First Baptist is not the name it bore when it was first organized and its history predates the 72 years it celebrated in July. First Baptist Church has been an integral part of Bridge City’s history and has been recognized by the Texas Historical Commission. Sunday the church will unveil a new historical marker.

“The designation honors the church as an important and educational part of local history,” said Brenda Woodall, a longtime member of the church and president of the church historical committee.

Darrell Segura, a member of the Bridge City Historical Society said it put him into the historical mood. “I had to go back and dig into the history of the church. I knew some of it but I didn’t really know the deep part; the very roots, beginning of the church,” he said. “It just made me appreciate the process a whole lot more.”

Twenty-eight charter members organized the church in 1940, but services were held long before then.

The church began as many in the area did; with a traveling minister stopping by from time to time to hold services in a home or local building. The earliest church records show those services began in 1877 in a one-room schoolhouse when Bridge city was called Prairie View.

In 1894 Prairie View Church was organized by a predominantly Baptist congregation. The church was destroyed by the category four hurricane of 1915 that hit Galveston.

The congregation once again met in homes, then moved to the Prairie View School in 1923, when it was built.

In June of 1940 Central Baptist Church from Port Arthur held a vacation Bible school at Prairie View School. That, along with a five-day revival and the renewed interest in Sunday school inspired the members to organize the new church.

Blandale Baptist Church was chartered July 11, 1940 with 28 members. The first pastor for the congregation was the Rev. J.B. Perry.

“I didn’t even realize we were actually the first church (in Bridge City),” said Segura. “The First Baptist Church has been here the longest to serve the community.”

Prairie View changed its name to Bridge City following completion of the Rainbow and Cow Bayou Swing Bridges, and the church was renamed as Bridge City Baptist Church before taking its current name of First Baptist Church in 1948.

Rev. Perry served as pastor until 1944. Maurice Aguillard, Wallace Lee and Jimmie Gray served until 1949. Miers led the church until 1961 when Bullard Jones took over. Robert Holt became pastor in 1967 until 1977; Charles Walton from 1977-91; and John Locklear from 1992-2003. Robert Boone became pastor in 2004 to present.

The church building was built for $1,500 on land that was bought for $100 an acre from landowner Mrs. Fara Bland Kibbe, a descendant of the town’s first settlers.

The monthly mortgage was $25 and electricity was $1. What seems today to be miniscule was gargantuan back then and the fledgling church struggled to pay it. The sanctuary in use today was conceived in 1950 for $75,000 and was dedicated Nov. 29, 1953.

“It’s a credit to the long-standing wherewithal and makeup of the church. It’s withstood over the years and through the test of time; through the ups and downs in the world,” said Boone. “We are as strong now as we’ve ever been, I believe. We’re as solid as we’ve ever been as a church family; looking forward to the future.”

The formal dedication of the plaque will be a 5 p.m., Sunday, with a reception following in the Fellowship Hall at 5:30 p.m., with heavy hors d’oeuvres said Segura. Historical pictures will be on display. At 6:30 there will be a service.

“We’re also showing about an 18 min. video with a lot of historical pictures from the past including the first sanctuary; and the succession of pastors through the church history,” said Segura. “I think people that will come will really enjoy it.”

Boone will also be giving a sermon based on the occasion.

“The historical marker points to the past,” said Boone. “We celebrate the past but we’re excited about the present and excited about the future in years to come.

The church is located at 200 West Round Bunch. For more information contact the church at 409-735-3581.

The Rev. Bob Boone will join the Bridge City community Sunday in the unveiling of a newly designated historical marker for First Baptist Church, Bridge City. RECORD PHOTO: Penny LeLeux

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.