Our Church History

History of First Baptist Church of Brownsdale

1856 — In the spring of 1856, Rev. Milo Frary came from Connecticut to settle in Brownsdale and held regular services in the school for two or three years, asking for little compensation. When his wife died he returned to Connecticut. Mrs. Frary is buried in the North West Cemetery; where the Browns, the founders of Brownsdale are buried.

1867 — On May 26, 1867, a small group of people, feeling the need for a church here, organized a Baptist church with the help of Rev. Parker, a minister of Austin Baptist Church, by adopting the Articles of Faith and a Church Covenant.

1869 — A resolution was passed that the name of the church be, “the First Baptist Church of Brownsdale”.

The land for the church site was donated by A.D. and H.A. Brown, the founders of Brownsdale. It was the present site at the corner of Oak and Main Streets.

1870 — The First Baptist Church of Brownsdale was erected by J.B. Graves at a total cost of $3,000 with the dimensions of 30 by 54 feet.

Because this was the only church building in Brownsdale and many wanted to rent the building, a resolution was passed in December 1874, that all evangelical denominations pay $2.50 for the use of the church, that all townspeople pay $2.50, that all parties outside Brownsdale pay $5, and that the use of the church for funerals shall be free to all, and that the above rates shall be reduced when the building was paid for

1874-1877 — No regular services were held in the church for several years.

1877 — The Baptists sold the church to the Congregational Society for $1,250; receiving enough money to clear their indebtedness, and taking a mortgage for the balance. From then until 1882, the work seemed to be at a standstill.

1882 — The church was revived at a second organizational meeting held at A.H. Marsh’s drug store. New officers were elected and the church was revived. Meetings were held in the A.H. Marsh Store.

cropped-20170520_072207.jpg1883 — On January 1, 1883, the Congregational Society; finding themselves unable to meet their obligations, relinquished all claim on the building; and the Baptists had a building in which to worship. Rev C.D. Belden became pastor and did much to revive the little church.

1887 — 27 new pews were put in at a cost of $180.

1889 — Cork was put on the floors and this remained through the years, until it was replaced in the mid 1960’s. Also, sheds were built for the horses and the ladies made cushions for the pews. A church library was opened.

1891 — A Young People’s Society was organized.

1892 — Rev. Stadtfeldt felt the need of a church bell. Mary Graves, daughter of the builder of the church, started a subscription to buy a bell but was called home to Glory before the bell was installed. In her honor, her name in inscribed on it. The inscription reads; “I to the Church the living Call and to the Grave do Summon All”.

1894 — It was a memorable day when Mrs. Amos Colby drove her team, Tony and Pet, on a sleigh, to Austin, accompanied by Mrs. Emma Quimby and Mrs. Jennie Smith, and brought home the pulpit that Rev. Belden had presented to the church and three large pulpit chairs that the ladies had bought. Mrs. Amos Colby was the great-great-grandmother of DuWayne Skov and Bernice Tara. Mrs. Emma Quimby was the sister of Jud Thompson and she and her husband had a newspaper in town for a while. The pulpit these ladies brought back from Austin, is the same one we gave to our Camp at Bass Lake when we remodeled in the 60’s. It has since been returned to us, has been refinished, and now is in the foyer holding our guest book on most Sunday’s.

The baptistery was installed. Before that many members were baptized in the little stream north of Brownsdale and in the river at Lansing.

1894 — The church voted to buy the  A.J. Hunt residence for a parsonage. This parsonage was located across the street from the church and cost $700. This house was next door east of the Fawver Rest Home and has since been torn down.

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1914 — Stained glass windows were put in the building, many were given and dedicated by members of the church.  

1916 — New electric lights were put in to replace the old gas lights.

1920’s — During Rev. Volkenant’s service, a Rev. Butler held evangelistic services for three weeks. Crowds from Brownsdale and the surrounding towns filled the church to overflowing, Children sat on the floor up in front and people looked in at the windows. One hundred and twelve accepted Jesus as Savior and there was a picture taken of all the converts. Twenty two were baptized and joined this church.

1924 — The congregation undertook to put a basement under the church; and in August of that year, there was much rejoicing as they dedicated the much needed basement to the Lord’s work.

1930 — Daily Vacation Bible School was started.

1931 — The parsonage was sold. Rev. Wesley Howland was called as pastor, and under his ministry youth work flourished. There was a band led by Rev. Collins of Oakland that filled the choir loft. Rev. Howland had a great tenor voice and when he was here for the centennial observance, we asked him why he did not sing when he pastored here. His reply was that there was so much talent here that his was not needed. He pastored here during the depression days, when money was scarce. One member gave him a car to drive, another gave him a cow to milk. Other people in the congregation gave him feed for the cow. Offerings got down to nothing. One morning there was a nickel in the offering plate; two Sundays there was nothing. The deacons went out to get what they could for him.

1935 — On December 6, 1935, the church severed relations with the Northern Baptist Convention and the Southeastern Association, to join with the General  Association of Regular Baptist.

1938 — During Roy Boldt’s ministry, 180 people joined in the celebration of the 71st Anniversary of the church.

1939 — The second parsonage, one block west and two blocks south of the church was bought for $1,800.

1941 — When Rev. Boldt left here, he went into the armed services as a chaplain.

1945 — During Rev. Taylor’s ministry, the tin ceiling and the papered walls were covered with nu-wood blocks and fluorescent light fixtures were put in to brighten the interior of the church.

1950-1954 — During the pastorate of Rev. Oscar Smith, a constitution was drawn up and accepted. Tragedy struck when the Smith’s daughter, Nina, was stricken with polio. The church became a prayer band for her. There was joy also when 90 year old Tom Jensen was saved and asked for baptism by immersion. Tom was the harness maker and shoe cobbler in Brownsdale.

Over the years, Lansing River has been used for baptism. One of the remembrances was when a crowd went from church to baptize. Men changed their clothes in the timber and ladies held up blankets for the women to change to their baptismal clothes and to change back again into their dry clothes.

1955 — Rev. and Mrs. Frank Peterson accepted our call to be our pastor; and served in that capacity from 1955 to 1967, when they retired. Our present baptistry was installed during the fall of 1955. Eldred Oudekirk and the boys welded it, loaded it on a truck and when they got to the church, set planks from the truck bed to the porch of the church and slid it in. Because of the need for Sunday School room as well as chapel room, the Lord led the church into a major building project, a 24 by 32 foot addition, with full basement, was added to the west side of the church at an approximate cost of $10,000.

A constitution was drawn up and accepted. A second Missionary Society was started and a new automatic oil furnace was installed.

1959 — The second parsonage was sold and a new one was built one block north of the church at a cost of about $15,000.

1960’s — In the early 1960’s, we felt a need to update our sanctuary and at that time, put in new woodwork, doors, new pews, new carpeting and bought a new piano. The cork floor was taken up and covered with plywood. On one Sunday morning the young ladies and some of the older ones too had their heels go through the hollow parts of the plywood. This was in the days of spike heels. It was then decided to cover the plywood with Masonite and then the carpeting was installed.

1967 — In April 1967, we observed our 100th birthday. Five of our former pastors were still living and all five came with their wives to help us observe our anniversary and to bring us messages. Rev. Taylor organized the music and four of the pastors formed a quartet for the formal centennial service. That evening, about supper time, a tornado came through Brownsdale, touching down at the stockyards on the southwest edge of town, going  by Grandma Pick’s, lifting up over Mert Jensen’s, moving a house off its foundation to the north of them, and going on up the street, taking off parts of roofs as it went. We arrived at church that night and saw everyone standing outside in front of the church. This was the first that we knew that there was a tornado. Those who came to church that night stayed with the Peterson’s at the parsonage, listening to a battery operated radio until the all clear was given. It was a great and memorable day in many ways.

1967 — In August 1967, Pastor Edward Corbett accepted the call to pastor here. During his ministry, the church kitchen was updated.

1972 — The basement walls were covered with paneling and the ceiling with new tile.

1973 — Our sanctuary and overflow room were texture painted and carpeted, as was the back room, and entry.

1975 — In August 1975, Pastor Robert Yauch, accepted our call for a pastor. We once again felt the need for more room, and added a pastor’s study, a nursery, more classrooms, and more storage.

1976 — On November 17, 1976, construction was started with the removal of the dirt from in front of the church. As the work progressed, men of the church brought tractors, loaders, trucks and other equipment to haul away what was torn down and not reusable. The bell and the upper tower were taken down.

1991 — The main entrance was moved to the east side of the entrance with the bell tower above.

1998 — A handicap lift was added onto the west side of the building.

2000 — A new garage was built at the parsonage.

2016 — In June 2016 the church hosted the “Red Rock Revival” in Brownsdale.  it was the first tent revival held in the area in over 80 years. It was a two day event with area southern gospel musical groups and preaching by Evangelist Robbie Black. Many area residents heard the Gospel message in song and Word.

Spreading the Gospel message has always been a goal of the church. In the early years Cornelius and Mary (Heikes) Klaasen, Frank and Ann (Risius) Clingman, Mrs. Paul (Zella Rush) Hendricks, Charles Whitaker, Frank Peterson, Elvon Nelson and Ira Howden, Rev and Mrs. Norman Skogerbo, Reg and Ilene (Shawback) Santos, and John and Blanche Peterson went to the mission field. Others who were raised or heard the word from this church and went to serve him were Robert and Sandra Pick going to Liberia, Bernice (Ballanger) Tara to Ghana, Julie (Davis) Wipperman to Utah, Rick and Elaine (Jensen) Fessel to Germany, Randy and Lisa (Davis) Young to Brazil and Togo. Jim Jensen and Marlene (Johnson) Heinz worked in Christian schools while Alan Pick represents the Shepherd’s Home Ministry in Wisconsin.

Supporting missions has and remains a major goal of the church and a large part of the financial budget is used in this way. Currently we help four couples who serve in Brazil, Peru, Ghana, and in colleges in the U.S. as well as many who are retired.

God has blessed richly!

Our Pastors

Rev. H.I. Parker………………………….. 1867 Aug-Nov

Rev. N.W. Whittemor…………………….1867-1868

Rev. H.I. Parker……………………………1869-1871

Rev. Thomas Weaver……………………1871-1874

    Sold to Congregational Church…… 1877-1883

Rev. C.D. Belden………………………… 1883-1887

Rev. W.J. Sanborn………………………. 1889-1890

Rev. M. Stadtfelt…………………………. 1891-1893

Rev. McMinnis……………………………. 1893-1894

Rev. E. Williams…………………………. 1894-1895

Rev. M.B. Critchell………………………. 1895-1897

Rev. S.A. Middleton…………………….. 1899-1900

Rev. N.J. Lee……………………………… 1901-1903

Rev. J.G. Johnson………………………. 1903-1904

Rev. A.L. Holden…………………………. 1904-1905

Rev. T. Friselle……………………………. 1906-1909

Rev. J.M. Gilpin………………………….. 1909-1911

Rev. W. Welsh……………………………. 1911-1915

Rev. B.E. Rifenburg…………………….. 1915-1916

Rev. W. Cross…………………………….. 1916-1917

Rev. F.W. Weniger………………………..1917-1921

Rev. E. Volkenant…………………………1921-1923

Rev. I. Odefard…………………………….1923-1926

Rev. John Hines…………………………..1926-1931

Rev. Wesley Howland………………….. 1931-1937

Rev. Roy Boldt……………………………. 1937-1941

Rev. John Taylor…………………………. 1941-1946

Rev. Mahlon Pegors……………………..1946-1950

Rev. Oscar Smith………………………… 1950-1954

Rev. Frank Peterson……………………. 1955-1967

Pastor Edward Corbett………………… 1968-1973

Pastor David Bennett………………….. 1974-1975

Rev. Robert Yauch………………………. 1975-1985

Pastor James Leonard ……………….. 1985-1986

Pastor Dennis Marx…………………….. 1987-1996

Pastor Jerry Harris……………………… 1997-2008

Pastor Kraig Elliott………………………. 2009-2013

Pastor Ken Petzold…………………….. 2013-2018

Pastor Ben Simons…………………….. 2018-present