Sterling Baptist Church History

By Mary Ann Shepherd

By 1872, there was a post office and a few small buildings on a town site called “Peace.”  This Central Kansas Community continued to grow and in 1876 changed its name to “Sterling.”

Among those early settlers were Baptists by faith who banded together to form a Baptist Church.  Records were not kept for the first Church formed, but in the “Arkansas Valley Baptist Association” minutes of 1878 the following was recorded:  “The Sterling Baptist Church was one of eight new church [sic] received into the Arkansas Valley Baptist Association.
The First written record is dated July, 1885.  It denotes discussion being held between the Medford Baptist Church, south of Arkansas River, and those in the Sterling Baptist Church, concerning the two congregations in becoming one.  A month later, on August 9, 1885, these two groups met again in what was then the Methodist Episcopal Church, on the North West [sic] corner of Eighth and Main Streets.  Each church disbanded and nineteen members from the Medford Baptist Church and 17 members from the Sterling Baptist Church united into one body to be known as the “Regular Baptist Church” of Sterling.  They voted to meet in “halls” until a building could be erected.  At different times they met in halls known as Haight, Fulton, and Magoffin, with rent ranging from $5.00 to $12.00 per month.

At this time James Morris was church clerk;  deacons – Francis Brown, John Guttery, and T. G. Haight;  trustees – P. C. Branch, S. P. Fulton, Ira Stubbs;  moderator – H. L. Millard.

On February 5, 1887 the church elected P. Branch, W. P. Fulton, T. C. Haight, W. D. Mitchell and John Guttery as the building committee.  During the month of April they began making plans for the new building.  W. P. Fulton, a charter member, donated the lot at 7th and Main upon which this first church was erected.  The church held dedication services for their new frame church on April 1, 1888.  The Home Mission Society of Kansas was asked to help finance this early church with $500.00 – $250.00 to be a gift and $250.00 to be a loan.  Later the church repaid this loan.

The church first became incorperated [sic] on May 21, 1887 under the name of the “First Baptist Church” although they called themselves the “Regular Baptist Church.”  On April 21, 1959 the church reincorperated [sic] under the name of “The First Baptist Church.”

In 1914, three lots were purchased East of the Church.  By 1917, with growth in the membership, space seemed inadequate and plans were discussed to enlarge the present building or to construct an entirely new one.  The latter plan was adopted and in the spring of 1923 the old building was demolished and a new brick structure begun.  During the construction of this building, church services were held in the “Brick Presbyterian Church” on the South West [sic] corner of Fifth and Main intersection.

At the time of dedication $14,000.00 had been spent on construction with $3,000.00 of this amount unpaid.  Rev. Howard M. Brown led dedication services on June 7, 1925.  At this service the building debt was oversubscribed, with the Ladies Aid of the church contributing $1,000.00 of this amount.

Deacons at this time were Charles Guttery and V[ernon]. O[ren]. Caywood;  trustees – J. R. Culbertson, Noah Neal, Mrs. F. M. Houston, W. H. Mitchell, and N. C. Gish;  treasurer – Charles Guttery;  clerk – Mrs. J. R. Culbertson;  Church pianist – Edna Watters;  chorister – Mrs. C. R. Asher.  Mrs. F. M. Houston – President of the Ladies Aid and Women’s Mission Society.

Again in 1954, the lack of space prompted an addition to the brick building.  Added were Sunday School rooms, a nursery, choir room, Pastor’s study, and an extension to the sanctuary to accommodate a choir and a new baptistry.  Howard Culbertson chaired the Trustee Board at this time, and his wife, Charlotte, drew the plans for this addition.

Through the remaining years improvements continue to be made.

During the years 1905-06, Rev. Skinner, Pastor, and also a carpenter by trade, took charge of the construction of a parsonage just South of the Church.  Upon its completion all bills were paid.  During 1950 the church purchased a house at 111 North 8th for their parsonage and sold the old one.  The need for a larger parsonage prompted the purchasing of the present one located at 306 East Main, in 1955.


The first Sunday School began November 1, 1885, with Mary Gish, Grandmother of Frances Asher and Blanche Wolhenberg, being the first teacher.

The “Ladies Aid Society” and “Women’s Mission Society” were already active by June 2, 1888.  The ladies served many meals and for years maintained a food stand at the Kansas State Fair to provide financial help for their church.  In 1886, it is noted the women held their first dinner and raised $60.00 for the purpose of helping pay the pastor.  In 1925, they gave $1,000.00 to help pay the debt on the new church building.  Later these two groups became one and are now known as the “American Baptist Women.”

Baptist Young People’s Union came into being in 1891.  A Junior Baptist Youth Fellowship began in 1917 with twenty members and two sponsors, Hurchel Bourgain and Brice Proffitt.

Other organizations included the Men’s Fellowship, World Wide Guild for Girls, Royal Ambassadors for Boys, a Boy Scout Troop, sponsored by Brice Proffitt and Aljoe Watters, and a Fisherman’s Club for men, a visitation evangelism group.

The church is a part of the American Baptist Churches.  It has entertained the Arkansas Valley Association four times, in 1888, 1913, 1928, and 1939.

During the years the church has authorized the liscensing [sic] of seven men to preach the gospel.  They are:  C. L. Daily, 1901;  J. A. Mott, John Guttery, and Frank Stubbs, 1907;  Vernon Hanks, 1927;  Aljoe Watters, 1931;  and James Wood, 1946.  Later C. L. Daily, Vernon Hanks, Aljoe Watters and James Wood were ordained.

Our first Pastor, Rev. H. L. Derr, received a call for a six month period.  The shortest pastorate was Rev. J. F. Black from May 6, 1891 to August of the same year.  The longest pastorate was held by Rev. E. H. H. Tubbs who served from September 1912 to September 1919.  From June 1929 to September 1935, Adrain Schuessler served six years and three months.  On November 14, 1886, Rev. William Wilber accepted a call to the Church at $500.00 per year.

The succession of ministers from Rev. Derr to the call of Rev. David Harader have been 37 in all.  These men furnished the church with leadership that has left its mark on the church, and the community.

A total of 1,317 members have joined this church.  John Guttery is the only Charter member having lineal discendants [sic] now members of this church – a great granddaughter, Mary Ann Shepherd, and a great-great-granddaughter, Mary Shepherd.

Mrs. C. R. Asher, Frances Gish Asher, presently holds the longest continuous membership in this church, since her baptism on March 6, 1911 (67 years).  Those who have over 60 years of membership are Blanche Rose – baptised [sic] December 28, 1913 (almost 65 years);  Howard Culbertson and Helen (Culbertson) Johnson each baptised [sic] on November 28, 1915 (63 years).

The church is now defunct.

17 Jul 2010

Submitted by Scot Stout