Just over a century ago, around 15 to 20 people gathered in an oak grove across the railroad near the W.B. Davis Hosiery Mill for a church service.
Shortly thereafter in 1916, that group formally organized a church at a building near the mill, and it was called both the Pleasant Grove Church and the Mill Church. Eventually, members settled on the name “Second Baptist Church.”
Second Baptist Church of Fort Payne now averages 225 attendees each Sunday, and they are celebrating their 100th anniversary on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 10:55 a.m.
“Local ministers, local churches and missionaries have all come out of Second Baptist Church,” said Rev. David McMillen, who has served as the church’s pastor since 2014. “It’s really been a seedbed for ministry.”
A year ago, the Church Historical Committee formed to begin planning the church’s 100-year anniversary. The committee consists of Monia Smith, Ramona Akins, Myrtle Cordell and Sharon McPherson, and together they began researching the origin and history of the church.
“We’ve been working on this for about a year,” Smith said. “We have a homecoming every September, but this is a little different. We invited all former pastors, our state representative and mayor will each make presentations, and we invited former members who have moved away.”
Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, will give a proclamation of the state to honor the anniversary. Mayor Larry Chesser will also make a presentation.
“The state will recognize the long term significance of the church and how involved this church has been with the community,” said McMillen. “We are grateful for the impact this church has made in this community.”
Dr. Rick Lance, who serves as the Executive Director of the Alabama Baptist Commission, is delivering the sermon for the service.
Several former pastors will be recognized by the church. Dr. John Screws, who served from 1997-2014, Rev. Clifton Brown, who served from 1985-1996 and Rev. Max Tucker, who served from 1963-64 and 1971-1980 are all expected to be in attendance.
The church began as the inspiration of three men – Rev. Phil Clark, Rev. J. Tom Wooten and Rev. John Shankles. In 1929, the church adopted the name “Church No. 2 Missionary Baptist,” but later that year “Second Baptist Church” was written for the first time.
On Dec. 8, 1935, a new location was found for the church on the corner of 11th Street NW and Grand Ave for $400. Building began in March of 1937, and the first service was held in July of the same year. In 1958, the church burned to the ground.
“I’ve seen the church burn twice,” Smith said. “In 1958, I remember someone called early in the morning and we ran to our window and we could see the flames. We just stood there and cried as it burned to the ground.”
Church services continued at Williams Avenue School while a new facility was built. On Dec. 7, 1958, the congregation met for the first worship service in the new building. Rev. Willis Griffin was the pastor.
Ten years later, the church had another fire that heavily damaged the building. Damages cost an estimated $100,000.
“In 1968 it didn’t burn to the ground thankfully,” Akins said. “That one started in the attic, and fortunately it was contained to the attic. I was only five at the time, but I still remember it. It’s one of those things you can’t forget. We starting meeting at the school auditorium, and new pastor WH Thompson preached his first sermon there.”
The church was quickly repaired, and on Sept. 9, 1968, services were held in the remodeled church.
“The church facility has expanded to meet its growing needs,” Smith said. “We worship together as a community of believers and support one another’s values and beliefs in the one true God.”
“We’ve had quite an outreach in the town over the years,” Akins added.
Sunday school begins at 9:45 a.m., and the service starts at 10:55. Lunch will be served immediately following the service.
“We are Baptists, so we are definitely going to eat together after church,” McMillen said.