History PDF Print Email

FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH

 

NEW BERN, NC

 

Founded May 11, 1809

 

Sanctuary Dedicated July 2, 1848

 

Our church was organized in 1809. This is the second church building (house of worship). It was completed in 1848 and dedicated July 2 of that year. These red brick walls are 18 inches thick. It is the gothic revival style of architecture. One of the founders, Mr. Elijah Clark, went by boat to New York City and obtained a modified plan of a Madison Avenue Baptist Church from the firm of Thomas & Son.

 

It was built at a cost of $12,000. The lot was purchased three years before in 1845 for $1,000. The acoustics are excellent and musicians who come here often mention that fact.

 

This historic building is listed in the national register of historic buildings.

 

This 159-year-old sanctuary has had 2 renovation projects and 1 restoration project. The original sanctuary has side balconies as well as the one in the back. The windows were of clear or opaque glass. The beautiful stenciling on the side and back walls was redone in the recent restoration (1984-1985). It was copied from old pictures, which can be seen in the archives room.

 

The beautiful, fine quality stained glass windows were installed in the early 1900 renovation. The side balconies were removed at the same time. The rose window over the balcony was installed in the 1943 renovation. The baptistery window was installed in the 1984-1985 restoration.

 

The front wall of the original sanctuary was a straight wall where the two side doors are located. The sanctuary was enlarged by extending the choir loft into the old annex. The elevated baptistery was installed behind the choir loft. This was a part of the 1943 renovation. Until that time, the size of the sanctuary had remained unchanged.

 

This historic building has been in constant use except for a period of 3 years during the War Between the States. It was used as a commissary and was occupied by Federal Troops from the spring of 1862 until the summer of 1865. The bell in the belfry was rung to signal guard relief for the Union Soldiers.

 

Even though there was no structural damage during the occupation, church minutes indicated that the sanctuary needed repairing. The front steps were indented by a cannon ball during the Battle of New Bern. This mark was visible until the original brownstone steps were turned and reworked in 1975.

 

The outside structure held up well. In 1975 the brownstone arches over the front door and over some of the windows were replaced. There was not enough brownstone available to replace the worn capstones on the front buttresses. The old mortar in much of the brickwork in the tower was removed and replace.

 

The cast iron fence was erected in September 1892, with money left for that purpose in the will of Mrs. C. E. Patterson.

 

ARCHIVES ROOM

 

The First Baptist Church was organized May 11, 1809 in the home of Elijah Clark by Mr. Clark, Mr. John Brinson and Mrs. Mary Willis Mitchell. The house is located at the junction of Middle and Craven Streets. It is a rare Georgian-style gambrel roofed house. It has been in use as a residence through the years. It was restored in 1970’s.

 

Baptists have been in this area since the early 1700’s. In 1741, Baptists asked for permission to build a church in New Bern. The request was denied. The petitioners were charged with misdemeanor, publicly whipped, and put in jail.

 

The first church building was completed and occupied in 1811. It was a wood box framed structure (see picture) located at the corner of Johnson and Metcalf streets where St. Cyprians Episcopal Church now stands.

 

We have the letter from the U.S. Government returning the church to us after its use by the Union Soldiers. (See framed letter)

 

The old communion service of Britannia ware was used for many years. It consists of the tankard or the flagon, 1 tray or charger, 2 bread plates and 2 cups.

 

The old musical instrument is a harmonica, according to Webster’s Dictionary. It is an instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin, consisting of a series of hemispherical glasses turning on an axis and played by touching the edges with dampened fingers. The family of John N. Washington presented the harmonica to the church. They were members of the church in 1811, when the first church was used for services. Mrs. James Stevenson played it and was accompanied from time to time by Mr. Stevenson, who played violin, and Tom Stevenson, who played cello.

 

The mahogany marble-top table was used for communion.

 

The marble-top pulpit stand was one of the old stands used in the church.

 

The church has been used for many notable functions and meetings. It has had many outstanding men as pastors.

 

When the sanctuary was 100 years old, on Sunday morning, November 7, 1948, the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, worshipped here.

 

Newsletter Sign Up

Name:
Email: