First Baptist Church
Serving Christ in Grenada
by J.B. Perry, Jr. (1972)
The first Baptist congregation in Mississippi was organized at Natchez in 1791 when
that area was claimed by Spain. In 1795, by the Treaty of San Lorenzo, this area
became part of the new nation, The United States of America.
It was not until 1817 that the Mississippi Territory was divided into the states
of Mississippi and Alabama, the latter becoming a state in 1818.
There were several treaties with the Choctaw (also Chickasaw) Indians, whereby the
Indians deeded lands to the United States and Mississippi, the last being the Treaty
of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830. From these lands Yalobusha County was formed along
with several other counties.
After this treaty, settlers from the Southeastern Seaboard states literally poured
Grenada became a town on July 4, 1836, by a symbolic marriage of two rival and adjoining
towns, Tullahoma and Pittsburg, these having been established some years earlier.
At about this time a young and educated Baptist minister who had missionary zeal
bought lands near Grenada. He was originally from Currituck County, North Carolina
but organized many churches in the Jackson, Tennessee area.
On June 30, 1838, that James Gatlin Hall, with the assistance of Rev. S.S. Lattimore,
J. Morris, F. Baker, and William Minter organized the First Baptist Church of Grenada
with fifteen members. The following day (Sunday) three additional members were added
by profession of faith and baptism. It was said at this baptismal service that these
three converts were the first Christians to be baptized in the waters of the Yalobusha
Already the Presbyterians and Methodists had congregations in Grenada. It is said,
but there are no written records, that all three congregations in the beginning
used a log "meeting hours" located between Third, Mound, Fourth, and Church streets,
and that is where Church Street got its name.
Baptists began the construction of a church in 1839 and a local newspaper described
it as being one of the prettiest buildings in North Mississippi - the Courthouse
at Holly Springs excepted. It was located at Line, Fourth, and Main Streets.
By 1841, membership had increased to 58 - about double that of 1838. A financial
crisis developed in the United States and work was stopped on the building. Contributions
to Home Missions was $12.00 and Foreign Missions $8.00 that year.
Rev. Hall served the church without remuneration and in 1842, he prevailed upon
the congregation to call a pastor and pay him a salary. Rev. Hall had heard of E.C.
Eager of Swanton, Vermont, who was a missionary in Memphis and went to see him.
The church issued a call to Eager to become pastor at a salary of $300.00 annually.
Eager accepted, came to Grenada, and got work started again on the uncompleted church
Tragedy stuck Grenada on May 7, 1846, in the form of a tornado and destroyed the
church home of which the congregation was so proud, and to the cost of which they
had so sacrificially given.
Baptists seemed to thrive on problems and immediately set about to build a new church.
A lot was bought at the head of Margin Street on Line Street in 1847, where a frame
church home was built. The church continued to prosper until the outbreak of the
Churches were not overlooked by the devastation caused by four years of war and
northern invasion of the South. Ministers of churches fought alongside their brethren,
older ones preached to soldiers in camps and the Grenada Church was without a pastor
from 1861 - 1865. It is said that soldiers stationed at Troy (extinct town west
of Grenada) had headquarters in the Antioch Baptist Church and that they played
poker in it so much they named it "Ante-up" Baptist Church.
Membership in 1861 numbered 142 whites and 26 slaves. There was no growth during
the war nor during the six years of "reconstruction" or military rule by the Northern
In 1867, the church was able to again support a pastor and Reverend Robert S. Ryland
from Richmond, Virginia was pastor from 1867 - 1870. The church once more became
active in God's Kingdom and began to grow. Much of the growth can be attributed
to establishment of a Sunday School.
In 1869, the church had 40 scholars, 7 teachers and 300 volumes in the Sunday School
library. There was no literature as we have today.
Another tragedy was yet to strike Grenada and First Baptist Church. In the fall
of 1878, the dreaded Yellow Fever struck Grenada. Before frost arrived to kill the
mosquitoes, 1,468 people contracted the fever out of an estimated population of
2,000. 367 people died.
In 1877, membership stood at 82 souls and after the fever passed in 1878, showed
a membership of 60, a loss of 26% of its members. Among those lost was Rev. Hall,
the founding pastor, and Rev. H.T. Haddick, the then pastor, who was in Vicksburg
when the fever struck, came back to Grenada to minister to his flock, contracted
the fever, and died within the week of his return.
After every adversity the church came forth stronger than ever, and this was true
of the Yellow Fever Epidemic.
Again First Baptist faced another tragedy, a division over doctrine. In May, 1894,
39 members withdrew to form another church. Membership stood at 178 before the withdrawal
but by 1898, the church had gained new members to replace those who withdrew in
It was in 1888 that the church erected a new house of worship at the corner of Main
and Second Streets and the completion of this church home contributed to a continual
growth of the church. But tragedy struck again, and the night of December 8, 1939,
this building was completely destroyed, only one song book being saved, along with
the "Communion Service" which was at a member's home being cleaned and polished.
Membership was now 964.
The day after the fire, the deacons met to consider rebuilding and voted to purchase
the lot on which the present church stands, and sell the lot where the church had
burned, in order that the church be more centrally located to its membership.