Our Church History
A group of six people consisting of Mary Smallwood, Betsy E. Douglass, Juliet A. Latham, Sarah E. Thompson, Mary M. Love and George R. Latham had been meeting in homes every Friday night before the first Sunday of each month in the Grafton area for religious services. Three of them had previously attended services at Beulah Baptist Church. However, the trip to Pruntytown proved difficult back in horse and cart days and was unnessary if a church could be started in Grafton. So they set out to do just that.
On December 3, 1858 Rev. Jesse M. Purinton preached from Mathew 22:21 which states according to the KJV, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." At the close of the sermon, they presented letters and organized into a church called Grafton Baptist Church.
At a second meeting Rev. Purinton was officially chosen as the church's first pastor and George Latham was elected clerk. Articles were adopted and recorded in the Church Book along with the Covenant. The very first Sunday of each month was appointed as the regular time for holding services. These services were held in an old frame school house, the birthplace of the First Baptist Church of Grafton. (By 1885 the old school house had been torn down. It had stood near the church building that housed the Methodist E. denomination at the time and later, in 1898, the Methodist P. Church.)
Monthly business meetings were held on the Saturday before the first Sunday at either 2 or 3 o'clock (sources vary). James P. Fenton became the church's 7th member on December 27, 1858. Membership continued to increase.
At the August 6, 1859 business meeting, it was voted to ask admission into the Union Association at their next annual meeting, and James Conn and John J. Jordan were elected deacons. Plans were also initiated to erect a church at the corner of Ethel and Main Street.
On October 1, a building committee was appointed consisting of John J. Jordan, James Conn, Robert Dunham and James J. Warren. Rev. Purinton reported that two lots had been secured for $35 on the north side of Main Street on which to build the church. The total cost of the lots was $150.
It was agreed that the church would be a building high above Main St. with a long flight of wooden steps ascending to it. Brothers Harmon, Sinsel and James Davidson, of Pruntytown, were invited to assist in the erection of the church.
George Latham, John J. Jordan, James Fenton, James Warren and D.B. Purinton were appointed trustees of the church in March 1860. The building of the new church progressed slowly, apparently because of limited funds. In June Rev. Purinton was appointed as agent to collect funds for the church's erection.
On April 6, 1861, Leonard Mallonee and George Latham were added to the building committee. The foundation was completed, and much of the lumber to be used in building the super-structure was on the ground.
When the war came the church had 20 members. However, the little flock was scattered. Most of the men went to fight and there was not enough members left to keep the organization intact.
Main Street in Grafton, 1860's
Col. George Latham, first clerk of Grafton Baptist Church
Rev. Purinton went to Pennsylvannia in answer to a call from a baptist church there. The last service over which he officiated was held August 22, 1861. Due to the Civil War, no meetings were held following Rev. Purinton's last service until 1865.
At the close of the war the church was reorganized by Rev. George Davidson who resided in Fetterman. At a business meeting on December 2, 1865, Rev. Davidson was officially elected as the new pastor. He worked under the auspices of the Baptist Home Mission Board of N.Y. which contributed to his support as did the church itself by each paying him a yearly salary of $50. John T. Latham was elected to be church clerk.
William Mallonee was received into the church on January 17, 1866. As the attendance at the one room school house increased, so did interest in completing the work begun four years earlier. Unfortunately, the foundation and lumber lay in ruin. The original plan had to be changed.
Meanwhile, on February 3, 1866 James Fenton reported he'd secured the use of the Methodist Church to hold revival services at.
Rev. George Davidson, J.A. Roe, John Jordan, William Mallonee, John Latham, James I. Love and James J. Warren were appointed to make contracts for the erection of the new church on March 3, 1866. Instead of a wooden structure, it was decided to rear a brick edifice. The work was begun.
It is recorded that “Polly Harris (colored)” was taken into membership on May 5, 1866.
Then later at a meeting on June 2, 1866, John Jordan, James Fenton, and John Latham revised the church member list. They found 57 names. After determining those deceased, absent for at least 7 years, and those dismissed by letter, William Mallonee and John H. Sinclair were appointed to call upon the remaining 41 absent members.
Also in the month of June, the ladies of the church hosted a fair and festival held at the Valley House, of which James D. Holmes was proprietor. The proceeds which amount to $336 went toward the erection of the new church.