The town of Marceline was about 4 months old when a handful of Baptists held a meeting and effected the organization of the First Baptist Church. The first meeting was held in a rented hall on Sunday, May 19, 1888. The Rev. J. M. P. Martin of Linneus preached and at the conclusion of the service all who felt interested in the organization of a Baptist Church were invited to remain. There were seven charter members, three women and four men.
The hall was used for the services for some time and it was not until the following year that plans were made for Marceline’s First Baptist Church. The building erected was of frame structure and with a few minor changes served the congregation until March 1, 1914, when it was destroyed by fire. The fire extended so rapidly that but few articles could be saved. Fortunately, the records were preserved.
For a time the homeless organization worshipped in a rented hall in the upstairs of the building now owned by the Zurchers. Seen, however, undaunted by their loss, they erected an improvised tabernacle on one of the hills overlooking the town. This tabernacle was the scene of some of the happiest experiences in the life of the church. Here it was that men envisioned a new and beautiful edifice to house the congregation. Accordingly, plans were laid and on one Sunday during the services pledges taken. The amount pledged on that day is not known, but it was sufficient to lead the faithful ones in believing that their vision, wild as it seemed, could be realized. The present building is that fulfilled dream.
It is a massive brick structure with 39 rooms and 96 windows, 66 of which are in art glass, including several memorial windows. A spacious auditorium and a Sunday School room with a combined seating capacity of near 700 provides adequate room.
The cornerstone of the new church was laid in July 1914, and dedication services were held September 1, 1916. This new church was a $30,000 building free of debt at the time of dedication.
J. H. Huff, who was pastor at the time the first church burned, was chairman of the building committee. The building and equipment is testimony sufficient of the thoroughness of this group.
Included in the equipment was a beautiful two manual organ. Andrew Carnegie contributed $700 toward this one article.
Among her pastors have been men of outstanding ability and achievement. The church has sent out several young men to the ministry: B. F. Heaton, Elmer A. Love, Albert Kondy, Warren Haley, Martin Essig, Roger Briggs, and Marsh Dorrell.
In recent years, many improvements have been made on the building, including remodeling of the Sunday School room, and the modernizing of the kitchen as a memorial. At present, the front vestibule is being improved with a large corner planter, guest book holder, and coat and hat racks. Church property includes the building and the parsonage, located on North Kansas Avenue.
In April 1957, Rev. Kenneth Kelley came to serve as pastor and has been very instrumental, along with his family, in the growth and upbuilding of the church membership. Total membership is now 660, which includes 529 resident members and 131 non-resident members. The church is fully organized with Sunday School classes for all ages, a Training Union, W. M. U. Society and Auxiliaries, Men’s Brotherhood and Auxiliaries, an organized Adult Choir, and Vacation Bible School.
On January 15, 1961, dedication services were held for the improvements made in the church sanctuary which included new ceiling light fixtures, tile flooring, walnut pews and choir railing, a Hammond organ, and a grand piano.
There have been five Deacons ordained recently. On October 28, 1962, services were held and the men ordained were Omer Rutliff, Ernest Eads, Dale Boley, Chester Ray, and Ross Vardimari. Deacons already on the board are Earl Haley, Arthur Jones, Milton Smiser,. Buford Green, Richard Hainds, Delmar Foley, Wm. Hood, Glynn Maxwell, and Ernest Moss. Members of the Trustee Board are Harold Kienast, W. E. Saunders, Dale Bunch, George Burch, Ray Porter, Delbert Eads, Gene Staats, David Wilson, and Glen Hughes.
The Westville Mission was established in August 1962 and the First Baptist Church sponsors the Sunday School and preaching services. There are twelve charter members in this mission. According to the original record book, the following is a list of pastors and the dates they served: J. M. P. Martin, April 8, 1888 to May 3, 1890; P. M. Best, December 6, 1890 to May 12, 1891; Lee Harrell, September 15, 1891 to April, 1892; Glen E. Kennedy, April 9, 1892 to October 1, 1895; M. L. Kent, September 30, 1895 to June 29, 1896; J. F. Leake, Sept. 25, 1896 to Feb. 28, 1897; H. W. Bellamy, May 16, 1897 to December 4, 1898; R. L. Lemons, May 14, 1899 to August 20, 1900; Rev. King, March 15, 1901 to May 5, 1901; J. C. Cox, April 30, 1902 to April 1, 1906; W. D. Bolton, May 15, 1906 to October 1907; Rhee Woods, May 20, 1908 to July, 1910; Ed. H. Clark, June 4, 1911 to January 1912; John H. Huff, July 6, 1912 to June, 1916; J. C. Cox, July 9, 1916 to Jan. 1, 1918; Oliver Reed, May 1, 1918 to December 26, 1918; Fred H. Beard, April 1, 1919 to April 18, 1920; J. E. Chappelle, September 1, 1920 to January 25, 1925; E. L. Huckell, April 15,1925 to October 1, 1927; H. H. McLeod, February 10. 1928 to October 9. 1932; W. D. Hurst, February 14, 1933 to December 31, 1936; A. Novak, January 15, 1937 to December 1941; Roy Boatright, January 1942 to October 1944; D. W. Rainwater, July, 1945 to August 1, 1949; Fredrick S. Farris, February 1, 1950 to April 1, 1952; Ray Barnes, May 18,1952 to December.