First Baptist Church
of Liberty

First Baptist Church of Liberty

Our story as of 2021

(revised 7-5-21)


The Liberty Baptist Church, now called First Baptist Church, was organized by Rev. T. H. Feagin and eight charter members on February 20, 1898, at 3 p.m. in the old Liberty County Courthouse. The charter members were Dr. and Mrs. Thomas G. Lawson, Miss Becky Lawson, Mr. W. S. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Chester McClave, Mr. and Mrs. Roy Ranson and Rev. T. H. Feagin, Organizer.

First Baptist Church of Liberty

Rev. Feagin, Rev. P. N. Bentley, and Rev. J.F. Dobbs were missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention who were largely responsible for the entire organization of the Southeast Association and the establishment of most of the churches belonging to that association. The circuit-riding character of their ministry can be seen in the Association records. The Southeast Texas Baptist Association was organized in 1888. Liberty Baptist Church was a member of the Southeast Texas (Missionary) Baptist Association from the time of the organization in 1898 until some time in the 1940’s when it became a member of Trinity River Baptist Association.

Church members met in the Courthouse for several months. Liberty Vindicator, May 13, 1898, stated that, “Our Baptist brethren will hold services next Sunday at the Methodist Church. Rev. T.H. Feagin will preach.” For several years the members had no building in which to worship. During this time they were invited to share the Methodist Church building, the Methodists sharing it with the Baptists on alternate Sundays. By the end of 1898 there were 13 church members.

Liberty Vindicator, March 3, 1899 stated, “Our Baptist brethren propose building a church this summer. We wish them success.” January 26, 1900: “Baptists are soon to begin the foundation work for the building of their church.” The first building was begun in April 1900. It was a small frame structure on Cos Avenue, one lot east of Main Street. August 23, 1900: “The Baptists have been holding a meeting in their new church all week, conducted by Rev. Childress. Rev. D. Lambkin was unable to attend on account of sickness.”

Rev. Feagin continued to preach from the time of organization until October 20, 1905, but not continuously. He commuted to Liberty from Orange and later from Beaumont. During this time other ministers supplied the pulpit too.

In 1899 the total church membership was 18. Mr. S.B. Scott was Sunday School Supt., Ollie Robertson was Sunday School Secretary, Miss Lou King was Church Clerk. Sunday School enrollment was 28. Delegates to the Association in 1899 were Rev. Feagin, Dr. Lawson, and Mr. S. F. Feagin.

Miss Laura Jones (later Mrs. J.L. Ellis) was baptized the same day as Miss Kaleta Smith (later Mrs. Allen Wheat) in August 1898 at Lund’s Lake by Rev. Feagin. Mrs. Hattie Ellen DeVore and Mrs. Louis Kochan were baptized a few months later by Rev. Feagin. By 1900, the church membership was 23.

Rev. L.C. Kellis of Fate (near Dallas) filled the pulpit beginning in October 1902 until sometime in 1904. He was preaching one Sunday each month at Liberty, Dayton, and Johnson Bayou.

The total church membership was up to 32 in 1903 and 37 in 1904.

During the summer of 1904 the Ladies Aid Society was organized by Mrs. Louis Kochan who served as president for several years. It was a very active organization from the beginning and was responsible for much of the church’s finances. (Some years later the name was changed to Women’s Missionary Society). These Baptist ladies served dinners on the Courthouse square under the trees for many years, usually when the court was in session.

Also, during 1904 Mrs. Kochan was appointed to organize the Sunbeam Band and served as its leader for several years. Miss Millie Kochan was a charter member of the Sunbeam Band.

At a church conference held January 15, 1907 in the home of Pastor J.F. Dobbs, the church organization was further perfected and Articles of Faith were adopted. Church membership was 38 and the Sunday School enrollment was 68. Mr. John A. Jett was Sunday School Supt., and Mr. Ira B. Simmons was Church Clerk. Both were very active deacons.

The first six pastors were circuit-riding ministers and they were in order of service here: Rev. Feagin, Rev. L.C. Kellis, Rev. J.F. Dobbs, Rev. W. Lucius Robertson, Rev. Theo Heisig, and Rev. R.J. McGinty. Rev. S.H. Cain became pastor in late 1916. Rev. R.W. Lindsey came next as pastor, followed by Rev. C.R. Newton, Rev. C. Seman, Rev. J.W. McCall, and Rev. H.O. Hearne. Other early pastors or part-time pastors were Rev. D.L. Griffith, Rev. J.A. Smart, Rev. A.T. Coleman, and Rev. Marvin Pharr.

Baptisms during these early church years were held at the Trinity River or in Abbott’s Creek by the fairgrounds. Many mentions of revivals and other meetings occurred during this time. Humorously, the Easter musical in 1937 was cancelled due to illness but was finally performed in May of that year. The church had a cabin and held camp at the Palacious Baptist Encampment.

Pharr was an interesting character in that he was quite young, 24 years old when assuming the pastorate here in November of 1928. A jazz orchestra conductor in prior years, Pharr was an admirer of evangelistic crusades as attested by the Liberty Vindicator article in July of 1929 of Pharr declaring an interest in returning to Alabama or Georgia for an evangelistic crusade. He began evening services, probably not coincidentally; the City of Liberty established natural gas connections in March of 1929. A Liberty Vindicator advertisement in late 1929 states that Pharr’s telephone number was 150. But by the end of June, the church was looking for another minister. After a 9 day revival in July of 1929, Rev. Verner E. Stokes was called as pastor.

The church became a full-time church in the late twenties, soon after the South Liberty Oilfield boom in 1925. The parsonage was built in that year on the lot now occupied by the sanctuary. The church met briefly in a tent erected next to the Hayes Feed store across from the Courthouse due to “the erecting of a handsome new church”. So in 1930, while Rev. V.E. Stokes was pastor, the brick building that was used until 1953 as the entire church plant was built. It is at the northeast corner of Cos and Main Street. That year also saw the Methodists planning a new building, the Catholics, a new rectory, the current Liberty County Courthouse built, and a new modern bridge over the Trinity River completed.

Although attendance has varied over the years, 1957 saw the largest number of people attending Sunday school each week. The sixties decade was a tough battle for attendance beginning with 444 and ending with half that number.

In 2016, four deacon’s families from FBC began a new work in Raywood. This one called the Line Camp Cowboy Church. LCCC quickly became self-supporting and that group called Harland Strother on Feb. 28, 2016 to be their pastor. The group built a new church on Highway 90 in Devers and Sept. 2, 2018 was their first service in that facility.

Reverend Marvin Pharr
Figure 1 Rev. Marvin Pharr

Since early records of the church were lost in a fire, it is difficult to reconstruct a list of the full-time staff members who have served. Those who have been identified from the 1940’s are as follows: Dan Sharpley (Education Director), Josephine Galloway (Education Director), Ed Farmer (Music-Education), Leon Maxwell (Music-Education), Wallace Clayton (Music-Education), Charles Wilkins (Music-Education), John McClung (Music-Education), James Hackney (Music-Education), John McClung (returned to the church to serve as Music Director), Tommy Morris (Music-Activities), Horace Hise (Music-Education), Ron Davis, Michael Waites (interim) and Larry Pittman, part-time Minister of Music. It should be noted that E.L. Hardin, D.L. Hardin and Coyle Harrison spent considerable time directing the music of the church from 1939-1980.

Youth Directors since 1982 are Gary Post, Rickie Witt, Steve Bean, Jeff Loomis, Travis Cardwell, Keith Strahan, Clay Porterfield, Turner Roberts, Derek Brown* and Jonathon Dula. (* Added to our staff in December of 2011, Derek Brown served as our first Minister of Children and Students until his departure in 2016. Zach Smith was hired in 2018 but left a year later.

A partial list of church secretaries will also be of interest: Sue (Ball) Nail, Blanche Albrecht, Alice Vinson, Ann Gilliland, Kathleen Waldrop, Leslie Shivers, Penny Odell, Sarah Reeves, and Gabie Forames.


Not only are Baptists interested in building their own church, they are a mission-minded group that has an extensive history of missions work and establishing new churches over the years. West Liberty Baptist Church, now Heights Baptist Church was organized in October of 1948. The Fregia Community Mission was started in 1950. In 1951, the Raywood Mission was organized and L.F. Fulmer was chosen as their pastor. November of 1955 saw the establishment of the Oilfield Mission (possibly the South Liberty Baptist Chapel which later is given to Lily of the Valley Baptist Church in South Liberty Oilfield in 1971.) In 1960, the East Liberty Baptist Mission was given the responsibility of their own finances and later becomes Community Baptist Church.

In the late 1970’s, a ministry for Spanish-speaking people was sponsored by this church. Bro. Louis Lowry, a bi-lingual minister from Beaumont, came each Sunday afternoon and held services in the Activities Building. Then in 1983, a cooperative effort was begun with the First Baptist Church of Anahuac, with the help of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Bro. Jaime Gonzales was called to pastor the mission work in both locales. The Liberty mission met in the Education Building of First Baptist Church until 1985. Then, a property on Confederate Street was purchased from Dogwood Baptist Church.

Bro. Manuel Lazo became pastor of “El Principe de Paz Iglesia Bautista,” the name of the mission in 1988. Bro. Lazo remained pastor of the mission until November of 1997 when he died suddenly of a heart attack. “El Principe de Paz” continued for some years led by Angel Montero. In 2008, Nestor Guevara became the Hispanic Pastor. In 2010, Wylie and Georgie Jenkins, missionaries to Columbia came to FBC as Associate Pastor of Hispanic Ministry and Children’s Minister respectively. That year, the mission was incorporated back into the Main Street campus. Upon the Jenkins’ return to the mission field, Brazil this time, Freddie Villareal assumed leadership in this area.

In 2016, four deacon’s families from FBC began a new work in Raywood. This one called the Line Camp Cowboy Church. LCCC quickly became self-supporting and that group called Harland Strother on Feb. 28, 2016 to be their pastor. The group built a new church on Highway 90 in Devers and Sept. 2, 2018 was their first service in that facility.


In 1965, the church sponsored a Cub Scout pack with 43 boys attending.

In 1985, because of the large percentage of women in our church who worked outside the home, it was determined that a meal would be furnished at a nominal fee on Wednesday nights for anyone desiring to participate. The meal would be followed by prayer meeting for adults, and appropriate age-group activities for others. The Family Night Supper and the other meetings on Wednesday evenings flourished for years. In fact, the success of the ministry called for expansion and renovation of the kitchen in the Activities Building. The project was completed in 1991.

A special service called Children’s Church was begun by Kay Lanier that reached out to the children of the church.

Projects of ministry have also been undertaken in places other than Liberty. Mission teams from this church began going to conduct backyard Bible Clubs and Vacation Bible Schools as early as 1985, when a team went to Tempe, Arizona. In 1987 another group went to Urichsville, Ohio.

In 1990 a work crew finished the sanctuary for Peniel Iglesia Bautista in Eagle Pass, Texas. The youth held a Vacation Bible School and did puppet ministry in the city park. The next summer, FBC mission teams partially built an education building for Ven a El Iglesia Bautista in a subdivision of Eagle Pass. Again, the youth conducted a Vacation Bible School and used the puppets to tell children about Jesus.

Then in 1993 a group of nineteen adults went to conduct one of the first Vacation Bible Schools in Eastern Europe. They worked with the leadership and children at the Second Baptist Church of Oradea, Romania, a Romanian Speaking congregation, and the First Baptist Church of Oradea, an Hungarian speaking congregation. Approximately 1250 boys and girls were involved in the two Vacation Bible Schools. An additional 20 members of this church went that same summer to Hillside Baptist church of Greeley, Colorado to teach Vacation Bible School and to do construction and repair work on their educational facilities. In 1994 a team of 5 went back to Oradea, Romania to again help the two churches mentioned above with V.B.S., while another group of 29 traveled to Horeb Baptist Church in Del Rio, Texas, to do a Vacation Bible School and construction work. The next year a team of 40 went to the same church in Del Rio for another V.B.S. and to help finish work on the church’s sanctuary. Crestone Baptist Church in Crestone, Colorado, hosted a group of 30 youth and adults from First Baptist Church of Liberty in 1997 as the parsonage there was repaired and refurbished, as well as a Backyard Bible Club conducted in the city park.

In 2008, a long-term mission partnership was developed with Brinkley Heights Urban Academy and Street Reach Ministries in Memphis, TN, that continues today. Beginning in 2016, FBC partnered with Bethany Ministries in Zambia.

Of course, the regular means for Christian growth and education have also been utilized. Mission Friends, R.A.s, G.A.s, Acteens and Women on Mission met and taught about missions. Sunday School and Discipleship Training continue to be the means to learn more of God’s Word and to enable each individual Christian to be part of the church – the Body of Christ.