1869. In the spring of 1871 this frame building was sold and remodeled as a place of residence. It is now known as the "Bee-Hive".
The members then purchased the brick building erected by the Congregational Society on the present site for $1883. They worshipped here for over 30 years. In 1875 the church was supplied with a bell and two months later it was proven unsatisfactory in tone and power and was soon replaced. This bell is still in use today.
In 1903 Reverend C.H. Stull with the help of L.W. Hersey formulated a constitution and bylaws. With some revision it is still the rule of order. In December 1903 the church proposed that a new edifice be erected at a cost not to exceed $9000. Later it was found that this sum would not be sufficient and the contract was let to William Fuelling of Clayton County for $13000. This amount was eventually considerably exceeded.
In July 1904 the old brick structure was razed and work began on the foundation. The cornerstone was laid on October 9 by the deacons of the church. The new building, though incomplete, was opened for services on June 23, 1905. During the time the church was being built the meetings had been held in the city hall. The formal dedication took place on September 17, 1905, at which time the trusties reported that the total cost and expenses to date for the new building were $16,109.19.
It was the Lewis W. Hersey family who made the new church possible by their generosity. In 1904 the pipe organ, built by the Hook-Hastings Co. of Boston, was purchased for $2000 with $750 donated by Andrew Carnegie. In 1905 the organ was dedicated to the memory of the Hersey Family. The parsonage was the gift of Mrs. Nancy Whiting, a sister of L.W. Hersey.
In June 1908 a hail storm badly damaged the art windows on the north side of the church. At this time the interior decorating had never been completed. Early in 1910 the decorating was done, the interior remodeled, a gallery constructed and the choir loft improved. The church was reopened on April 17, 1910 and since that time continuous services have been held.
In January 1949 the church voted to become independent of the American Baptist Convention and continued as such until April of 1957 when it affiliated with Conservative Baptist of America. The church's centennial was celebrated in August 1954 and was known as "The 100th Anniversary Jubilee". The Calvary Baptist Church in Decorah had it's beginnings as an outgrowth of the Waukon Baptist Church due to the faithfulness of Reverend Calvin R. Anderstrom. He ministered in Waukon from 1952-1958 and the late Reverend Ray Heileg from 1958-1960.
In October 1976 the AWANA Clubs for Boys and Girls were started at First Baptist Church. AWANA stands for "Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed" and is taken from II Timothy 2:15. The M.O.P.S. (Mothers of Preschoolers) and M.U.G.G.S. (Mothers Under God's Guidance) programs for moms of small children were strong in the 1970's and 1980's. The AWANA program and Youth Group continues to be a dynamic outreach to the young people of the Waukon area.
In June 1979 the church celebrated the 125th anniversary with Dan Larson as Pastor. The theme was from Luke 19:13 "Occupy Until I Come". In 1984 carpet was installed in the sanctuary and the pews were refinished. In 1987 Jessie Johnson presented the church with the gift of a baby grand piano in memory of her sister Helen Everman.
In June 1989 was the 135th celebration with Bill Patterson as Pastor. His ordination service was held at First Baptist Church in November 1986. He left in May 1992 and we voted to extend a call to Michael Sisson in November 1992. In 1990 the church received a sizable monetary gift from a local teacher Cora Ruggenmeier, in memory of the late Bob Promnitz.
Over the years there has been remodeling, redecorating and improvements made to the church building and parsonage. The most recent being the remodeling of the parsonage in 1991 and a new furnace in the church in 1992. In 1993 a Clavinova was purchased, an office was added and the nursery was redecorated. In 1997 the parsonage received a new furnace, air conditioner and water heater and a copier was purchased. A landscaping project around the church was completed to make our appearance more welcoming. In 1999 the carpet was replaced in the Library and the sound system was upgraded. In the summer of 2010, a new roof was put on the parsonage and garage.
In October 1995 the church voted to discontinue the affiliation with Conservative Baptist Association of America and became independent and autonomous. Michael Sisson left in October 1996 and we were without a pastor for 5 months. In April 1997 Richard Johnson was called as the first ever interim pastor and he stayed until May 2000. In May 2000 we extended a call to Danny Volbrecht and he stayed until October 2006. We were without a pastor for 3 months. In January 2007, we voted to extend a call to our current pastor, Duane Smith. Since the church was first organized there have been a total of 43 pastors.
First Baptist Church has always been a mission minded church and over the years we have supported dozens of missionaries both here and abroad.
In 1997 after many hours of hard work by a committee, the constitution was revised for the first time since 1966. In May of 1999 after much discussion and prayer about whether to replace the 95 year old building or repair it the members voted to start a building program for a new church building. Through what only can be described as The Miraculous Hand of God, the church building was sold to a buyer who, in turn, sold us 10 acres of property on the north side of town across from the fairgrounds. Upon more prayer and research on the land, the building plans came to a standstill after determining that the cost of construction would be higher than originally thought. During this time, Pastor Duane Smith discovered the “old Pamida building” was for sale on the south end of town. After negotiating with the bank, it was discovered that the 10 acres could be used as collateral in order for the church to purchase the large building. Dan White was hired as “Project Manager” and 9 months later after extensive remodeling, First Baptist moved historically to 614 Rossville Road where they currently meet for worship! Truly, our God is an “awesome God!”
The Lord continues to bless spiritually as we seek to honor Him as the head of the church. We are endeavoring to follow His command to take the gospel into all the world through the ministries of our church and by personal witnessing.
We hope you have enjoyed reading this wonderful history of First Baptist Church. There is one common thread throughout the years of this church; it is the saving blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It binds all believers together into one mighty chorus that honors the Lord. We trust that you may consider what great things the Lord can do for you. The blessing of the Lord is always ready for those who desire to follow Him. May the generations that come behind us find us faithful and carry on this same witness and testimony of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.