The history of First Baptist Church of Lapeer is rich with godly men and women who love and serve Christ. Here’s our story.
Columbus Tuttle was born in New York on March 26, 1829. After moving west to settle in the new state of Michigan, he became one of the nine founders of the First Baptist Church of Lapeer Village at the age of twenty-eight. At their second Covenant Meeting, he was chosen to be their Deacon. He was prominent in a leadership role for many years. In September of 1864, he left to join the Navy. Upon his safe return from the Civil War, the church built their first place of worship on the corner of Liberty and Madison Streets under his leadership.
Believing the Bible to be the only rule of faith, nine Godly men and women met in the home of Mr. Caleb S. Hicks on May 30, 1858. They covenanted together to establish a Baptist ministry in the Village of Lapeer, Michigan. Adopting the Articles of Faith and Covenant recommended by the Michigan Baptist Convention; they founded the First Baptist Church of Lapeer Village. The struggling congregation held their services in a number of places over the next several years.
In 1861, Mr. Eban L. Little was hired for the position of Principal of the Union School in Lapeer. With a heart for ministry, he and his wife organized a Sunday School in 1862. He was the first Sunday School Superintendent. Classes met in the basement of the Lapeer County Court House on Sunday afternoons. In July of 1863, he left to complete his theological course.
Following Deacon Columbus Tuttle’s safe return from the Civil War in 1865, a small frame building was erected on the southeast corner of Liberty and Madison Streets. The building was enlarged later, but the congregation soon outgrew their house of worship.
Eban L. Little agreed to return as pastor under conditions that a larger meeting house be built. Under his leadership, property was purchased on the north-east corner of Cedar and Law Streets and construction began on a 2½ story Romanesque-style building in 1873. In February of 1874, the congregation began holding services in the lower level. The structure was completed in 1878 at an estimated cost of about $15,000. The sanctuary was dedicated on April 16 and 17, 1878.
Much of the sanctuary and part of the lower level was destroyed by fire on Feb. 3, 1901. The loss was only partially covered by insurance, but the congregation’s faith and commitment to maintain a Baptist ministry in Lapeer remained strong. During the Great Depression, First Baptist closed off their sanctuary and held services in the basement to conserve heat, but never once closed its doors.
Connections were severed with the Northern Baptist Convention in 1929 due to that organization’s increasingly modernistic tendencies. In 1936, the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches received First Baptist Church of Lapeer into their fellowship at their annual summer meeting.
With the building filled to capacity, in February of 1956, 7.3 acres of land were purchased on Knollwood Street. Construction began in May of 1958 and the first services were held on December 21, 1958. The building was dedicated on May 3, 1959, one year after ground was broken. The dedication message was delivered by Dr. Robert T. Ketcham, founder of the GARBC.
Ten years later, in 1968, a much needed two-story education wing was added to the east end of the building providing 13,000 square feet of space for Sunday School classes and offices. In July of 1979, construction began on a 900 seat sanctuary and classroom addition on the west end of the building.
It was completed in less than a year and was dedicated on April 27, 1980. Former pastor Arnold P. Olsen returned to deliver the dedication message. The old sanctuary was converted into a gymnasium and a library was sectioned off the fellowship hall.
The First Baptist Church of Lapeer celebrated 150 years of ministry on May 24 and 25, 2008. Today, we live in different times and face different societal problems, but we share a common heritage of faithfulness to the whole Word of God. We accept the awesome responsibility of maintaining that heritage for future generations, preaching salvation through Jesus Christ alone. May we be faithful to this stewardship.