Churches come into existence when there is a need. Such was the case of Anderson First Baptist Church. Originally called Mount Tabor, it was located one and a half miles south of Anderson where the Saluda Baptist Association Office now stands on South Murray Avenue. A number of people of the Baptist faith lived in this area, and in 1817, Rev. James Burriss began his ministry here. His congregation gathered under a brush arbor. A log house of worship replaced the arbor in 1819, and the church became a mission of the Shockley Ferry Baptist Church. In July 1821, Mount Tabor was constituted as an independent church with 56 members. Sanford Vandiver was the first pastor, a position he filled until 1842 (21years). In 1822, the church was admitted to the Saluda Baptist Association.
In 1834, the congregation of 86 people moved into the Village of Anderson. A small white frame building was erected on the present site and the name was changed to the Anderson Baptist Church. From that time to the present, the church, in order to meet the growing needs of its members, built new buildings, purchased additional properties, and added new facilities.
The church called its first full time pastor, the Rev. J. Scott Murray, in the Fall of 1851. The Sunday School was established in the early 1860’s. The woman’s Missionary Union was organized on April 20, 1875. Discipleship Training, as it is now called, was organized in 1900 as the Baptist Young People’s Union.
In the fall of 1892, the name of the church was changed to the First Baptist Church, and it was incorporated by the State of South Carolina on February 2, 1903. The first Vacation Bible School was held in the summer of 1920.
On the grounds of the present church office building, formerly the church parsonage, stood Johnson Female Seminary. It was organized in 1848, and named for Dr. William B. Johnson, the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He came to Anderson in 1853 as the Chancellor of this institution, the forerunner of Anderson College. At his death, Dr. Johnson was buried in the church cemetery where a handsome marker was erected by the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Nineteen pastors have served First Baptist Church. Dr. Josh Hunt is the current (20th) pastor. The church’s spiritual growth, evangelistic efforts, and contributions to missions and Christian education can be attributed to the labors of these men of God who have taught and led the people into a fuller life of Christian service. Under their capable leadership, the church has grown into one of the largest churches in the South Carolina Baptist Convention. From its beginning, it has contributed leadership and monetary support to all denominational causes.
The Janie Chapman Offering for State Missions was named for Mrs. J.D. Chapman, the first state Women’s Missionary Union President. Mrs. Chapman’s husband was pastor of the church from 1900 to 1907. Both of them were active in leading the youth of the church in Christian service. One of the young men involved in their organizations was W. Marshall Craig. Dr. Craig became recognized throughout the Southern Baptist Convention as an outstanding minister and evangelist. He is one of many of First Baptist’s sons and daughters that have entered Christian vocations, serving at home and abroad.
First Baptist Church has a noble heritage which serves to challenge today’s members to work diligently for the advancement of the Kingdom of God throughout the world.