History of the First Baptist Church of Chili, NY

Submitted by Bertha Henderson


The First Baptist Church of Chili had its conception in private homes and in a little schoolhouse not far from the present church.

These gatherings began taking place as early as 1827, five years after the Town of Chili became a separate territorial unit from the Town of Riga.

On September 16, 1834 there was a meeting at the home of Joseph Chapman a short distance south of the present church. It was decided to take legal action to become a corporate body under the name of "The First Calvanistic Strict Communion Baptist Church and Society of Chili."

Four months later a contract was signed between Zebulon Paul and Isaac Barrett of the first part and David Bangs of the second part for the erection of a church at Chili Center where there was already a store and a tavern on one of the main stage coach, routes between Buffalo and Rochester.

According to the contract, the church structure was to be 40 feet wide and 54 feet long, reserving 12 feet at the front for a porch and upper room. The building was to be furnished and ready for services on December 1, 1835.

The cost of the church was to be $1,864 and the money was raised by subscription.

The builders met with unforeseen difficulties and many discouragements during the months the church was under construction. Nearly all the materials had to be drawn by oxcarts from the town of Bloomfield, nearly twenty miles southeast of Chili, and over poor roads and through swamps, going one day and returning the next. The heavily loaded oxcarts became mired in the swamps and sometimes it would require hours of hard labor to extricate them and start them on their way.

In spite of heavy odds against them, the builders finished the church according to contract, and it was later dedicated with appropriate ceremonies.

That was the beginning. Many events were to follow. Listed here are some of the more notable events, along with the date of each, as they appeared in the old record books:

In 1847 the Sunday School was organized.

In 1860 sheds were built for protection of horses and carriages.

In 1877 the people of the church had a parsonage built on Chili Avenue, and the following year, erected a barn behind it.

Also in 1877, the church became an incorporation, and the records show it had shortened its name to "The First Baptist Church of Chili."

In 1881, a deed for the Grove across from the church was recorded in the county clerk's office in the name of the church.

In 1883, the audience room was repaired and the pews were changed. The windows and the wainscotting were added. The aisle was changed from the side to the center and the two doors on the side were changed to one in the center. A new pulpit was added and the floor at the north end of the room was dropped, leaving the floor level.

The church was closed from August 1883 until January 1, 1884 while it was being remodeled. Rededication took place. At this time the church was free from. debt.

In 1898, the church records show the name had been shortened to: "Chili Center Baptist Church."

In November 1913 open communion was voted upon and accepted.

In December 1914, the envelope system of collecting money was installed.

In May 1917, the cornerstone was laid for the new addition at the north end of the church. The church records were placed in the top block facing the south in the southeast corner of the new addition.

By November 1917, the new addition was completed and dedicated.

In 1918, in honor to the soldier boys of this locality, it was decided the church provide a Community Service Flag decked with eight black stars.

Also, in October 1918, the church was closed one Sabbath on account of the prevailing disease widely known as. the "Spanish Influenza."

In October 1921, the church was again closed for a Sabbath, as a hardwood floor was being laid; the expense was met by the Ladies Aid.

By 1925, the church once again was calling itself, "The First Baptist Church of Chili." Twenty years later it again became "Chili Center Baptist Church."

In the middle 1940's the members of the Mr. & Mrs. Club took down the sheds and built the Youth Center for the young people of the community.

In 1953 the sanctuary was again remodeled. The floor at the north end was raised by the addition of a platform going across the width of the room. This platform was to have choir lofts at each end and the communion table, pulpit and lectern in the center. The interior was also painted. At this time the church received the gift of a Hammond Organ from Messers George and Fred Wilkinsen.

In 1955, the church purchased the house across from it at the intersection of Chili and Paul Roads to be used for Sunday School activities. This house was built in 1875 and was called "Henderson House."

In 1957 if was decided to change the name once again to "The First Baptist Church of Chili."

In January 1958 a building lot about one mile east of the church on Paul Road was donated by Mr. Earl Howarth. A new parsonage was built, on this lot in 1959.

Thus, many events of the past 125 years have been reviewed. As we look to the future, we should plan to bring to this church a history as progressive as the past.


Pastors of the First Baptist Church of Chili


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