In the spring of 1850, pioneers left their homes in Missouri and headed west. They made their journey by covered wagons over the long, dangerous trail across the plains, over the imposing mountains, and through treacherous waterways. They arrived in Salt Lake City where they spent a winter of extreme hardship. The following spring of 1851, they continued to press westward to Oregon, finally reaching the area now known as Lane County. On July 1, 1852, in the newly constructed log cabin home of Mahlon and Frances Harlow, seven of these hardy pioneer men and women joined together to form a church.
Mahlon Harlow’s Journal, July 1, 1852
The church was formed nine years before the Civil War, eight years before Eugene became a city, and seven years before Oregon became a state. Their pastor, Vincent Snelling, was the first Baptist minister on the Pacific Coast. As it continued to grow, it would move to a couple more sites before settling in the downtown location at the corner of 8th and High Street.
In the 1920’s, the church was able to secure property and build a facility downtown where it mobilized it’s ministry for the next 75 years. It paid off its mortgage during the Great Depression and would plant nine other churches in the Lane County area, most of which are still ministering today. It would also send numerous missionaries around the world to share the Gospel. But with remodeling and rebuilding costs proving cost-prohibitive, parking becoming increasingly limited, and a growing ministry pushing the church facility beyond its limits, a change had to be made.
With huge hearts for children and a passion to make a difference for Jesus, the Harlow family generously donated over 250 acres of land to First Baptist Church. Little did they know how much God would use their legacy gift to change the lives of countless people in the years to come. Because of the Harlow’s generosity has come the development of Camp Harlow and the land on which are our new church campus now exists.
In 2003, the church moved into its present site on Fox Meadow Road. From seven people in a log cabin, the church has grown into a vibrant and loving community of more than 2,000 members. And while it has celebrated over 160 years of ministry, the church remains grounded in God’s Word and founded upon the principles with which it first began. Yes, the new church campus is larger and better equipped than our past facility, but it is still only a building where the people (the church) of First Baptist can gather and go out to love our community and beyond with the Good News of Jesus.
First B is a historic, yet progressive church. It was one of the first churches in the nation to build a gym inside its facility, to establish a community living situation for college-age people, and to develop a camping program for children and youth on the edge of the city limits. We are not afraid of change and not afraid to change, but we also don’t change for sake of change. We know we have been blessed with incredible resources, but we also understand that our facilities, property, and possessions are only tools to be used for God’s glory in loving people. We strongly believe the church is not a building, but a community of people, who are to be treated as friends and family. And as we look into the future, we want to do all we can to leave a legacy of love in helping others, and the generations to follow, to live, love, and lead like Jesus.