Our History

The Early Years

The beginnings of First Baptist Church are hard to pinpoint exactly, but

some facts basic to its establishment tell us that sometime in 1904, Levi

Johnson moved to Craig, and in February 1905, his wife and children joined

him. They homesteaded at Illinois Park, at the foot of Black Mountain near

Craig. Mrs. Amy Johnson taught in various schools around the county, so

they kept a home in Craig during the Winter and returned to the ranch each

Spring. Their town residence was located in the 500 block of Breeze Street

and is still in use today.

Rev W.C. Lindsey, a Baptist minister from Missouri, moved to Northwest

Colorado in 1909. He filed on a homestead near Cedar Mountain. Ernest Kline

became his neighbor in 1910, when he established his homestead also near

Cedar Mountain.  Ernest Kline and Amy Johnson were both from Methodist backgrounds, but since there was no Methodist church, they decided to work with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Lindsey to organize a Baptist church. Since membership in the church required baptism, Rev. Lindsey baptized Ernest Kline, Francis Johnson, David Johnson and Amy Jane (Wyatt) Johnson in the icy waters of the Yampa river on April 23,1911.  Northern Baptist Missionary, Bertha Smith, was sent to help organize the church. The small group of believers met on April 9, 1911 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. Brother Lindsey was asked to act as Pastor till other arrangements could be made, and he kindly accepted, without salary.   It was then voted that the regular time for church meeting be on the first Sunday of each month. A committee was appointed to arrange the meeting place. Soon after, a building was rented for one dollar a meeting. This property was located at the intersection of Highway 40 and Washington Street, just South of City Park, and was used for a Cork and Bottle shop. Abbey Carpets is located there now. 

In the next few years, the church met in several different places. Elkhead

was a favorite place, meeting in homes, including the Davidson Cabin and

meetings were held at the Johnson Ranch in Illinois Park, located on the

present Black Mountain Road just below Freeman Reservoir.

In June of 1912, a special business meeting was held to outline ideas of building a church at Elkhead, as it was thought by some not advisable to build in Craig yet.  However, the church thought different and decided to build a small house in Craig, suitable for a meeting place and parsonage, and to postpone the erecting of the main building until later.

Soon Elkhead became the headquarters of the church because most of the members lived in that area. They met at the Davidson Cabin or the J. C. Herod home until the Elkhead schoolhouse was built. When the church was meeting at Elkhead, there was a membership of about 60 to 80 people. Services in the more rural areas were conducted once or twice a month, and several laymen took charge of those meetings as the Lord led them. In addition to Rev. Kline, Bertram Welch, Frank Daggett, Lerch Couvert and others helped in this way. They called them Sagebrush Preachers, and though they might not have been as polished as some, God used them to touch hearts and win souls in a place where a city preacher would have failed miserably.  After the Elkhead School was built, regular services were held there. For a time, the First Baptist Church of Craig met in town on Sunday mornings and then drove out to Elkhead for Sunday School in the afternoon. That made for some very long days, especially for the younger children. 

After WWII, the Elkhead branch of the church was discontinued altogether. 

Many of the smaller ranchers were forced to move away after the Depression

years of the 1930’s and the increased mechanization of the ranching

business. With progress, better roads, and cars becoming more available,

people were no longer tied to their small community churches. More and

more people were able to drive in to town and the church became focused in

Craig. Members of the Elkhead branch were also members of the Craig

branch of the church, and no distinction was made in the church records.

700 School Street

Contractors, Carl Van Dorn and George Wilson, built the First Baptist Church

of Craig building at 700 School Stree. The Architect was Mr. Scott and dedication day was September 13, 1925. Dr. B.F. Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Colorado

Baptist State Convention and Judge F.W. Freeman, from Denver, gave the

main address for the occasion. Rev. George T. Lowe was pastor of the

church at the time of the dedication, but resigned after only three months

because of his wife’s poor health. In November 1925, the Rev. A. C. Huff

became the minister. A baptistery was built into the newly constructed

building and Olive Kline, mother of Jean Smith, was the second person

baptized there.

The church building at 700 School Street was the meeting place for the

church from 1925 to 1975. It underwent 2 additions, the first in the 1940’s

while pastor Roy Walker was here. The second was made in 1953 when

Aubrey Nelson was serving his first term as Pastor. Plans were drawn up for

a third addition, but the membership felt that as the town was beginning to

grow, land should be found and a new building constructed. The last service at 700 School was a Watch Night Service on Dec 31, 1974.

The parsonage was purchased during the time Rev Raymond Rudd was

Pastor. The Rudds were living there at the time of Rev Rudd’s death in

1939, we think due to a ruptured appendix. This was a sad event for the

people of the church as they dealt with the loss of their Pastor.

The old parsonage was removed (to the Kline Ranch where it burned in

1957) and a new ranch style home was constructed on the foundations of the

old building in 1956. That building is still in use and had been occupied by several ministry leaders over the years. In 2006, the parsonage building was sold. 

1150 West 9th Street

In 1973, a 5-acre parcel was purchased between 9th and 10th Streets on the West side of town. At the time of the purchase there were no other buildings around, but within a very few years, the Colorado Ute Power Plant began construction and the building boom was on. The little town of Craig grew in all directions, and by 1980, houses were built on all sides of the church property and a beautiful new High School was built a little more than a block away. In the spring of 1974 ground was broken for a new building, which was completed shortly before the end of the year. On the first Sunday of 1975, First Baptist Church moved into the new building at 1150 West 9th Street. Don Wasey was the Pastor, and years of preparation and prayer went into the move. Financing of the structure was by private bonds, and most members of the congregation pledged, and gave an extra amount monthly until the building was debt free, years before the term of the bonds expired. The dedication of the building was held on the first Sunday afternoon in July of 1975. When the move was made, the church furniture, pews and pulpit came along. They had been purchased in the early 1960’s for a mere $800. Nowadays, one pew costs that! 

As our identity became clearer, we saw that "The Journey at First Baptist" was a name that more clearly reflected who we are and where we were moving as a church, and with the development of a logo, more of the pieces fell into place.

By late 2007, it was obvious that we were experiencing rapid growth, and that our facility was getting very crowded. We started praying about a solution, and implemented a second worship service. Rental of community facilities became more frequent as we looked for ways to accommodate our growing body.  After many months of prayer and planning, we voted to go forward with a building program. Partnering with Building God’s Way and Mischler Construction, ground was broken in June of 2009. During the year of Ministry of Construction, God made his presence known over and over, as meals were provided for construction workers and staff, huge amounts of materials and labor were donated, and the building rose up in a matter of months.

The First Celebration Service was held in the new Sanctuary on February 14th,

2010, and in May, the new Sanctuary was dedicated to the Lord. The Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the doors and there was an open house to welcome the community. 

In 2011, we celebrated our 100 year anniversary as a church!

A more in-depth account of our early officers, members, remembrances and short stories meaningful to the history of our church can be found by clicking here! We would love to hear if you have something to share about our history!