First Baptist Church celebrated its 150th Anniversary

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It was a day of celebration for the First Baptist Church of Portageville this past Sunday, November 4. The church celebrated its 150th Anniversary.

As part of the morning worship service, the church received plaques from several folks. Letters from former pastors and church members were also shared with the congregation.

Presenting plaques included Debbie Griffen with Congressman Jason Smith's office, State Representative Don Rone, State Senator Doug Libla and Tim Abanathy, the Director of Missions with the SEMO Baptist Association.

Additionally, Portageville Mayor Denis McCrate was on hand to express his gratitude to the church for their many years and encouraged them to continue on.

The local church has a long and varied history, dating its organization back to 1868. It has the unique distinction of being the oldest church in the membership of the New Madrid Baptist Association, which is composed of the churches in New Madrid and Pemiscot Counties. Little is known of the early history of the church. According to the best information obtainable, its first meeting place was a log building, thought to have been erected in the 1850's.

Probably the first building built for a church in Portageville was in 1870. It was located on an acre of ground in West Portageville, near where Garner house stood on First Street. The upper story was used by the Masonic Lodge Number 166, while the lower story was used by the Baptists on Sunday, and for a few months during the year it was used for school during the week.

For a period prior to 1903, the church seems to have been inactive, but in that year a renewed interest led to a reorganization under the leadership of Rev. H. Patterson. Soon a frame building was erected at the present location. Trees on the adjoining lot were sawed into lumber and the church was built with a loan of $700.00 from Jim Roberts. Dr. T.S. Hollenback had given the adjoining land and contributed much to the building fund. Frank Adcock and son did the building. The Ladies Aid (presently known as the WMU) sponsored the building of the first parsonage in 1925.

Rev. A.B. Constanz came as pastor in 1937. It was under his leadership that the brick church was constructed in 1939-40 at the cost of $4,800.00.

Rev. J.M. Dameron came as pastor in 1941, and according to minutes by 1949, there were 400 members. Bonds were purchased and set aside for a building fund. An addition to the education building was erected in 1952, however, shortly after its completion a fire almost completely destroyed the entire church. Immediately the church authorized its reconstruction with an enlargement of the main building. Rev. Dameron resigned in 1953, having served 12 years.

Rev. E.A. Boyer came to the field almost immediately. In 1958 the church purchased the parsonage at 200 E 7th Street and converted the old parsonage into additional Sunday School space. Lots were purchased east of the old buildings and a new colonial-style auditorium facing King Avenue was constructed and used for the first time Palm Sunday, April 15, 1962. The old auditorium was converted to Sunday School space. Rev. Boyer resigned in May 1964, after almost 11 years.

Rev. Owen Sherrill came as pastor in July 1964. A Sunday School building annex of approximately 3,000 square feet was completed in October 1966, at a cost of $15,000.00. In it were housed three primary departments and two beginner departments. The lot adjacent to the parsonage was purchased in May 1967, for $4,500.00. The building was converted into Sunday School classrooms. The Southside Baptist Chapel held its first service on August 27, 1967, with W.R. McIntosh as Mission Pastor. Rev. Sherrill resigned in March 1968.

This is the last written history that was found on record. Since this time two parsonages have been purchased and many updates have been done to the current buildings. The church is an active part of the Southeast Missouri Baptist Association and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Throughout the years, God has done a mighty work through First Baptist Church, Portageville by many people coming to Christ because of the ministry and outreach of the members of FBC. The church carries on a continuous goal of evangelism with its current theme being: Loving God, Growing Together, Serving Others.

Below is a list of pastors since 1968.

Jerry Haughton, May 1968-January 1969; Richard Adams, March 1969-June 1977; Buck Morton, October 1977-June 1985; Ron Shrum, November 1985-September 1992; Mark Inman, January 1993-February 2005; Buck Morton, October 2005-April 2013; John Compere, March 2014-Present.

Note: Some information obtained from Christie Bradford from the First Baptist Church.