A Brief History of First Baptist Church in Detroit Lakes

The following account was given of the first meeting of the First Baptist Church of Detroit, Minnesota. The First Baptist Church of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota (formerly Detroit, MN), Minnesota was organized the twentieth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred & seventy two(1872). The council convened at McKenzie’s Hall at ten o’clock, Sunday, July 21, 1872.

During the first year the church group met in McKenzie’s Hall (Located east of the former Lakes Hotel building). Soon the group set about building a house of worship. Records state: The audience room was plastered but destitute of paint or any ornamentation whatever, heated by a big box stove and lighted by coal oil lamps in brackets on the side walls. A speakers desk of good design and substantial settees, all unpainted, with a cabinet organ, constituted the furnishings. The vestibule was unfinished and the building stood on substantial posts, the lack of other foundation being concealed by the drifted snow.

The first building was located on north Washington Avenue. Through the winter and some months thereafter, the Congregationalists (whose church was unfinished) and the Methodists (who had not yet started the building of their church home) joined with the Baptists in Union Services twice on Sunday, with Union Sunday School and Union mid-week meetings. The church became quite a community center and concerts and other get-togethers were held there.

Amelia Brigham came from her home six miles north of Detroit on February 3, 1873. On the following Monday she opened the first public school with the first permanent teacher in the First Baptist Church of Detroit. The First Baptist Church was not only the first organized church group in the city but, also, the first Baptist Church west of Duluth on the Northern Pacific Railroad.

On Sunday, January 29, 1893, pursuant to notice given the week before, a society of the Baptist Young People’s Union was organized in the First Baptist Church of Detroit. The pastor called attention to the importance of the Union, both to the church and to the individual, and that the obligation was not to be lightly assumed.

Notice is hereby given that a special meeting of the First Baptist Church and Society of Detroit City will be held in the meeting house of the First Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, September 20, 1893, at 7:30 P.M., for the purpose of instruction and authorizing the Trustees of the Church and Society to make a loan not to exceed fifteen hundred dollars ($1,500) and give a mortgage for the same on the church property for a term not to exceed five years, at a rate of interest not to exceed ten per cent. That action was the beginning of the old stone church which stood on Frazee Street, between Washington and Lake Avenues, for over 75 years. The church was located on the block where the public library stands. The church was built of stones brought in from surrounding fields and were not split – they were all unbroken. It was built with loving hands that brought field stones in to a little village and they were ‘fitly joined together’ as God is building His eternal church. It was a landmark of unusual beauty and character. It was not unusual to see strangers, just driving through, pause to photograph the old stone church. The first City Library was housed in the new church building.


  • May 30, 1900: Membership – 121. The choir platform was extended and a new organ placed thereon. Plans were made for reseating the church and pews were ordered to replace the chairs.
  • October 19, 1904: The report of the trustees showed that a new parsonage had been erected, the approximate cost of which was $2,800, of which about $1,450 had been paid on subscription, leaving a balance of $1,350, a part of which was subscribed for but unpaid. A plea was made for funds.
  • During the early years of the Church, baptismal services were held at Lake Melissa, Long Lake, Pearl Lake, Edgerton Lake and other lakes in the area.
  • In 1905 the ladies of the Church took upon themselves the project of getting a piano for the Church. They entered into a contract with the Minneapolis Journal, agreeing to canvass Detroit and secure 150 prepaid subscribers to the Minneapolis Journal at $4 per subscription. They were successful and earned one first-class Kimball piano No. 12, in a highly polished dark oak case, fully guaranteed by the Kimball Piano Co. of Chicago, delivered to Mrs. W. J. Morrow, Detroit, freight paid, May 10, 1905.
  • July 24, 1907: Special evangelistic services, conducted by Evangelist Lowry and Singer Moody, closed last evening. They began June 23, 1907 and were continued every evening except Saturday, and God richly blessed us all. Many for the first time tasted eternal salvation and members of all denominational churches were revived and received a new conception of Christian living.
  • July, 1915: While a group was attending prayer meeting, the Minnesota Hotel, located across the street (in the area of Lakes Sport Shop), caught fire. Sparks fell on the Baptist Church – on the roof and steeple in several places. A bucket brigade kept the fires in check. The hotel burned down.
  • August 18, 1918: The morning service was a dedication of a service flag for the boys of our church who have gone into the great European War. It consisted of 52 blue stars, 3 gold stars for those who lost their lives (Harry Hearn, Seth Swetland and Harold Tuve) and 2 red crosses for the girls who have gone as army nurses (Margaret Rundlett, Bessie Chaffee).
  • In 1921 the annual meeting convened in the annex at 6:30, where a sumptuous repast, prepared by the ladies of the church, was served to about 225 guests. A social time was had during which the church orchestra played several selections.
  • Excerpts from the local newspaper dated Fri., July 28, 1922, headed BAPTISTS SCORE BIG SUCCESS — Although the evening was hot, over 300 people gathered at the banquet in the First Baptist Church last Thursday for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the organization of the society. The ladies of the church had prepared a sumptuous feast which all enjoyed. In an earnest and forceful manner, Rev. Duncan P. Cameron, of the Congregational Church, brought greetings of the local churches. A pleasant feature of the banquet was the musical program rendered by the orchestra. Much credit is due the ladies of the church who prepared the banquet, and the young ladies who served with such grace and skill.
  • In 1951, a fifteen-minute Sunday morning radio broadcast entitled “Glad Tidings” was instituted over our local station KDLM, under the ministry of Rev. Irving Larson.
  • 1958: The Baptist Church (and others) was used by the school district for classrooms during construction of the Senior High School.
  • September 30, 1970: The old stone church was totally destroyed by fire during the Sunday morning service. For a time following the fire, services were held at the Rossman Elementary School. Soon, however, we accepted the offer of the Seventh Day Adventist Church to make use of their facilities. We used their building for approximately 14 months.
  • Early in 1971, the Kennedy block on North Street was purchased. In May of that year the ground was broken and construction of a new church was begun. Pastor Harold Erickson came as pastor of the church in October, 1971, and in mid-November we moved into the building in which we worship today. On December 5, 1971, we had the dedication and open house for the new church.
  • July 20, 1997: 125th Anniversary of the First Baptist Church in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. A wonderful weekend of activities is planned for July 25-28, 1997.
  • In 2000 the church purchased the Washington School building which included classrooms and a gymnasium. The Washington school facility has been sold and in 2012 a renovation and expansion was done to our current building. What the Lord has in mind for our church and this building,we don’t know. We do know that over 132 years He has guided this congregation, so we leave it in His hands.