History of First Baptist Church, in Dade City, Florida


First Baptist Church, Dade City

College Street Baptist Church, from a post card postmarked in 1911

This article was last revised on May 14, 2016.

According to “The First Hundred Years – A History of the First Baptist Church of Dade City 1891-1991” (unseen), Oak Grove Baptist Church was renamed Dade City Baptist Church in 1886. Then, on November 14, 1891, a separate church, College Street Baptist Church, was chartered with 20 members, who met in the school building until their building was completed in May 1892 at the corner of Church St. and College St. (now 14th St). P. C. Drew was called as the first pastor. In 1892 the First Baptist Church of Dade City was invited to consolidate with College Street Baptist Church. In July of 1893 the First Baptist of Dade City disbanded. Many of its members moved their letters to the College Street Baptist. However, this information conficts with the account in the 1976 article below.

The Oak Grove Baptist Church in Fort Dade was in operation by 1875.

A genealogy web page has: “John [Whidden] was a delegate from Mt. Moriah to the South Florida Baptist Association meeting at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Hernando County in 1875. ”

On June 19, 1879, the Sunland Tribune has: “Fort Dade Items. Religious. Missionary Baptist, Parson Bell, of Brooksville, pastor, Oak Grove church. Service on Saturday before and first Sunday in every month.”

The Dade City Cemetery historic marker reads: “Oak Grove Baptist Church and Cemetery were established here in the early 1870s by Rev. R. E. Bell. Church minutes of 1877 describe the location as “Oak Grove, Florida.” By 1886 it was referred to as “Dade City Baptist Church.” In the early 1890s, the congregation transferred to other local churches.”

A notice in the Fort Dade Messenger of July 11, 1884, reads: “Bids will be received for the building of the Oak Grove Baptist church and Fort Dade Masonic Lodge until 3 p.m. Saturday, July 19, 1884. The committee reserve the right to refuse any or all bids. Specifications can be seen by calling on R. M. Wilson, secretary of committee.”

On the same date, the Messenger lists R. E. Bell as pastor of Oak Grove, L. Parish as superintendent of the Sabbath school.

On Aug. 7, 1885, the Daily Review of Wilmington, N. C., reported that the people of Dade City “have lately erected a beautiful church of the Baptist denomination, in which services are held every Sunday, and as this is the only church here, all denominations attend.”

On Nov. 14, 1897, the Tampa Tribune reported, “Rev. W. E. Bogart came down from Dade City early last week and is said to have resigned his position as pastor of the Dade City Baptist church and will hereafter be a resident of Plant City.”

On June 7, 1899, the Baptist church burned to the ground. According to “The First Hundred Years,” with $1500 in insurance the rebuilding began immediately. A new structure was begun with a gothic bell tower and stained glass windows.

On April 7, 1900, the Tampa Tribune reported, “The Baptist Church is nearly completed. The Sunday school will be held in the building next Sunday.”

On Dec. 7, 1901, W. C. and J. R. Sumner, as trustees of the Oak Grove Baptist Church, conveyed the church and cemetery to the Town Council of Dade City, according ot the historic marker.

A post card postmarked in 1911 is captioned “College Street Baptist Church.”

On Sept. 11, 1914, the Dade City Banner indicates that T. S. Hubert is pastor of College Street Baptist Church.

In 1920 Tom Alexander recalled, “I remember that my grandmother was buried here in August 1879, and there were gaves here then ten years old.”

On July 6, 1945, the Dade City Banner reported: “At the monthly business session of the College Street Baptist Church on last Sunday evening, the membership voted unanimously to change the name of the church from College Street Baptist Church to the First Baptist Church. The church voted to change the name because there is no longer a College Street.”

The following is taken from a 2005 Tampa Tribune article by Carol Jeffares Hedman:

The fourth church on Church Avenue dates to before the turn of the 20th century. First Baptist Church of Dade City’s brick home at 37511 Church Ave., however, dates to 1955 when it was constructed to replace a frame sanctuary that was built in 1900. It won’t be there long. Having outgrown its facilities, First Baptist is looking to build a new church on property on State Road 52. Organized in 1891 as College Street Baptist Church, the congregation first met in a school building on the street. A church built there in 1892 burned down in 1899. It was rebuilt on the same lot in 1900.

First Baptist Church (1976)

The following is an article is taken from East Pasco’s Heritage (1976).


Oak Grove Baptist Church was organized before 1870 at Fort Dade community. Its cemetery later became Dade City Municipal Cemetery. On Nov. 14, 1891, ten leading families of Oak Grove organized College Street Baptist Church on the present site in Dade City. The street was named for South Florida Normal Institute, established in 1887, which operated for many summers in Dade City School building. The church also met in the schoolhouse until its building was completed in June 1892. In 1895 Oak Grove dissolved and the rest of its members came to College Street Baptist Church.

Baptists then were very strict, requiring moral lives, regular attendance, and financial support from members. Slackers who did not mend their ways were dropped from the church roll. In 1899 and again in 1905 the church building burned and had to be rebuilt. In 1905 the church ladies bought a house east of the church for a pastorium. In 1919 a basement and Sunday School annex were added to the church. In 1940 an old church building was bought and moved behind the church for a fellowship hall and classrooms.

In 1944 the street had been renamed Church Avenue, and the name of the church was changed to First Baptist Church of Dade City. [Note: The name of the church was actually changed in 1945. College Street was apparently renamed 14th Street in the 1920s. -jm] In 1950 the first units of the present brick building were begun. The first pastorium was moved to the corner of Meridian and Thirteenth St. to make room. The present sanctuary and east classroom wing were completed in 1955. The whole block was secured, and the second pastorium built north of the church. In 1960 the chapel and west classroom wing were completed.

Radio ministry was begun in 1958. Fort Dade Mission was started in 1942, established as a church in 1952, and helped until 1972. Ridge Manor Mission was started in 1974. First Baptist Church shared its office and classroom space with Pasco-Hernando Community College for two years until the college campus was completed. A Senior Citizens Group meets at the church monthly. The W. M. U. Crisis Committee gives emergency aid to community residents and transients. Resident membership in First Baptist Church is now 400 families, with average Sunday School attendance 300.

Pastors who have served First Baptist Church are: P. C. Drew, 1892; W. M. Wamboldt, 1893-96; W. E. Bogart, 1897-99; George T. Leitner, 1900-05; W. D. Tumley, 1906-10; W. A. Burns, 1910-13; T. S. Hubert, 1913-15; Ben Brooks, 1915-16; Milton M. Bales, 1917-18; O. E. Tebow, 1918-21; B. G. Smith, 1921-24; J. N. Vandiver, 1924-27; W. K. E. James, 1929-31; E. L. Andrews, 1931-35; Jimmy Parrish, 1936-38; Albert A. Stulck, 1938-42; Elbert C. Tyner, 1942-60; Lamar Brooks, 1960-64; Paul Wonders, 1965-70; Thomas N. Langley, 1970-72; Thomas C. Broomall, 1972 to the present.

First Baptist Church (2005)

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