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285 – Oct. 12 – This Day in Baptist History Past

Ezra Courtney

First Baptist Church in Louisiana

1812 – Was the likely date that the first Baptist church was organized in Louisiana. Most believe that Rev. Ezra Courtney founded the church, with the help of two laymen, Joseph Lewis and Joseph Irwin. Its name was The Half Moon Bluff Baptist Church and it functioned until about 1870 when it ceased to exist. The oldest church in the state with a continuous history is the Calvary Baptist Church in Evangeline Parish, near Bayou Chicot, that was organized on Nov. 13, 1812. Joseph Willis, a mulatto who was a licensed Baptist preacher, had labored with Richard Curtis in Miss. He courageously crossed the Mississippi River as early as 1804 and began to preach wherever he could gain a hearing. It was this effort that the church was started. Willis was used of God in establishing churches in five other towns. Other men of God joined him in his labors on Oct. 31, 1818 in Cheneyville and organized the Louisiana Baptist Association. When Baptists first entered the territory of Louisiana, the law of the land provided, that religious services could be conducted only by Roman Catholic priests. The territory had been in the hands of France by Treaty from Spain since Oct. 1, 1800 so Romanism had total control when the U.S. made the Louisiana Purchase of 885,000 for $15 million on April 30, 1803. The first record of Baptists going into the state was when Rev. Bailey E. Chaney from S.C. went from the Natchez in Mississippi into eastern Louisiana or West Florida in 1798. He was arrested and imprisoned in Baton Rouge. In time he was released but not allowed to establish a church. [William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881, 2:718. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. 559-60.]  Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon

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