Marsh Street Baptist Church, Ridgetown

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During the summer of 1868, Elder George, a Baptist Minister preaching in a little Baptist Church on the Ridge Road just opposite Newcomb's Cemetery, began holding services in Ridgetown, first in the Church of Christ (Disciples) and later in the Temperance Hall on Jane Street. At this time there were only two settled ministers in what is now known as our Western Association. During the summer of 1873, with the advent of the Railway through Ridgetown a number of new families took up their residence in town and the Baptist interests were strengthened so much that on December 30, 1873, a meeting was held at the home of Deacon Watterworth, for the purpose of organizing a Baptist Church. This being done, Elder Turner was chosen as pastor and Mr. Watterworth and Mr. Hancock as Deacons and a Council was called in January 1874 for the purpose of organizing the newly formed Church.

In the year 1875, steps were taken for the erection of a new church. Deacon Watterworth purchased and presented the lot on which the Church now stands. A subscription list was opened with the result that on the December 26, 1875, the Church was opened, dedication services being conducted by Rev. Rowland. At this service in the afternoon, Rev. Turner baptized twelve candidates, eight from Palmyra and four from Ridgetown. Two of the four, Mrs. Walter Boughner and Mrs. George Lawton were residents of Ridgetown.

The building cost at that time about $8,000 and was one of the finest churches in town.

In 1877, Rev. Turner resigned and was followed by Rev. McLaurin of Sparta was called to the church. During Mr. McLaurin's pastorate it was found necessary to enlarge the church, this was done by adding about 10 feet. At this time the whole interior was redecorated, and a furnace put in. In 1887, Rev. Wm Prosser began his pastorate. It was about this time the Church became self-sustaining and separated from the home Mission Board.

In 1886, Rev. Prosser resigned to accept a call to Leamington Baptist Church. In 1894, Rev. Prosser was called back to Ridgetown Church and remained here until his death in 1903. Early in 1900 it was again found the church was too small to accommodate the people, and it was enlarged, another 12 feet being added. The building was raised and re-bricked on the outside and cement basement put in. Since Rev. Prosser's death some of the ministers who have served here were: Rev. H.S. Spencer, Rev. Harry Nobles, Rev. H. McDiarmid, Rev. C.W. New, Rev. C.S.G. Boone, Rev. Jones, Rev. C.E. Gosnell, Rev. O.D. Priddle, Rev. Dingman, Rev. Proudfoot, Rev. J.W. Hissey, Rev. Smally, Rev. Joseph McDermid, and Rev. Harvey Merritt, who is pastor at the present time.

Last year, 1946, the present building which has remained unchanged outside since early in 1900, was redecorated, and the interior somewhat changed, also war memorials were presented. A Communion Table was present by Mrs. K. Rickard in memory of her son Lieut. Jack Rickard, who gave his life in France in 1944. Two beautiful Pulpit Chairs were donated, one in memory of Pte. Fred Runnels who gave his life in France in 1943, and the other chair was a gift from Mrs. C. Day.

In looking back over the past years we know that our work has not been in vain as there are men and women in various parts of the land who look back to the Ridgetown Baptist Church as the place where they first experienced the saving Grace of God.

The Rev. Merritt left in May 1950, and was succeeded by the Rev. O.R. Maude in September 1950.

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Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.