Pierce City church to celebrate 175 years

Saturday, September 5, 2015

First Baptist Church to mark occasion with special services

Residents of Pierce City and the surrounding church fellowships are invited to enjoy Pierce City First Baptist Church in observing its 175th anniversary Sunday, Sept. 20.

Festivities will start with the Sunday worship service at 10:15 a.m. A free luncheon, provided by the church and cooked by the Decatur Lodge of Pierce City, will follow at noon. Tours of the present church facility and church memorabilia will be on display. Outdoor activities for families are also planned. Former pastors and church leaders will reflect on the past and area gospel music groups will perform starting at 3 p.m.

According to church history, the original church was established May 11, 1840, in the home of John Jackson, along with three other families near Clear Creek. The group met in homes and continued to grow until the congregation began to meet in the log school houses on Clear Creek and Center Creek. At that time the group formally organized and called themselves "A United Baptist Church called Friendship."

In February, 1855, the board met to accept land from Festus Stark to build the first church. The new structure was nearly completed and "covered and weather boarded" before the Civil War, but not "sealed." During the war, soldiers of both sides used the land and church house. That church building was not completed until after the war in 1869.

In 1878, the "Spring River Association of Baptist" established a college in the area. Since Pierce City was a thriving community and the local Baptist Church was strong, "Peirce City Baptist College" (original spelling) was founded.

Due to church growth in 1883, the first church was sold for $1,150 and two lots were purchased on the corner of Elm and Washington Streets of Pierce City. At that time, the name was changed to First Baptist Church of Pierce City. The new church building was completed along with a parsonage next door. At one time, lightning struck the church bell tower so services were held at the Baptist College until restoration was completed. For 120 years the church stood at that location.

On the evening of Sunday, May 4, 2003, a massive tornado tore through downtown Pierce City and twisted the church structure on its foundation. Just prior to that event, church officials had made the decision to seek a new location for the church just north of town. The former church building had been added onto until there was no more room to expand. The congregation had grown so that Sunday Services were held in the gymnasium and some of the children's Sunday School classes met in the bell tower. Many tears and fond memories were exchanged at a special service before demolition on the damaged church property.

While waiting on the new church building, services were held in the cafeteria of the Pierce City High School until the new campus, a quarter mile north of city limits, was completed in August of 2005.

The church is now located at 21819 Hwy. 97 north of Pierce City.

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