BRIEF HISTORY OF FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF SEVILLE, OHIO
From “175 YEARS OF CHURCH HISTORY…”
“Standing there in the midst of the primeval forest, which seemed to be rejoicing in the glory of mid-summer, and gazing up and down the two streams whose waters went babbling and rippling on their way, with none save the denizens of the forest to hear, and listening to the songs of wild birds with which the forest seemed to be filled, I thought I had indeed found the paradise for which I had longed, and for which I had dreamed.”
Thus wrote a young man in his diary, who had journeyed from Connecticut on foot, to find the object of his dreams. The spot where he stood that day was in the valley of the Chippewa, a short distance west of the bridge on Center Street, that now spans Hubbard Creek, just about in the center of what is now our little village of Seville, established in 1816. Here is where Henry Hosmer chose to make his future home. There were Indians still living in their villages when he settled here.
Three Christian churches served Seville as the village grew: The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1826. The earliest record of the Presbyterian Church is 1831. The Baptist church was established in 1838. The Constitution and Articles of Faith of First Baptist Church, originally called The Baptist Church in Guilford”, were adopted.
Preamble to the Constitution By-Laws (1838)
After mature consideration and convention upon the subject before us, the people of the Baptist Denomination in Guilford met this day, June 15, 1838, according to previous appointment to organize themselves into a church of the same order. After hearing the exorcises of the mind from the first operations of the Spirit of God upon the heart, until they found relief in Christ.
As in the Providence of God, members of the professed disciples of the Lord Jesus have been drawn together in this place from different parts of Zion, and from different church connections, and feeling it to be a most solemn duty, as well as a delightful privilege to erect the standard of truth, to support the ministry of reconciliation, and administering the ordinances of the Gospel, we associate and covenant together in the bond of Christian fellowship under the name of “The Baptist Church in Guilford,” and for the information of the Christian public and of the world…”
A call for a Council of sister Churches was sent to surrounding villages, which convened August 22, 1838, in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Guilford, by which name the village was then called, and after a simple order of exercises, the church was recognized as “The Guilford Baptist Church.” It is said, the first sermon preached in Seville was by Rev. Rufus Freeman. It was preached in a log cabin near the south-west corner of the square.
The members of this early church were limited in their means, and the question of having a regular Meeting House of their own was quite a problem. There was no home large enough to accommodate the congregation, and they worshipped in a log school house, for which they paid five dollars a year rent; one dollar and a quarter every three months.
In March of 1842 the church was incorporated and a building committee was appointed to furnish a “church of our own.” The finished building was dedicated on January 29, 1845 “to God’s work”. Several renovations and additions have occurred since. Notably, 1885 when the East Room was added and the basement finished for a dining room. In 1953, extensive repairs to the brick siding, the roof and steeple were made. And, in 1991 the members purchased the property immediately south of the building and constructed an addition larger than the original building while maintaining the architecture of the original structure.
At the Annual Meeting in 1840, three trustees, a clerk and treasurer are elected by vote. In June of 1842 the church united with the Rocky River Association, which later became the Cleveland Association. In May, 1919, owing to the decision of the Cleveland City churches to form as association of their own, the church joined the Akron Association and is still associated with the Akron Area Association of American Baptist Churches.
In 1847 the first missionary offering was collected. It amounted to $48.97 for Foreign and $15.00 for Home Missions. The Women’s Mission Society, now known as American Baptist Women’s Ministries (ABWM), began more organized mission outreach in 1938. Work to serve missionaries around the world as well as local mission endeavors have continued to this day.
In 1854, a bell was purchased, and hung in the belfry, and the same tones ring out today over the town and country-side, calling the people to worship. One of the prescribed duties of the janitor, was to ring the bell at appointed times. Evidently the bell in the Baptist steeple was the only one in the village, for the church was often asked to toll the bell at the death of one of the village residents.
First Baptist Church has the distinction of having the world’s only married giants as members. Captain Martin VanBuren Bates and Anna Bates, active in the church from 1877 to 1888.
In 1888 a decision was made to celebrate the Semi-Centennial of the church. This was carried out in a two-day program, September 4th & 5th, 1888. In 1890 a purchase of thirty-four dollars worth of books was made and a Sunday School library was established. From time to time new books, and books from private libraries were added, until there was a list of very acceptable books, and these were eagerly read by both young and old in the church.
In 1856, the ladies of the church held an Oyster Supper with returns of $89.50, from which $22.50 was paid on the balance due on an organ. This is the first time any kind of musical instrument was noted. Previously the “tuning fork” must have been used to “set” the tunes. A fire in 1914, caused by an acetylene light explosion damaged the church greatly, destroying books, furniture, and the organ. A Vocalion was quickly purchased and used until the pipe organ was installed in the fall of 1918. A new console was installed in 1938 and the entire 98-year-old organ received a complete renovation in 2016.
There were 15 Charter Members in 1838. There have been forty-seven full-time pastors and several part-time pastors leading the church from 1838 to the present. In 2013, the 175TH anniversary of the church was celebrated with an open house, special services and dinner.