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First Regular Baptist Church Records

Identifier: MS-81

Scope and Content

The First Regular Baptist Church, located in Dayton, Ohio, was organized in May 1824 and is still an active member of the Dayton community. The collection documents a long history in Dayton and includes church council minutes, board minutes, annual reports, church publications, constitution, resolutions, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photos, and business record. The records document the creation of the church to present day. The records are organized into seven series and two subseries.

Series I, Church History, is divided into two subseries. The subseries contain information pertaining to the history of the church and related organizations, from missions and publications, to depositions concerning the Cambellite Affair.

The relationships of the First Regular Baptist Church to various social currents are generally well documented in the collection. This includes such events as urbanization, foreign immigration, suburbanization, World War I, the Great Dayton Flood, the Great Depression, World War II, and the social activism of the 1960's. The collection conspicuously lacks materials relating to the slavery controversy or the Civil War.

This series also contains material from other churches in the area, such as the Dorothy Lane Baptist Church. Also highlighted in this series is the relationship between First Regular Baptist Church and area associations like the YMCA, YWCA, Dayton Area Baptist Association, and the Dayton Christian Center.

The church published three narrative histories. The study by Harriet Colvin and Myriam Page (1974) and the study by Henry A. Stout (1924) are revisions of Rev. Henry Colby's history, published in 1914. The researcher might find these studies to be useful tools for several reasons. They can provide an overview of the church's history. Leads are sometimes given in these histories for research in other materials such as newspapers and local government records. These studies contain a record of oral traditions and interviews. They also display the church's views of itself at the time of writing.

Series II, Church Records, document the inner workings of the church. Records include board of trustees, business records, various board minutes, correspondence, and stewardship documents.

The church operated on a fiscal year which began in May and ended in April until 1970 when they changed to a calendar year. When a file folder is labeled "1916-1917" it contains materials for the year beginning in May of 1916 and ending in April of 1917. The surrounding folders would be labeled "1915-1916" and "1917-1918."

The church held an annual meeting during the first part of May. At this time reports were received from the various boards and committees for their activities in the previous year. These reports have been placed in Series II, Church Records, according to the year of the annual meeting rather than the year on which they reported. When an annual report has been found with a body of materials relating to its particular board or committee, the original order has been retained.

Series III, Courier, was a weekly publication from the First Regular Baptist Church. The run of papers is from 1923 to 1995. The paper announced upcoming church events and church news.

Series IV, Programs and Handouts, contain weekly publications that were passed out at the church. The handouts include a copy of the week's sermon, weekly programs, the Bulletin, Here and Now Journal, and Worship With Us Hand Out.

Series V, Church Schools and Youth Organizations, document the church schools 1866 to the late 1970s. Through the years various classes have been formed such as, the Christian Homemakers Class, Mr. and Mrs. Class, and the Downtown Child Development Center (DCDC). Most of records are annual reports, however there is some material pertaining to the opening of the DCDC and general administrative records.

Series VI, Women's Organizations and Related Organizations, details the various women's groups through the decades. Some of the groups include Women's Foreign Missionary Society, Circle Nine, and the Matron's Circle. Most of the documents are meeting minutes but there are some calendars, directories, histories, and scrapbooks.

Series VII, Photos, Scrapbooks, and Audio, contains numerous photos from church classes, scrapbooks from women's organizations, cassettes of sermons, and albums. The photographs are mostly from the turn-of-the-century. Many of the photos are from church classes, church gatherings, directories, and activities. There are a few slides and negatives, also a newspaper scrapbook. There are several albums with church chimes and musicals. Also included in this series are seven stamps with images of the church and people imprinted on them.


  • Creation: 1829-2003


Restrictions on Access

The deed of gift includes two restrictions on public access to this collection. Records that primarily concern personnel of the church's paid staff are to be closed for twenty-five years from their origin and for ten years from the termination of the individual's employment by the church. All records are to be closed for a period of five years from their origin. Exceptions to these restrictions may be granted, upon written request, by the Executive Council of the church.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

History of irst Regular Baptist Church (Dayton, Ohio)

In 1823, several Baptists from Lebanon and other surrounding communities moved into Dayton. This movement initiated what became the First Baptist Church of Dayton. The church was organized on May 29, 1824. This strongly Calvinistic congregation held meetings and services at the Court House, in a room on St. Clair Street and on the porch of William Huffman's house at Third and Jefferson Streets. Stephan Garel, who had been pastor of a church in Trenton, Ohio, is believed to have been the first pastor. In September of 1824, the Miami Baptist Association received the church into its fellowship.

Under the ministry of D.S. Burnett, the church softened its Calvinism, erected its first church building, and saw their membership increase to 84, the largest in town. After these early successes, the Dayton Baptist Church encountered two major crises. On March 21, 1829, Rev. Burnett led the majority of the congregation into the Campbellite movement. They called for a simplified faith which could unite Christianity into one body and separated themselves from the Missionary Baptist Association. Only eight (possibly nine) members remained loyal to the Baptist creed.

In 1835, the Dayton Baptists suffered another blow when the Miami Baptist Association took a stand against the use of benevolent institutions. When the Baptist churches in Dayton, Cincinnati, Lebanon, and Middletown refused to condemn the use of Sunday Schools, missionary societies. etc., the Association dropped these churches from their minutes.

On February 25, 1837, the Dayton church became incorporated as the First Regular Baptist Church of Dayton. The term "Regular" distinguished them from the churches of the Miami Baptist Association.

In 1840, the congregation moved into its first church building after the Campbellite affair. This Greek Revival building sat on the corner of Jefferson and East Fourth Streets. Its construction proved financially burdensome to the congregation who had to seek aid from the Ohio Baptist State Convention. The congregation quickly gained strength, however, and by 1851, it had over two hundred members. On October 25, 1863, the Dayton First Baptist Church dedicated their third building on Main Street, free of debt. By 1867, the membership roll included three hundred names.

In 1868, Dr. Henry F. Colby began a pastorate, which lasted for thirty-four years. During this time the church undertook many new projects and developed some new institutions. The church began several mission schools around the Dayton area, some which developed into churches. The First Church figured prominently in organizing the Linden Avenue Baptist Church in 1872. This period also saw the development of Young Peoples organizations and Women's Missionary circles. Dr. Colby brought the First Church into greater prominence by his many civic and denominational involvements. He served three year terms as President of the Ohio Baptist Convention and as President of the American Baptist Missionary Union. Dr. Colby also acted as President of the Board of Trustees for Dennison University for twenty-two years and for the Miami Valley Hospital for nineteen years. After retiring from the pastorate, Rev. Colby continued with the church for many years.

In 1904, Rev. Howard Whidden, then pastor, and Dr. Henry Colby led the church to a conscious decision to remain in the central city area rather than follow the movement to the suburbs. At this time the church bought the property on Monument Avenue for its present building. Despite the decision to remain downtown, the church still helped organize the Dayton View Baptist Church in 1912. This project took thirty-one of its members.

Construction of the new building proceeded slowly and suffered a major setback in the Dayton flood of 1913. The properties on Main Street and on Monument Avenue suffered severe damage. In addition, nearly half of the church's membership lived or had businesses and factories in areas which remained flooded for four days. The laymen of the First Baptist Church participated in resolving this community crisis at nearly every level of activity. Henry A. Stout and E.A. Deeds had prominent roles in acquiring money and legislation for the Miami Conservancy project to prohibit further flooding.

The pastorate of Rev. Charles Lyon Seasholes (1931-1965) brought many changes. The structure of the church's committees and boards underwent a major reorganization. A west wing was added to the building in 1937. The church reordered its schedule for the Sunday worship services to convenience those who traveled from the suburbs. Dr. Seasholes introduced the practice of dedicating babies, and the wearing of robes by the ministers for Sunday worship service. On Wednesday evening, he lectured on world problems, and he initiated a book review series for the Sunday evening services. Dr. Seasholes served on many civic boards and further distinguished himself by initiating the first Planned Parenthood program in Dayton during the early 1930's. He was a recognized leader in the American Baptist Convention and served as an accredited delegate to the 1948 meeting of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam. In 1967, the First Baptist Church compiled a study of its work and the community which it served. They found most of its members lived in Dayton's more prestigious communities of Dayton View, Oakwood, and Kettering. Around 87% of the members were found to be either white collar workers or professional people.

The turbulence of the 1960's challenged the First Church to several new involvements. Through a community organization called PUSH, they attempted to purchase and rehabilitate substandard housing for resale to low income families. A coffee house which the church attempted for its youth proved to be a short‑lived venture. The Day Care Center, begun at this time, has remained to the present.

The 1970's have seen the First Church reemphasizing a personal ministry as is evidenced by its support of the Key '73 evangelism campaign and the formation of a spontaneous devotional fellowship known as "One in the Spirit."

Most of the records from the 1980s and 1990s include weekly publications like the Courier and sermons, to photographs of church events.


37 linear feet

Language of Materials



The First Regular Baptist Church is located in Dayton, Ohio. The collection includes church council minutes, board minutes, annual reports, church publications, constitution, resolutions, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photos, and business record. The records document the creation of the church to present day.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into seven series and two subseries:

  1. Series I: Church History
  2. Subseries IA: Related Organizations
  3. Subseries IB: Church historical books and depositions
  4. Series II: Church Records
  5. Series III: Courier
  6. Series IV: Publications and handouts
  7. Series V: Church Schools and Youth Organizations
  8. Series VI: Women's Organizations and related organizations
  9. Series VII: Photographs, Scrapbooks, and Audio

Other Finding Aid

The finding aid is available on the Wright State University Libraries' Special Collections and Archives web site at

Acquisition Information

The First Regular Baptist Church records were donated to the Wright State Special Collections & Archives in January 1978.


The First Regular Baptist Church is an active congregation. Accruals are likely.

Existence and Location of Copies

Records and legal papers pertaining to the Campbellite schism of 1829 are also on microfilm (MFM-26, DB Roll 40).

Related Material

MS-257 Central Baptist Church, Oregon District, Records MS-309 Dayton Area Baptist Association Records

Guide to the First Regular Baptist Church Records (MS-81)
Finding aid prepared by Steven D. Cooley, April 1979
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • May 1986: Additions processed by Don H. Buske
  • March 1994: Additions processed by Matthew Pacer
  • February 2013: Additions processed by Seanne Finley, and finding aid reformatted

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA