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First Baptist beginnings unclear, but presence now unmistakable

POSTED: September 3, 2011 1:30 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Senior Pastor Isaac Whitehead Jr. leads the congregation of First Baptist Church in prayer.

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The First Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. is one of the oldest continuous churches in Gainesville. First organized in 1838, little is known about the early days of the church because there were no written records.

Around 1877 the Rev. Jack Nichols, a former slave, was named the pastor of the church. Over the next 26 years, Pastor Nichols helped expand the church with more than 400 people being baptized.

A new church building was built around 1901 at the corner of High And Pine streets.

Under the leadership of the Rev. William Dorsey starting in 1906, the church became affiliated with the Northwestern Baptist Association.

Also under the Rev. Dorsey's leadership, the church purchased a parcel of land on Myrtle Street (later changed to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) and the present sanctuary was built in 1923.

Through the years under a succession of pastors, the church expanded to include a fellowship hall, kitchen and basement. Later an educational wing was built along with a nine-room parsonage.

The Rev. Isaac Whitehead Jr. became the pastor of First Baptist Church in December of 1997. The Rev. Whitehead has led the church's growth and expanded worship services and ministries.

The church remains active in the community with a congregation of about 300 members.




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