History of Santa Rosa County, A King's County

by M. Luther King. Used with permission.

CHURCH HISTORY OF SANTA ROSA COUNTY
MILTON BAPTIST CHURCH

(These are notes from an original printing of the minutes of the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association held in the Milligan Baptist Church, Santa Rosa County, Florida, September 30, October 1-3, 1897, together with notes from a compilation of the previous ten years of history of the association. These minutes were examined by me as the property of Mr. W. D. Robertson, attorney, Milton.)

Ordained ministers of the association:

W. F. Arnette, Holt
J. D. Beck, Pensacola
W. D. Bell, Warrington
I. L. Taylor, Milton
William Edwards, Milligan
J. E. Holley, Crestview
A. P. Pugh, Pensacola
J. W. Senterfitt, Holt
Henry Kierce, Pensacola (great uncle of Steiner Kierce of Milton)
Licentiates:
W. E. Phillips, Milton
J. T. Mapoles, Milligan (grandfather of Clayton Mapoles of Milton)
N. B. Parker, Pensacola
R. H. Littlefield, Holt
Executive Board:
Paul Gray, Chairman, Pensacola
L. M. Rhoda, Secretary, Milton
E. B. Lovelace, Treasurer, Willigan
John Ronloff, Pensacola
J. E. Williams, Pensacola
The following churches were listed as members of the association with the date of constitution of the church as given:

Church

Date

Place

Bethel

Holt

Beulah

Pensacola

Canoe

1877

Holt-Milligan

Crestview

Damascus

Crestview

Dogwood Grove

1888

Holt-Milton

East Bay

1891

Holley

Ebenezer

Bethel

Magnolia

1891

Crestview-Bethel

Milton

1847

Milton

Milligan

1854

Milligan

Mount Pleasant

1892

Lillian

New Hope

1890

Holt

Oak Grove

Pensacola -- First

1851

Pensacola

Philadelphia

1889

Pilgrim's Rest

Pleasant Grove

1869

Providence

1895

Milton

Shady Grove

1888

Cora

Spring Hill

Milton

Union Hill

1875

Pensacola

Whitmire's

Yellow River

1842

Oak Grove

(The following was contributed by a member of the First Baptist Church.)

Very little is known of the early history of the church now known as the First Baptist Church of Milton, Florida because the first record was lost. "However, in 1847, shortly after Rev. Travis organized a Baptist Church in Pensacola, he, with true missionary zeal, began to survey the surrounding territory and was led to come to Milton, where he organized this church.

The record begins with March 18 ' 1897. The pastor was the Rev. 1. L. Taylor who served the Crestview church, too.

The Pensacola church which was organized by Rev. Travis is now The First Baptist Church of Pensacola, and its present pastor is Rev. James L. Pleitz.

The church adopted Articles of Faith, Church Covenant, and Rules of Order on March 2, 1898. It had difficulty (largely financial) surviving during the early days.

This church was a member of Pensacola Bay Association until the latter part of 1912, and a member of the Smyrna Association until 1915 when the new Santa Rosa Baptist Association was formed. The church is still a member of this association.

The oldest church letter on record was for the year 1899 to the Pensacola Bay Association, and it showed 14 males and 40 females on the roll and a Sunday School with 6 officers and teachers and 68 pupils. Dr. C. 0. Chum was the Sunday School Superintendent.

It was a custom during those days to call a pastor for twelve months ' and also to prefer charges of unchristian conduct against offending members. They were visited by a committee from the church and if they would not mend their erring ways, the church would withdraw fellowship from them. After one's name was withdrawn from the church roll, it took much proof of repentance before the party was reinstated, so much that it became a chronic condition. In 1898 one member was taken off the church roll for signing a whiskey petition.

The church in conference on March 14, 1909, passed the following resolution: "Resolved that we, the Missionary Baptist Church of Milton do hold that any member of this church who uses his or her influence by signing or in any other way encouraging the restoration of the whiskey traffic in Santa Rosa County is guilty of unchristian conduct and shall be dealt with by the church as such.,'

The first church building was where the Episcopal Parish House is now located and it was later moved to the present site but was nearer the corner of the lot. It was used until it was sold in 1912. The Masonic Hall was then rented until the present building was completed in 1914. This building was later turned from facing Canal Street to its present location in 1938. Later the building was raised and a basement added to take care of the growing Sunday School.*

The first mission of the church was started in Bagdad, and it organized as a church on February 10, 1918, and shared the First Baptist Church pastor on a half-time basis until 1929, when both churches received full-time pastors.

As far back as 1897, the church ordered the pastor to preach on missions once each quarter, and also to take up a collection for missions once each month. The pastor's salary then was $250.00 per year for half time, and they had to appoint a committee to solicit funds to pay the pastor's salary quite often, because the church was behind financially.

In 1899 the church decided on the envelope plan to raise the pastor's salary. Apparently it was not a success because it was supplemented with moonlight excursions and ice cream suppers.

follows: $50.00 on current expenses; $137.00 to pastor; $2.16 to state missions; $28.01 to association missions; $5.00 to foreign missions; $1.00 to aged ministers; $106.10 to ministerial education; $2.50 for minutes of the association; and $12.30 for associational purposes. The Ladies' Aid Society contributed $112.10.

The pledges of the church to the association at this time were to be one collection for each of the mission projects mentioned in the above paragraph. The messengers to the association that year were: -L. M. Rhoda, Miss Daisy Chum, C. 0. Chum, Mrs. M. E. Chum, W. A. Mills, Mrs. S. C. Guinn, G. W. Curtis, Mrs. Peppy, and Miss Millie Anglin.

This method of distribution was soon abandoned for the cooperative program, a method by which a set amount is sent by each church and distributed by the state for the different causes.

The church nearly passed out of existence from 1900 to 1903 when it was revived by Rev. J. W. Senterfit on a half-time basis at $20.00 per month. He did such a good job that it went on full time November 20, 1904, when Rev. A. J. Abbott was called at $35.00 a month. It was more than they could pay so they got the State Board of Missions to lend them $200.00 to pay the pastor, and they decreased their pastoral services to a half-time basis the next year at $25.00 per month.

During this decade there was much discussion about delinquent members, and committees were appointed to call on them and try to get them to come back, or find the reason they would not return and support the ministry of the gospel.

There is no record of the cost of the new church that was built in 1914, but an associational letter of 1919 valued the church property at $3,500 and noted a membership of 155; Sunday School membership was 152; and the pastor's salary was $642.50. The total expenditures were $1,397.78. This showed a considerable growth in every department in the twenty years from 1899 to 1919.

In 1938 the church building was remodeled and turned to face the highway, which increased the value of the property. When the basement was added in 1938, a cornerstone was laid with the following articles sealed inside: an open Bible, the history of the church, a copy of the church roll, the Masonic emblem, a Masonic apron, and a sprig of evergreen.

In 1942 $11,000.00 was spent remodeling and redecorating the building. The next year new pews, carpeting, and pulpit furniture were installed at a cost of about $1,500.00. In 1947, redecorating the church and the pastorium brought the value of the church property to $40,000.00.

On May 25, 1947, this church observed a day-long celebration known as the Centennial. It was a fine day together and much was learned about the church from the older members.

In 1947 Rev. J. M. Bamberg, from Brent, Alabama, was called to serve as the pastor. He had just been given his discharge from the Army chaplaincy. He accepted his duties here in September of 1947, and the church has made outstanding progress under his leadership.

The church decided in 1949 to build a mission church on Ferris Hill with Rev. Bamberg preaching there during the First Baptist Church Sunday School hour. He then preached in his own church at the 11:00 a.m. service. The mission was very successful.

Later the church planned another mission church on the east side of town. East Side Baptist Church was made into a mission because it was not strong enough as a church to support itself. This plan worked very well because a pastor who served Ferris Hill could alternate between the two missions. Both churches made considerable progress with Rev. Elmer Nielsen as pastor. Both missions have now become organized churches with full-time ministers serving each church.

In 1953 the First Baptist Church built a beautiful new sanctuary beside their old sanctuary.* This is one indication of the success and progress of this church as it continues to serve its members and its community.

* (The old church building was torn down in 1971, following the construction of a large church school facility at the rear of the new sanctuary.) 

First Baptist Church (Present Day)

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