A DETAILED HISTORY OF CENTRAL BAPTIST CHURCH
There is a prize I hold most dear,
My memories of yester-year
Many letters and histories have been written about the Baptist Church on Russell Street, in which many interesting facts have been brought to light concerning the course of this work in years gone by, and it is unquestionably true that other writings will appear in years to follow should the Lord tarry. The purpose of this brief paper is to provide a true chronological record of the historical facts pertaining to this fellowship from its founding until the present hour.
Our tale has an interesting beginning because it takes us back to the administration under Thomas Jefferson, third president of these United States. An Act of Congress, dated February 18, 1801, made available to Martha Walker for certain refugees from British provinces, Canada and Nova Scotia, a grant of land consisting of 327 acres and 56 perches. The site upon which our building rests was included in that Congressional grant. During the 40 years immediately following the issuance of the parcel of land, the title changed hands several times; and with each change, portions of the original grant did become property of individuals through outright sale until Alfred Russell purchased 4 acres from the portion of land hereinbefore described on April 21, 1841, for the sum of $425.
Sixteen years later, on April 30, 1857, William and Hannah Neil purchased lots 16 and 17 for $920, a transaction which involved the lot on the corner of Russell Street and the alley, as well as the lot adjoining that one on the east. Lot 16, on which the church presently stands, was sold to Mrs. A. V. Taylor, trustee for Industrial School Association, on June 17, 1857. Lot 16 in that section, known as William Neil’s addition, was sold March 1, 1867, to the Industrial School Association for the consideration of $500. On April 1, 1871, trustees for the Hannah Neil Mission and home for the friendless, filed a deed showing the name of the said institution to be the First Baptist Church. However, no record appeared with either the County Recorder or Secretary of State to indicate the legal formation of a First Baptist Church or First Regular Baptist Church.
On January 27, 1867, trustees of the First Regular Baptist Church sold to the North Baptist Church the lot previously mentioned. Articles of incorporation were properly drawn up in which the work was named North Baptist Church. Rev. Ward from Seville, Ohio, assumed pastoral duties on January 2, 1887, at a salary of $1,200, and served the field until January 1, 1892, when he moved to Wyoming, Ohio.
The name was changed on June 7, 1903, to the Russell Street Baptist Church and Rev. W. C. Stevenson was called to pastor the flock on March 26, 1906. In a very short time, the church was too small to accommodate the crowds. One of the days that will always be treasured in the hearts of all who remember was the day when some 200 persons confessed Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Three hundred converts were baptized by Rev. Stevenson in 1913 after the Billy Sunday campaign. Brother Stevenson resigned on December 8, 1915, to accept a call to the Central Church of Dayton, Ohio, from whence the Lord called him home in 1918. Up to this time, the members worshipped in a frame structure, the fruitage from the Billy Sunday campaign forced the erection of a larger edifice. The present structure was raised on this site in 1915, a result of the evangelistic effort previously mentioned.
Differences of opinion arose in the course of consideration and various groups withdrew from the fellowship leaving a handful of people under the staggering debt of $16,000. The Lord was in all this and used about 35 people from the original membership to conceive and propose to the rest of the membership a plan whereby the building should be retained. The Columbian Building and Loan Company furnished $8,000 on a mortgage and there were other outstanding obligations of similar amount. The group hereinbefore mentioned under the leadership of these trustees: Chairman C. W. Bullock, H. A. Darby, C. W. Bennett, J. W. Sharp, Alton Ismon, O. A. Jones, C. A. Maugans, Glen Kinsel, and A. C. Hughes were able to secure a loan of $14,000 from the Bellefontaine Building and Loan Company of Bellefontaine, Ohio. When the amount of the mortgage had been reduced to $8,000, a new loan of $10,000 was secured from the midland Mutual Life Insurance Company, the extra $2,000 to cover the cost of a new heating system. Liquidation of that indebtedness is the cause of this happy occasion.
The first pastor of the reorganized church was Rev. W. Earle Smith of Los Angeles, California, formerly identified with the Anderson Evangelistic party. His ministry opened on April 9, 1915, and the church grew rapidly under his leadership until he was forced to resign on June 24, 1917, because of his ill health. Rev. E. E. White of Weston, West Virginia, was then called to the field on September 1, 1917, and under his faithful, self-sacrificing, tireless leadership the work was blessed of God and continued to grow. Following the termination of brother White’s pastorate, came Rev. Pfeiffer who served the Lord in this place for three years, then resigned to enter evangelistic work. He was succeeded by Rev. H. O. Van Gilder who entered into the duties of this field in 1923. His doctrinal sermons and “True to the Word” messages were responsible for bringing this assembly to a place where it was recognized as an outstanding Fundamental Bible church. He resigned in 1930 to accept the pastorate of the Temple Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Ohio. Rev. M. M. Witter succeeded Brother Van Gilder and continued until his resignation in the fall of 1943. Our present pastor, E. Finkenbiner, came to us in May of 1944 and under his efficient leadership the church is looking forward with eager anticipation for a fruitful fall and winter season of blessing in the service of our lovely Lord.
Written by - Ray Windon
October 8, 1944
After several months of praying and searching, we located Rev. E. Finkenbiner at Marion, Ohio, in May 1944, who became our next pastor. Being Second World Wartime, we had a lot of activity concerning our men and boys going into service, and he was very enthusiastic yet spiritual. Our membership grew both spiritually and numerically. We regretted his resignation in 1946, but he was called to a Baptist church and school in Washington, D.C., and our blessings went with him.
In September, 1946, we accepted Rev. W. H. Green from London, Ontario, Canada, who resided in our parsonage at 35 West Blake Avenue, Columbus. The church prospered under his ministry, while many appreciated his Bible preaching and beautiful singing voice. He subsequently resigned in 1949 to accept a call to the First Baptist Church at Gallinpolis, Ohio. We understand that he now resides in London, Ontario.
Our next pastor was Rev. C. L. Carden of Chicago, Illinois, who came to us in 1950. The church continued to grow in all ways. One thing to be remembered was his “After Service” on Sunday nights, which he called his “Fireside Chat,” when he gathered his flock together for spiritual food. During his ministry, a need was felt for another fundamental church or mission in the northern part of the city. About 75 or 80 left our church to form the Clintonville Baptist Church, meeting in one of the city school buildings until they purchased the church on Oakland Park. Rev. Carden resigned from our church in 1953 to become pastor of the newly-organized church. Before entering the ministry, Rev. Carden had been an architect and commercial artist; therefore, he illustrated many of his sermons with beautiful pictures as he preached.
Since the resignation of Rev. Carden and approximately 80 of our members, we had to make many changes as many of our key adults were no longer with us. We managed, with God’s help, to become adjusted and then called Rev. Frank J. Coleman. We prospered in this period adding to the church with baptized believers. Eventually, as in the previous leadership, we had many who wanted to start another work, which resulted in the forming of Faith Baptist Church located subsequently on West Fourth Avenue. Again, we lost approximately 80 members by resignation taking the majority of our young folk. Rev. Coleman also resigned in 1958, and almost immediately became pastor of Faith Baptist Church with meetings being held in a funeral home until they acquired the church property on West Fourth Avenue.
Dr. William C. McKeever, former pastor of several Ohio Baptist churches, was the next one called to minister to us. He pastored our church from July 1958 until he resigned in 1976 because of his health. Many were baptized and added to the church. Our church grew under his ministry as he preached God’s word. During his 18 years with us, our church prospered. We very much enjoyed the gospel music presented by Rev. McKeever and family. A good choir was maintained most of the time, having presented many Easter and Christmas Cantatas. During his pastorate, property across from the church was purchased and a blacktop parking lot was made—the answer to our long-time parking problem.
Knowing Rev. Earl S. Newkirk was available to us, we hired him in 1977 and he was with us approximately six months.
After the resignation of Pastor McKeever, as a large portion of our congregation were elderly and some unable to meet with us and many gone home to Heaven, we considered selling the church property, turning the proceeds over to Baptist Mid Missions Board. While this was under consideration, we were contacted by Rev. Cecil Sagraves of Plain City, Ohio, who was without a church at the time. He was hired and regular meetings were resumed. He was with us approximately two years, resigning in 1978.
We were then without a Pastor for some time, having guest speakers, prospects, and a group of students from Cedarville College assisting with teaching, preaching, and music every Sunday.
Early in 1979, we became acquainted with Rev. Tim Lapish, who was pastoring a church in Chillicothe, Ohio. After he had preached for us, we decided to call him. The meeting at which the voting took place was attended by only 17 voting members, but the vote was unanimous. From the very beginning of his ministry, God’s approval was evident because it wasn’t long until we had a sizable membership. Our neighbors and friends called us “The Miracle of Russell Street,” and so it was. In 1986, our high attendance was 300. We have grown both spiritually and numerically under his King James Bible teaching and preaching.
In the year 1971, our church went independent of any fellowship organization.
The brick house adjoining our parking lot was purchased for future use and investment, but has been included in the sale of the church property.
Our church has been missionary minded and at present we help support 29 missionaries and missionary projects, most of whom are in foreign lands. Three of our home church flock were partially supported by us for approximately three years each, two of which are on active duty.
We have maintained a Christian school, known as Central Baptist Academy. Special attention has been given youth activities with local and other independent Bible churches in Ohio.
We have maintained a Bible ministry for most of the past eight years, and is presently under the leadership of Mr. Jerry Finster who has been engaged in like service previously. We have been successful in reaching hundreds of children, as well as adults, bringing them under the teaching of the true word.
Under the leadership of Pastor Lapish, our church has been active in dealing with moral issues of the present time.
Our congregation voted some time ago to sell our church property and locate elsewhere. A sale has failed to occur until the past year, which sale was approved by us and subsequently the deal was closed Wednesday, March 9, 1988.
Our next location? We are praying for the leading of God. Please pray with us that His will be done.
Continuation written by:
Mrs. Mary H. Jones
March 17, 1988
* Some dates may not be accurate, but reasonably so.