City Directories and History: 1908 – First Baptist Church, 1917 – First Baptist Church of Rock Hill
“The lot next to the May-Neely house was occupied by the First Baptist Church. The church structure was of brick and was in the Gothic style, with stained-glass windows. Next to the Church lived Col. J. J. Waters and Mrs. Waters and their two sons and two daughters. Colonel Waters was chairman of the local school board and served as a magistrate for many years.” [Robbins – White Tour Booklet] *** Note the Waters home under construction to the north of the church in the picture below.
From the early years of Rock Hill as a village, there were Presbyterian, Methodist, and Episcopalian churches serving the village and surrounding countryside. Shortly after the civil War, a number of new families began to move to Rock Hill to take advantage of the economic growth which was occurring. Among these was the family of Capt. Reid McCosh and his wife Jane McFadden McCosh. Capt. McCosh was a member of the
Presbyterian Church, but his wife was a Baptist, and maintained her membership in Harmony Baptist Church in Chester County. Mrs. McCosh worked for twenty years to help establish the Baptist cause in Rock Hill. As early as 1867, Rev. A. L. Stough, who was pastor at Harmony and Catawba Baptist churches, preached on Sunday nights in Rock Hill. At first the Baptists met in the Presbyterian Church, and later in the Methodist Church. For a number of years, there were not enough supporters to begin a church, and various Baptist ministers preached in Rock Hill trying to gather together a congregation.
By 1878, Mrs. McCosh and Col. J. J. Waters decided to seek the organization of a church. Rev. J. H. Edwards had recently come to serve the Harmony and Catawba Churches, and it was agreed that he would give part of his time to the work in Rock Hill. The group had been meeting for a time in the Methodist Church at 208 Hampton Street, a frame building. When the Methodists built a new church on Main Street about that time, they rented their old church to the Baptists for $2 per month. The church was organized on November 3, 1878 with 20 members, and others joined soon after. The small group began raising funds and soon bought lots at 212 and 214 Hampton Street from Mr. Robert B. McFadden for $180. By August 1879, a brick church building was begun and it was dedicated in April 1880. The cost was $1,800 and the building was a simple 36 feet by 50 feet structure. In this building, the first indoor baptisms by immersion occurred in Rock Hill.
The church grew and the congregation felt that a new and larger building was needed. Mr. W. M. Frew, a loyal church member, had died in 1893, and his will left a gift to the church for either improving the church or building a new one. The congregation decided to build a new church on the site of the old one. The church, which would seat 600, was completed for $4,500 during the pastorate of Rev. V. I. Masters
about 1893. It included a Sunday School space. By 1897, Rev. J. D. Robertson became the first full-time pastor who was not shared with another church. In 1904, the first parsonage was bought from J. B. Heath, and was located at 347 Hampton Street.
First Baptist had grown with Rock Hill. With the creation of mill villages, the church began organizing Sunday Schools in the various new sections of town. This led by the early 1900s to the formation of three new Baptist churches: Park (1907), Northside (1907), and West End (1908). First Baptist itself continued to grow, and the need for a larger church building became apparent. At first, a site on White Street was purchased, but the congregation was not united in support for this site. In 1916, a lot on Main Street became available, and it was purchased for $17,498. A portion of this land facing Oakland Avenue was sold to the Peoples Trust Company for $10,250 the next year, helping to defray the cost. The congregation of about 300 members decided to build a large and imposing building on the new lot, and a Mr. Padgett was contracted to do the work for $125,000. The new building was completed in 1923. The old church on Hampton Street had been sold in 1920 to the Record Printing Company for $10,000, and the Rock Hill Record was printed there for a number of years. The Hampton Street site is now part of the City Hall complex.
At some point, a new parsonage was established on Caldwell Street near the new church. In 1936, the lot on which the parsonage stood was sold, and Dr. Dunlap’s clinic was later built on the site. The parsonage house was moved to St. John’s Court. It was later sold and the church purchased a new parsonage in 1943 at 251 Main Street. Major additions to the church facility were completed in 1937, 1955, and 1984.
In 2003, the congregation decided to leave its downtown facility in order to accommodate growth, and a new church plant was built on Dave Lyle Boulevard. The last service was held in the Main Street church in 2004, and later that year it was sold to Freedom Temple Ministries.
Contributed and written by Paul M. Gettys
The architect for First Baptist Church was Williard G. Rogers – 1918-1919. Information from the SC Architects 1885 – 1935: Wells and Dalton – 1992
Sources: First Baptist Church website; The History of First Baptist Church, 1878-1978, Alma C. Ratterree; The History of the Rock Hill Baptists, Rev. R. T. Marsh, 1909. These publications are in the Local History Room of the York County Library in Rock Hill.
The Herald reported on March 22, 1920 – “That the elegant new Baptist Church opened for the first service on Sunday with close to 1,000 in attendance. The plans were drawn by Hook and Rogers of Charlotte and the contractor was Sellers and Padgett. The cost of the building was $125,000. It has a seating capacity of 900 and features a Pilcher Pipe organ which was played at the initial service by Mrs. E.R. Treverton.”
1936 – Herald Publishing Company, The Evening Herald, 1963 – Vacant
Originally, Rock Hill’s first Baptist Church was located on Hampton Street, a handsome brick sanctuary near that of the location of the original Methodist church.
Click on the More Information > link found below the picture column for additional data and the Main Street Database (PDF).
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