Church History

There is not a great deal of the history of the church preserved, inasmuch as the records were inadvertently destroyed several years ago.The following narrative is printed here as told by Mrs. Willie Young, to her daughter, Mrs. Billie Jeans Groves, in December,1974.

“The First Baptist Church was organized in 1922. At that time, the Church met in a tin building that someone had built to use for a blacksmith shop on Main street located next to where P.I. Kiger’s drug store operated.

My mother told me that my Grandfather, Mr. John S. Williams, stood up one night at Prayer Meeting and said, “We’ve talked
enough about building a church home, let’s get one built!”

One evening in the summer as we were driving toward Victor’s landing on Wister Lake, Mother said the route looked strangely familiar. She recalled that around 1924, she and my Dad had driven out that way in his Model T Ford toa sawmill where they brought the oak underpinning for the Church building.

Mrs. Minnie Massey, who was the pianist for the Church for many years, donated the building lots, and in 1924 the present auditorium and the concrete floored section behind it, referred to as the basement at that time, were completed. This back section was used as a kitchen and the women of the church did the janitor work.

Reverend Lon Easton helped organize the Church and was the first pastor. The first deacons were Plato Jagers, George Ferguson and John S. Williams. Reverend Lon Easton served the Church for several years, and upon his leaving, and upon his leaving, Reverend John Bassinger assumed the pastorate. The church had begun to grow.

The next Pastor was Reverend L.A. Robinson, dearly loved and remembered by many of us. His trusty Ford never failed to honk at our house on Wednesday Nights and we often rode to Prayer Meeting with him. Though his Christian leadership, many of us were converted. He was here during the Depression Days and had various ways and means of getting his members to contribute to the Church. His most endearing term for us was ‘a bunch of peckerwoods’ and we knew that we had better get down to business!

The Church was grateful to Bro. George Ollie who finished the pastor a house rent free to live in.

Of course, it was impossible for Mother to remember all of the names of the members in the beginning years of the Church, but those names which seem to stand out in her mind as most faithful ( and we print them here as she gave them were Mr. & Mrs. George Ollie, Mrs. Ethel Freeman, Mr. & Mrs. Watt Phillips, Mr. & Mrs. Ed Whiteaker  (Brother Ed will always be remember in his faithful dedicated service as Sunday School Superintendent and Deacon) Mr. & Mrs. Harold Findley, Lindsey Barnes as song leader, and Mr. & Mrs. Massey ” These and countless others dedicated Christians gave unselfishly of their time, energy and money to make the First Baptist Church of Panama a beacon light and landmark in the community, and for those 77 years has upheld and supported the teaching of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May this Church ever be found faithful in that cause is a continued prayer.”

In Memory of Billie Jean Groves. Revised 1999 


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