Back in 1765, a fiery reformed Baptist pastor by the name of Hezekiah Smith founded The Baptist Church in Haverhill. Rev. Smith was commissioned to service in the War of Independence as a chaplain to General George Washington, who became an acquaintance. Smith returned to Haverhill and continued to evangelize and plant churches throughout New England. Our charter was later signed by John Hancock, Governor of Massachusetts.
The church was eager to engage in the modern missions movement. When Adoniram Judson became a Baptist, he needed new support from home. First Baptist Church of Haverhill was eager to support the young couple in reaching the Burmese! The first appointed female missionary, Charlotte White, was a member of First Baptist Haverhill.
Stephen P. Hill took his first pastorate at First Baptist Church of Haverhill, MA. In 1836, Rev. Hill published, "Christian Hymns," a collection of 655 hymns he wrote. After eventually moving on to Washington, D.C., he was chosen as Chaplain of the Senate in 1856.
Augustus H. Strong was an important Baptist figure in the 19th century. He is best known as the President and Professor of Biblical Theology at Rochester Theological Seminary in New York and as the author of the widely used textbook, “Systematic Theology.” Every seminary trained Baptist pastor at the time was reared in the teaching of Strong and his book remains a classic of western theology to this day. Many years before his presidential service, Rev. Strong cut his teeth in pastoral ministry at First Baptist Church of Haverhill. His pastorate came during perhaps our nation’s most difficult time, the Civil War. Strong’s pastorate in Haverhill, though short, would coincide with these very years (1861-1865). Strong watched his young men head off to war, but this time against fellow Americans. The need for spiritual guidance and comfort was immense, and his leadership served the First Baptist Church family during perhaps its hardest years. The church also celebrated its centennial anniversary, 100 years worshipping the Lord and serving Haverhill, with Strong at the pulpit. This anniversary in 1865 was no doubt a joyous celebration as it coincided with the end of the war, but also a reminder of the delicacy and brevity of life. The members left the anniversary celebration, “chastened by the thought that long before another century shall terminate, all the participants in the present commemoration will have passed to the retributions of eternity.” Augustus Strong went on to pastor another Baptist church in Cleveland, OH for seven years, where one of his members was the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, after which Augustus was called to the academic life of theological teaching and writing.
The church has an unbroken line of members dating back to before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, through the Civil War, onto both World Wars, enduring the Great Depression and witnessing the events of September 11, 2001. We have witnessed His work in our church and in our community for over two and a half centuries. We are a church that is truly grateful for what God has done in and through us, and excited about what He is doing now.