Originally posted on September 1, 2021
The rich history of First Baptist Church of High Point didn't begin here. The church actually was formed in Jamestown.
A group of Baptists, living in what is now the Old Jamestown area in the early 1800s, traveled to Davidson County’s Abbott’s Creek Baptist Church for worship, there being no Baptist Church for them here. This was a round-trip journey of about 20 miles, as the crow flies, and could be an all-day trip.
Early settlers did not have automobiles to get around and many did not have the resources even to own a wagon, much less horses. A story goes that the early Jamestown Baptists used a system called “riding and tying” to make the long trip to Abbott’s Creek Church. If a family of, for example, four was on their way to Abbott’s Creek and only had one horse, two members would ride ahead for a set distance, dismount, and leave the horse for the other two. The second two would walk to the horse, ride for another distance, passing the first two, then dismount and tie up the horse for the first riders to take up again. This went on until they arrived at their destination and rested the travelers as well as the horse.
About 1800, this small band of believers tired of the long trip. They were granted permission to start a mission of Abbott’s Creek in Jamestown, the exact location is not known. This group called themselves “An Arm of Abbott’s Creek Baptist Church.”
By 1825, the number of worshippers had grown to about 25 and they decided to form their own church. In June of that year, they applied to Abbott’s Creek and on September 3, 1825, the Jamestown Baptist Church was constituted. They called Elder Ashley Swaim in October as pastor of the new church as well as the mother church.
They worshipped at this time in a small building (which stood until 1875) on a half-acre lot under a walnut tree on Federal Street [now Jamestown’s Main Street] in the heart of town. An old map of Jamestown, apparently drawn in 1916, shows the church approximately where the new Magnolia on Main townhome development is going up, near Mrs. Winner's. The road originally curved into that property, rather than today’s course.
All did not go well for the church. Dissension arose in 1832 over mission involvement, with the majority of the church being against missions. Records show that even though they were in the minority, the small band of mission-minded — perhaps numbering only five — believers won out. State elders William Dowd and Eli Phillips were called in to examine the church.
“The majority is in a state of disorder and have forfeited their right as members of the Church by their opinion and unchristian conduct and we believe the minority were commanded to withdraw from them as disorderly brethren,” they wrote. “Consequently we are bound to view the minority properly speaking as the Jamestown Church, the majority having by their disorderly Conduct forfeited their right to Church membership and cannot in the eye of the gospel be considered as a church at all but the minority as we believe being orderly in their Conduct and orthodox in their principals have remained on the old ground and is clearly the old Jamestown Church.”
So, in this case, majority did not rule. Nothing is known of what happened to the anti-mission group. William Burch was called as the first pastor of the Jamestown church, replacing Swaim, who was part of the anti-mission group.
The First Baptist Church on North Main Street, around 1906.
With the arrival of the N.C. railroad around 1859, many in Jamestown saw the potential for growth and development and moved to the new town of High Point. The Jamestown church also moved to High Point, changing its name to High Point Missionary Baptist Church. Going through another name change, Salem Street Baptist Church [High Point’s Main Street being named that through the early 1900s], the congregation eventually grew into what is today the First Baptist Church of High Point. It has been on the same location since the initial move from Jamestown.
The First Baptist Church on North Main Street, around 1954.
Twice a year, the High Point congregation gathers at City Lake Park, about a half-mile from their original site, for church-wide picnics, probably without thinking of the church’s connection with Jamestown.
In 1986, the church returned to the supposed Jamestown site for a Sunday night service under the walnut tree as part of their Heritage Day. Jamestown attorney Ben Farmer, also an amateur historian, provided members with a glimpse of their past, a past most members never knew about – their Jamestown roots.
Carol Brooks is a lifetime resident of High Point and a lover of the area’s history. She is a member of the High Point Historical Society and on the board of directors of the Historic Jamestown Society. Carol serves as historian and has also co-authored the latest history of the First Baptist Church in High Point, which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2025. After several years of full-time reporting and writing, she is currently a freelance writer for the Jamestown News.