CHURCH HISTORY

In the early 1800’s two white families, the Billups and Stokes, owned a plantation in the Guinea area of Gloucester County, Virginia. Many slaves were born on this plantation and both the slaves and whites worshipped at Union Baptist Church in Achilles, which was organized in 1801. By 1850, the population of slaves had become so large that the church could no longer accommodate them. Another place of worship was needed.

As a result Providence Baptist Church was organized in 1850 in the Ordinary area. The slaves from Hayes Store, also known as Hooks Store, went to Providence to worship while the slaves from Guinea stayed at Union Baptist Church. The slaves at Providence worshipped in an arbor—an old shack that was attached to the church.
The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1861, that freed all slaves, and the end of the Civil War in 1865, caused great concern to the white members of the churches. What should be done with so many freed slaves? Providence Baptist Church was given permission to dismiss the former slaves at approximately half past four o’clock on Saturday, July 27, 1867. Three hundred and twenty-six freed slaves left Providence to worship at Old Glebe Hill. This left 104 white members at Providence.

The Glebe Hill Meeting House was located on a hill on Route 17 near what is now First United Baptist Church. On September 15, 1867, the colored people, formerly of Providence Baptist Church, requested a letter of dismission along with a special request that they be allowed to remain at Glebe Hill to worship. Their request was granted. Rev. Harry E. Corr, a white farmer, preached for the former slaves on the 2nd and 4th Sunday afternoons. He preached for the whites in the mornings.
The white members of Providence Baptist Church assisted the colored former members of the church by sending several leaders to help with their management. They drafted by-laws, granted them permission to use the Providence Meeting House once a month for the funeral services and assisted in raising sufficient funds for them to purchase the Glebe Hill Meeting House, which was later referred to as Old Glebe Colored Church.

On June 5, 1867, the name of the Old Glebe Colored Church was changed to First Colored Baptist Church, making it the 3rd oldest African-American Congregation in Gloucester County.

On May 21, 1884, William Taliaferro and others who represented the members of the First Colored Baptist Church sought to purchase 2 acres of land at Ordinary for the purpose of building a new place of worship. On August 30, 1884, two acres of land were purchased for $15 per acre. William Taliaferro and his wife, Mary Louise Taliaferro, purchased the land on behalf of the church. Other Trustees who were involved in the land purchase were Charles Bright, Gabriel Carter, Lawrence Whiting, Joseph Brooks, T. J. Whiting and James Dabney. A small wood frame church was built on this site and named First Baptist Church, which was the first church for colored people in the Ordinary area. This church later burned; no other information is available about this first church.

The second larger church was built on the same site during the term of the second pastor, Rev. D. R. Paige. On May 7, 1896, the cornerstone of the new church was laid. The exterior was made of wood and whitewashed. The roof was made of shingles and the steeple displayed a beautiful bell. Double wooden doors opened into the vestibule. On each side of the vestibule were stairways that led to the balcony. The ceiling of the sanctuary was oval and made of tongue and groove board with exposed beams. The pine floors were kept highly polished and adorned with red carpet runners. Oil lamps hung along the walls and were used for light. Heat was provided by wood, then later, coal stoves. There was no air conditioning.

Pews were arranged on the left, center and right of the sanctuary. The choir loft was located behind the pulpit and elevated high above it. A pipe organ with large brass pipes was located on the left of the choir loft. The organ had a crank on the side that was turned by the young men of the church before the organist began to play. A baptismal pool was located under the pulpit. When baptisms were being performed, the doors of the pulpit floor were laid back to expose the pool. At other times a rug was laid over the doors. Benches and tables were placed in the church yard. Members used their best linen table cloths and brought food to eat outside during the closing of the revival services and on the church anniversary. A molasses barrel was sawed in half and used to make lemonade and ice water. Water was pumped from the well.

On a Sunday afternoon in March 1940, following the funeral of one of the members, this church burned. It caught fire from the chimney. The church was insured and the congregation began the process of rebuilding. A few months after the fire, the present church was built on the same site. In the 1960’s the building was moved back to allow for the widening and improvement of Route 17. Over the years major improvements have been made that include installing central heat and air conditioning, bricking the exterior, paving the parking lot, remodeling the hallway, bathrooms and pastor’s study areas, carpeting the sanctuary, and remodeling the upstairs. On June 26, 2011, the bell which hung in the steeple of the second church was rededicated during the Church Anniversary service.

First Baptist Church has been blessed with the strong leadership of several pastors: Rev. Edward W. Paige served until his death. Both he and his wife, Nannie, were buried in the graves behind the church. In 2002 these graves were moved to the First Baptist Church Cemetery. Rev. D. R. Paige was the son of Rev. Edward Paige. He was elected to complete the unfinished year of his father’s term and later elected pastor. Rev. J. W. Robertson died in 1944 and is buried in what was formerly called Old Glebe Church. Rev. Luke C. Corbett traveled from Richmond and served until his death in November 1970. Rev. John Smith served from 1973 until he relocated. He was shared with First Morning Star Baptist Church. Rev. James O. Gilliam served until 1987 when his health failed. He died in November 1988.

Rev. Walter Roy of Richmond, Virginia, was installed on November 24, 1990. He was accompanied by his wife, Ernestine, who served as a Deaconess, as well as worked with other church ministries. Rev. Roy preached his final sermon on June 15, 2003, after resigning from his position as pastor. Rev. Gary L. Hundley, Associate Minister of New Zion Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, began serving as interim pastor on April 4, 2004. He was elected by unanimous vote at a church meeting on July 10, 2004 to serve as pastor elect. Rev. Hundley was installed on Sunday, October 24, 2004. He was accompanied by his wife, Cynthia, who served as a Deaconess and worked with the Youth Department. His daughter, Dominique Hundley Pretlow, served as the Youth Choir Musician and his daughter, Cylenthia was a church member and sang on the Youth Choir.

On Sunday, March 6, 2011, Rev. Hundley read his letter of resignation to the congregation. His last date of service to First Baptist Church was May 22, 2011. On June 1, 2011, Rev. James Harris began serving as Interim Pastor and on June 10, 2012 he was voted by the congregation to continue serving for the next three years as Interim Pastor. We are proud of our past and look forward to the future. With the guidance of Jesus Christ, First Baptist Church continues to thrive. As the church motto states, “We are the friendly church with a proud past and a challenging future”.