First Baptist Church, Palestine
Dr. Clapp resigned in 1921 to go to a church in Paducah, Kentucky. Rev. Byron T. Smith of Oklahoma came to take over the work. During his pastorate, Mr. J. F. Bradford of Dallas was chosen educational director of the Sunday School, and an intensive training and teaching Sunday School program resulted. Two hundred workers were commissioned to take a Baptist census of Palestine. Mr. R. H. Bunnell, Superintendent of the Sunday School, deserves much credit for the standardization which resulted from these steps. Many departmental Superintendents and trained teachers and workers today make the Baptist Sunday School one of the finest in the South. Rev. Mr. Smith resigned in 1926 to go to the church at Texarkana. Rev. Calvin Nelson, a Baylor University graduate and pastor of a San Antonio church came next, and to the joy of his ever growing congregations ,he is still "leading us on and on to higher mounts," Mrs. Dean declares.
On October 29, 1933, Brother Nelson's sermon commemorating the eighth anniversary of his pastorate over first Baptist Church was broadcast. Amongst other work accomplished, the addition of 1,126 new members to the church for the period of his pastorate was reported. Seven places of worship under direction of pastor and church established as follows: Tucker, Old Rock, Magnolia, Four Pines, Concord, Chamber's School, and Anderson County Jail.
Women's work in the church from earliest days deserves especial mention: Mrs. T. Y. Bell, now of Dallas; Mrs. T. W. Smith of Mississippi; Mrs. Mary Melton of El Paso; Miss Emma Bowen of Houston; and Mrs. A. D. Sparkman of Dallas have left their impress on the church that nothing can efface. And the women of today are following in the same shining paths trod by those mentioned. Mrs. Dean pays them all a beautiful tribute. Beginning with Mrs. J. C. Cohen, Personal Service Chairman of the W. M. S. whose "work knows no bounds;" then naming Mrs. Thomas Reeves, daughter of the beloved pioneer preacher, Rev. Uriah W. Lunsford; Mrs. L. W. Ludewick "always ready at every call"; Mrs. Iva Green Melton; Mrs. W. E. Mathews, teacher of T E L Class, who "can always be depended on" ; Mrs. L. A. Graves; Mrs. J. C. Duncan; Miss Novie Rogers, "tried and true" ; Mrs. A. A. Brooks; Mrs. Elle Dickson, Mrs. F. A. Davis, Mrs. J. C. Johnson, Superintendent Beginners Department; Misses Nettie Johnson and May Rogers, Intermediate and Junior Superintendts; Mrs. Roy Fitsgerald, Superintendent Primary; Mrs. Calvin Nelson, Superintendent Cradle Roll—all business women, but "never too busy to stop and go." The choir "like a family ready for service anywhere, everywhere," and the orchestra "highly appreciated." To Mr. and Mrs. John Wesley Sory much of the credit for the splendid music is due. Really and truly, "They never tire in their work of leading this great choir."
A Centennial History of Anderson County, Texas, 1936 by Pauline Buck Hohes.
First Baptist Church of Palestine. First Baptist Church can trace its history to 1851, five years after Palestine was founded as the Anderson County seat. Elders McKane and Zachariah Worley (an ordained minister), John and Sarah Smith, J. E. and Rachel Teague, Thomas V. Smith, Theresa Stevens, and Annie Harris organized the congregation. They met for worship in Bascom Chapel, which they shared with members of other early Palestine churches. The Baptists built their first sanctuary at the corner of Perry and Murchison streets in 1853. There they became known as Old Town Baptist Church and hosted the Baptist state convention in 1854. In 1879, the church hosted Palestine's first revival meeting led by Major William Penn. Under Penn's leadership, the congregation raised money through nickel contributions to build a new church on Avenue A. The new building, completed in 1887, became known as Avenue "Nickel" Baptist Church. After a fire destroyed the Avenue Church, a new sanctuary was completed on Sycamore Street under the leadership of the Rev. R. L. Gillon in 1912. Now known as First Baptist Church of Palestine, the congregation continues its commitment to Christian mission and ministry in Palestine, Anderson County and around the world. - Historical Marker Text. Marker erected 2001. Located at 801 N. Sycamore St, Palestine.