History of First Baptist Church in Danville, Kentucky
On June 7, 1823, nine Baptists living in Danville, Kentucky met in a local home and organized First Baptist Church of Danville, Kentucky. One of those, Elder Thomas Hand, became the first pastor. This small group continued to meet in the homes until November 12, 1825, when they purchased land on Broadway in Danville. First Baptist was the third church to organize in Danville and the property is the oldest to have been used continually by a church in Danville. From that time, until around 1839 or 1840, the church met in a small cabin in the south center of the lot.
The church decided to build a simple brick structure for services. There were two doors, one of the men and one for the women. Between the two doors was the pulpit and a rear balcony was built for use by slaves.
By 1861, the church had begun to prosper and a school, the Baptist Female Seminary, was opened in the main building. The school at one time had as many as 75 boarders. Because of the Civil War, the school closed in 1869. From 1868 to 1871, Lottie Moon was a member of the church and taught Sunday School. She was a teacher at the seminary as well as at Centre College in Danville.
In August of 1881, a fire destroyed the brick building. By the light of the blaze, the pastor took pledges for a new church. In less than a year the new building was completed and was entirely debt free. The church continued to grow and in 1902 the present sanctuary was dedicated.
Over a period of years from the 1920's through the 1950's the influence of First Baptist Church spread widely over the surrounding area. Out of that influence seven new Baptist churches were formed. In the 1920's, Lexington Avenue Baptist Church was established by First Baptist members who left the church during a controversy that had arisen. First Baptist started a mission in West Danville in 1943, which, in 1946 was organized into Gethsemane Baptist Church. After that, Bryantsville Mission was started and organized into a church. In 1948, Willow Grove Mission was started and became a church in 1955. Southern Heights Baptist Church became a church in 1959, having begun as Southside Mission in 1949. Faulconer's Lane Mission was begun in 1950 and organized into a church in 1960 and is currently known as Immanuel Baptist Church. The last mission, Mt. Freeman Mission, was begun and organized into a church in 1951.
Over the years, the appearance of First Baptist Church has changed. In 1949, it was necessary to build an annex behind the sanctuary for educational needs. Those needs continued to grow and the youth building was built and dedicated in 1963. Major renovations of the sanctuary and youth building were completed in 1972. Other changes in the building have been seen in the last few years to accommodate the growing needs of our staff, nursery, and education ministries.
Our current pastor, Dr. J. Timothy Mathis, accepted the call to the church in December 1988. Drew Dukes was added as Minister of Youth and Education in 2007, and Nate Craddock was added to the ministry staff in 2008 as Minister of Music. God is using these men with their different background, talents, and abilities, together with the people in His church to continue the outstanding work begun in 1823.
In February 2000, the church voted to relocate and build new facilities. The church constructed a new site on the Danville Bypass, and moved into the new facilities in June 2007. The old santuary on Broadway was purchased by the Danville Public Library. The santuary building was demolished, making way for an expansion to the existing library.
First Baptist Church of Danville, Kentucky is a church rich in heritage. Most importantly, however, it is a church dedicated to serving the Lord, looking to the past for inspiration and looking to the future for challenges, and always submitting to God's leading and His divine will.