The fields are ripe and harvest waiting. In the 1700’s and 1800’s in wilderness North Carolina this was sum and substance of Baptist mission. First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock, North Carolina came to be in 1903, due in part to the determined missionary efforts of early Baptists. Our Baptist ancestors wanted to go up every river, cross every ridge, ride up every valley to tell the old, old story.
Our church in Blowing Rock had its genesis in the mid-1700’s because some people in South Carolina told some people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that a Baptist minister was needed in the rough country of western North Carolina.
About 1756 the South Carolina Baptist Association “discussed the destitution along the Yadkin River” according to a 1940 article in the Three Forks Baptist Association centennial session booklet. They passed a resolution requesting the Philadelphia Baptist Association to send a preacher to the fourteen settlements along the Yadkin River, whose region was generally accepted to include all territory near the river’s watershed from North Wilkesboro to the South Carolina border. In our mountainous area of northwestern North Carolina was a settlement known as Three Forks Settlement.
The Philadelphia Baptist Association did send a preacher, Reverend John Gano, who arrived in North Carolina on horseback six weeks after he left Pennsylvania. Rev. Gano traveled and preached in the settlements.
In 1790 fourteen (14) Baptist churches in the territory organized themselves into the Yadkin Association. Church members from the Three Forks Settlement were present as messengers at this organizational meeting, according to old minutes from the Yadkin Association. This association covered the territory from Salisbury, NC to what is now Mountain City, TN, taking in areas of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
At that 1790 organizational meeting the Yadkin Association petitioned the Virginia Baptist Association for the right to organize their own association. The Virginia Baptist Association was considered to be the entity from whom they needed to seek permission to form.
In the years following, two more divisions of territory occurred—the Mountain District Association was formed out of the Yadkin Association and finally, the Three Forks Baptist Association was formed out of the Mountain District Association.
The oldest Baptist church in our association is Three Forks Baptist Church, organized in 1790. The other original members of our local association were Ebenezer, Three Forks of the North Fork, South Fork, Old Field, Roan’s Creek, Pine Grove and Cove Creek (organized in 1799). When the Three Forks Baptist Association was formed in 1841 there were 470 Baptist church members in our area and eight preachers.
The Three Forks Baptist Association is still the local denominational organization to which First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock is affiliated. Our church has been the host church for the Three Forks Association annual meeting three times—in 1969, 1977 and 1993.
Why is this management ancestry of significance to First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock? Our church formed out of the commitment and drive of these regional Baptist Associations to spread the Gospel message to the mountains. Our church, at its charter meeting in 1903, had in its attendance three prominent Baptist church organizers in our area, Rev. J.J.L. Sherwood, Rev. J.M. Payne and Rev. I.W. Thomas, who was our church’s first pastor. These three men were listed in the 1940 Three Forks Association centennial history as having served as pastors at more than 20 different times in area churches.
Determined commitment to “The Great Commission of Christ” was evident in the early days of our Baptist ancestors here in the mountains, as many new churches were started despite the hardships. The associational minutes of 1874 show that Elder D.B. Brown, as missionary, preached 70 sermons, made 12 addresses and baptized 16 people. He traveled 591 miles and received a salary of $56.00. In 1877, the report shows that Elder J.W. Hall spent 110 days traveling 1220 miles in the mission work and received a salary of $32.00.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Sherwood, Payne and Thomas were heavily involved in helping start and/or serving as pastor to local churches in the Three Forks Association, according to their records. It was common in those days for churches to have an annual call for their minister. Some ministers would serve one year at a church and then be called to go to another church in the association.
On October 7, 1903, three months after First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock was formed, 1 ¼ acres was purchased on Main and Broad Streets for the new church building. The land sale was negotiated by our church trustees, J.B. Clarke, J M. Hodges and J.E. Greene, who agreed to pay $500 to the sellers, W.I. Henderson and wife, Ora T., of Mecklenburg County, and L.E. Shaw and wife, Bettie T., of Scotland County.
On Saturday, July 11, 1903 in Blowing Rock the Pastors; J.J.L. Sherwood, J.M. Payne and I.W. Thomas met with our charter members to form First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock, then called Blowing Rock Baptist Church. J.M. Payne acted as moderator and I.W. Thomas acted as secretary during this meeting. Those 12 charter members were Mrs. Emma Austin Greene, Mrs. Jane Benfield, Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Hodges(J.M. and Sallie), Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Brown(Jefferson Davis and Etta Sudderth Brown), Mrs. Exie Lentz, Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Greene(J.E. and Kizzie), Mrs. John Edmisten, Mr. J.A. Edmisten and Mrs. Artie Peoples.
Our first pastor, I.W. Thomas, is listed in association records as having served two other churches, Gap Creek Church and South Fork Baptist Church—dates of service unknown. Rev. Thomas, who had served as Superintendent of Schools from 1885-1891, earned a salary of $60.00 as our church’s first pastor. He is reported to have been from Lenoir, NC and was once described in a newspaper article in The Blowing Rocket as a “long-time seasonal resident”.
The very next month Blowing Rock Baptist Church joined the Three Forks Association in the annual association meeting on August 25, 1903 at Zion Hill Baptist Church. Our church messengers were Enzor Greene and J.D. Brown. The following was reported from our church: $0.50 for the minute fund, and other objects $5.14.
This hierarchy of Baptist regional territorial identification was important to the spread of our faith, since it facilitated mission agenda, a strong component of Baptist tradition. Those men and women of God, involved in starting, nurturing and growing churches in specific North Carolina regions in the 1700’s and 1800’s, used the associational system (1) to bond each local church’s progress to each other, (2) to share personnel resources among churches, (3) to collect small donations from many churches, pool these funds and use them for mission work locally and regionally, (4) to utilize local, experienced mission and church workers to help new churches begin and grow, (5) to distribute denominational literature, (6) to train Sunday School teachers and ministers, (7) to uplift individual church efforts, (8) to identify areas ripe for new church growth and (9) to facilitate state association financial assistance to local churches. First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock was not among the early churches in our region. However, the early Baptist churches in our region, through the administrative support of the Three Forks Baptist Association, sent experienced personnel to Blowing Rock to help our church’s founding members begin a new church in the summer of 1903.
By that August associational meeting we had already increased by five members since forming about six weeks prior. We now had a total of 17 members, six males and eleven females. After induction into the Three Forks Association, a motion was made by to hear a letter from W. R. Gwaltney of Hickory, NC, asking for aid for Blowing Rock Baptist Church. One year later the association minutes record that aid was given to construct a church building and the State Mission Board supplemented a portion of the pastor’s salary.
Services were held in the little red Blowing Rock Public School near the area now called Broyhill Park until a church was built. The old Blowing Rock Public School House remained at that site until the early 1920’s when a real estate developer came to town and started Mayview Subdivision. The developer wanted a lake built at the entry to the subdivision, so the old school house was demolished. Wade Brown, youngest son of charter member J.D. and Etta Brown, recalled his experience of driving a mule team as a young boy working on the construction of the dam, “There were about 30 teams of mules making a big circle, filling up a sled with dirt and then dumping it in the gorge.”
The church created an “outdoor baptistery” near the site of the old schoolhouse by building a wooden baptismal vat close to a spring. It was located near the current site of the Blowing Rock Municipal Pool and may have been used from the time of its construction until the second church was built on Main Street in the early 1920’s (which had an indoor baptistery). The outdoor baptistery had entry steps leading up to the top edge and then steps inside the wooden baptistery leading down into the water. The water level was about waist high when filled. In the early days our new church members were baptized in cool, spring-fed mountain water. Wade Brown of Boone, NC recalled his own baptism there in vivid detail in a June, 2003 interview, “I was baptized in March and it was COLD!”
First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock was not among the early churches in our region. However, the early Baptist churches in our region, through the administrative support of the Three Forks Baptist Association, sent experienced personnel to Blowing Rock to help our church’s founding members begin a new church in the summer of 1903.
On October 7, 1903, three months after First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock was formed, 1 ¼ acres was purchased on Main and Broad Streets for the new church building. The land sale was negotiated by our church trustees, J.B. Clarke, J M. Hodges and J.E. Greene, who agreed to pay $500 to the sellers, W.I. Henderson and wife, Ora T., of Mecklenburg County, and L.E. Shaw and wife, Bettie T., of Scotland County.
$275 was paid by the Blowing Rock brethren toward the purchase of the site on Main Street. Benevolent gifts and monetary assistance from local and state associations, as well as continued support from church members, helped complete the balance needed to purchase the property and also provided funds to construct the church.
In that first year the lot was purchased and the framework put up, but the building was not closed in and winter was near. Major items were needed to enclose the building—lumber for exterior siding, a roof, windows, doors. An offering was received totaling $3.17. Elder J.J.L. Sherwood donated $5.00 to the church.
In 1904 the following financial report was presented to the Association from Blowing Rock Church: Minute Fund - $0.50, Pastor’s Salary - $50.00, Building and Repairs - $63.87, State Missions - $1.32, Home Missions - $1.50, Foreign Missions - $1.67, Orphanage - $2.38, Old Minister’s Relief - $0.52.
Around our first year’s anniversary it was reported that more members had been added by letter for a total of 23: 9 males and 14 females.
The report to the Three Forks Association in 1905 stated the church house had been roofed, enclosed and floored. The doors and windows were in and the exterior painting had begun. The total amount of collections was $867.67 of which $338.83 was reported from special offerings. It was in this year that our church recorded the first death of a church member.
On July 20, 1905, just after the second anniversary of our church, an announcement appeared in the local Watauga newspaper:
“The Baptist Church at Blowing Rock is very grateful to any and all who have contributed to help erect their house of worship, but just now, they are especially grateful to Messrs. Moses H. Cone and Caesar Cone for the money with which to seat their church; also to Mr. Stringfellow for substantial help. These gentlemen have done nobly.”
I.W. Thomas, Pastor
The church building was nearly complete in 1906. The outside painting was completed and the pulpit and seats were installed. Yet to be completed was the interior painting. The church reported owing about $150.00 on the house and lot, with expenditures to date totaling around $1,200.00. According to a statement from the minutes, “This burden has been borne nobly as we are told to assist each other in love.”
In 1906 the Sunday School enrollment increased to 53. Total expenses were listed at $5.52. J.D. Brown was the Sunday School Superintendent.
Six years after purchasing the lot on Main Street a joyous announcement was recorded in 1909 when it was stated in the records that the “house has been completed two years with contributions from brethren, sisters, and friends and all obligations paid.” This statement could be interpreted as construction completed in 1907 and all construction debt paid by 1909.
The first building was a one-room, wood frame construction, painted white. Homemade wooden benches provided seating and a center-standing, wood-burning stove provided warmth. It has been reported in our local newspaper that Blowing Rock Church was the first church in town to hold services year-round in the early 1900’s and to sponsor regular Sunday School prior to World War II. Sunday School classes were sectioned off in the one and only room by pulling curtains suspended by wire from the four perimeter walls toward the center of the room, stopping some distance away from the wood-burning stove in the winter.
The first church on Main Street sat back from the street and was not as close to Main Street as the current building. Behind the church stood an old maple tree to which horses were hitched. It was recalled by Wade Brown that the second church built on this site(now Vintner’s Restaurant) was actually built in front of this one room church. Mrs. Alma (Lloyd) Robbins remembered “union Sunday School” in those first years of the one room church, “Each church in town had a Sunday service. The Baptists were the first Sunday of the month. If the weather was cold—and our church was warm—Mr. Tufts at the Presbyterian Church preached at our church or Mr. Savage from the Episcopal church or Mr. Walters from the Methodist church. The Methodists already had year-round church here then.” (The Methodist church predates the Baptist Church by a few years since it was constructed in the summer of 1903 which was the year our church had just formed, according to July, 1903 Watauga Democrat news briefs.)
Mrs. Robbins, in her written description of our early church, states, “We had union Sunday School quarterlies. The summer people and the whole town came to one Sunday School. We had Sunday School teachers from other churches. Many wonderful people shaped our lives: Mrs. Luda (D.P.) Coffey, Mrs. Sallie (J.M.) Hodges, Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Brown(J.D. and Etta), Mrs. Annie (Tom) Coffey, Mrs. Pendley and Mrs. Laura Holshouser.”
Wade Brown, who was born in 1907 in Blowing Rock, reminisces about his family’s involvement with Blowing Rock Baptist Church, “I thought my father was the church. He would leave an hour before the rest of us and walk two miles to church from our home(where Alpen Acres Motel is now). He would start the fire in the wood stove and make sure everything was ready for church. He was superintendent of Sunday School and Chairman of the Deacons and served as Clerk. He would introduce the preacher and sit down front.
When the service was over, the visiting preacher always came to our house for Sunday dinner. The chickens would be killed on Saturday, but my mother would still go to church on Sunday and then have a huge meal after church. My mother would load a long table with all kinds of delicious food and we children could not eat until all the adults finished—I can remember walking around on the porch and looking in the windows at this very long table, filled with food, with the preacher there and other guests. My mother and my sisters were Sunday School teachers and were very active in the WMU. My father would teach us at night from the Bible. Our whole life was the church—there was no separation between how we lived every day and the teachings from church.”
In August, 1913 a Woman’s Missionary Union was formed at our church with 21 members. Miss Rose Edna Brown, daughter of charter members J.D. and Etta Brown, served as president. She was elected vice-president of the Three Forks Association WMU at their 1913 charter meeting. Blowing Rock, along with Boone and Cove Creek, were the charter members of the WMU in our area. Miss Rose Edna Brown was elected president of the association WMU the following year. Blowing Rock’s WMU provided strength, vitality and commitment to missions through the years. The WMU of these three churches contributed $188.61 toward missions their first year. In 1939 the total given to missions from 432 WMU members in 17 churches was $624.14.
According to the 1940 Three Forks Association report on the WMU, “Besides the gifts to missions and boxes to missionaries, hospitals and orphanages, the women have done much work in their own churches, communities and Association, always taking their share of the work in labor and gifts.” A significant achievement in the history of our Three Forks Association WMU was their creation of the D.D. Dougherty Memorial Library in 1930 at First Baptist Church of Boone which came to hold 500 books to be used to stimulate the study of missions.
Many women through the years have been active in WMU at First Baptist of Blowing Rock. Our WMU helped other churches in our Three Forks Association start their own WMU, particularly during the leadership years of Mrs. Etta Brown, Miss Rose Edna Brown (Garvey) and Mrs. D.P. Coffey. The Women’s Missionary Union at First Baptist of Blowing Rock, in their 90th year, continues to meet monthly and to contribute, through prayer, encouragement, labor and gifts, to church mission projects and to send offerings to Annie Armstrong Fund, Lottie Moon Offering, Baptist Childrens’ Homes, World Missions and many other projects God leads our WMU to assist.
In 1913 a Sunbeam Band, a child ministry program for ages 4-5, was also organized in Blowing Rock Church. Only Blowing Rock and Boone had Sunbeam Bands. In Sunbeam, the forerunner for G.A. and R.A., little children learned Bible lessons and sang together. That year the total enrollment for the two churches was 116 in Sunbeam.
In 1917 our church voted to form a “field” with Cove Creek Baptist Church and Boone First Baptist Church with M.A. Adams serving as pastor for all three churches. Pastor Adams would live in Boone and serve the Boone church two Sundays a month, Cove Creek one Sunday and Blowing Rock one Sunday. Later Boone First Baptist Church withdrew from the arrangement in order to have a ¾ time field. The pastor who took over the Cove Creek and Blowing Rock services lived in Cove Creek. This continued for some time.
The original one-room church was used until 1923. Some buildings in town were destroyed by a fire in the early 1920’s. Wade Brown recalls fire did not destroy the old church. The congregation needed a larger facility and chose to build in front of the one room church. A new church building was erected on the same Main Street lot in 1923 and dedicated in 1924. This building still stands today, operating currently as Vintner’s Restaurant.
The second church building on Main Street today retains many of its original features and was included in a study of significant architecture of Watauga County done in the 1990’s, the final report being archived in The Appalachian Collection at Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Even back in the early 1920’s the design of our Baptist church on Main Street was unique to our area. The floor plan formed a cross. All wings of the church opened to the center, round sanctuary—round because, as one church member is reported to have said, it left the devil no quarter to hide in. The pulpit and the pews were designed to complement the circular interior. The wings housed seven Sunday School classes, a sanctuary and, for the first time, an indoor baptistery. Each of the Sunday School classes was on a raised floor—when there was a crowd and additional seating was needed, the church design permitted the unusually wide doors to all Sunday School rooms surrounding the sanctuary to be opened fully so the overflow could be seated facing the pulpit and still be part of the worship service. The church seated 200.
The new Blowing Rock Church cost $17,000 to build. Reverend F.M. Huggins was the pastor during the building program. D.P. Coffey, one of Blowing Rock’s mayors, served the church as Treasurer from about the time of the second church on Main Street for the next 25 years. He relinquished his responsibilities in the early 1950’s due to ill health. Mrs. Gaynell Jones became treasurer and served capably for over 20 years.
In 1940 the pastor for Blowing Rock Church was paid $157.65. That year other expense items and donations were reported as follows: Ministerial Help and Supply - $39.87, Building and Repairs - $2.25, Incidentals - $47.10, Literature for Sunday School, Baptist Training Union and WMU - $72.88, Theological Seminary - $3.70, Orphanage - $19.76, Hospitals - $3.38. Our WMU contributed $175.24 to mission work in 1940 under the leadership of Mrs. J.M. Hodges as president.
Blowing Rock continued to grow, as did our church membership. By 1940 our church had a Sunday School enrollment of 115, with an average attendance reported of 75. Church membership was 183. The church met on the second and fourth Sundays. Forty-four (44) were reported in Baptist Training Union and 16 Daily Bible Readers were listed under our church Training Union director, Mrs. D.P.(Luda) Coffey. Mrs. Coffey also taught the Ladies Sunday School Class for over 25 years.
At the One-Hundredth Meeting of the Three Forks Baptist Association, held in August, 1940 at Three Forks Baptist Church local attorney Wade Brown, chairman of the executive committee, rang the One-Hundredth Session in to order. Mr. Brown, who grew up at Blowing Rock Baptist Church along with his eight brothers and sisters, remained active in church his entire life. He and his family, stalwart members at First Baptist of Boone for decades, were major contributors to our church’s grand piano fund in 1990. The plaque above our sanctuary piano denotes the contributions of the J.D. and Etta Sudderth Brown family, as well as the many other contributors, toward our grand piano purchase.
Our church called its first full time pastor in 1941, Rev. William Gerald. Rev. Gerald earned $800 a year, part of which was paid by the State Mission Board that first year. He supplemented his salary by working for Jesse Burns at the grocery store on Main Street. He, his wife and small daughter, Libby, lived in a rental house on Maple Street. Pastoral aid was sent to our church from the State Mission Board until 1941 when it ceased.
The home of W.L. Robbins was purchased by Blowing Rock Baptist Church for its first parsonage on December 2, 1943 for about $4,000. The house was located at the corner of Yonahlossee Road (Highway 221) and Morningside Drive. The following pastors and their families lived in the church parsonage: Rev. Ben Lee Ray, 1943-47; Rev. Oscar Harris, 1947-50; Rev. J. L. Thomas, 1950-52; Rev. E. P. Carter, 1952-53; Rev. Carlton Cox, 1953-61; Rev. George Hyler, 1962-72. Dr. Robert Newton, our next minister, rented a house for a while until he bought a home on Ski Mountain. From this time forward our church had the option to negotiate a housing allowance with our minister instead of providing a parsonage.
The parsonage was sold. The house was known in the last part of the twentieth century as “Sid Greene’s home”. It was demolished in 2001 due to house fire.
While Rev. Ray was at Blowing Rock in the late 1940’s a “preacher’s school”, organized to give area pastors a week of intensive study, was held at Mayview Manor annex. Our church’s first electric organ was purchased during Rev. Ray’s pastorate.
Harvest Day, one of the most significant and much-anticipated gatherings in our congregation, first was celebrated on October 3, 1955 while Rev. G. Carlton Cox was pastor of First Baptist Church. Following Biblical tradition, our church wanted to bring the fruits of our summer labor and dedicate them to God in October. The special offering taken on Harvest Day was originally used to help pay the church expenses through the cold winter months, when attendance was lower than in the summer and when heating bills were higher. The first Harvest Day offering was $1,300.00.
Mrs. Carol Coffey, a faithful, lifelong member, will never forget the first Harvest Day, “I was getting the picnic lunch on the table and, when we were almost ready to have the blessing of the food, our younger son fell out of one of the large maple trees in the church yard and broke his arm. Paul and I rushed him to the hospital and most of the people didn’t know anything about the accident until later in the afternoon.” She adds, “In spite of this beginning, Harvest Day continues to be one of the most memorable days in our church life.”
Harvest Day is still observed by our church and treasured by everyone. Each year we await the beautiful site of our altar, tumbling over with the bounty of gardens and kitchen preserves. It is a time when we bid farewell to our seasonal friends and members. We rejoice in God’s goodness and fellowship with each other during dinner on the grounds.
Offerings given on this day continue to be used for church needs. At Harvest Day 2000 our church desperately needed to replace our unreliable church van. On that day a major portion of the purchase price was contributed, allowing us to replace our worn, old church van with a new, 17-passenger church bus. Our 2001 church bus was purchased for $45,930 on January 17, 2001.
Beginning about 1948 one of the nation’s most respected religious leaders, Dr. Morris Lazaron, a Blowing Rock summer resident of the Jewish faith, directed a series of religious plays which were performed at our Main Street location. Area ministers and lay people comprised the casts in these memorable productions.
Each year, as soon as school closed for the summer, members of First Baptist Church made plans for Vacation Bible School. The children looked forward to all the activities of Bible study, music, games and refreshments each day. For several years Mrs. Joseph Cannon, our church’s special guest for Vacation Bible School, told Bible stories to the children using fascinating paintings created especially by her artist for each Bible story. As Mrs. Cannon intricately described each Bible lesson, she manipulated beautiful felt characters on the paintings, much to the captivation of her young listeners. Mrs. Cannon continued this unforgettable custom for years until her health failed.
Oftentimes Vacation Bible School in Blowing Rock was a co-operative effort among several churches in our village. The location rotated annually from church to church, with folks from several churches joining in to provide a community-wide Vacation Bible School. All workers from the various denominations stood unified in their belief children can have fun while they learn in church and children need to know Jesus especially loves them.
It has been written in an August, 1959 newspaper article about our church history in The Journal (Blowing Rock) that Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Brown came from Boone Fork Baptist Church (where it was stated he served as deacon) to Blowing Rock Baptist Church. However, in the 1940 centennial history of Three Forks Association the Browns are listed as being active in two churches, Shulls Mills Baptist Church in the late 1800’s and at Flat Top Baptist Church prior to that. No mention is made about the Browns’ connection to Boone Fork Church in that 1940 associational history. The remaining ten charter members came from Flat Top Baptist Church, according to several accounts.
Rev. I.W. Thomas was called as pastor. The first deacons were J.D. Brown(previous deacon at Shulls Mills Baptist church), John Edmisten(previous deacon at Flat Top Baptist Church) and Enzor Greene (previous deacon at Flat Top Baptist Church). J.D. Brown was elected clerk.
Meetings were held one Sunday a month, both morning and night services, in the public school house.
By the early 1960’s it was evident our church could no longer stay at the unique building on Main Street. More space was needed. In a May 5, 1963 church business meeting our church, by a 41-26 secret ballot, passed a motion to relocate our church to another site. In the same meeting the church approved an offering price of $12,500 for our current location, the corner of Sunset Drive and Ransom Street. Two parcels were purchased from the following owners, Ernest and Helen Banner, D.C. Coffey, Jr. and wife, Lura, and Mrs. Charles F. Brown, for $15,000 and $7,000 for a purchase price of $22,000.
Again, unusual architecture was selected for the new First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock. Under the leadership of Rev. George Hyler, property was purchased, plans approved, funds raised, construction completed and the church dedicated. The new sanctuary, characterized by very contemporary church design, featured a stunningly high-pitched roofline, soaring vaulted spaces accented with massive curving beams, tongue and groove ceiling and a prominent, stained-glass prow front. Its architecture became a signature for the church and a noted landmark in our area.
Acknowledging the effect of the seasonal population in our mountain resort village, the members of our church included summer and winter sanctuaries in the church design. The light-filled, summer sanctuary seated 360. The winter sanctuary, the Broyhill Chapel, seated 160 and was reflective of the same style used in the main sanctuary—similar exterior elevation, stained glass front, vaulted ceilings. The educational facility seated 200. A single-story wing housing offices, Sunday School rooms and a fellowship hall connected the sanctuary and the chapel. This prudent plan permitted enough seating in the sanctuary during warm summer months for a larger congregation and efficient use of heat during winter in the smaller chapel.
The cost of the new church was $300,000, including land purchase, construction and outfitting the interior. This structure had been in the planning and construction stages for six years under the strong guidance of a building committee led by Rev. George Hyler.
The first service was held in Broyhill Chapel on April 7, 1968. The Broyhill Family of Lenoir were special supporters of our church and our expansion program. Because Ed and Satie Hunt Broyhill, Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Broyhill, John and Paul Broyhill were major benefactors to the building campaign for First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock the winter chapel was named in their honor. Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Broyhill were instrumental in the beautification of the church after it was completed. They funded the landscaping, as well as interior decorating items. Mr. J.E. Broyhill served as honorary chair of the building committee.
Susan Coffey (Mrs. Albert Coffey) was first to join our church at its new location on June 2, 1968. Carol Johnson was first to be married in Broyhill Chapel on July 10, 1968. The first funeral service held at our new church was for Charles Greene on September 7, 1968.
The last charter member of our church, Mrs. J. M. Sallie) Hodges, died in 1977 at the age of 102.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s the Town of Blowing Rock experienced a surge in growth, particularly in families with young children. Our church mirrored that trend. Families were relocating to Blowing Rock based on quality of life issues—good educational system from kindergarten to university, clean and beautiful environment, security and safety, low population density, year-round outdoor recreation and an investment-style real estate market.
In the winter of 1983, through the generosity of members of the church family, the mortgage was paid in full. During the July 10, 1984 morning worship service, the note was burned.
In 1991 the church called Rev. C. Don Rogers, a young pastor with four school-aged children. Rev. Rogers, who began his pastorate in February, 1992, helped steer the church to include active ministry to families with young children, particularly in the church’s decision to create a Child Development Center, to remodel the church interior which had not changed since 1968, to hire a full time youth director and to purchase adjoining property for church expansion. Our church strengthened and increased during the 1990’s.
The Child Development Center was created in October, 1992 to fill the great need for full time Christian child care for ages 3-5 in our community. Joyce Stines, church member and former director of the Lucy Brock Child Development Center at Appalachian State University, served as chair of the CDC board. Church members volunteered to remodel or build items necessary for our CDC to pass the rigorous demands of North Carolina day care licensure. Over the last ten years many church members have donated time, skills, labor, money and materials for the continuance and growth of the CDC. There are currently 21 children in the CDC who are lovingly taught by two full-time and two part-time teachers.
In 1993 our church hired it first full-time youth director, Mrs. Rhonda Gailes. The church’s ministry to young people from pre-kindergarten to college expanded rapidly.
In August, 1994 our church launched a $210,000 “Building on Faith” goal which covered necessary additions and funded complete renovations to the church, including conversion of the Broyhill Chapel, our winter chapel, into a much-needed large fellowship hall; created a baby nursery; added more Sunday School rooms; added a handicapped accessible bathroom; created an enclosed entry; expanded the Child Development Center; created a youth activities room with office for youth director; updated the heating system; re-carpeted the church; painted interior and exterior and other refurbishments. Halfway through the three year campaign, our church had funded $216,000, paying for all improvements.
On January 5, 1999 our church purchased the adjoining house and lot on Ransom Street from Juanita Tobin’s family to prepare for potential expansion. The purchase price was $125,000. The mortgage was paid off April 5, 2001. It is upon this site the three story educational building will be constructed.
Another noteworthy characteristic of our congregation is our church’s willingness to disregard age or gender when appointing members to Christian leadership positions. First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock ordained its first female deacon, Mrs. Mary Penn, in the 1973-74 church fiscal year. She was the first deaconess ordained in the Three Forks Association. It is widely held by many here at First Baptist that, as a Baptist deaconess, she was among the first ordained in North Carolina. During the 1970’s and 1980’s First Baptist of Blowing Rock ordained two more women to serve as deacons, Mrs. Carol Coffey (1978) and Mrs. Shirley Tuttle (1981). Mrs. Carol Coffey was still an active member in our church until her passing in 2012. Mrs. Tuttle moved away to Beaufort, SC about 20 years ago and has also served her church there as a deacon.
Our church appoints ushers, both male and female, of all ages from middle school to senior citizen to serve our congregation in worship.
On April 1, 2001 Dr. Marshall Edwards, preached his first sermon at First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock. Dr. Edwards, who had fallen in love with Blowing Rock years ago, would visit our church on vacation from his own church in Columbia, SC. In July of 2000, when Rev. Rogers accepted a call from a Louisville, KY church and moved his family there, Dr. Edwards had just “retired” from the ministry and was living his dream of owning a home in Blowing Rock. At that time Dr. Edwards was looking forward to spending time traveling, studying and speaking at seminars and conferences. He offered to be a guest minister for a Sunday service if our church ever needed a speaker. Our church did schedule him to be a guest speaker for several services while our search committee was hard at work reviewing resumes. After our church heard Dr. Edwards speak, no other candidate, out of the many who applied, would do.
Under Dr. Edwards’ leadership, the church grew by leaps and bounds. By 2003, First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock had 347 members. The church had three full-time and eleven part-time employees on staff. Approximately 100 attend Sunday morning Bible Study year-round, with several classes held in other locations around town due to increased Sunday School participation. The attendance during worship service averaged 300 in 2003 sometimes reaching over 400 during the summer months.
On July 13, 2003, the church celebrated 100 years as church— Twelve people joined together in Blowing Rock on July 11, 1903 to be church together---to support each other in Christ’s name---to lovingly give to the broken, the lost, the downtrodden, the orphans---to provide Christian haven for their children---to know God and to make God known. One hundred years later it is still important to go up every river, cross every ridge and ride up every valley to tell the old, old story.
During Dr. Edwards leadership the church underwent a building program with plans to expand education and office space and expand the sanctuary, adding a new narthex and entrance. The church raised close to 300,000. towards that goal and in 2004 the sanctuary expansion and the narthex were completed adding additional seating and a new enclosed entrance. Dr. Edwards officially retired in July of 2004.
In February 2005 Dr. Scott Courtney was named Pastor and brought a renewed commitment and passion for mission work to the church. During his tenure Dr. Courtney led the church on several mission trips and disaster relief efforts. He resigned in 2006 to continue his ministry with Hospice in the high country.
In January of 2007, the church voted and approved to start a new contemporary service to begin at 8:45 and meet in the fellowship hall. This service was to be an outreach to our growing college ministry and young adults.
In July 2007 the church called Rusty Guenther to be Pastor. Rev. Guenther brought a renewed passion for reaching young adults and families as well as expanding our ministries with an eye for the future. With an emphasis on small groups, Sunday school and total church involvement the church has experienced renewed growth in every age group. By 2009 the early service had outgrown the fellowship hall and our Sunday school classes were out of space.
In 2010 the church voted to move the contemporary service into the worship center and start a second Sunday School hour, giving us room to grow and allowing for more diversity in our small groups. In January 2011 the new schedule began with our contemporary service starting at 9:30 as well as our traditional Sunday school classes and our children’s church, “The Summit”. At 11:00 we have our traditional worship service with small groups meeting in our education wing. Both services continue to grow as we reach out to our community.
Blowing Rock is a unique community with our summer residences, locals, and tourist, as well as college students from nearby Appalachian State University. As we continue to strive to meet the needs of our community and reach each of these groups we hope to become a true community of believers and a place where all can belong, believe and become who God has called and created them to be.
In over 100 years of ministry the vision and purpose of FBC Blowing Rock has never changed. We remain a place of grace, mercy, healing and ministry. We remain dedicated to the call of “knowing Him, and making Him known”. We are a place where the “good news” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not only proclaimed, but lived out every day.
History & Research Acknowledgements
This history was compiled by researching and reviewing the extensive newspaper clippings, church bulletins, personal logs and notes, pictures and event summaries maintained and documented over many years by the late Mrs. Carol Coffey. Without her meticulous record-keeping, this extensive centennial history would not have been possible. The late Mrs. Mary Penn, in her diligent cataloging of information for years, kept accurate church records which provided important pictures and facts.
Acknowledgements are also gratefully extended to the following for their documentation of the history of our church and for their assistance in verification of facts: Lisa Abernathy, Buzz Berry, Rev. Frances “Pug” Greene who confirmed the list of church pastors and service dates; Larry Houk, Lynn Pitts Lawrence, Marie Moody, Betsy Pitts Payne, Jane Penley, Betty Pitts, Valesia Powers, Roger Robertson, Virginia Stacks, Joyce Stines, Hersel Story, Ruby Walters; Wade Brown who published his memoirs Wade Edward Brown, Recollections and Reflections in 1997 and granted an interview June, 2003; Rev. A. J. Greene who wrote the centennial history of the Three Forks Association in 1940; Mrs. Alma Robbins’ written statement about our early church; Mrs. Carol Coffey who wrote the church history for our 75th anniversary in 1978 and Earl Greene who wrote a history of First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock for the Three Forks Association in 1993.