August 27, 1870: Organization of Duluth’s First Baptist Church

On this day in Duluth in 1870, several Duluthians gathered at the home of Mrs. I. C. Spaulding to establish Duluth’s First Baptist Church. Two Minneapolis Baptist clergymen, Reverend Amos Gale and Reverend A. L. Cole presided over the meeting. Those in attendance included Mrs. Cynthia Parker, Mrs. Adaline Van Brunt, Mrs. James S. Campbell, J. S. Campbell, Mrs. Dorla Luce, Miss Alice M. Brown, Joseph Beach, Miss Elizabeth Beach, Mrs. Lucinda B. Spaulding, Robert Clapperton, and W. W. Billson. The group elected J. S. Campbell deacon and attorney William W. Billson church clerk. (In the 1890s, Billson hired St. Paul attorney Chester Congdon, who then moved his family to Duluth.) One historian wrote that “The new congregation was rich only in zeal,” and it took them some time to come up with the means to purchase land and build a proper church—and to obtain a pastor. In May of 1872 the congregation purchased a lot the intersection of Third Street and Second Avenue West and began building a church; together the building and land set the church back “between $3,000 and $3,500” or about $58,000 to $67,000 in today’s dollars. Later that month they offered Rev. Joseph L. A. Fish, of Holyoke, Mass., the job of pastor; Fish later became president of Florida memorial University, which still operates today. The first services were held in the new church in November, 1872, but it was not officially dedicated until August, 1873.

Reverend Joseph L. A. Fish. (Image: Public Domain)