Our Church’s History

The history of First Baptist Church can be traced back as far as 1802 with the establishment of the Richland Arm of Christ at New Design. The following year it was constituted as Richland Creek Baptist Church (which was sometimes referred to as Clinton Hill Baptist Church).
 
The debate over the Illinois stand on slavery split the church. Anti-slavery Baptists withdrew from New Design and Richland Creek Churches and constituted themselves the Cantine  Baptized Church of Christ, Friends of Humanity. This church was later renamed Bethel Baptist Church and during the Civil War was a station along the underground railroad. The access door to the hidden cellar survives to this day.
 
Eventually, the Richland Creek Baptist Church disbanded and it is believed that the former members later united together to form our church, which was then called the Unity United Baptist Church of Christ often called Unity Church of United Baptist. According to the original minutes which we have in our church library, our church was organized in what was referred to as the Anthony Grove Schoolhouse on September 8, 1850. There were fifty people present at the time. Unfortunately, no records or photographs of this schoolhouse are known to survive.
 
The first church building was located at Anthony’s Grove on the west side of Old Collinsville Road, appox. 1 1/2 miles south of route 50, and about 1 mile north of John Messenger Cemetary. This site was formerly part of the Thouvenot farm and is known as 4801 Old Collinsville Road.
 
Tragically, on November 12,1872, a former member of the church burned down the building. He apparently became incensed because he was excluded from membership for non attendance. He was later declared mentally ill. The congregation continued to meet at the Pleasant Hill School until the second building was constructed on the same site in 1873.
 
On March 5, 1938 this second building was destroyed by a tornado. Eyewitnesses reported that after the tornado, only the piano, the pulpit and an open Bible on the pulpit were still intact although music books were found as far as Bond county. (The old Bible is still intact and can be found in the Historical Display in the hallway to the Unity Education Building.)
 
Because of the total destruction of the church building, many members joined other churches. Those remaining met and worshiped at different schools in the area – one being the Pontiac School on Hwy. 159 (the site of the parking lot of Old Navy). On May 22, 1938, ten members met in the school when a motion was made to disband the church since they had no building and only a few members. The pastor at the time refused to accept the motion saying he would never accept a motion to disband a Baptist Church. He would however grant letters to all who requested them. Some took their letters leaving only five members. They continued to worship at Pontiac School until 1940.
 
In 1939, the church purchased land at Roselawn Ave. on Hwy. 50 in what was called Roselawn Heights. At the time it was a corn field with no houses in sight. Critics said nothin would come of this place in the sticks. This is now identified as 10401 Lincoln Trail, Fairview Heights, IL, our present location.
 
October 5, 1939, a motion was made to incorporate officially as the Unity Baptist Church of Roselawn Heights. A new church building was completed in May, 1940 with an educational building added in 1948. Both buildings were razed in 1996 for expansion. By 1955 a new sanctuary was built with a capacity of 600. This building is now known as Perry Hall and is used as a fellowship hall. Another education building was completed in June, 1963. In the fall of 1961 a kindergarten ministry was started which grew into what today is our day care minisry (Child Development Center).
 
As the city of Fairview Heights became incorporated, the name of the church was changed once again. January 1, 1969 we officially became First Baptist Church of Fairview Heights, IL.
 
On April 22, 1979, ground was broken for the new worship center and on March 23, 1980 the first services were held in this new building.
 
After fundraising, construction on a new three story, educational facility was begun. November of 1996, the original church structure built in 1940 and the two church homes were demolished. One year later, November 16, 1997, several hundred members braved the brisk cold to place a time capsule and stone marker dedicating the Unity Education Building.
 
Over the years the church established missions which are now organized churches: Meadow Heights Baptist Church at Collinsville, Wherry Road Baptist Church (now known as Spring Valley) near Scott Air Force Base, Westgate Baptist Church at Trenton, Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist in Normal, Lincoln Southern Baptist Chapel in Lincoln, and assisted in the formation of the known Korean Baptist Church, Fairview Heights.