History of First Baptist Church, Grenada, Mississippi

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 into Mississippi.

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 River.

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 home.

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 Civil War.

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 Army.

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.

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. (circa 1910)

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 1894.

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.

Cornerstone

Funds were raised and construction began in 1940, and the building accepted January 22, 1941.

By 1948, membership reached 1,413, and the Sunday School enrollment 948 with 528 average attendance, and need for more buildings were obvious. The church budget included money each year for an additional building, and there was $13,000 in the fund when Dr. J.W. Landrum accepted the Pastorate.

Plans were made for raising additional funds and for a new building, which was accomplished, and groundbreaking ceremonies were held Sunday, July 5, 1953.