1854 – Present
A Brief History of First Baptist Church of Waukon, IA
Celebrating 160 years of God’s Faithfulness
The history of First Baptist church extends back to June 17, 1854! Several families assembled at the residence of Azel & Mary Pratt in the New England settlement called MaKee (two miles north of Waukon) and was later organized under the name of the Allamakee Baptist Church. Rev. James Schofield grew the church in members as the city of Waukon grew. Due to its growth, services were held at the MaKee schoolhouse. Samuel Hill Jr. preached at MaKee in the morning and in Waukon in the evening services in March of 1855.
In July of 1868 the church was reorganized as The First Baptist Church of Waukon. A frame building was erected on the north side of Waukon (3rd Avenue NW) and the first services there were held on January 17, 1869. As the congregation grew, the members purchased the brick building erected by the Congregational Society on 201 Allamakee Street for $1883.00. They worshipped there for over 30 years. A bell was supplied in 1875 and is still in use today.
In 1903 Rev. C.H. Stull and L.W. Hersey formulated a constitution and bylaws. The building was in need of repair and the church members decided to raze the building. Work began on a foundation. The cornerstone was laid on October 9, 1904. The first service held in the then-incomplete building was on June 23, 1905. The total cost for the new building was $16,109.19. The Lewis W. Hersey family made the new church building possible by their generosity.
In 1904 the pipe organ, built by the Hook-Hastings Co. of Boston, was purchased for $2000; $750 of it was donated by Andrew Carnegie. In 1905 the organ was dedicated to the memory of the Hersey Family. A parsonage adjacent to the church building was donated by Mrs. Nancy Whiting who was a sister of L.W. Hersey. Due to a hailstorm that badly damaged the art windows on the north side of the church, interior remodeling was done, a gallery constructed, and choir loft improved in 1910. In 1987 Jessie Johnson purchased a baby grand piano as a gift for the church in memory of her sister, Helen Everman.
In January of 1949 the church voted to become independent of the American Baptist Convention. In April of 1957 it became affiliated with the Conservative Baptists of America. In October of 1995 the church voted to discontinue the affiliation with the Conservative Baptists Association of America and became independent.
October of 1976 marked when the AWANA Clubs for Boys & Girls began at First Baptist Church. AWANA is a boys’ and girls’ club which stands for “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed” (of the Gospel of Christ) and is based on II Timothy 2:15. It is a global, nonprofit organization that teaches the Word of God. Awana reaches kids for Christ through fun, Scripture-rich experiences that lead them to know, love and serve Him. Throughout the years a program for teenagers has been offered as well for grades 7-12. In recent years, the teens selected the name, “B.U.R.S.T.,” which stands for Believing, Understanding, Reaching, Serving, and Trusting. Men’s and Women’s Ministries have been offered throughout the years, as well as Bible Studies and outreaches to our community. Missions has been an integral part of First Baptist Church for many years, supporting missionaries stateside and abroad, as well as inviting missionaries to speak as often as they are able at our church. Several overseas missions trips have been organized as well in recent years.
Since the church was first organized there have been a total of 43 pastors. In 1997, the Constitution was revised for the first time since 1966. In May of 1999 the members voted to start a building program for a new church building due to the deterioration of the 1904 building.
Through the miraculous hand of God, the church building at 201 Allamakee Street was sold and the church was able to purchase ten acres of land just outside of city limits in December of 2008. Originally, it was the church’s intent to build a new church building on that property. It was decided that it would be impossible to build on that property due to the cost being too great. This led the church leadership to consider other options. It was then discovered that the listing of the old “Heimers Super Value” grocery store was for sale. The church voted to purchase the warehouse, and the interior of the warehouse was remodeled. The present church facility at 614 Rossville Road is 22,000 square feet and complete with classrooms, offices, kitchens, Youth Center, and a Multi-Purpose Room for AWANA and services. The first meeting at the new church building was held on October 3, 2010. November 7, 2010 marked our Dedication Service and Harvest Festival Sunday.
These events are a testament of God’s faithfulness to us through all these years, despite the many changes in our church. Truly, the church is the “people” and not the “building.” We give all praise to God for His guidance and loving care over us and we look forward to seeing what He has in store for us in the future!