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franklin county times

Russellville First Baptist Church receives historical marker

There’s a lot of history right here in Franklin County, including downtown Russellville.

The Alabama Historical Commission began its historical marker program in 1975 to assist Alabama historians and historic preservationists in educating the public about historically significant properties in the state.

The First Baptist Church was established in 1867 in the heart of Russellville, Ala. On January 29, 2019, RFBC was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a historic landmark of Franklin County.

The historical marker was originally planned to be erected in 2023, but because of various delays, it was officially erected March 22, 2024, by Russellville First Baptist Church. The process for acquiring a Historical Marker for First Baptist Church began in June 2021.

The Alabama Historical Commission requires accuracy of the proposed text for the marker. Information that can’t be verified by the Alabama Historical Commission isn’t included in the marker text.

Many resources, including the Encyclopedia of Alabama, The Alabama Review, The Alabama Baptist, The History of First Baptist Church 1867-1967, The History of Russellville Manuscript, Alabama Heritage Magazine, Alabama Department of Archives and History and Lambert Ezell Durham Architecture, LLC, were consulted to confirm accuracy.

A list of these sources and photocopies of the materials were submitted along with the application to the Alabama Historical Commission. The commission also uses the information in the National Register nomination forms because it has been vetted several times by several different people, including the National Park Service.

The marker reads: “In 1867, community members established First Baptist Church in the heart of Russellville, Alabama. From its beginning, First Baptist Church has sought to glorify Christ and live out the Great Commission. The church held services in the Methodist Episcopal Church until a white frame structure was built in 1893. In 1909-1910, the church built its first brick building. The church continued improving and expanding into at least the end of the twentieth century. In 1949, the church added a new education building, and a new sanctuary and pastorium in 1957. The church acquired a building for a memorial chapel in 1981; constructed an education building, gym and fellowship hall in 1989; and built a senior education addition in 2000. The church currently occupies two city blocks and remains a vital part of the community. LISTED IN THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES JANUARY 29, 2019 – MARKER ERECTED IN 2023 BY RUSSELLVILLE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH.”

The church submitted several drafts to the commission before the final text was approved. Susie Hovater Malone worked with the AHC staff in finalizing all the details. Russellville First Baptist Church pastor, Chase Dowdy, and Calvin Parmer, deacon and church treasurer, also assisted in every step of the process for acquiring the historical marker.

“I think the historical marker is a great way to honor our history and still celebrate what God is doing in the life of our church here,” Dowdy explained, “and what he’s going to do in the years to come, so we’re thankful to be able to have this to commemorate what God has done and what God is doing and what God will do.”

Parmer echoed his sentiments about the recognition.

“It’s a pleasure to have the sign up so that people through the years can see where the church has come from, and maybe it will direct them into where we go in the future. We appreciate Susie for taking the initiative in getting this step done. It’s take two or nearly three years to get to this point.

For Malone, it’s a project she says has been close to her heart for a long time. “The church will be 157 years old as of our church Homecoming this year, which we’ll have in August,” she explained. “We have been so blessed by God to have our church for this many decades. I’m a big history buff, and I just wanted us to have a memento to commemorate this milestone and bring recognition to our project to highlight the significance.”

“We also appreciate Shannon Wilson and his workers in getting the marker erected,” Malone continued. “We are so blessed to have the freedom to worship, and, as quoted from the Historic Marker, ‘From its beginning, First Baptist Church has sought to glorify Christ and live out the Great Commission.’”

 

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