First Baptist Fridays: The Life of Bart E. Allen in 500 Words

Born November 3, 1878 in Bell Creek, Nebraska, to a fine Christian couple, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Allen, Barlett Eugene (“Bart”) Allen lived in the pioneer west of America. He was saved at age 12, attended the local Baptist church, and finished high school by 14, paying his own way by selling the pelts of small animals he hunted and trapped. In the fall of 1894, the Allens traveled by covered wagon to Almyra, Arkansas.

At age 16, Bart became a schoolteacher and was appointed superintendent of the county seat school and the county examiner of teachers. He married Grace Fuller at age 19 on November 6, 1897. He taught for a total of twelve years and studied for the ministry, finally to become the pastor in DeWitt, Arkansas. The work of being both teacher and pastor broke his health, and several children born and lost broke the hearts of Bart and Grace as well. He took a doctor-ordered break for a time. Despite the poverty, hard work, and sorrow, the faith of Bart and Grace led to much happiness.

Rev. and Mrs. Allen moved to Osceola, Illinois to pastor the Baptist church there. The church changed for the better, grew, and was one of the ten outstanding rural churches of all denominations in America. Country Gentleman magazine ran a large feature article, with photographs describing its progress and development. Shurtleff College awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.

In 1923, First Baptist Church of Rockford, Illinois was searching for a pastor. Dr. A. S. Loving, the church treasurer, learned through a friend and pastor of Dr. Allen. He was invited to speak on December 9, 1923 and was given a unanimous call from the pulpit committee to be the next pastor, and he accepted, taking on his duties on March 1, 1924.

His ministry was incredibly fruitful. A church debt of $15,700 was retired. Members of the church taught Mexican wives to read from the New Testament, and Mexican and Chinese men were taught during Sunday school as well. The church grew from 275 to over 800 by 1944, despite the Great Depression in October of 1929 and stagnation of growth in Rockford for the decade to follow. He led the church to separate from the liberal Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptist Churches USA) in 1947. On Sunday, October 16, 1948, the church broke ground for the Memorial Baptist Chapel.

Though he retired on May 1, 1952, and became the pastor emeritus, the church saw his successor Rev. Will H. Bisgaard and 150 people leave the church on September 16, 1956. He led the church through this time of testing and to call their next pastor.

Dr. Allen and his wife were excellent examples and servants for First Baptist Church. We do well to remember Hebrews 13:7 when thinking of Dr. Allen: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

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