HISTORY OF THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF NEWTOWN
Baptist work in Mercersburg, as the Newtown area was originally called, began as a church at Columbia (near Lunken Airport) in 1792 as recorded on a marker at the site. A little later it moved into an old stone building on Clough Pike. In 1841, a brick church building was built in Newtown, and this is the date ordinarily given for the founding of our church here. It was known as the Regular Baptist Church. This brick building is located on Church Street, around the corner from our present Main Street location. Sadly, due to the 1937 flood, most of the earlier records are lost.
The name of the church was changed to First Baptist Church of Newtown in 1952. The present building and parsonage were built in 1955, and the people marched from the old building to the present location on February 26, 1956. The sanctuary was remodeled and almost 5,000 square feet of educational space was added in 1965–This was done at a cost of about $85,000!
During the life of the church, many fascinating stories could be told, but one of the most interesting is that “In 1924, four of the ladies of the church banded together to keep the church from closing. They were without a pastor but were told if they held services the doors would be kept open. They did not believe in ladies preaching, so their services were prayers, testimonies, and songs. Soon people began coming back to the church and they were able in a short time to call a pastor.”*
The church has been involved in missions in many different ways throughout its lifetime. In such records as are available, there are many references to special mission activities. Prior to affiliating with Southern Baptists, the church contributed to the missions programs of the American Baptist Convention with which it was affiliated. Currently, the church gives to the Cooperative Program and contributes to several ministries globally.
*The four women were Mrs. Stella Caplinger, Mrs. Ingram, Mrs. Brunk, and Mrs. Durham. This information was furnished by Mrs. Agnes Waits, Lucille Wies (Ingram), and Mr. & Mrs. Dale Caplinger.