It was on December 30, 1854, that 14 men and women met in the newly constructed Jackson County Courthouse to organize a new church. These 14 had been members of Old Savannah Baptist Church, which was a rough three or four miles from their homes near the just established county seat town of Webster.
The founders of the church were among the people who had first come into almost wilderness years earlier and had recently seen the new county founded and its seat established on a hill high above the Tuckaseigee River. This town-to-be needed its own church. Thus began Webster Baptist Church, calling the Reverend Thomas Henson to be the church’s first minister. By the end of the first year membership had increased to 29 including several slaves.
In 1883, after meeting in the Little Savannah school house, the church purchased the River Hill School building and land for $70.00, and converted it into a church house.
That church bell had been ordered from down East, and the Webster men had taken a wagon pulled by a team of horses to the station to bring it the last fifty miles to the newly converted church on River Hill. “As the wagon neared Webster,” remarked J.W. Cowan many years ago, “rounding the turn at the oak grove, the men began to ring the bell, continuing to do so until the church at River Hill was reached.” In December 1886, the bell was lifted into the belfry, and it rang out with a “joyful noise” over the Webster hills the news that indeed the Webster Baptist Church had a home, and it was here to stay.
In 1896, the building committee had found “a parcel of land near the bridge,” and J.W. Cowan sold it for $35.00. The new church was constructed and the church bell was lifted to new heights to make yet again a “joyful noise”. That same bell still hangs in the belfry of the Webster Baptist Church, and since that December day in 1886, it has been a constant reminder to the Webster people that the Baptist Church has kept the Faith and continues to make its joyful noise.
In 1917, the Reverend W.N. Cook came to Webster leading to a time of steady movement. Rev. Cook ministered to the entire community and developed a wonderful friendship with the then 18 year old Webster Methodist Church Minister Ernest Fitzgerald, who later became the minister of the largest Methodist Church in the Carolina’s. But now, after those days of learning, he often says it was Mr. Cook who “saw him through”. This relationship established a religious closeness that few communities ever experience.
After fifty years of growing, it was time to build again. From 1952 until 1954, the church added its educational building, an addition that provided Sunday School rooms, a fellowship hall for church and community, a kitchen, and a study and library for the minister. From 1962-1963 the sanctuary was remodeled, but as it sparkled in its new appearance; it was still the church of 1900.
In 1977, the Eldon Cabe house, a lovely brick house and land was purchased and used as the first parsonage. The Reverend Ray McCall (pictured below) was the first minister to occupy the parsonage. He fulfilled the needs as a pastor, neighbor, and community leader.
In November of 1987, Webster Baptist Church lost one of its most faithful members Mildred C. Cowan. She was a very active on several boards and committees and along with her passing she left instructions to have her estate to be converted to cash and split between three Baptist entities including Webster Baptist Church. In May of 1989, the church received $73,196.33 to further the Gospel ministry.
In 1998, the new fellowship hall was completed and put to good use due to the growing church membership. In 1989, the State of North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, added Webster Baptist Church into the National Register of Historic Places for its significant impact in American history, architecture, archeology, and culture. In 2001, the church purchased 6.7 acres of additional property from Bill and Linda Cowan for 350,000 for future expansion and ministry.
In 2004, Webster Baptist turned 150 years young and had their celebration service on May 1, 2005 with Sunday School at 10:00am, Worship at 11:00am, and dinner followed at noon. It was a joyous time!
As we continue to grow and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God has been so faithful to expand the ministry of Webster Baptist Church to families across our community, students from Western Carolina University, Southwestern Community College, and from many other schools. Today Reverend Scott Carter ministers as the Senior Pastor as we continue to seek to know Christ and make Him known.