First Baptist Church in downtown Edgefield was founded in 1823 as Edgefield Village Baptist Church and holds a significant place within the denomination’s state, regional, and national history. Its first pastor was the Reverend Basil Manly, Sr., who served the congregation until 1826. That same year, efforts by First Baptist Church led to the establishment of the Furman Academy and Theological Institution in Edgefield. The Academy later relocated to Greenville and became Furman University – today one of South Carolina’s most esteemed institutions of higher learning.
The Reverend Manly was succeeded in 1830 by Dr. William Bullein Johnson. Dr. Johnson was integral in organizing the Southern Baptist Convention, which was founded in 1845 just across the Savannah River in Augusta, Georgia. Dr. Johnson served as the Southern Baptist Convention’s first president; at the time, the Convention represented more than 365,000 Baptists from throughout the South. Prior to the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention, Edgefield Baptist Church belonged to the General Baptist Convention.
First Baptist Church was also an early home to Dr. Robert Greene Lee, a York County native who preached here from 1918 to 1921. Among the most famous orators in America, his “Payday Some Day” sermon, written in Edgefield in 1919, is considered a Baptist classic. In fact, before his death he delivered the sermon nearly 1,300 times!
First Baptist Church: Architectural History
First Baptist Church’s first house of worship – a small, wood-frame building – was torn down in 1888 to make room for a larger brick church. The second church suffered a devastating fire when lightning struck its steeple on June 25, 1913. The building was destroyed as a result.
The present church was built soon after the fire, and the first sermon delivered here took place on September 27, 1914. An educational building was added in 1948, and an activities building was erected on the church campus in 1978, reflecting the growth of the congregation.
By the summer of 2019, a little over a century after the church was built, its steeple needed replacement. The congregation of First Baptist decided to replace the old steeple with a new one in a more common style. The Reverend Andy Hunter, who pastors Edgefield’s Antioch Baptist Church, was on hand to document the transition.