First Church Here Formed By Baptists

Below is an excerpt from “A Standard History of the Hanging Rock Iron Region” by Eugene Willard:

The Baptists were the pioneers in church matters holding services at and near the mouth of Storms Creek nearly forty years before the Town of Ironton was platted and over twenty years before the Presbyterians organized near Pine Grove Furnace. They so long held the local field as a denomination that an extended account of the First Baptist Church is presented from the pen of Mrs KV Henry, representing one of the oldest and most prominent of the families which have so long supported the organization which now stands for a membership of over four hundred and many good works. In the year 1811, she says Rev John Lee, relative of the famous General Robert Lee, came from Virginia with his family, a wife and five daughters, and bought a farm near the mouth of Storms creek. He, with other Baptists who had settled on farms along the river in the community, cut logs and built a large log church house on the river side of the road near the present Storms creek bridge. Rev Lee assisted by Rev Eli Bennett and Rev John Kelley, organized a church in this log house in 1812 calling it the Storms Creek Baptist Church. They chose Rev Lee for pastor who served until his death 1839. The following is a partial list of the charter members: Rev John Lee and wife, Peter Lionbarger and wife, John K Smith and wife, Brice Henry and wife, Morris Henry and wife, Joseph Brammer and wife, Isaac Henry, Sarah Henry, Jesse Sherman, Mary Kelley, James Henry Jr ,John Lionbarger, Pehmie Golden, James Kelley and wife, George Neff and wife, James Henry and wife, Martha Yingling. At the first meeting of the Ohio Association held at Tigert’s Creek, Ky., Aug. 18, 1821, the church numbered 36 members. In the early history of the church, Revs Felix Ellison and Wm Fuston rendered excellent service in many ways, especially along missionary lines. Just one hundred years ago this Sept 7th, 1914, Luther Rice, who had accompanied Adoniram Judson to the foreign field, returned and preached in this church in his effort to raise funds for the support of Judson. He found a ready response many of the members giving liberally Rev John Lee alone giving $100 which in that day was a princely sum. About 1820, the banks of the river washed away to such an extent that the log church had to be abandoned and a frame church was built just across the road and the church reorganized with about 33 members. Around the old church was a grave yard which also washed away and many of the bodies were removed to Woodland. In 1839, Rev JM Kelley was licensed to preach and in 1840 he was ordained and chosen pastor of the church. He was married the same year by Rev John Kelley to Sarah Ann Baccus who still survives him at the age of ninety two. In the early days of the church they were very strict in discipline. They brought members before the church who failed to contribute to the support of the church and if any two members had the slightest trouble or the smallest offense or grievance or the slightest intoxication of a member they were brought before the church and required to make it right before they could sit at the Lord s table.

In 1854 the present brick church was erected corner of Fifth and Vernon Streets, and reorganized with 156 members, the name being changed to the First Baptist Church of Ironton, Ohio, with Rev JM Kelley as pastor. In 1851, he had been chosen moderator of the Ohio Association and was re elected to that office until his death. During his life he traveled many many miles to preach in the country churches. The beginning of the Bible School was a union school held in the first school house erected in Ironton. When other churches built houses of worship they all started Bible Schools and the First Baptist church organized their school in 1847 or 1848. During all these years so far as can be ascertained there has gone out from the First Baptist church but one young man into the ministry namely Rev Jas M Kelley. One young woman has gone to the foreign field as a missionary namely Mrs Mary Wolfe Lewis in October 1902, who is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Jas T Wolfe. She is now engaged in missionary work in China. This church claims the honor of being instrumental in establishing the Lorain St Church. In 1902 a Bible School was organized in the school house and in 1903 the church house was built and dedicated and the church organized with about twelve members, choosing Rev TF Carey as their pastor. Mr Jas T Wolfe always manifested a great interest in the Bible School and church and did much to promote the enterprise. The following is a list of the regular pastors who have served the church .A number of supplies have filled in between: In 1812, Rev John Lee; 1840 Rev JM Kelley; 1855 Rev Geo E Leonard who afterward served the State Convention as Secretary for so long; 1860 Rev GW Gates; 1864 Rev Joseph Sharp; 1865 Rev BF Ashley a man of rare gifts. He had associated with him some laymen strong and true such men as D Phillips, WD Henry, DK Burket, deacons and others with E Bixby church clerk. It was during his pastorate that the auditorium was finished and dedicated.

In 1870 came Rev GW Taylor; 1871 Rev PP Kennedy. It was not until in this period of the church’s history, 1872, that the church voted to have the organ used in public worship. In 1877, Rev JA Kirkpatrick; 1879 Rev WW Whitcomb; 1881 Rev HA Summeral; 1884 Rev TC Probert; 1887 Rev JH Roberts; 1888 Rev M Roberts; 1889 Rev Noah Harper; 1894 Rev EV Pierce. It was during Rev Pierce’s pastorate the auditorium was remodeled and dedicated with many pleasing features he being assisted by Rev JM Kelley and others. In 1900 Rev Henry Brandt was chosen; 1907 Rev VL Stonell; 1908 Rev US Knox; 1909 Rev SE Davies. In this pastorate the present parsonage was purchased; 1914 Rev Chas E Griffin/ It was during this last year that the greatest ingathering to the membership has occurred in the history of the church namely 174. Of this number 135 came in after the union meeting conducted by Dr WE Biederwolf. The first Sunday in June 81 new members received the hand of fellowship which was an inspiring sight. On the 26th day of June 1914, the lightning struck the steeple of the church tearing away the large copper ball which had stood the storms for sixty years. This ball was made in the tin shop of Duke & Kingsbury in 1854 when finished it was proudly carried to the church by two young men: Charles Kingsbury and Elbert Duke.

For forty years, the Baptists were the only religious body in what is now the city of Ironton. Many have been the struggles anxieties and tears and today we have entered into the labors of those who have gone before.

The above article puts the location of this Church at the later site of the Ironton/Union Furnace.

First Baptist Church is now located at 304 South 5th Street and at http://www.fbcironton.org