Our History

First Baptist Church of Independence was officially organized over 150 years ago on April 25, 1869 - a date confirmed by historian Sid Newton in his book, EARLY HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE, OREGON.  The first meetings were held west of here in Kings Valley.  The church was started by a Reverend John Osborn, whose family had moved to Oregon by way of a wagon train in the early 1800s

Notable in Newton’s history of early Independence: “The first business in Independence was a saloon built in 1846.  It was located on the corner of Log Cabin and Boat Landing Streets.  This building operated as a multi-purpose structure.  It was used as the first church and school house.  The saloon sign was taken down and the school sign hung when school was in session and a church denominational sign hung when church services were held.  Reverend Osborn, father of John Osborn, gave the first sermon in the make-shift church”.

The church moved from Kings Valley and was believed to be meeting in a one-room school house to the south of Independence.  At that time, it consisted of six members and adopted the name 'Antioch Baptist' after the Biblical church of Antioch in the book of Acts, where believers were first called Christians.

In 1886, the church held a series of protracted (revival) meetings.  The preacher was an Irish chap named Andrew Honaker and about 27 people were saved.  There was no baptismal, so the Church’s first baptisms were held in an irrigation pond on the Will Peyree farm just south of present day Pioneer Cemetery.  Since it was in the dead of winter and very cold, they had to first break the ice.  Although unpleasant for the participants, it left quite an impression on the local citizens.

The 1880s marked a rapid period of growth for Independence.  During this decade, the population of Independence grew from 500 to nearly 1200.  Most of the major buildings (brick structures) standing today were constructed during this time. 

Following this growth trend, the church moved into the city of Independence in 1887.  Funds were raised and about a year later, in 1888, a new brick building seating 350 was built at the cost of $4,000.  That structure still stands today on the corner of 3rd and “B” streets and houses the Independence museum. 

Another colorful story from Newton's book of Independence's early history:  "It seems that Dave Stapleton, the namesake of Stapleton Road south of Independence, was wanting to do some horse trading. Newton says, “One Sunday morning Stapleton met the Reverend Osborn who was returning home from his Sunday church services driving his horse and buggy.  Dave said, “Reverend Osborn, I have a dappled gray mare in the corral which I’ll trade you straight across for your horse.”  Reverend Osborn paused and then replied, “I can’t trade on the Sabbath, but if you bring that dapple mare and ten dollars over to my house on Monday, we can make a deal.’”

It was a very healthy and thriving church which planted missionary satellite churches in five different locations, such as Airlie and Parker.  One publication listed our church as one of the healthiest in the state.  In 1916, an additional north wing with beautiful stained glass windows was added to the building.  The interior was remodeled.  Matching pews and chancel furniture were purchased.   During the pastorate of A.J. Hunsaker, property was purchased and a parsonage was built on the corner of 4th and B streets.  This was the home of a number of pastors.

Through the years about 40 pastors have served the church.  In the 1920s and 30s many of the satellite churches were served by pastoral students from Linfield Collage in McMinnville, a Northern Baptist college.  Most of the Baptist churches in this area were associated with the Northern Baptist Association.

A major and traumatic change came to the church in or around 1950.  Along with a number of other churches, our church voted to leave the Northern Baptist Association and become affiliated with the new Conservative Baptist Association.  This was due to some doctrinal differences, mainly the authority of the Scriptures.  A number of our church members left and attended churches in Salem for some time. However, after a few years, most of those folks returned to First Baptist Independence.

This article appeared in a January 1971 church newsletter:  “At our last business meeting, December 29, 1970, the church voted to establish a survey committee.  This committee will consist of 10 persons who will go to work and study the possibilities and needs of rebuilding and relocating our church.”  This is the first mention of building and relocating the church.  The report this committee brought to the church was that our church should pursue a building and relocation effort.  A “Building Committee” was then formed with Don Ediger serving as chairman.  He challenged the congregation to pray for God leading in this great endeavor.

Carmen Parmenter served as chairman of a sub-committee to search for a suitable location for the new building.  Earlier, through a business contact, he had met and talked to the owner of 4.9 acres of land across from Central High School.  That would be ideal and people began to pray.  He mentioned to the property owner that the church was thinking of relocating and may be interested in his land.  Carmen was told that the land was not for sale at that time.

Sometime thereafter, in a Wednesday evening business meeting, the final vote was taken by the church to rebuild.  This was not an easy vote for many people.  They had attended Sunday school, Church services, baptisms, weddings, and funerals in that dear old building all of their lives.  Our church and the Baptist church in Brownsville were the only Baptist churches still meeting in their original building.

However, the very next day after that decisive vote was taken, Carmen received a phone call from the owner of the land.  He said that he had received an offer of $20,000 for the land, but he wanted to give our church the first choice at buying it.  On Friday, the church voted to purchase the land for $20,000, feeling that God had answered the prayers of many.  It was the ideal location.  By the way, the land owner gave a gift of $500.00 to the building fund.  Praise the Lord.

Building the new church was truly a church family effort.  Work days and work evenings were the norm and everyone grew together as a church family.  Men came to work after their regular jobs and on weekends.  Ladies joined in working and providing meals for the work crews.  Under the direction of church builder/contractor, Verlin Post, after 8-1/2 months of construction, our new church building was finished.  The first service in the new church building was on February 16, 1975 - 88 years following the opening services in the old church at 3rd and “B’ streets.  We conducted a community-wide open house on March 9 and a church dedication was held on April 13.  Former pastors Paul Boomer, Jim Bell and Jim Soden were invited to make it a very special event.  Pastor Soden was the speaker and Pastor Bell was called upon for special music.