In May, 1859, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Silliman moved to Blanco from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Almost immediately Mrs. Silliman began to organize a Baptist church. Mr. Silliman was a member of the Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, but he soon became a Baptist and helped his wife with the organization of the new church. The First Baptist Church was constituted on Sunday, November 6, 1859, with five members. Rev. Bird was the first pastor.
From 1859 to 1902, the Blanco Baptist Church had no building of its own. The congregation met at the Union Church with the congregations of the Methodist and Church of Christ. Each congregation would lead the services one Sunday each month; all would participate in an “all day singing” on the fourth Sunday of the month.
In 1902, property was acquired and the Baptists of Blanco moved into their first church building. In 1949, an educational wing was added to the facilities of the church. In 1951, the old white frame auditorium was replaced by the building still visible on Highway 281 South, City of Blanco. The current building on Highway 1623 was dedicated September 14, 1975.
Illene Byars Waggoner was baptized August 29, 1923, in the Blanco River. She was 9 years old and recalls a long line.
Leah Belle Wagner Walz Hohenburger was baptized July 31, 1927, by Bro. Dodgen at Red Bluff in the Blanco River. The invitation hymn at which time she offered her profession of faith was Sweet Hour of Prayer . She recalls revival services then frequently lasted one to two weeks with morning and evening services. The meeting was at the Tabernacle, near where the old Methodist Church parsonage now stands. There were red wooden benches to sit upon. Shortly after, Frances Wagner was baptized.
A missionary spirit prevails at the church. A former Blanco Baptist Church member, Miss Mary Alexander, went on to serve 40 years as a foreign missionary, being imprisoned in China during World War II before returning to the Austin area.
The WMU continues its missionary enthusiasm. In 1915 it had the church windows painted for 75¢, packed boxes for Buckner’s Orphans Home, and for an orphanage to be handled through Peyton Colony. In 1916, a special offering was collected for Buckner’s Orphans Home for a typhoid fever outbreak.
The early House and Grounds Committee in March 1939 was Mrs. Byler, Mrs. Davis, and Jane Dale who at Steinbring Nursery in New Braunfels purchased two shrubs for 75¢.
The Benevolence Committee provides food for the poor, sews clothes, and has concern for patients in hospitals and rest homes. In 1961, through our state office, $100 was sent to Hurricane Carls victims; in 1965, clothing was sent to the Mississippi flood victims.
First Baptist Church is a musical church. In the historic WMU meetings, if no piano were available, the group would sing Bringing in the Sheaves accompanied by the Victrola. In 1921 Ruth Buckner was organist, Wilma Byrom assistant. In 1948 Mrs. Joe Buckner was pianist , Mrs. Dale Meeks assistant. In 1956, the Choir Director was Claire Gloor. Training Union chorister was Mr. McFarlin, a man named Father of the Year by the church. In 1977, George Covin was Minister of Music, Angie Smith pianist, Joan Bigden Tatum organist.
The Baptist Young People’s Union was officially organized in 1902 with a few minutes recorded earlier. Miss Rebekah Baines, who later became the mother of President Lyndon B. Johnson, was a member of this first group. At the January 1899 meeting, Miss Louella Bell sang Come Unto Me and Rest. Topics of the early 1900’s included T.J. Alexander’s How the World’s Standards Conflict with Christ’s and Huffman Baines Great Opportunities - Tremendous Responsibilities. In 1956 Joan Bigden and Patricia Meeks signed the minutes “everyone had a wonderful, inspirational time” at youth fellowship.
We carry with us great appreciation for the faith and foresight of our forefathers. As we look to our own future of Christian ministry, we try to exhibit these same qualities in our lives. The Building Committee for the 1975 construction was Charles Tatum, Lester Cobb, B.R. Gloor, Bud Covin, Stan Lane, Dorsey Lee Smith, Cliff Wilson, Aaron Posey, Kenny Moore, Claudia Cobb, Mrs. Jesse Johnson, and Medora Posey. The Building Committee for the new Youth and Administration Building includes Cliff Wilson, Dan Murrah, Buddy Johnson, Angie Smith, and Douglas Johnson with special recognition to Chuck Schwertz, John Smith, James Dowlearn, Mike Moraign, Buddy Johnson, Ken Eastman, and Dennis Moore.
Bibliography: Culpepper, Dr Charles, oral interview, May 1989; First Baptist Church Commemoration booklet, September 14, 1975; History of First Baptist Church of Blanco, by C.A. Rust, III, Fall of 1977, handwritten account; Hohenburger, Leah Belle Walz, oral interview, summer 1977; Minutes First Baptist Church: Senate Resolution #419, April 6, 1983, State of Texas, Austin; Waggoner, Illene Byars, oral interview, summer 1977.