First Baptist Church History

1. 1833

First Baptist Church, Brantford was founded in the village of Brantford (pop. 500). It was established on December 23 by 26 members under the pastoral leadership of Elder William Rees.

2. 1857-62

The current building was erected under the leadership of the Reverend Doctor Thomas L. Davidson. It replaced two previous structures, the second of which was irreparably destroyed by fire in 1857. The new building was, in part, funded by the Edmondson family who raised the money by mortgaging their farm. The size of the building reflected the rapid increase in membership. The building was designed by John Turner.

3. 1870-1992

Park Baptist Church was formed when twenty-nine members of First Baptist left the Church to begin a new work that, within a few years, was rapidly becoming prominent in Brantford. A church building was erected across from Victoria Park. Thomas Shenston, a long time leader in First Baptist, Brantford, called it “The prettiest church in Brantford.” It was designed by John Turner. The church closed in 1992, but is still standing and, until very recently (2009), was used as a place of worship. Many worshipers came to First Baptist.

4. 1875-1972

Calvary Baptist Church was a result of vision and foresight on the part of the leadership of First Baptist. Twenty-five members of First Baptist were encouraged to begin a church in the East Ward, and eventually a solid church structure was erected on Dalhousie Street, just east of Park Avenue. It grew and thrived during the early and middle years, but fell victim to the shifting demographics of people leaving the older sections of Brantford for the suburbs, as well as the downsizing and eventual closure of large industries such as Cockshutt Farm Implements and Massey-Ferguson. A number of worshipers took their memberships to First Baptist.  (Top of page)

5. 1912-2003

Riverdale Baptist Church. The Holmedale area was seen as a mission field by the members of First Baptist, and a work was begun and funded by First Baptist Church to accommodate the population that was growing because of increasing industrialization. Land was purchased at what is now the south-east corner of Grand River and St. Paul Avenues. The work remained a mission until it was organized and recognized as a Regular Baptist Church in 1912. It flourished until the erosion of the industrial base in the 1970s and 1980s. The church closed in 2003. The building is still being used as a church.  (Top of page)

6. 1919-1951

In many respects these were the peak years of First Baptist Church. The Church was blessed with the preaching abilities of the Reverend Dr. W. H. Langton (1919-1933) and the Reverend Dr. Wayman K. Roberts (1933-1951). In 1933, the church experienced its highest membership ever (774), and the Sunday School had 550 students on its roll.  (Top of page)

7. Music Ministry

First Baptist has always had a keen interest in leading worship with first class music led by outstanding organists and choir directors. This tradition continues today with organist Nancy Bullivant leading many faithful choir members.

8. 1951-present

As with most churches in the city’s inner core, the so-called downtown churches have experienced considerable declines in numbers. First Baptist is no exception. Brantford has gone through a long period of de-industrialization and the displacement of workers that goes with it. In addition to mass-movements to the suburbs, there has also been increasing secularization of the general population. Nonetheless, First Baptist has adapted and has held its own, if not increased slightly in the past 10 years.  (Top of page)

9. Parish Nurse Ministry

This work was introduced and first headed by Donna Summerhayes, CM, RN (Ret.). This Ministry emphasizes the wholeness of body, mind and spirit. Donna was succeeded by Carol Bonney, RN (Ret.), who was recently succeeded by Mary White, RN. Another spin-off programme that has resulted is a ministry to people confined to wheelchairs. Several of them are now church members.

10. 2008

Julia Howard became the first woman pastor to be ordained at First Baptist in June. The Reverend Deborah Dempsey, BA, MDiv, became the first woman pastor of the church in October. In November, the church celebrated its 175th anniversary.   (Top of page)  


A Short and Whimsical History of First Baptist Church,

Brantford, Ontario 1833-2008 commemorate the 175th anniversary of the church

is available by phoning the Church office.

(link to booklet)

1833 | 1857 | 1870 | 1875

1912 | 1919 | 1951 | 2008 | Booklet

Making God's love visible in our community and beyond.

First Baptist Church

Brantford, Ontario

70 West Street

Brantford, ON N3T 3E7

(519) 753-2406

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