First Baptist Church Celebrates 175 Years After Fire

Photographer: Kasey Strouse

The First Baptist Church of Huntsville commemorated the history and rebuild of the church at their 175th anniversary celebration this past Sunday, Sept. 15.

The church continues to grow after a devastating fire in 1954 that left nothing but the walls of the original building behind.

“I think it was a gas fire on the third floor,” church member Jere McCann said. McCann was 13 years old when she witnessed families carrying as much as they could out of the church. Though it was never officially determined how the fire began, everyone present that day knows how the fire ended.

“I remember crying watching it all,” church member Mary Stiles said. Stiles has attended FBC since she was a baby and was visiting her mother the day of the fire. Several members of FBC remember running into the burning building to save as much as they could.

“Today we are reliving the family history,” chair celebration team member Carolyn Gaines said. The church added on to the remains of the building, and years later the Floyd family donated the church’s steeple.

In honor of Dr. Willis Floyd, who was a professor at Sam Houston State University and a member of FBC, the Floyd children arranged for FBC to have the steeple installed. The original blueprints for the steeple were used during the installation.

“We watched from across the street,” said Gaines. “They pulled the steeple behind a truck from out of state.”

FBC kept the original building and the memories from before the fire. They remodeled the remains of the church and added two new buildings on the property. This anniversary brought back memories for many families of the reconstruction of their church.

“In the 50s, it was the norm to join a church,” Gaines said. “That doesn’t happen much anymore.”

The church is now working towards building their congregation with more college students, similar to the attendance in the past.

The celebration team organized a breakfast buffet for all members and visitors to enjoy before the commencement of the service. The buffet was located in the remodeled section of the original building. They presented a display of photos in a chronological order of the church from before, during and after the fire.

“We come today for our testimony,” Reverend Carrol Williams said. Williams is no longer the Reverend for FBC, however he traveled back in honor of the anniversary. Williams delivered the history of FBC after Kelli Amick performed a solo piece.

The praise team and choir performed before the ringing of Sam Houston’s bell. Sam Houston and his wife attended FBC and donated the bell to the church. The bell is now located outside of the first building.
“To me FBC is just home,” Gaines said. The anniversary was FBC’s way of coming together in honor of their faith and history.

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