First Baptist Fridays – In the Beginning

I don’t think I’ll ever have an original idea when it comes to the history of my church. I can only uncover what has already taken place. Moreover, much of what I post will be copy-and-paste from a 120-page history of church entitled First Baptist Church: A History of God’s Good Providence by Louise Knight, a current member of our church. It was written in 2000 when our church was 162 years old. As I put what she writes, so also I’ll fill in my own posts from time to time of what I can read of notes and other materials of days gone by.

Today is from pp. 7–9 of First Baptist Church: A History of God’s Good Providence.

Kent Creek

Early History

The city of Rockford traces its humble beginnings to Sunday, August 24th, 1834. On that day Germanicus Kent, Thatcher Blake, and others, traveled by wagon from Galena, Illinois to Hamilton’s diggings, and then by canoe to the mouth of what is now Kent Creek. Kent set his sights on building a sawmill while Blake had his heart set on farming.

Before a year past, Kent was joined by his family, and nearly one hundred people regarded this new settlement as their home. Because of its location halfway between the thriving village of Chicago on Lake Michigan and Galena, a bustling mining village on the Mississippi River, Rockford was originally called Midway. Midway quickly became a stable community. In June of 1835, in the newly built home of Germanicus Kent, Aratus Kent preached its first sermon. 1837 saw the establishment of a ferry and the arrival of mail.

Tinker Swiss Cottage on Kent Creek

In September of 1836 five members of the Methodist Episcopal denomination organized class in the home of Samuel Gregory. In May of 1837 eight Congregationalists formally established themselves, before long building a wooden meeting house on the corner of what is presently Church and Green streets.

A small group of Baptists organized in Belvidere in 1836, and their little church, built in 1838, was the first Baptist church in this part of Illinois.

George Haskell, MD Rev. Seth S. Whitman (left) and Deacon Nathaniel Crosby (right)

On December 22, 1838, a meeting was held at the home of Dr. and Mrs. George Haskell, for the purpose of taking into consideration the formation of a Baptist Church in Rockford. There were eighteen people present, among them Rev. S.S. Whitman, and Deacon Nathaniel Crosby of Belvidere who came over to assist in the organization. Rev. Whitman was chosen moderator, and Dr. Haskell clerk.

The group adopted twelve articles of faith. These articles were replaced by the New Hampshire Baptist Confession.