Forest Grove Baptist Church History

“We, the believers of the Lord Jesus Christ, having been received and baptized by the authority of the Baptist Church of Christ, are desiring to be constituted into a church.”

Hence the founding of Forest Grove Baptist Church in 1888. Prior to completion of the church building, church services were held in different homes or at the perseverance church off of SR 235.

Congregation Standing in Front of the Church

Original Church Building

Wooden Pew From the Original Church

Mr. William F. Barry moved his family to Forest Grove in 1902. His property joined the church and schoolyard. He became a trustee of the school district. On occasion, the schoolteacher would board with Mr. and Mrs. Barry. Affectionately called Nanny, she was active in the church and community. She taught a children’s Sunday school class known as the Card Class.

William F. & Nancy Rainey Barry, with their six children, oldest to youngest: Nora, Wilma, Clara, Cleveland, Elijah, and Bessie (Bessie’s twin sister was stillborn).

Children born later: Janie, Ethel, Leona, and Nicholas.

In the 1920s, the mode of communication was by horse as there were no telephones, radios, or televisions. Each farmer was his own meteorologist and used the Farmer’s Almanac faithfully. He planted his seeds, gathered his crops and even went fishing by the Almanac.

Other members of the congregation remember the original building as one big room with kerosene lamps and two sections of benches. Men sat on the right side with an “Amen corner” and ladies sat on the left side. Prior to the first song, people were asked who would like to come up and sit in the choir and a few would go up with a bit of coaxing.

The first known date for the Strobel School was August 8, 1889. Mr. W. W. Strobel had donated a narrow strip of land for a church and a school. The Strobel School, named in his honor, was located in front (and just west) of the original church. It began as a one room school, with one teacher for grades one through eight. High school students went to school in Alachua, High Springs or Newberry. The school was renamed Forest Grove School in June, 1927.

Forest Grove School (aka Stroble School)

Baptisms at Poe Springs – 1936

Baptisms were held at local Springs, rivers, lakes, ponds, and other churches prior to a baptistery being constructed at the church in 1961.

School Children Playing Near the Church

Aquila O’Steen – School Bus Driver

Girls at School

Back L to R: Rosalee Blanton, Mary Feagle, L. Leggett: Front L to R: Jo Goode, Wilma Hill, Helen Floyd, Mary Frances Cothran

Lunchroom Ladies

Mr. Barry sold two acres of land to the school board for a new school building. The deed was recorded on June 7, 1938. Construction was done by local people who were hired under the WPA “Works progress administration”, a federal project which employed millions of mostly unskilled laborers during the “great depression”. The old school building was converted into a residence for the principal and his family, with one of the rooms serving as the new cafeteria.

Cousins at Church – 1941

Back L to R: Mary Blanton, Morris Feagle, J.L. (Red) Feagle, Rosalee Blanton, Margaret Barry;

Middle L to R: Eddie B. Feagle, Hazen Feagle, Leroy Morris, David (Shine) Blanton;

Baby in front: Willie Jean Morris

The Alachua County School Board closed Forest Grove School around 1948. Forest Grove Baptist Church purchased the school property on October 5, 1949 with a loan from the Florida Baptist Convention. The property was repurposed and the “new church” was ready for worship service in 1951. The combined principal’s residence and school cafeteria was converted into a parsonage and church nursery. Later that year, the nursery building was cut away from the parsonage and purchased by Margaret Blanton Feagle. She had it renovated for her residence on her property located 3 blocks north of the church. When the church determined that a parsonage was no longer needed, the building was sold and the purchaser had it moved to the former Blanton Homestead off of SR 232 (NW 78th Avenue).

Junior Sunday School Class – 1951

L to R: Billy White, Raymond Feagle, Louis Feagle, Reuben Feagle, Alene Jones, Anita Jeffords, Floria Feagle, Laura Barry

First Annual Homecoming and Dinner on the Grounds – May, 1960


On March 1, 1960, the church voted to establish the third Sunday in May as Homecoming and Memorial day. Homecoming was later changed to the first Sunday in October. The Memorial day event remained in May at the cemetery.

Centennial Homecoming – 1988

The centennial celebration was held on October 2, 1988 with an old-fashioned Sunday school. The worship service was held in the original church building, which had not been used for church services since July 8, 1951.

Kenny Holton operating the sound system

Folks waiting in line for some delicious food

Several Sanctuary renovations were completed in the Second Church Building during a 50-year period.

In 1963 – Theatre style seats remain from the Forest Grove School

Sanctuary 1995

Sanctuary after renovation – 1996

Congregation – 1976

Congregation – 1996

Under the leadership of Pastor Gary Deberry, and because the church building could seat only 100 people, it became necessary to hold two morning services on Sundays. Hence the vision for a new multipurpose building. On February 9, 2000, the church voted to adopt a “Challenge to Build Program” sponsored by the Florida Baptist convention. Dr. Roy Jerrell, who was a retired pastor in Gainesville, was chosen as the consultant to oversee the program and to assist a steering committee from the church in administering the program. The three-year fundraising project was “Catch the Vision: Committed to Build for the Kingdom of God.” The motto was “Not Equal Gifts, but Equal Sacrifice.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new building was held on April 1, 2001. Some of our senior members are pictured holding gold painted shovels that were used for the groundbreaking. This was a very notable and exciting time in the life of the church. The new church building was ready for occupation in November, 2001.

Groundbreaking Ceremony – April 1, 2001

Following a number of fundraising auctions and events, and after considerable self-sacrifice and selfless giving by church members, the building loan was paid off on May 31, 2011 – 10 years ahead of schedule. A note burning celebration and meal took place on June 26, 2011.

We serve an awesome God!

Congregation in Front of the Original Church – 125th Homecoming – 2013

Former Pastors & Wives: From L to R: SuEllen and Pastor Gary DeBerry, Pastor Frank Phillips, Gail and Pastor John Parker

Plaque from the Florida Baptist Historical Society to commemorate Forest Grove Baptist Church’s 125th Anniversary.

Pastors – 1888 – Current

In the early church, pastors were called yearly. Church members had the option to call a new pastor or ask the current pastor to serve for another year.

1888Z. A. Crumpton1948Bro. Edwards
1891T. H. Crosby1949J. W. Keen
1892Z. A. Crumpton1951Harold Brown
1893J. T. Price1953Clifford Priest
1894G. S. Cransby1954Bro. Stafford
1897Z. A. Crumpton1956Bro. Newsome
1900N. B. Plumer1959Bro. Greer
1900William Malphus1959R. G. Key
1902T. T. Price1962Bro. Crim
1905F. M. Hartman1963Ralph Peek
1912F. B.Johns1966E. M. Marchman
1912A. J. Pinholester1970Ralph Peek
1915Elijah Morris1972Paul McElroy
1915L. W. Knight1976Ralph Peek
1917Elijah Morris1977Frank Phillips
1927A. B. West1983Ralph Peek
1928J. R. Douglas1987Jim Lancaster
1929Grady Herndon1990Steve Matchett
1931P. M. Stanley1997Elwood Baker (Interim)
1932J. L. Morris1997Gary DeBerry
1934W. T. Rycroft2002John Parker (Interim)
1936R. D. Bevis2003Warren Chesser
1941C. A. Warren2016Dennis Tabor (Interim)
1941Bro. Ellis2017John Parker (Interim)
1947Bro. Keyes2018Tony Clubb (Current)