Our Church History
Eighteen men and women gathered together with faith, desire and great anticipation on September 14, 1875, to organize a new congregration of believers. This new church would be known as the United Baptist Church of Christ at Bradford Station. Reverend Silas P. Jones of Trezevant and Reverend Weaver of Milan, Tennessee helped to organize the new church. Reverend Silas P. Jones of Trezevant, Tennessee was elected as the first pastor. Within the first year eighteen new members were added to the congregation.
This new church met in a building which was behind the present Methodist Church. During this time the church was very active in the community. In 1888 the church minutes mentioned members discharged for "cursing and swearing in public". This was because the church was often the conscience of the community. Business meetings for the church were held on Saturday before the second Lord's Day of the month. At that time members were received after the sermon. The preacher would then normally conduct two other services on Sunday. During the early days of the church all members were called to the church one Sunday per year to sign their pledge cards for contributions. At that time a committee would be selected to collect these pledges during the year.
In January, 1886 preaching time was changed to 12 o'clock to allow pastor J.L. Davis time to arrive on the 12 o'clock train through the winter months. Pastor Davis's salary was raised in February of 1896 to $100.00 per month. Also in 1896 the minutes began to read the Missionary Baptist Worshiping at Bradford.
At the turn of the century, August 1899, the congregration was in the process of building a new church. While attempting to locate land for a new building the deacon body met with the Masons to sell the present church property. In order to secure privacy the minutes reflect that "nothing be brought on the grounds during the debate such as hitching horses or erecting lemonade stands". In the spring of 1900 a new church was erected where the present-day church now stands. The land on which the church sits was donated by Mr. John Cain. This new church was dedicated in May of 1901. The church was now known as the Baptist Worshiping at Bradford.
On September 5, 1905, an organ was purchased for the new church. The cost of the organ, including freight, was $61.13. Once again the members were canvassed to pay for this expenditure. Many now familiar names contributing were: Guy, Rochelle, Patterson, McCaleb, Bryant, Thetford, Cain, Hedgecock, Belew and Wingo. A complete list of those contributing is listed in the minutes with contributions ranging from $2.00 to $0.25. Also, the cost to insure the church in 1905 was $15.00.
In January, 1907, Sunday School was organized. During 1911 the decision was made to cease heating with wood and move to the more economical coal heat. At the September business meeting "a committee was selected to buy coal for heating the church and collect money to pay for it". 1911 was a prosperous year for the church as they voted to raise the salary of Bro. Burgess to $200.00 per year. "A special business meeting was called after Sunday School to ascertain something about getting electric lights for the church" in June of 1918. Training Union was organized December 24, 1922.
The church was growing and on January 24, 1926, it was voted to erect a new church building. This vote was made somewhat easier by a strong wind storm in 1925 that moved the structure slightly from its foundation. By May, $13,000.00 had been collected toward the construction costs and in July, the cornerstone was laid for our present-day building. Also, in December of 1926, the church voted to build its first parsonage by a vote of 26 - 4.
Hard times fell on the congregation and the nation in 1929. By 1933 the church was struggling to pay the interest on their loan at the bank. To pay the interest a motion was made and seconded that "every member of the church be asked to donate a hen or the price of a hen". Having problems collecting this contribution, a motion was made to discontinue preaching so all pledge money could be paid on the debt. This motion failed. The pastor then tended his resignation so his salary could be applied to the debt. The Six-Point Record System was adopted in 1935.
Things would not be this dim for the church for long. By 1943, the church enjoyed an average attendance of 150. On November 16, 1945, it was voted to build the brick parsonage that presently sits across the street from the church. A carpenter was secured to erect the parsonage at a rate of $0.75 per hour. The old parsonage was sold for $4,240.00, and work began on the new parsonage on February 4, 1946. At this time there were 284 members on the roll of First Baptist with an average attandance of 126. The first recording of a Brotherhood was in February, 1949.
The First Baptist Church was the first church in Bradford, but others soon followed. On November 22, 1950, union services were held with all churches taking part. This is a tradition that proudly continues to this day.
The church parking lot was graveled in 1955 at a cost of $200.00. The sanctuary was renovated in 1958 with new pews, carpet and pulpit. In 1959 the ground floor of the educational wing was built, and the basement of the church was remodeled and decorated, providing additional space for a beautiful kitchen, adequate dining space, Sunday School rooms and pastor's study. There was also to be constructed a beautiful outdoor bulletin board as a memorial to Mr. J.A. Crawford who left $150.00 from his estate. The people were inspired to make these additons to the church by a sum of $2,237.97 left to the church on July 10, 1953 by the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Jasper Rochelle, whose last expression of love for their church was in this gesture. Also in 1959, the church was equipped with a sound system and chimes, both inside and outside the building. On August 16, 1959, groundbreaking services were held for the new educational wing which was completed and dedicated on November 23, 1959, with the Associational Missionary, Reverend Edwin Alexander, delivering the dedication message. The second floor to the educational wing was completed in 1970. The Cain property adjoining the church on the north was purchased in 1971 to provide for parking and future expansion. In 1974 new pew cushions were purchased along with a new electronic organ. More recently, a new Fellowship Building was erected in 1996 on the property to the north of the old church parking lot at a cost of $114,464.00. The old sanctuary was condemned and torn down in 2008, and this location was transformed to a parking lot. A new sanctuary was started in 2009, and dedication day for the new sanctuary was August 29, 2010. In November 2010, First Baptist Church accepted an indebtedness of $514,528.00 upon completion of the sanctuary and renovation of the Educational Building. The location of the new sanctuary is in the old parking lot between the Educational Building and the Fellowship Building. On February 17, 2013, First Baptist Church voted to purchase the property at 115 Church Street for the sum of $24,000.00. This was purchased from the heirs of the Lola Akin family. The property is located across the street and in front of the new sanctuary and the Fellowship Building. Mrs. Lola Akin was the wife of the late Reverend R. J. Akin who was ordained by First Baptist Church in December, 1966. This property will be used for future expansion or parking. In October, 2015, the church purchased a baby grand piano. The piano was delivered in time for Ingathering Day.
The past, one hundred forty-four years of service for the Lord, has been a storied one for the congregration of First Baptist Bradford. What would the original eighteen founders think of the church today? We are certain they would be amazed at how God has used their efforts. What the future will hold, we are not sure. One thing we do know is that if we keep our faith in God, work hard and put Christ first, God will bless our efforts.
Charter Members -
Brothers: A.J. Allen, C.C. Williams, J.C. Williams, M.T. Williams, J.G. Phipps, W.M. Campbell, G.W. Campbell, R.A. Meadows, A.H. Holmes, J.D. McKenzie
Sisters: E.V. Campbell, M.J. Meadows, T.H. Allen, M.D. Bradford, H.W. Baker, H.J. McAdoo, D.A. Wingo, A.A. Campbell
The following ministers have been licensed by the church to preach the Gospel:
Bro. Waldo Nevil, October 20, 1920; Bro. Charles Alton Wingo, October 4, 1931; Bro. James Caudle, 1939; Bro. Edward Wingo, July 4, 1945; Bro. Donald Farmer, December 20, 1953; Bro. R. J. Akin, December 14, 1966; Bro. Bob McCartney, August 27, 1989; Bro. Dale Denning, November, 1991; Bro. Will McCartney, August 31, 2008.