A little research yields the basic facts, but hidden within each date, each milestone, each statistic, are stories that tell not only the church’s history, but the history of the town itself. The body of believers known today as First Baptist Church Woodstock actually came into being on October 13, 1837, when twelve men and women of like mind constituted Enon Church. Details of early meeting houses are sketchy, but the tiny congregation likely met at first in a log house at the site now occupied by Enon Cemetery. In 1871, minutes of their business meeting describe a new building to be constructed at a final cost of $899.00. The old building was sold for $47.25, and sale of the seats brought a hefty $47.10. In 1879, the year the railroad came to town and a depot was constructed, Enon members decided to move their building nearer to what appeared to be the center of the Woodstock community. (The city was not yet chartered.) It was a banner year for them in another way as well — they organized their first Sunday school.
Property on what is now Towne Lake Parkway, just off Main Street, was donated to the church, and the old building, suffering from the actual move down the road, was repaired and re-roofed, and a cupola was added. The congregation changed its name to Woodstock Baptist Church in 1884, and in 1891 a new white frame church house was constructed facing Main Street. It featured two distinctly different steeples with a curved archway entrance, architecturally popular at the time. By then, the settlement was beginning to grow, and six years later, in 1897, the Town of Woodstock charter was granted by the Georgia Legislature. The first mayor was N. A. Fowler, a deacon at the Baptist Church.
The church minutes reveal the next chapter in the story: “On Sunday night, May 4, 1913, the dwelling house of Mr. J. H. Johnston caught on fire at 9:00 and the Baptist church house caught from that building and was burned down saving only the seats and Bible.”
A week later, a building committee was chosen. Those committee members earned spots on the cornerstone of the new building. They were O.D. Perkinson, C.J. Hunter, H.C. McAfee, G.S. Barnes, J.B. Medford, Emmett Dial, and W.P. Sewell. The Johnston house was re-built as well in matching brick with white Roman columns, and the two structures seem, still today, to complement each other.
Baptists occupied the 1913 building until a new sanctuary was built adjoining on the west side in 1978. Soon afterwards, a second story was added to the original education annex, a building that was originally one of numerous warehouses that once dotted the town’s landscape. The second floor would become a new fellowship hall. (That structure is slated for demolition in the near future. The original fellowship hall bit the dust last year.)
In an interesting turn of events, in 1982, the church purchased the Johnston home next door for use as offices. Renovation was completed at a cost of $10,000. The dedication service was held on Sunday evening, June 13. Members of the Johnston family attended the service, and after seeing the results of the restoration of the home, made a donation of $10,000 to the church from the Joe Johnston Foundation.
Growth required yet another move and in 1991, the church relocated to Neese Road. The City of Woodstock’s recent purchase of the property was welcome news to historic preservation groups. Plans are in place for the City Council and other public meetings to take place in the old sanctuary. Renovation and restoration has turned it into a showplace. Its new name, “The Chambers at City Center,” was chosen in honor of former mayor and city clerk Evelyn Whitmire Chambers, Woodstock’s first (and only) female mayor. An Open House will take place July 11, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. followed by a Dedication Ceremony. The regular meeting of the mayor and council will be postponed until 7:30, their first meeting in the new chambers.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and the former director of the Woodstock Public Library.