First Baptist Church was birthed in September of 1835 with nine members. While getting started, the church met occasionally and these meetings were often on a weekday. A deacon from Edinburg stopping in the town and meeting with the people of the church for prayer mentioned later that he did not think, at the time, that their prospects were very bright.
In 1837 the Rev. Simon G. Miner came to Lafayette and found a dwindling fellowship of only five people. He became the pastor in January of 1838. The early church met in various locations for worship: the Presbyterian Church at Fourth and South Streets, the log court house, the dining hall of the old hotel, the “White School House” on the corner of Fourth and Alabama and “Martin Tavern.”
The young congregation gradually grew over time and went through some changes of leadership. They built their first building in 1844 on the west side of Sixth Street a few feet south of Ferry Street with a membership of 107.
Elder Jacob Knapp came and helped lead a revival in 1852. By the end of the year the membership had reached 243.
In June, 1858, the church adopted a strongly worded resolution against the “Crime of Slavery” and pledging to “not patronize or support any society or newspaper, or other publication that is not outspoken in its condemnation of the great sin of American Slavery.” In 1858 the church also introduced congregational singing, adopting the “Baptist Hymn and Tune Book” for their use.
In 1859, the church attempted to organize a religious school for young women called the Lafayette Female Seminary, but it didn’t materialize.
In 1867 another revival broke out. Baptizisms were held in the canal, and the membership grew to 327 with 450 people attending on Sundays and 250 people attending Sabbath School.
In 1868 the church started building a mission building at Chuauncey and Columbia Streets in West Lafayette, and sent about 40 members to help start Chauncey Baptist Church in 1870.
In 1872, three black ministers from Indianapolis met with eight black members of First Baptist Church and formed the “Colored Baptist Church of Lafayette,” now called Second Baptist Church. In 1878 First Baptist Church helped build the building and parsonage for their church on the N.E. Corner of 16th and Hartford Streets. The pews in the church where the same pews used in the Old First Baptist Church. In 1896 the church numbered about 100 members.
On October 6, 1872, First Baptist Church dedicated their new building, which is the current building. Methodist Episcopal (now Trinity Methodist), First Presbyterian, and Second Presbyterian Churches joined First Baptist in proceeding from the old building on Sixth St. to the new building.
In 1891 First Baptist had its first woman clerk. The first three deaconesses were elected in 1895 and the first paid treasurer was named in 1895, also a woman.
Rev. Frank H. Levering was a missionary in Mellore, India, from 1892 until his death in 1934. He retained his membership in First Baptist, corresponding frequently and receiving some financial support from the church.
On January 3, 1897 the Moore Memorial Mission Chapel was dedicated in memory of Ralph D. Moore who for more than 25 years was active in mission work in the city.
In 1897 the church membership was 554.
In 1898 membership declined and church debt rose.
In 1901 Rev. O. R. McKay began serving as Pastor. His service was vigorous and imaginative. Attendance and finances improved. In May 1903, Pastor McKay presented a series of evening lectures on the life of Christ illustrated by steroptican pictures. The attendance at these lectures was tremendous.
At a stormy business meeting in March, 1924, with over 100 members present, the January election of officers was declared null and void, a new slate elected and a new constitution and bylaws were adopted.
Miss Reita Smith was commissioned a special missionary of First Baptist in 1947.
The Women’s Union was changed to the Women’s Missionary Society and 120 members in three chartered buses attended the Billy Graham Crusade in Indianapolis in 1959.
In 1962, Ruth Maldanado, Missionary in Puerto Rico, and Miss Edna Martin of the Indianapolis East Side Christian Center were adopted as special interest missionaries.
In 1964, the new buildings of the Purdue Baptist Student Foundation and the Federated Church of West Lafayette were dedicated.
In 1965 a plan for student membership in the church was approved constitutionally and a special education class for retarded children was started.
In 1966 the first annual Religious Arts Festival was held in Fellowship Hall and continued for 45 years.
In 1969, the Lafayette Summer Head Start Program used the church kitchen as a food preparation center.
The Lafayette Day Care Center began operation in the education building on January 5, 1970.
In 1976 the church sponsored a displaced family from Vietnam and helped them settle in Lafayette.
The church sponsored a Romanian refugee family in 1980.
In 1988, Dr. Wendell Riggs, member of First Baptist Church, founded Tippecanoe Community Health Clinic (now Riggs Community Health Center).