Church History

Brief historical sketch of our church

In the fall of 1858, when Fort Madison was a thriving community of twenty years, and boasting a population of 2,000, a rather unusual kind of evangelist, one Morgan Edwards by name, was holding evangelistic services in the Court House and the Presbyterian Church.  He was unusual because of his mode of travel, a rowboat.  As you might know, rail travel was just beginning on a rail line from Veil to Keokuk.  As a result of Rev. Morgan’s meetings, several people were led to accept Christ as their Savior.  Twenty of these converts, sympathetic with Baptist beliefs and practices, met in the home of Charles Brewster and organized the First Baptist Church of Fort Madison.

The first pastor of the Church was Rev. G. J. Johnson of Saint Louis, Missouri.  The meetings of the newly founded church were held alternatively in the Court House and the Presbyterian Church.  On the 27th day of April, 1861, just 13 days after the beginning of the Civil War, the cornerstone was laid for the building of the house of worship, which was used for one hundred and three years.

Outdoor meetings were frequently held in groves of trees nearby the homes of members and friends of the church.

Horses and buggies were the most common ways of getting around and Colporteur (a peddler of religious books) delivered many of the publications used by the new churches and individuals that did not live near an established church.  The Circuit Rider also played an important role in the life of the frontier churches, because as the name implied, they had a circuit of churches to serve.

In 1884, a cyclone struck the church building, causing the steeple to be blown off and a few years later, another storm hit and did further damage.  In the years following this, a parsonage was built next door.

The basement of the Church was used for a public High School with the first class graduating in 1879.

From the year 1952 to 1956, the following physical changes were made:  a new parsonage was built (and later sold), the basement of the church was remodeled, a cement floor was installed there, and the building directly adjacent to the existing property was purchased for an educational unit.

In 1938, a religious survey was made of the Mexican population of Fort Madison, and it was decided to establish the Mexican Mission.  In 1944, lots were secured for the building of a church edifice, which is located at 35th and Avenue O.  The church was known as the Village Baptist Church.  In later years, this building has been used by the community as the Head Start Learning Center.

In 1956, the Church entered into a campaign for the building of a new church.  In August 1959, 2.58 acres of land was purchased at 24th and Avenue C for $25,000 and in August 1963, ground was broken for the construction of the new building.  The building completed, the first service was held on October 4, 1964, with the Dedication Service for the $162,000 sanctuary and educational unit on November 28, 1964.

The original building at 8th and Avenue F was sold to the City of Fort Madison and was demolished by them in order to provide more parking for the city.  A box, which had been placed in the cornerstone when the church was built, was recovered and the contents are on display in the new church building.

Chronological historical summary

1858    Fort Madison, Iowa, had existed for 20 years.  Evangelist Morgan Edwards held services in the courthouse and the Presbyterian Church.  He traveled by boat.  Rev. Edwards’ ministry resulted in many receiving Jesus Christ as savior, and as a result, under the leadership of Charles Brewster, 20 souls organized the First Baptist Church of Fort Madison.

Rev. G. J. Johnson of St. Louis, Missouri was the first pastor.  Services alternated between the courthouse and the Presbyterian Church.

April 27, 1861 (13 days after the Civil War began)    The cornerstone was laid for First Baptist Church at 8th and Avenue F in Fort Madison.  The building was used for 103 years.  Members and friends continued to hold outdoor meetings in groves of trees located near their homes.  Colporteur (peddler of religious books) delivered publications to churches and individuals not located near a church.  This circuit rider played an important role in the early life of the church.

(This building was later sold to the city, which demolished the building to build a parking lot.  A picture of the building is on display in the lounge of the present church.  Also on display in the lobby of the present church are the contents of a box retrieved from the cornerstone.)

1879    The church basement was used for the 1879 high school graduation ceremonies.

1884    A cyclone struck the building, blowing off the steeple.  A few years later another storm caused further damage.

1938    The church decided to establish a Mexican Mission in town because of the Mexican population.

1944    Lots were secured for a church edifice located and 35th and Avenue O.  The Village Baptist Church was created.  Later this building became the Head Start Learning Center.

1952–1956    Church remodeling.  A new parsonage was built, remodeling of the church basement including a cement floor, and an adjacent property was purchased and used for an educational unit.

1956    The church began a building campaign for a new church.

1957    2.58 acres of land was purchased at the current location, 24th and Avenue C.

August 1963    Ground was broken for the new church construction.

October 4, 1964    First Service in the new building.

November 28, 1964    Dedication Service for the $162,000 sanctuary and education unit.

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