First Baptist Church of Oregon City

Small. Slow. Weird.

History of First Baptist Church of Oregon City

The following is an excerpt from the writings of Rev. Charles Hiram Matoon. Matoon was an early Oregon Baptist minister and historian.


Located at Oregon City, the County seat of Clackamas County

Organized with seven members by Rev. Vincent Snelling and Deacon David T. Lenox. July 4, 1847, in the house of Deacon H. Hatch of the Congregational church.

Revs. Hezekiah Johnson and Ezra Fisher reached Oregon City in December, 1845, and Brother Johnson soon began his work at that place, Brother Fisher going to Astoria. October 6, 1847, Brother Johnson wrote that Dr. John McLaughlin had donated the little church choice lots for a meeting house and parsonage, and that $350 had been subscribed for the buildings. Several Baptists were stopping in and about the city, and he hoped they would remain and add numbers, strength, and influence to the church. On January 1, 1848 two were received, and three were baptized on February 6th. In May, they commenced building, and the house was completed in the fall, or early in 1849; and was the first Baptist meetinghouse west of the Rocky mountains. Their first loss was Brother J. W. Jackson, who died in 1849.

The church suffered severely that year on account of the absence of many of its members to the gold mines of California. In February, 1851, it recommended Revs. Fisher and Johnson to the A. B. H. M. Society as missionaries, calling Brother Johnson to the pastorate, and asking Brother Fisher to preach for the church once a month. Brother Johnson resigned in October, and Rev. George C. Chandler arriving, under appointment of the H. M. Society, the church called him to the pastorate, at the same time highly commending the work of Fisher and Johnson. In July, 1852, the church pledged $100 for the pastor, and in February, 1853, Revs. Chandler and Johnson were asked each to preach for it one half the time, and the H. M. Society petitioned for $500 assistance, but got no help from the Society for about 13 years. Brethren Johnson and Fisher continued to preach for it a year or two. In 1853, Brother Chandler contributed $4.00 for foreign missions; the first foreign mission contribution reported from the North Pacific coast. In 1854, Franklin Johnson was baptized. He went East, graduated at Hamilton, N. Y.; was made a D. D. by the University of Jena, Germany, and has become quite prominent in the denomination. His brother, W. Carey Johnson. LL. D., is a distinguished lawyer of Oregon, and was also baptized in 1854. In February, 1856, Rev. H. Johnson and John D. Post, a licentiate, each preached for the church one half the time. Also, Elder Fisher filled the pulpit whenever he well could, and in December Elder G. C. Chandler took the pastoral care, and in June, 1856, preached twice a month for it, giving one Sunday in each month to the neighboring settlements. Meanwhile, he had taken a claim about 12 miles distant, and was holding frequent meetings in his neighborhood, and some wishing to unite with the church, a mission station was established there for the reception of members, and other necessary church work. The church, during its first years took a prominent part in the temperance movement, the church covenant first adopted contained a temperance pledge. The church, in a body belonged to a temperance organization, called "The Washington Society," and the records show that Fisher and Johnson were most active and prominent members of that Society.