Column sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
November 17, 2009
|The First Baptist Church, 11th and Grand, was destroyed in a 1931 fire.|
|The church bell, broken during its fall in the 1931 fire, is displayed at the Pioneer Townsite Museum.|
Church Bell is Relic from Frederick’s Past
One of the most prominent, distinctive buildings in Frederick’s early years was the First Baptist Church at 11th and Grand.
Built in 1908, the red brick building featured a four-story bell tower. Although it was much smaller than the current church, it was one of the most beautiful, impressive buildings in the community.
In many photos of early Frederick, the church’s tall bell tower is an identifying landmark. It sat squarely at the corner of North 11th and Grand, with its main entrance at the bottom level of the tall bell tower.
The brick building was actually the church’s second home. The church was organized in 1901 just a few weeks after the area was opened to settlement and a white wood-frame building was erected at 11th and Grand in January 1902.
As brick became available, though, the congregation replaced the small wooden structure with the large, more permanent building which was completed in March 1908 at a cost of $15,000.
The building featured arched stained-glass windows and its tower housed a large cast-iron bell. An early photo at the Pioneer Townsite shows the bell being hoisted into the tower using horses. No doubt, the bell’s ringing was a familiar sound to the folks of Frederick in its early years.
The red-brick building served the First Baptist Church congregation until it was destroyed in a major fire on January 19, 1931.
After the fire, the rubble was razed and the current church was built at the site.
Decades later, though, the original bell from the 1908 church building was found on the church grounds where it had been discarded and buried. It was given to the Tillman County Historical Museum in 1983.
The bell that was housed in the 1908 church’s grand bell tower today rests on the grounds of the Pioneer Townsite Museum. Its top section is broken, likely from the heat of the fire and the fall from the top of the tower. It sits on the ground at the Townsite, just west of the AME church building. Although it sits in plain sight and is easily recognized as a damaged bell, few visitors to the museum know it’s past or its historical significance.
It survives as a relic of life in early Frederick.