FAIRWATER FREE BAPTIST CHURCH
(Fairwater Register, January 1, 1904)
The Old Church
The Freewill Baptist Church of Fairwater, was organized Feb. 2, 1850, in the home of David Newland of Fairwater.
The Organizing Council consisted of Rev. E. N. Wright, Rev. Wm. Mitchell, and Deacon D. Staples.
The following eight persons were charter members: David Newland, Diana Newland, R. M. Hardwood [Harwood?], Sophronia Hardwood, Loring Kibbe, Elmira Hewitt, Nicena Balch, Mrs. French. Rev. Wm. Mitchell was elected pastor pro tem.
At this first meeting Samuel B. Hewitt was received as a candidate for baptism, and was baptised and taken into the church by Rev. Mitchell the following day.
Other members were soon added, and up to the present time over two hundred and fifty persons have been members of this church, although its membership at any one time has rarely, if ever, exceeded fifty.
For a considerable time after organization the church met at the houses of its members, but in January, 1855, the advisability of erecting a house of worship began to be earnestly discussed.
After propositions for a union building had been made to the Close Communion Baptists, and the Methodists, and declined by both, the church decided, as the chronicler of those days records, "to go forward in the strength of Israels God to build a house for His glory."
Work was begun upon the building March 4, 1855, and the completed structure, in that day a commodious and elegant building, was dedicated to the Lord, July 10, 1856, by Prof. Ransom Dunn, of Hillsdale, Mich. The cost of the building was about $1,600, which was readily raised by subscription among the members, and outside friends.
Sometime about 1860 the bell was added to the structure, at a cost of $300.
The meagre records of those early days are full of interest. We see manifested in them the zealous earnestness of the founders of the church. We realize how staunchly they stood for human freedom when we read how members were excluded from the church for pro-slavery sentiments.
In 1861 the church, together with a ministerial council, ordained on e of its members (J. D. Batson) to the Gospel Ministry. Rev. A. C. Hogbin also went into the ministry from this church.
In the spring of 1863 the church voted to proceed to build a parsonage, and the result was the substantial and convenient house, which, with some enlargements and improvements added in 1900, is still regularly occupied by the pastor and his family.
For the succeeding thirty years the records but briefly chronicle the usual doings of the church, with the customary reception of new members, and dismissal, or burial of the departing. But the records of the spring months of 1899 stand out with a glad and sacred prominence, for it was then that Rev. O. H. True, closed his pastorate of this church, and his active work as a Minister of the Gospel, by adding to the church twenty-three members by baptism, thus more than doubling the membership.
During these years, the original church building gradually weakened and fell into an unrepaired and unsuitable condition. Slight repairs were talked of, but gradually it became evident that the old building must either be pactically rebuilt, or wholly replaced by a new one.
The agitation for a new building began to take definite shape in the fall of 1902, was earnestly discussed at the annual meeting, held Feb. 5, 1903, and finally, on Feb. 26, 1903, it was voted to build a new house of worship. As a majority of the members lived in the north part of the village, it was decided to build in that portion, on a site obtained from Josiah Batson. The old building and site were accordingly sold, and work was begun on the new building in May. Unfavorable weather retarded operations somewhat on the start, but the building was practically completed by the middle of October, and if the Manitowoc Seating works had lived up to their contract, could have been dedicated early in November. As it is, we have been compelled to wait about two months for the seats, but the work is now complete, and the ediface will be formally dedicated, Sunday, January 10, 1904
List of Pastors of Fairwater Freewill Baptist Church.Rev. Wm. Mitchell, Elected Pastor at Organization Rev. Warren Whiting
Rev. J. J. Wakefield
Rev. S. F. Smith
Rev. J. S. Letts
Rev. J. D. Van Doren
Rev. W. W. Lee
Rev. W. Joy
Rev. J. P. Hughes
Rev. J. J. Hull
Rev. W. K. Jackson
Rev. O. H. True
Rev. J. W. Haggerty
Rev. B. Wood
Rev. G. C. Alborn
The New Church
The dimensions of the building above are 48x30 feet. The height of the peak of main roof from the ground is 32 feet, and the height of the tower from the ground is 51 feet. The basement is divided into three rooms, furnace and fuel room, small kitchen, with cupboard room and cistern, and church parlor in the west part which is about 27 feet square, less the room taken out by basement stairs.
The main audience room is about 29x35 feet, with floor slanting towards the pulpit in the south east corner, six feet of east end being raised for choir platform. Prayer Meeting room west of main room and south of entrance, 11x18 feet, opens into main room. Vestibule about 11 feet square has stairs leading into main and prayer meeting rooms and down into basement. Inside finish is maple for floor and stairs, the balance is unselected birch, oil finished, the walls being tinted and stencilled in selected designs. The pews are circular of solid, golden oak, rub finish, having ends nicely carved and gothic panels. The circular pews will seat about 130, the small room about 40, while by utilizing all available space 200 or possibly more can be accommodated on the main floor. The church is provided with a baptistryback of the pulpit. The windows are opalescent and Venetian glass leaded with designs and emblems, those in the main room being memorial windows and those in the prayer meeting room presented and paid for outside of general fund. As all bills have not been presented and paid we cannot an exact estimate of cost, but it will approximate $3000, or perhaps a little over that amount.
The lot on which the building stands contains about one acre outside of the road, and as it has a frontage of over 15 rods it leaves a suitable place for parsonage building south of the church, should the Society in the future wish a new building.