The first recorded minutes of Hardeeville Baptist Church are dated in the church records as " ... the third Lord's Day of January 1876 ." According to tradition, however, in 1850 Mrs. Margaret Jones donated a tract of land located in the Hardeeville community that was to be used for a Baptist church.
During the Civil War, the Union Army burned the church building to the ground. This was during Gen. William T. Sherman's march through the Confederacy. Sherman's army was in Savannah, Georgia on December 20, 1864, therefore it must have been shortly after that date that the Hardeeville church became a casualty of war. In 1915 or 1916 the federal government paid the church $1,500 for the property damage, sufficient evidence that the event actually occurred.
It was not until the third Sunday in January, 1876, that restoration of the church began. On this day, some 41 people met and wrote a church charter, led by three pastors. The charter they wrote stated:
On the 3rd Lord 's Day of January 1876, a small company of Believers were organized as a church by the Brethren A. W Lamar, C. A. Baynard and W. G. Rollins. Few in number, yet trusting in Jesus the Great Head of the Church, and the support of each humble follower. They gladly cast in their lot together, pledging themselves by this uniting in one body to strive together for the Master's Glory, to bear one another's burdens and to adhere faithfully to the covenant which is herein transcribed.
Rev. A.W. Rollins was called as pastor of Hardeeville Baptist Church the same year, and served until October, when he resigned to attend seminary. In May, 1877, after petitioning Savannah River Baptist Association for help, Rev. E. I. Forester was called to serve as pastor. Though the church had been without ministerial guidance from October to May, it had weathered its first test well. Church minutes record that: "Prayer meetings and Sabbath School were faithfully continued , and an occasional visit from a ministerial brother afforded the proper opportunities for making for the worship of the Lord."
Rev. Forester resigned in August of 1877 to return to seminary. Pastors Webb, Perryclear, Nungezer, Snider, Crouch, Peeples, Guy, Cogburn and Pittman followed in service. There were more varying periods between pastors when members continued worship through the help of supply pastors and frequent revivals led by visiting ministers.
One such revival followed Pittman's resignation in November,1914. Minutes state that:
. . . On the Third Monday night in November 1914 . . . commenced a revival meeting getting Bro. John S. Wilder . . . the services continued through Thursday evening, which greatly strengthened the church morally and spiritually.
On Wednesday, Dec.13,1914, Rev. Dr. W. J. Langston met with the membership and "the following formation of fields were adopted." Evidently the members desired to construct a solid form of organization with a Bill of Rights procedure. The adopted "formation of fields" consisted, for example, of directives such as "providing a parsonage for the pastor ... usage of the Bible plan of finance as laid out in I Corinthians providing for the support of the Gospel." The committee working with Dr. Langston in the formation of these directives was appointed by the church, and those members were R.J. Boyd, A. B. Coburn and C.M. McTeer.
In 1915, Rev. C. L. Stoney succeeded Rev. Pittman as pastor. It was during Rev. Stoney's service that the federal government paid the church $1,500 for destruction of property caused by Sherman's army. This sum of money acted as a catalyst, inspiring members to make donations that allowed the existing church building to be remodeled, a baptistry added and a parsonage built.
Following Rev. Stoney in 1917 was Rev. J. L. Hiers, Rev. L.H. Carter, Rev.R.C. Black and Rev. E.T. Mason. Rev. Mason served as pastor from 1928 through 1931. It was to be five years before the church would obtain a resident pastor, but others helped maintain the church's work in the community.
Rev. Walter Black of Ruffin came to the aid of the members. He arrived in November,1931, and served as half-time supply pastor for three years , holding three monthly services. Rev. H. Carter of Lamar held one monthly service. It is interesting to note that during this five-year interim period, some 24 ministers extended their time and services to bring messages to the members. During that time period twenty-seven new members were added, as The Hardeeville historian aptly observes, "The obstacles were not insurmountable! "
When Rev. J.M. Lane accepted the Hardeeville pastorate in April of 1936, the church membership totaled more than one hundred fifty. The church grew even more during his pastorate.
Following Lane 's resignation in 1941, pastors Loman, Kimba ll, Lanier and Osborne came in succession through 1949. A one-year period then came when the church was without a pastor. J.A. Ruffin of Hampton served as supply pastor for six months, and in September of 1950 Walter Black once more accepted the pastorate.
On the first Sunday of September in 1950, a meeting for the election of church officers was held, and the church minutes state, "It was at this time that it was decided to build a new church." The building of 1950 was 74 years old, and badly in need of repairs, perhaps contributing to the low attendance in all phases of worship.
The membership voted to undertake the building of a new church as "part of their work for the advancement of His Holy Work." Active in the building project were: the building committee made up of Mrs. M. McTeer, G.O. Rentz and A. E. Dupuis; the finance committee, T. E. Shuman, J.C. McTeer,Mrs. A. L. McKenzie and Mrs . M. L. McKenzie. Ground-breaking for the new building was held Sunday, March 18, 1951, with Rev. Black officiating. The minutes record that, "it was a very simple service."
Rev. H. A. Phillips became pastor of the church in 1952, and led the church in spiritual and numerical growth. A new finance committee was elected in March of 1952.
The Board of Deacons was authorized in October of 1952 to sign a mortgage on the church property for $7,000, to be used for the immediate construction of a church auditorium and building.
Rev. Phillips conducted the first worship service in the new auditorium, and performed the building's dedication.
Following Rev. Phillips' resignation on November 14,1954, Rev. J.W. Haskell began his service to the church in January of 1955. In 1956, the mortgage on the church buildings was burned to signify its payment-in-full. But by 1957, the church was ready to begin other construction: a pastor's study, kitchen facilities, an auditorium in the upstairs portion, ten classrooms, a nursery and two downstairs storage rooms. A $10,000 bond issue was successfully completed, and the new facilities were ready for use by the fall of 1958. A paved drive, new heating units and new pews were added later.
Rev. Haskell's service spanned 21 years in the life of the church, and included many accomplishments. Upon his retirement in June of 1976, he was honored by being made pastor emeritus of the church. Rev.John Beck was called as pastor in February of 1976, and served until 1979.
The continued growth of the church required additional facilities, and in January, 1981, construction began on a new building to house the church offices and library along with a new social hall and kitchen. The dedication service for this new facility was held on October, 1983.
Rev. Robert Dukes served as Pastor from 1980 to 1983 and Rev. Nathan Gilstrap served from 1983 to 1990. Mr. Burt Womack served as Music Director from 1980 to 2000.
The church purchased a van in 1980, and a van ministry was begun in 1982. A Children's Church program was begun in 1983. This ministry was expanded with the purchase of a church bus in 1991. A new church van was purchased in 1993.
In 1989, the church began the renovation and enlargement of the sanctuary. This project included extending the sanctuary by twenty feet, enlarging the choir area, purchasing a sound system, and the installation of fifteen beautiful stained glass windows. The renovation was completed and dedicated in 1990.
On September 22, 1991, the church membership voted to change the name from Hardeeville Baptist Church to The First Baptist Church of Hardeville. The vote was unanimously approved and such has been the name since that time.
In 1994, the church voted to purchase the Lin-Del Motel and surrounding grounds for future growth. The motel's main living quarters were renovated to be used as the parsonage.
Rev. J. Darnell Barner served as the Pastor of the church from 1991 to 1999. Rev. J. Roger Dail served from 1999 to 2002, and his wife, Julie, served as Music Director from 2002 to 2006. Jacquie Durkin served as Music Director from 2006 to 2010 and Lorna Pilgreen took over the position of Music Director in November of 2010. Rev. Jay Coder served as Pastor from 2003 until January 31, 2014.
In April, 2015 Reverend Tim Crosby was called to serve as Pastor and the church was blessed to have his wife, Suzanne, accept the position of Minister of Music for the church.
Contributions to the history were made by the following:
Dick McTeer, Suzanne Crosby and Frieda Nettles