There was no radio or television. The automobile and airplane were yet to be dreams in the minds of aspiring inventors. And in the 20 year old state of Indiana, Terre Haute had progressed from a trading post to not much more than a village considered to be the best place to cross the Wabash River when traveling from Fort Harrison to Indianapolis. Yet on July 9, 1836, a meeting was held in a small brick school house, and from this meeting candidates for church fellowship agreed to become members of a regular Baptist Church. The original nine members were: Samuel H. Sparks, Catherine Sparks, Joseph Cooper, Phoebe Ann Cooper, Henry Thomas, Sarah Thomas, William Stark, Heziah Stark, and Massa Pound. A 1926 history of the church shares, "A membership of nine! Representing five families! The minister, his wife and daughter, and six other members!" "But great faith, marvelous courage, limitless possibilities! Nine instruments in the hands of the Great-Workman!"
Their loyalty and devotion are shown in the wording of their pledge in their articles of constitution. "We, whose names are undersigned, members of regular Baptist Churches, desirous of promoting the glory of God, in maintaining His worship in this place and neighborhood, do agree together to give ourselves –".
Rev. Samuel Sparks was chosen pastor at the first regular meeting of the new church, and one of the first acts of the church under his pastorate was to join Curry’s Prairie Association.
For the first 11 years of its existence, the Baptist Church had regular worship services in the school house. A church building was erected on Fourth Street and occupied for eleven years before being destroyed by a tornado on September 10, 1861.
Determining not to rebuild on the Fourth Street site, a new site was chosen at Sixth and Cherry. With the outbreak of the Civil War, it was more than six years before a building committee was appointed for the purpose of erecting a building. A small brick chapel was used until in 1880 a church building was dedicated. This building was occupied by the church continuously until 1914.
Four times this church followed the example of the brave little band that sent out the nine to found a church east of the city. Those four churches were the Tabernacle Church in 1893 to which 91 members were given; Poplar Street to which 46 members were sent to start in 1907; and within two years, Greenwood in 1907 and Eighth Avenue in 1908. Each time the good will and encouragement, the prayers and blessing of the mother church went with the new organization.
In May of 1914, having outgrown it facilities, the church building was sold and a cornerstone was laid at Sixth and Walnut in October of the same year. This building was dedicated on April 23, 1916.
Foreseeing the need for a larger facility, 8 acres of ground were purchased on East Poplar Street in 1960. An opening service was held at the present site of First Baptist Church on Sunday, April 28, 1968.
But a church is more than mortar and stone, a church is the people of God gathered for worship and service in this community and around the world.
First Baptist Church is a growing church alive with a friendly, caring membership. As the original nine members pledged in their articles of constitution to "promote the glory of God," so still do the members and friends of First Baptist Church strive to maintain this pledge.