who we are
Reverend O.C. Wheeler was God’s instrument to give the first spark of flame for the First Baptist Church of Stockton. He sent a letter on October 1, 1849 to Captain Weber asking for the donation of property for the building of a church. That spark became a tiny flame in 1853 when J.B. Saxton of the American Baptist Home Mission Society selected Stockton as his first field of labor. He resided on South Sutter Street and had seventeen members in his home on March 6, 1853 to organize the First Baptist Church.
The seventeen who were the charter members back in 1853 were people of faith. For three months they worshiped in a school on the corner of Market and San Joaquin streets until they found a fandango hall on South Center Street which was purchased and prepared as a house of worship. It was dedicated on May 22, 1853. The new church moved to the corner of Lindsay and Hunter on June 11, 1860. The challenges were different then, but they rose to face them with a deep faith in a loving God who had brought this congregation into being.
The church building, which stood from 1860 to 1910, measures 45’ x 87’ with a tower and steeple 130’ high surmounted with a gilded hand 6’ tall. The hand had its index finger pointed upward toward Heaven. The auditorium and balcony seated 500 people. It was dedicated in June of 1861, the same year that the oldest picture on record was taken.
Plans were laid in September 1908 for the erection of the building which was destined to stand on Lindsay and Hunter from 1910 to 1953. Services were held on March 12, 1911 in dedication of the new building.
God continues to write history through His people. The next milestone for First Baptist Church took place under the leadership of Reverend Curtis Nims when the congregation purchased acreage on the corner of El Dorado and Euclid streets. The first spade full of earth was turned during ground-breaking ceremonies for a new building on February 15, 1953. The first two buildings and acreage were completely debt free. The plans for our present sanctuary were drawn when Dr. Emmet Parks was our pastor and the present sanctuary was dedicated on September 10, 1961.
Outstanding ministers have pastored this thriving congregation through the years and each left a significant mark on the lives of people and the ministry of the church. We have found God to be faithful and as people of faith, the ministry has moved forward and expanded for over 160 years.
In 2013, Dr. Jim Dunn retired after 26 years of ministry in Stockton and God has now placed the future of First Baptist under the leadership of Dr. Brad Stahl and his staff. Pastor Brad has been on the staff of FBC for over 20 years. The continuity of leadership has enabled FBC to continue thrive as we start this newest chapter in the rich history of our church.
First Baptist Church has enjoyed a long and prosperous ministry to the people of Stockton and nearby cities. With the Lord's blessing, we will continue our vision of helping people take their next step in knowing Jesus and making Him known, for many years to come.