March 1, 1908: Dedication of new First Baptist Church

On this day in Duluth in 1908, parishioners and celebrants dedicated the new edifice of Duluth’s First Baptist Church at 830 East First Street, the southeast corner of First Street and Ninth Avenue East. The church was first organized on August 27, 1870, by pioneers including attorney William W. Billson, who in 1892 lured Chester Congdon to Duluth with the promise of a job. Billson became the church’s first clerk. One historian wrote that “The new congregation was rich only in zeal,” and its first church building—at Third Street and Second Avenue East—wasn’t dedicated until August 1873. The new church contained two Tiffany stained-glass windows. The first, a field of Easter lilies, was in memory of pioneer G. C. Steele. The second, depicting the resurrection of Lazarus, was from Billson and his wife in memory of their daughter Alice Hester Billson, who died in 1903 when she was just nineteen years old. The Duluth News Tribune wrote that the window “is strikingly beautiful, and arrests the attention at once upon entering the church. The Billson’s donated the church organ in Alice’s name as well. Duluth’s First Christian Church and First Baptist Church merged in 1929 to create the United Baptist Christian Church.

Duluth’s 1915 First baptist Church. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)