Historical artifacts found in the walls of a Becker County church

Church to celebrate 150 years with ice cream, music and historical artifacts

church time cap.jpg
The First Baptist Church time capsule was removed from the church walls on Sunday, July 24, 2022. The items will be on display during the ice cream social and free concert set for Saturday, July 30, 2022. The free-event starts at 6 p.m.
Contributed / Saundra Hanson

DETROIT LAKES — Free ice cream and a concert will be offered at First Baptist Church of Detroit Lakes on Saturday, July 30. The fun starts at 6 p.m. and will be held at the church (300 Central Street East). The musical guest is The Paul Family Bluegrass Band.

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First Baptist Church members got a first look at the items from the church time capsule, which dates back to when the congregation rebuilt the church after a fire.
Contributed / Saundra Hanson

For those who enjoy history, memorabilia will be on display, as well as contents from a time capsule starting at 3 p.m.

The time capsule was opened on Sunday, July 24. It was placed inside bricks of the church building. Parishioner Saundra Hanson reported when the capsule was opened, inside were a Bible, hymnal, newspaper clippings, photographs and more.

Parishioner Janice Johnson earned the title of the church’s unofficial historian. She reviewed minutes from past meetings and examined documents to create the 150 year history book for the First Baptist Church sesquicentennial. She said the historical artifacts told a story of a church starting with 11 people meeting on July 20, 1872. A council was created and convened the following day.

The first year, church services were held at McKenzie’s Hall, which was located east of the former Lakes Hotel building, according to the church website .


As the congregation formed, a Methodist church was also created, Johnson said. Thus, a friendly race between the churches began to see who would build the city’s first house of worship.

Janice Johnson of Detroit Lakes pages through a historical book on First Baptist Church of Detroit Lakes that she put together for the 150 year celebration.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

After a successful fundraising campaign, First Baptist Church leaders were approved to spend $1,500 to purchase property on Sept. 20, 1893. A parcel on Frazee Street was bought (which is where the current library is located). The foundation of the church was made of stones, which were pulled from surrounding fields. Over the years, an addition was added.

In addition to becoming a Christian gathering place to worship, the building was also used by the school district while the senior high school was being built.

Johnson was in her 20s when she attended a Sunday service that went down in the church’s history. It was September 13, 1970 when the smell of smoke was noticed. The sermon was stopped. Everyone was directed to exit. She recalled the choir carefully hanging up their robes and the congregation returning hymnals to the pews.

“Then it burnt to the ground,” she said. “There was no panic, but it was quite a thing to happen to the oldest church (in Detroit Lakes). The church was so beautiful, and the fire was a traumatic experience for us.”

When all was said and done, only the stones of the building remained standing. It was a shell of its former self. Discussions were had on whether the church should be moved to a different location.

The original church building for the First Baptist Church in Detroit Lakes was reportedly the first church built in Detroit Lakes.
Contributed / Janice Johnson


“Parking had become an issue,” she said.

The parish met at Rossman School for a few weeks, Hanson recalled. Then, they accepted an offer to use the Seventh Day Adventist building. During that time, the church congregation bought property on Central Street.

The new church was built in 1971 and dedicated that December.

Regardless where the church is located, it has faithful families and newcomers visiting on a regular basis.

Bert Hanson said his family has been attending First Baptist Church in Detroit Lakes for generations that date back to the early 1900s. He said the loyalty to the church, for him, goes back to a Bible verse.

“Hold fast to what is good,” Hanson said. “God is definitely good.”

Pastor Steve Aldridge said much like the certainty of God’s greatness, the church has held fast to wanting to encourage people with their relationship with the Lord.

On Sunday, July 31, all are invited to continue with the 150-year celebration and enjoy donuts and coffee at 9 a.m. before the 10 a.m. worship service.

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