On August 25, 1901, a band of people gathered in a small railway car. On the side of the car were the words “Chapel Car Good Will.” The traveling chapel was piloted by a G.B. Rogers. The scripture that he read for the theme of his sermon was Revelation 22: 17: “And the Spirit and the bride say Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
August 25 was not the group’s first time to meet, but this particular day had very special meaning. They had gathered not only to worship, but also to organize a church. Eleven people, looking to God and to the village that surrounded them, formed what would be known as the First Baptist Church of Dalhart.
Having been described by one historian as eleven “soldiers of the cross,” this determined group of believers accepted the challenged of establishing a church in the midst of a rugged frontier. It is believed that First Baptist may have been the first church of any denomination to be established in Dalhart. Rev. Bennet Hatcher served as their first pastor.
The congregation soon began meeting in the local school house on Conlen Ave. In November of 1901, the church moved into its own property, which was located at the corner of Rock Island and Fifth Street. The building was a small frame structure that would serve them well during those early years. Dr. B.H. Carroll, a notable figure in Texas Baptist life, would later deliver the dedication message for the new building.
As Dalhart grew, so did the ministry of First Baptist Church. In 1919 the church began to recognize the need for additional space. The Sunday School classes were challenged to raise one thousand dollars toward the building fund. The people began to pray. On the day of the offering, a brightly decorated tub was placed at the front of the sanctuary to receive contributions. The congregation raised $1, 235.00. The custom of the “washtub” is still practiced annually under the name of the “Miracle Offering”. A portion of the offering is always sent to support our missionaries around the world.
On August 27, 1927 the congregation relocated to its new facility on Denrock Ave. For the next sixty years the members of First Baptist Church would minister to the community from the new location. The church would remain committed to the same biblical convictions that shaped the vision of the eleven original members who began worshipping together in a railway car. To accommodate the growth and ministry of the church, education buildings were added in 1947 and again in 1964.
In 1980, as the church had done once before, the membership again recognized the need for expansion. As difficult as it was to consider another relocation, they agreed to enter into a “Together We Build” campaign. Lots were eventually purchased along East Sixteenth Street. The dream became a reality. On October 16, 1988 the new worship center, chapel and education facilities were dedicated to the Lord. In 1993 an additional education wing was also added to the church’s present facilities. In 2008 the dedication for the new construction, across the street to the west, was held for the Recreation Outreach Center. The ROC ministers to the church family and to the community.
The more than one hundred years of history for First Baptist Church, have included innumerable acts of kindness and Christian love, often displayed behind the scenes. These have greatly contributed to the heritage of the church. The congregation has prospered during the seasons of blessing and matured during the seasons of distress. It is the story that offers the greatest hope for the next century. First Baptist Church looks confidently toward the future: “Looking to Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.”