History of FBCOur Story
In the early 1800’s, the Centerville area was settled by Nathan, Jacob, Matthew, and Daniel Busbay, and was called Busbayville according to the old Bonner Map of 1847. The community was later called Centerville because it is located halfway between Byron and Wellston (now Warner Robins). Records show Mitchell Etheridge owned a store here as early as 1885. He wanted a post office for this community, but was told that there already was a Centerville, Georgia in Gwinnett County. He changed the name of the community to Hattie for his oldest daughter, Hattie Etheridge Kemper. At first mail came once a week by horseback but later was delivered daily. That post office eventually closed. A school system was started in a one-room schoolhouse named Hattie School, sometime before 1896. W. C. Monk was principal in 1896. A new, larger, two-room community schoolhouse, Centerville School, was built next to the old school in 1900. It had one classroom and a large auditorium used as a classroom. Six classrooms were added sometime in the 1920’s.
1900: Church services were held once a month in the smaller Hattie School. Rev. Geiger, Field Secretary for the Rehoboth Baptist Association, preached in those services. A tent was soon erected to house the services.
1901: Our church was first organized as Hattie Baptist Church. Rev. W. L. Cutts served as the first pastor. It was helped by Byron Baptist Church. Mr. Mitchell F. Etheridge donated a half an acre for a church and the men of the community built a “one-room church” across from where the Educational Building (B Building) is today. Walker Kenyser, Sr., was the overseer of the building project. Lumber was hauled on a two-horse wagon from Wellston (what is now Warner Robins). W. L. Cutts was Pastor and Dr. S. D. Smith and L. F. Willingham were Deacons.
1906: Land was donated by Mr. Etheridge for a large cemetery. The first burial was that of the infant daughter of Oscar Huff and Stembridge and Lena Etheridge Stembridge in 1907. She was Mitchell Etheridge’s granddaughter.
1912: W. B. Bassett served as pastor. There were 78 members of the church and 25 Sunday School members. Church services met every third Saturday and Sunday. The church property was valued at $1300.
1914-1917: Rev. Claude Bridges served as pastor. His salary was $15.00 per month. He led the church to have a graded Sunday School. In 1915, Ancel G. Rape was Superintendent of the Sunday School. There were 69 members, 7 new baptisms, bringing the total membership to 76.
Other early Pastors included Reverends Jno. Baxter: 1919; W. H. Norton, J. W. Little, Z. T. Weaver, A. S. Dix, C. R. Hutchings, J. F. Eden, R. O. Martin, S. S. Henderson, C. C. Cox, and E. B. Autry, 1924-26.
1920: Mrs. Garvin and Mrs. Caldwell were appointed to organize a Ladies Aid Society.
1921: A junior BYPU (Baptist Young Peoples Union) was begun in May. Miss Jewel Garvin was elected as leader.
1924: A protracted meeting was held during the summer and four new members were added to the church roll. Twelve more became members as a result of a meeting at the Oakland School House. According to the minutes, this meeting was an arm of Hattie Baptist Church.
1925: Rehoboth Association Minutes show the church had 15 baptisms, 133 members, and 68 enrolled in Sunday School. Total contributions were $435, and the value of all church property was $2500.
1934: There are no records from 1928-1937 except in 1934, when Rev. R. L. Bivins is mentioned as pastor.
1937: E. M. Clapp served as Pastor from 1937-1946. He also served Avondale Church and Houston Factory Church. Rehoboth Association records show the Great Depression took its toll. There were 8 baptisms, 61 members, and 33 enrolled in Sunday School. The Pastor’s salary was $85, total church expenses including the Pastor’s salary was $146.50, gifts to the Cooperative Program of $10, total missions gifts (including CP) $15, and value of all church property, $2000.
1942: Membership dropped to 43. World War II changed everything.
1943: The old school burned on February 2. A new foundation was poured for a new school across the street from Hattie Baptist Church. The funds for the new school were given to another county, so a smaller school had to be built. The smaller school was built next to where the foundation had been poured for the larger school. The smaller school, which was built in 1943 or 1944, was used for many years as a choir rehearsal hall and as a Sunday School room.
1945: The first choir was started with Rev. Nat Bridges as Choir Director.
1947: A. L. Caldwell served as Pastor. The first structural change to the original church was made.
1948: The church held services on the first and third Sundays of each month.
1949: In October, the church started holding services every Sunday. Two Sunday School classrooms were added to the church.
1950: Rev. H. T. Montgomery served as Pastor. A brick wall was built around the outside of the church. The floors were sanded and new pews were purchased. Two additional Sunday School rooms were added.
1953: Rev. John E. Jackson served as Pastor.
1954: Rev. J. Fred Presley served as Pastor. Rehoboth Association Minutes show 11 baptisms, 135 members, Pastor’s salary of $2080, Sunday School enrollment of 129, Sunday School average attendance of 78. Sherrill Stafford was Sunday School Superintendent.
1955: Rev. Mobley Cross served as Pastor from 1955-1963. This proved to be one of the strongest growth periods in the history of the church.
1958: The Hattie community was incorporated and the name changed to the City of Centerville on March 25, 1958. The church purchased an old school building and three acres of land for $5,000 across Church Street from the existing church. This is where our current buildings are located. A new sanctuary was built at a cost of $55,000.
1959: On April 19, the new sanctuary was dedicated. Rev. Jimmy Waters, Pastor of Mabel White Baptist Church in Macon, preached the Dedicatory Sermon. The first persons to join the church in the new sanctuary were Bob and Jean Smith. This is now the Office and Education Building known as the A Building.
1962: The members of Hattie Baptist Church voted to change the name of the church to First Baptist Church of Centerville. A new, brick pastorium was constructed and completed in October at a cost of $13,000. Rev. Mobley Cross and his family were the first to occupy this home.
1963: The church called its first full-time Pastor, Rev. Robert Harris, who served until 1965.
1964: The church voted in August to purchase the house behind the pastorium for future Sunday School space.
1966: Rev. Lawson Jolly served as Pastor from 1966-1967. The church continued to grow and more Sunday School space was needed. Plans were made and construction of an Educational Building was begun. When the foundation was being dug, they found the old foundation of the school, which was not finished due to lack of funds. The church membership was 433 and the annual budget was $37,718.
1967: On January 22, the Educational Building, now the B Building, was dedicated. The cost was $130,000. Sandy Valley Mission was established in May with James Douglas Boss serving as pastor. First Baptist Centerville supported Sandy Valley financially and spiritually until 1968. Work began in September on a mission home for use by furloughing missionaries at no cost.
1968: Rev. William D. Simrell, Sr. served as Pastor from 1968-1974.
1973: In April, Andrew Creel was called as the first part-time Youth Director.
1976: Rev. Benny Braddy was Pastor. The church membership was 635 with 332 enrolled in Sunday School and Sunday School average attendance of 147.
1977: Rev. Sydney Odom served as Pastor from 1977- Dec. 31, 1987, when he retired. During Bro. Sydney’s tenure the church built a Family Life Center and outgrew the sanctuary for worship. Rehoboth Association Minutes show 24 baptisms, 683 members, pastorium valued at $25,000, and total value of church property of $238,000 in 1977.
1980: The Family Life Center, now the C Building, was built and dedicated at a cost of $250,000. The dedication service was held on October 19th. The building included a gym, twenty-one classrooms, and a commercial kitchen.
1986: The church membership was 914.
1987: In October, it was decided to relocate the worship services. Morning worship services were moved to the Family Life Center to accommodate the growing crowds. The church leadership determined that the land adjacent to the south end of the church’s property, the Edward’s property, needed to be purchased in order to build a new Worship Center.
1988: Dr. Bruce Allen served as Pastor from 1988-1996. The former sanctuary was converted to office and educational space in the late 1980’s. Dr. Allen’s tenure was period of significant growth in attendance, evangelism, and ministry for the church.
1989: A Together We Build banquet to begin funding a new Worship Center was held April 23.
1990: The church’s first Wild Game Dinner was held with over 800 men in attendance in the Family Life Center. It later was picked up by the Rehoboth Baptist Association. It is still held annually at the Georgia National Fairgrounds each February.
1993: The entire congregation marched around the much needed Edward’s property, claiming the land for our church. In April, by God’s grace, an agreement was reached and the church agreed to purchase the building on the property and the property for $93,000. The church could now proceed with plans for a new Worship Center. The groundbreaking service was held on August 15 for construction of the new Worship Center.
1995: “Crossover Sunday” was held on Sunday, January 8 when the church family met in the Family Life Center for a brief service and then “Crossed Over” to the new Worship Center. In order to continue the history of the old church buildings, five bricks from the old sanctuary were placed in the floor of the Worship Center foyer. An open house and reception were held that afternoon. This beautiful structure cost approximately $2 million and seats about 1,100.
1996: The church membership was 1839.
1999: Dr. Tommy Lamb served as Pastor from 1999-2001.
2001: A “Building for Life” stewardship campaign was conducted in order to raise $75,000 on a single Sunday in order to pay for the construction of eight new classrooms and two restrooms in the Family Life Center. This year saw the celebration of our Church Family’s Centennial Anniversary.
2002: Dr. Charles Strickland served as Pastor from 2002-2005. Rev. David Grantham began his ministry as Associate Pastor of Students in September.
2006: Dr. M. Allen Hughes was called as Senior Pastor on March 12th, and began his ministry with us on April 2. Dr. Ray Gentry began his ministry as Associate Pastor of Biblical Guidance in June. Rev. Terry McLeod began his ministry as Associate Pastor of Music in July. The motto, Where Church Meets Life, was introduced, new signage around campus was updated, and the buildings alphabetized and classrooms renumbered. The Students were relocated upstairs in B Building where they could all be together. A Student Worship Center and Game Room were unveiled.
2007: The Worship Center foyer was remodeled with new furniture, paint, and carpet. Two Welcome Centers were built. More Guest Parking was added. A new 43 passenger Church Bus was donated to the church. The Preschool entrance was modernized and upgraded. New ministries include: Prayer Ministry Teams praying during the Worship Services, Parking Lot Greeters, Worship Service Greeters, a Student Choir, and expanded ministry to our Homebound and Nursing Home members.
2008: Membership is 1976, Sunday School Enrollment is 1276, average Sunday School attendance is 452, average Disciples For Life attendance is 384, and the budget is $1,225, 603. FBCC gives 12% of undesignated receipts to SBC missions through the Cooperative Program. New Ministries: Circle of Friends Widows Fellowship, Upward Basketball begins in the fall.