First Baptist Church of Corvallis has been here since 1851.
First Baptist has had 32 pastors in its 160 years.
First Baptist Church is located in Corvallis, Oregon, in the heart of the beautiful Willamette Valley. We are centrally located 25 miles south of Salem, Oregon, and 45 miles north of Eugene, Oregon. First Baptist Church is part of CBAmerica, an association of over 1,300 Conservative Baptist Churches nationwide. Our church is literally across the street from Oregon State University, home to 24,000 students from North American and around the world. Although our street address is 125 NW 10th Street, we are known as the “big white church on the corner of NW 9th and Monroe.”
First Baptist Church was organized on Christmas Day, December 25, 1851, by Rev. R.C. Hill and Rev. James Isaacs with three charter members. Ours was the eleventh Baptist Church to be organized in the Oregon Territory. Also, our first building, believed to be on Third and Jefferson Streets, was the second Baptist structure erected in Oregon. This building served the congregation until February, 1863, when a heavy snow storm caused the roof to collapse. (The debris was sold for $50.00 and given for missionary purposes.) After that, services were held in private homes and preaching done by passing ministers. The membership was so scattered that the church almost became extinct. In 1876, the church was reorganized with nineteen members. However, the congregation was never able to raise the necessary funds for a building and the building enterprise was abandoned. In 1892, another effort was made to establish a Baptist church with ten members. However, they were still without a building, meeting at various places, including Oregon Agricultural College.
Finally, on July 22, 1894, the congregation decided to construct a new building on Fifth and Jefferson Streets. Through the efforts of our 12th pastor, Rev. Mark Noble, the “Little Brown Church” was completed. This second building seated 250 people. Services continued in that building until 1916, when the property was sold and the church began to erect our current building on the corner of 9th and Monroe Streets. (In 1955, the “Little Brown Church” was moved to the Benton County Fairgrounds, where it is still in use today.)
In November, 1923, a fire destroyed the main auditorium and center of the new building. The re-building and remodeling process was very involved, however, the re-built auditorium was dedicated April 6, 1924.
Our church celebrated its 7th Anniversary in December, 1926. Photocopies of the actual Anniversary Program are available for your perusal.
The Depression of the 1930s greatly affected our congregation. The Pastor’s salary was reduced and he functioned without the aid of a secretary. As an example, missionary giving was $1,700 in 1930, however, by 1935-36 it was reduced to $344.26. Again, in 1935, our building was damaged due to fire. However, most of the damage was related to smoke damage from a quickly extinguished fire.
On September 20, 1936, Dr. Edward B. Hart began his pastorate at First Baptist Church. Dr. Hart was a very beloved pastor who led our church out of the Great Depression, through World War II, and up to 1950. Dr. Hart encouraged the congregation in many areas including: using and memorizing Scriptures, the use of the Bible during services, and general witnessing of the Word in personal work. He is also credited with increasing attendance at the Weekly Prayer Meeting, promoting visitation, and Bible School attendance. Dr. Hart came to our church when finances were very low. However, upon adoption of his plan to abolish the pledge system and going on a free-will basis, our finances improved. Due in part to a better economy throughout the nation, 1942 proved to be the best financial year in the church’s history.
Dr. Hart was very involved with college students and began teaching the Fidelis Class (the young married class) for several years.
Our church was very active in ministering to service-men during World War II. The church basement was used as a game and reading room until the completion of the Scout Cabin in SW Corvallis. Our church also furnished a Dayroom at Camp Adair. In January 1941, plans were adopted to broadcast our Sunday morning services. Although we no longer broadcast our entire Sunday morning services, the morning sermon can still be heard via our website.
During this time, several substantial gifts were given to the church in memory of family members, including: a pipe organ, the walnut pulpit, the Communion Set, the Memorial Communion Table, and a gift of a gas range. Other improvements of that time included: completion and furnishing of a Ladies’ Parlor, carpeting the auditorium, installing opera seating in the gallery, and remodeling the roof-line to enable the addition of additional rooms for Bible School.
In 1944, the church purchased the property immediately north of the church building and construction began on the “Christian Education Unit.” It was decided that no work on this building would go forward until funds were available. After much volunteer service, the building was completed and dedicated in May 1950.
The congregation was also active during the 1940’s with the organization/reorganization of many ministries, including: the Women’s Missionary Union (under the Circle Plan), the Youth Fellowship, high school and college ministries, three chapters of the “King’s Daughters,” and our Boy Scout Troop #3.
In 1948, First Baptist Church became affiliated with the Conservative Baptist Association and the National Association of Evangelicals.
When Dr. Hart left his pastorate at First Baptist, our church had over 1,000 members and averaged 35 baptisms per year.
In 1951, our church celebrated its 100th Anniversary. Photocopies of the actual Anniversary Program are available for your perusal.
The early 1950’s were a period of substantial growth within the church. The missionary vision grew and in 1952, the church took on the support of 16 missionaries through the Conservation Baptist Foreign Mission Society. The church also hosted many missionary speakers as well as special Bible teachers. During this time of growth, the Sunday School Department had an enrollment of 938, with an average attendance of 460.
Our present sanctuary was built in the early 1970s and dedicated June 1, 1972.