In 1849 thousands rushed to the gold fields of California seeking gold that perishes. Some of these joined others in Goliad and sought the gold that fadeth not away. Z.N. Morrell, pioneer Baptist preacher, said that in 1838 he preached the first gospel sermon ever preached in Goliad. Eleven years later the Rev. J.F. Hillyer family with the Pryor Lea family and others met under the giant oak a block west of the town square and organized a 12-member Baptist church – the very first Baptist church west of the Guadalupe River.
Rev. Hillyer, moderator, had practiced medicine before entering the ministry and had also conducted a “female institute” of learning near Goliad in the Aranama Mission (known as Espirito de Santos). Pryor Lea, a kinsman of Sam Houston, practiced law in Goliad for 33 years. Once a congressman and co-founder of the University of Mississippi, he contributed much to Goliad church and community. His house near the “Baptist Oak” still stands and bears a historical marker.
Goliad Baptists were in the Colorado Baptist Association until 1857 and the San Antonio Baptist Association until 1867. The records of Blanco Baptist Association reveal that in 1884 with a membership of 21, including Mrs. Mary E. Lott, Goliad First Baptist Church met in an Old Opera House.
In 1899 with W.C. Brown as pastor the first small church building was erected. Is was destroyed by an F4 Tornado in 1902. The church worshiped at the Christian Church until the completion of their new Facility. In 1907 pastor J.L. King led in the construction of a white frame auditorium with narrow stained glass windows and a tall bell tower. The baptistry was the San Antonio River about three blocks away. This building was destroyed in 1919 by a Cat 4 Hurricane.
T.E. McKenzie, father of Mrs. Verna Linburg, led the church in the building of the yellow brick structure that was to serve Goliad Baptists for 64 years. One of the few buildings in Goliad with a basement type constructions it was not only a beacon to the “lost” but a shelter when hurricanes hit. It was named “Mary E. Lott Memorial Baptist Church” in honor of that faithful member who died about that time. This name remained until the church celebrated its 110th anniversary in 1959 and changed its name back to First Baptist Church. Paul Martin was pastor and the church was named Church of the Year by the Baptist General Convention of Texas held in Corpus Christi.
Many pastors have served this field so well. Among them was J.M. Reynolds who was the first State Evangelist employed by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He represented Buckner Orphans Home and was field evangelist for Simmons College. He moved to Goliad in 1927 and pastored here for 17 years.
M.M. Fulmer, pastor from 1961-1963, baptized Mrs. Augusta Clark who later deeded her 193 acre farm home to the church effective at her death. Mrs. Clark’s remarkable gift and her dream of helping to build a new church became a reality at her “home going” in 1982.
Giant steps were taken under the leadership of Earl Hill, pastor from 1963-1970. The church and annex were completely remodeled, air conditioning and carpeting installed; a music and youth director was called; and members were led to give special gifts including a Hammond Organ, a grand piano, baptistry scenes and drapes for both First Baptist Church and its Mission on Fannin Street.
In 2017, Goliad was hit by Hurricane Harvey which was a Cat 4 Hurricane. Even though there were areas of town that were hit hard the church was left with very minimal damage.
The church celebrated its 120th Anniversary in 1969 and a brief history painstakingly compiled and written by the late Mrs. Verna Linburg was published that year. It is one of her many invaluable contributions to the ministry of this church and has proven to be a cherished record of Baptists in Goliad.
Through wars, storms, the great depression, economic and social change, in the best and worst of conditions, from the big oak to our current location, the church has remained faithful to the Lord and His call to evangelize the world. We are indeed proud of our history and look forward to even greater days, while we serve and wait for our Lord’s return.