Old North Baptist Church, on U.S. Highway 59 four miles north of the city limits of Nacogdoches, is the oldest active missionary Baptist church in Texas. It was originally called Union Baptist Church because settlers from various religious denominations made up the first congregation. It was founded by Mrs. Massey Sparks Millard, who came to Texas in 1832 and settled north of Nacogdoches, near where the church now stands. She constantly prayed that a church would be established at the spot where she, some other women, and their children hid in a thicket during Indian and Mexican raids while the men tried to repel the raiders. Mrs. Millard arranged for Rev. Isaac Reed to preach to a small group of Americans at the springs just after the battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836. These people decided to build a place of worship and a one-room school. Liberty School House was built in October 1836 of red oak logs spliced together because they were too short and laid on a rock foundation. This building was used until 1852, when a frame building was constructed on the same foundation. In 1882 the building was remodeled and painted.
At a meeting at Liberty School House on Sunday, May 6, 1838, the church was officially organized when ministers Isaac Reed and Robert G. Green preached and invited people with church letters who wanted to constitute a church to come forward. John and Betsy Eaton, Charles Whitaker, Sarah Tipps, Mary Crain, Emily Knight, Ruth Anderson, and Anthony and Chancy, the last two slaves, came forward. Charles Whitaker was elected church clerk. Several people joined the church between May and September 1838, during a revival started by Rev. James L. Bryant, a teacher at Liberty School House. Twenty people were baptized at the church in June and July; these were the first Baptist baptisms in East Texas. Richard Sparks donated five acres of land in 1837 or 1838 at the springs where Old North Church was built. In 1843 the need for a general organization led to the formation of the Sabine Baptist Association at the church with five other churches participating. The organization was later dissolved. John M. Sparks, Richard's son, deeded and registered the land in the names of the trustees of the church on February 29, 1892. The Old North Church Cemetery, established in 1836 before the church was organized, is the oldest Protestant cemetery in Nacogdoches County. On the first Sunday of May 1923, the church began its first annual homecoming meeting; the centennial homecoming was held on May 1, 1938, and the sesquicentennial anniversary on May 1, 1988.
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Robert A. Baker, The Blossoming Desert-A Concise History of Texas Baptists (Waco: Word, 1970). James Milton Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists (Dallas: Baptist Standard, 1923). S. F. Sparks, "Recollections of S. F. Sparks," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 12 (July 1908).
Churches and Synagogues
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Samuel B. Hesler,
“Old North Baptist Church,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 26, 2018