On August 3, 1897, G. R. Welch, a student from McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario, began his task of starting a new church in Nelson; specifically a Baptist church. Rev. Welch had been sent to Nelson by the Home Mission Board of the Convention of Baptist Churches of BC. In five days the first service of worship was held in the Public School on Stanley Street (now the location of Central School). Weekly prayer meetings were started a month later.
September 8, 1897. Steady growth was reported and after the service of worship, a group of 10 men and women gathered to officially organize themselves into a church. Brother Waterman, seconded by Brother Telford, made a motion “That, we the members in good standing of Regular Baptist Churches do organize ourselves into a Regular Baptist Church.” The motion was carried unanimously. Then Brother Telford, seconded by Brother Waterman, moved “That the church be known as the First Baptist Church of Nelson.” This motion was also carried. George Telford became the first clerk of the church. The founding fathers at that meeting, were Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Waterman, John and George Telford, Robert Wilson, Leo Craig, Louis Nordin, Mr Patterson, Mrs. Seaton and Miss Outram. A week later Sunday School classes began. By October 13, 1897, an organ had been bought, and hymn books and offering envelopes were all in place and in use.
March 1898. The School Trustees set a rental of $2.59 per month for the use of the school house for Sunday School purposes.
On November 17, 1897, the new congregation applied to the Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Navigation Company for a piece of property (L. 13-14, Blk. 33) on which to build their own building.
March 23, 1898. The Railway and Navigation Company agreed to sell Lots 6–7, Block 31 (not the Block originally requested) for $250 to the Baptists on the condition that they build a “good and substantial church on the above-mentioned property within six months from the date of purchase“. Half the money was due as a down payment with the balance due in 6 months at 6% per annum. Building plans were chosen and the projected cost of the project was $3,000. (The final cost was $3,200.)
May 19, 1898. The Nelson Miner (the local newspaper) stated: “The Baptist congregation here have let the contract for the erection of a new church on Stanley Street opposite the public school square. The main building will be 64 by 36 feet with vestry and committee rooms in the rear and a Sunday School room in the basement. There will be a 70 foot tower and belfry. The architects are Messrs. Ewart and Carrie and the contractor Mr. L.W. Kribs. The plans and specifications provide for a very neat and handsome structure.” And by June 10, 1898. The Nelson Miner reported that “… the work on the new Baptist Church on Stanley Street is being rapidly pushed ahead.”
So, just one year after the congregation began and just 5 months after purchasing land, the first services were held in the new building on August 20, 1898. Three services were held that Sunday with musical numbers from other churches in the community. Rev. R.W. Trotter from Victoria was the guest preacher. Both the Methodist and Presbyterian congregations cancelled morning services to help celebrate the occasion. Over $400 were collected at the three services. Rev. Trotter announced that if $500 were raised he would find matching money on his return to Victoria. With the offerings and Rev. Trotter’s gift, the church was debt free.
In September 24, 1898, G.R. Welch returned to McMaster University to complete his theological studies, and was replaced by Rev. C.W. Rose. Two year later C.W. Rose was replaced by Coulter White.
1904. Mrs T.H. Waters was baptized.
1905. Rev. G. Morton Walker led the congregation of First Baptist Church for a short time, to be replaced by Rev Ernest H. Shanks who was the pastor as the congregation celebrated its eighth anniversary on October 1. Sundays were busy. Sunday Preaching was held at 11 am. and 7:30 pm. and Bible School was at 2:30 pm. with an enrollment of about 100. A Prayer meeting was at 7:00 pm. The Young Peoples met on Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays there was a mid-week prayer meeting with choir rehearsal on Fridays. Nelson’s public School Board also used the basement of the church for office space.
1906. The Daily Canadian (another of Nelson’s early newspapers) reported that “… another step in the advancing work of the local Baptist Church is marked by the … hitherto unused part of the basement for a Young People’s meeting room”. Eventually, the finished basement boasted two large and two small rooms, a furnace room, kitchen, and single wash room.
1907. Rev. J. Morgan took on pastoral responsibilities. In that year, the congregation applied to become a self supporting church; no-longer needing home mission funding. Mrs. George Boyes was baptized.
1908. Rev. A.N. Frith lead the congregation, followed by Dr. Hooper in 1910 and C.W. King in 1911. And by 1912, the church was attracting a large Sunday attendance; many of whom were miners. Membership hit 112, with Sunday School attendance up to 150, and the Young People’s group numbering 25. The church property was valued at $10,000.
In 1913, D.M. Thompson was pastor for a few months. He was followed by Rev. Corey in 1915 and Dr. Newton Wolverton in 1916, and Rev. H.S. Bagnall in 1917.
May 7, 1923. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the church, stained glass windows were installed to replace all the front and side windows of the building, except the arched window over the south door. The Nelson Daily News stated: “Baptist Church has new windows … pleasing improvements have been carried out in the Baptist edifice.” The windows were donated by Dr. and Mrs Newton Wolverton. Dr Wolverton, a member of the church since 1907, was one of U.B.C.’s first senators, a prominent Liberal, on the Nelson School Board and active in Baptist work throughout Western canada. He was instrumental in paving the way for women students at the University of Toronto. He moved to Vancouver 7 years after the windows were installed.1918. There were 2 more baptisms, and yet another 2 in 1919. In 1921, J.E. Tyner assumed pastoral responsibilities and Florence Jeffery was baptized.
The windows were subsequently moved to the new Baptist Church when it was built in 1950.