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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  38 - Eau Claire Churches

First Baptist Church

(-as transcribed from pages 513 - 515)
 

This church was organized March 31, 1861, by Rev. A. B. Green and six members. Mr. Green was the pastor until November 30, 1862, when he accepted the chaplaincy of the Thirtieth Wisconsin Regiment. He was succeeded in October, 1863, by Rev. Alexander Hamilton, and through the untiring perseverance of this pastor sufficient funds were raised and a church building was erected. He was followed by the Rev. J. Y. Aitchison May 1, 1868, who served two years, and then Rev. A. A. Drown for a like period. The Rev. D. C. Adams was called in August, 1872, and also filled the pulpit two years. On June 30, 1874, Rev. R. Telford took charge for three years, when Rev. J. Y. Aitchison was recalled August 1, 1878, to serve a further term of three years, when he was succeeded by Rev. W. A. McKillop. During his term of nine years a second edifice was erected and was dedicated May 6, 1888, two memorial windows being placed within it for Rev. A. B. Green, the founder, and for Rev. Alexander Hamilton.

After Rev. W. A. McKillop's departure to Milwaukee, a call was extended to Rev. J. B Reynolds, of Kansas, who served as pastor of the church only eleven months, April, 1893, to March, 1894. In June of 1894 a unanimous call was extended to Rev. Arthur C. Kempton, a Canadian by birth, and then a young man of only twenty-three years of age. Mr. Kempton was a graduate of Arcadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where he received his A M., and also of Rochester Theological Seminary, Rochester, N. Y. Coming directly from his graduation, he was ordained shortly after his arrival in Eau Claire. His pastorate extended over a period of three and one-half years. Six months of this time were spent on a trip to the Holy Land and Egypt on leave of absence granted him by the church. His was undoubtedly the most brilliant pastorate in the history of the church. During his first year, 128 were received into membership, a debt of nearly $1,000 wiped out, and the balance in the treasury reported. During his three-years' ministry 300 additions to the membership were reported, seven Sunday Schools were maintained and Bethel Chapel was erected at a cost of $3,000. When Mr. Kempton resigned in December, 1897, he left the Eau Claire church with the largest membership of any Baptist church in the state.

In January, 1898, a call was extended to Rev. Perry W. Longfellow, of Grand Forks, N. D. During his pastorate of nearly three years, he led the church efficiently and wisely, resigning in September, 1901, to accept another Wisconsin pastorate. In November of the same year Rev. F. W. Hatch, of New York, was called to the pastorate. He was a graduate of the Rochester Theological Seminary, coming as a young man in the thirties. He proved himself a gentleman of the finest type and endeared himself to the people through his sweetness of spirit. It was during his pastorate that the parsonage next to the church building was erected. Fifteen hundred dollars of the cost price was the gift of Ms. John F. Stone, while the remainder was raised by subscription from among the members. Mr. Hatch resigned in September, 1905, to accept a call at Beloit, Wis. There was an interim of a little more than one year before the next pastorate began. This was due to the fact that the church called Rev. Edward Babcock, of New York, to the pastorate, and because of illness he was unable to take the charge until September, 1906. Mr. Babcock was a Colgate man, and Eau Claire was his second pastorate. It covered a period of five years. It was during this pastorate that the money raised for current expenses and benevolence exceeded that of any other pastorate before or since. It was a notable fact that not once during his five years did the church come to the end of the year with a deficit in any department. Mr. Babcock's great ability in financial lines was shown in his undertaking to raise money for a new church building. Through great perseverance and overcoming many discouragements he succeeded in raising nearly $25,000 towards this end. It must be said that $8,000 of the amount was the gift of one person, Mrs. Truax, and the reason for her great generosity was because  of the wonderful work accomplished by Mr. Babcock along Sunday School lines. Having made a study for years of psychology and child study as applied to Sunday School methods, Mr. Babcock made the Bible School one of the noted schools of the state. The "Babcock Class" of young men grew until with a membership of 150 it took its place as one of the great classes of young men in the world. The Sunday School became the largest in the state and a new building became imperative. Leaving nearly $25,000 in hand toward a new building, Mr. Babcock resigned in October, 1911, to accept a call to the historic Park Church, of Utica, N. Y.

January 1, 1912, Rev. George R. Stair, of Vermont, assumed the pastorate. Mr. Stair was formerly associated with Chapman, the evangelist. But perhaps the qualifications which seemed most desirable to the church at the time was his ability as a builder and contractor. Having been engaged in the work during his early manhood, he was well fitted to plan and superintend the erection of the new building. The money being on hand, ground was broken as soon as practicable in the spring after his arrival, and the building pushed to completion. The architecture, after the Greek Temple order, is very beautiful, and the building as it stands today is a monument to the architectural ability of Mr. Stair, the financial enterprise of Mr. Babcock and the sacrifices of many who, by their individual gifts, helped make it possible. In March, 1914, after a pastorate of little more than two years, Mr. Stair resigned to go to Portland, Maine. On May 1, 1914, Dr. C. E. Hemans, of North Dakota, assumed charge of the pastorate. Through his pulpit ability and general efficiency he is proving a worthy successor to his predecessor.

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