A Brief History of First Baptist Church, New Richmond
Eighteen months prior to the opening of the Civil War – October 16, 1859 – a small group of Christian believers gathered within the district school of the Village of New Richmond. They had come together for the purpose of organizing a Baptist church.
At that time, the Village population numbered between 175 and 200 people. The farmland of the Willow River Valley stretched out on either side of Main Street where the business district consisted of a grist mill, a blacksmith and wagon shop, and a general store. There were no railroads, so transportation options were limited.
A month-and-a-half after the initial meeting of those Christian believers – December 3, 1859 – an agent of the Home Mission Society and pastors from River Falls, Hudson, Osceola Mills, and Taylors Falls were invited to be present when the new church covenant was read and adopted.
Reverend Rodgers annual salary was $300, and the fledgling congregation met in homes until 1869 when the Congregational Church offered to share their facility.
Seventeen years later – September 26, 1876 – a meeting was called to formulate plans to erect a building. On October 30, 1876, the first building was completed and dedicated – situated on the corner of Fourth Street West and South Washington Avenue. Lamps lit the darkness for those 46 members.
The first Sunday School was organized on October 18, 1886.
In 1887 the church building was enlarged by 20 feet and a baptistery was installed.
On June 12, 1899, the church building was destroyed by the tornado which devastated much of the town of New Richmond. A new church was erected on the corner of South Dakota Avenue and West Fourth Street and was dedicated on September 30, 1900. But tragedy again struck the body of believers three years later. The church building was destroyed by fire on January 3, 1903.
Another new building was built and dedicated on June 19, 1904. Reverend H. E. Hoare was pastor. Money was pledged to cover all outstanding bills, and those pledges nearly paid for everything.
By this time, First Baptist Church New Richmond had twice become a mother, founding congregations in Aitkin, Minnesota, and Puyallup, Washington.
Reverend Chester Cording was pastor in 1935 when a parsonage was purchased on Washington Avenue next to the church.
In 1965, during the ministry of Reverend James Chambers, a new parsonage was built, the church entrance was remodeled, and a garage was added.
Reverend Sam Bell became pastor in 1968. That same year a Church Planning Committee was chosen to determine the future direction of the church’s existing facilities. In 1971, a building fund was begun for a new church building.
Reverend Robert Lindstrom became pastor on May 15, 1972, and in 1973 the old church building was sold to the Child Care Center of New Richmond and three acres of land purchased on North Shore Drive, site of the present property.
Ground-breaking ceremonies were held on Palm Sunday of 1973. The new structure was 76’ x 38’ with a 14’ x 13’ L-shaped extension and carport. The church congregation donated many hours of labor to assist with the construction. The first service in the new building was held December 1, 1973, but it was not until May 4, 1975, that the new church building was completed and dedicated.
In February 1976 the first missionary commissioning service was conducted – Paul Setter was to serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
The year 1976 also saw the next pastoral change. Reverend Raymond C. Katuin pastored from 1976 to 1978. In 1977, the church voted to affiliate with the Conservative Baptist Association of Wisconsin and the church Constitution was revised.
Katuin was followed by Pastor August Post (1979 – 1985) and Pastor Russ Paulson (1985 – 1995). Dr. Dan Rotach served as interim from 1995 to 1998 when Dr. Kevin Morris accepted the call to pastor the First Baptist Church.
Under the leadership of Pastor Morris, the congregation saw growth in church membership, expansion in the variety of ministries provided for and by the congregation, and a vision for greater service to the surrounding New Richmond and St. Croix County community. With membership steadily increasing, talks regarding the need for a new expansion began in October of 1999.
Groundbreaking for a 10,200 sq. ft. addition took place June 16, 2002. Space was created for Sunday School and youth activity areas, an enlarged kitchen, and expanded fellowship hall, as well as provision made for new fuel-efficient furnaces. Improvements to the sanctuary sound and projection systems and the installation of a sound booth occurred in 2013.
Today, First Baptist Church supports 11 different missionaries and their organizations including
- Ben and Kristy Carlson with Navigators in East Africa
- Teens for Christ in River Falls, WI
- Carl and Julie Gaede with Tutapona
- Curt and Lalia Kregness with WorldVenture in Brazil
- Caleb and Julie Kudlo serving City View Baptist Church in Ohio
- Scott and Eunie Paulson with African Inland Mission
- Pat Phinney and CB North Central
- Jon and Alex Schussman with Child Evangelism Fellowship in Wisconsin
- Paul and Joyce Setter, still serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators
- Vince and Gail Trujillo with Mexican Medical Missions in southern California
In December 2018, First Baptist Church called its newest pastor, Jerry Birkholz, who – with his wife, Beth – “desire for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9-10).” Pastor Jerry was installed during a special service held March 3, 2019.
“May God be glorified,
God’s people be edified,
and may our community be evangelized.”
– Jerry Birkholz