First Baptist-Orange turns 130
Services return to ‘pre-Ike’ conditions (almost)
“There’s a lot more growth here than just brick and mortar,” says First Baptist Church of Orange’s Pastor Barry Bradley. The 900-plus members, he says, believe the Lord has seen them through tough times.
Bradley says the church won’t do much for its 130th anniversary this month, but members can still celebrate the fact services are back to the Green Avenue location. Services began this past Sunday in the Family Life Center. After Hurricane Ike, members met on the Little Cypress-Mauriceville campus from Sept. 21, 2008, until May of this year.
“The members and I would like to thank [LC-M’s] Dr. Pauline Hargrove and Dr. Terry Estes for making that possible,” Bradley says. “Like a lot of others, we had no flood insurance.”
Ike flooded the basement and put about one foot of water above ground. All the flooring had to be completely stripped, replaced and retiled.
“We really did up a big deal for the 125th anniversary, and it took nine months to prepare for. These days we just figure we have bigger fish to fry” Bradley says.
Katrina victims arrived in 2005, and were put up in the gym. Staging areas were set-up with security by the National Guard. The Texas Baptist Men and church volunteers served food. Katrina victims were evacuated for Rita. After the storm, Texas Baptist Men returned and served local residents.
“They served 240,000 meals in 28 days,” Bradley says, who adds that almost 10 months after Ike, members feel “ … very good about our situation and very good about our future.”
No repairs will likely be made to the sanctuary, he says.
“We had made the decision to begin the process of buying some property on Martin Luther King [Jr. Drive], and were … going through the relocation process when the storm hit. Most of the members voted for it, although there were a few who wanted to put a pause button to it; but most of us believe God’s moving us ahead on this.”
The relocation is necessary, he says, because, when the church’s 1914 building came about, it was in the center of town. “Because of the demographics of our city, we are now in the far southeast corner,” he says. “And we want to be more in the northwest.”
For information about service times, call the church office at 886-7461, or go to www.fbco.org.
A brief history:
In 1979 First Baptist’s church historian Mrs. James (Joanne) Pledger (now known as Joanne Taylor Pledger) wrote an account of the church’s first 100 years. The following is based on her original article for the Opportunity Valley News, plus updated information written for the church’s 125th anniversary in 2004.
The church began in June, 1879, in the old, wooden Orange County Courthouse, 43 years after Green’s Bluff, later Orange, was settled. It is believed Andrew Peddy was the minister who helped most to organize the church. Charter records show as members Mrs. Sarah Finch, Mrs. Jeff Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. Pat Hoard, Fred Richardson, Mr. and Mrs. John Wilson, Mrs. L.L. Bettis, Mrs. A.M. Rogers, Maj. and Mrs. B.H. Norsworthy, Mrs. D.R. Wingate, Mrs. R.B. Russell, Mr. and Mrs. Owen Burton, Mrs. Joseph Wilson and Mrs. H.T. Davis.
Circuit preachers and missionaries who passed through in the early years were Dave Foreman of Big Woods, La., a “Brother Fant” and A.J. Holt. Later, a main sanctuary was built on land owned by Nathan Cordrey, who had been granted the property (in 1841) by Mirabeau Lamar, president of the Republic of Texas. The first building was 40 feet by 60 feet, and had a small room for Sunday school and a tower and church bell. The first pastor was W.H. Eddleman, and the church was called the Orange Baptist Church. Later the name was changed to Green Avenue Baptist Church, the became First Baptist Church of Orange after Green Avenue Baptist merged with Eighth Street Baptist Church.
In 1913, a 10 feet by 100 feet land lot, just west of the original property, was bought from Mr. A.M.H. Stark for $500. Church members hosted fundraisers – such as selling bricks for 15 cents – and bake sales to build “the second most impressive church building” in the city. It took two years to complete the structure. Membership grew during World War I as families moved to Orange to take advantage of shipyard work. In 1921 a new Estey pipe organ arrived to play its first notes. As attendance increased during the ‘20s and ‘30s new parking spaces were constantly in demand, one reason members were so eager to buy surrounding property.
New parsonages and new education building projects were seen in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Cooper Waters D.D. arrived in 1949 and served as pastor until 1980. After he retired, he built handmade swing sets and other crafts out of his shop. In 1952, the church bought more property from Mr. and Mrs. E. Noguess, and in 1958 another education building was dedicated, named after Mrs. Viola (W.E.) McCorquodale. The gym was built in 1959, which would later be used to house Hurricane Katrina victims from New Orleans. In 1972, a new organ was bought from the Schantz Organ Co. of Orrville, Ohio; and in 1978 the sanctuary was rededicated, having been redecorated during the past year. The Family Life Center was dedicated in 1986. The Rev. “Bill” White served as pastor from 1980-90.