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    Building the First Baptist Church in Houston

    [Houston]. First Baptist Church Archive for the years 1883 through 1884 containing three work contracts, list of First Baptist Church subscribers, donation booklet, and a report on work done.

    Established by a group of sixteen believers in 1841, the congregation grew along with the city of Houston. It survived several outbreaks of yellow fever, war, and, at the turn of the century, the deadly hurricane that struck Galveston Island in 1900. The church was in need of a new building and, by 1883, the Building Committee had been established to accomplish just that. Serving as chairman of the committee was Benjamin Armistead Shepherd (1814-1891), president and co-founder of the First National Bank of Houston and a prominent landowner, who had arrived in Houston in 1844 and established a mercantile firm before entering into the banking business. The new building was completed circa 1884 and has since been demolished.

    Agreement for Building Contract signed by B. A. Shepherd as chairman of the Building Committee. Four pages, 9" x 14", partially printed, Houston, June 26, 1883, between contractor W. G. C. Johnson and B. A. Shepherd for "Brickwork required in the erection and completion of the First Baptist Church in the City of Houston...agreeably to the Plans, Drawings and Specifications prepared for the said works by Geo. E. Dickey Architect...for the sum of Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy Five Dollars." Countersigned by W. G. C. Johnson. Folds, else fine. [and:] Labor Indenture for Slate Work. One page, 7.75" x 12.5", "County of Harris [Houston]", June [no day], 1883, "between John Geilig...and B. A. consideration of the sum of One Thousand and Fifty Eight Dollars the party of the first part [Geilig] agrees to furnish all the material and do all the work of slating required for the erection and completion of the First Baptist Church in the City of Houston." Folds, else fine. [and:] Labor Indenture for Iron and Tin Work signed by B. A. Shepherd as chairman of the Building Committee. Three pages, verso only, 7.75" x 12.5", "County of Harris [Houston]," June 29, 1883, between "M. Schmidt & Curtin...and B. A. consideration of the sum of Five Hundred and Twenty Dollars of lawful money of United States...[for] all the Galvanized Iron and Tin Work of every kind required in the erection and finishing of the First Baptist Church now being erected in the City of Houston." Countersigned by M. Schmidt & Curtin. Folds, else fine.

    Also included is a List of Subscribers to First Baptist Church. Three pages, 7.75" x 12.5", [Houston], n. d. (circa 1883), containing the names of eighty-two parishioners and organizations as subscribers, the amounts subscribed, the amounts paid, and the amounts still due. Notable names include B. A. Shepherd; Abram Groesbeeck, director of the railroad company and namesake of Groesbeck, Texas; Sam Allen, rancher and largest shipper of cattle in southeast Texas; and Charles Stewart, Confederate veteran and U. S. Congressman. Weakened folds, detaching at the top. Staining on verso of page four that affects page two and three, but not affecting the text. Good. [and:] Donation Booklet. On front cover is written in ink "Collection for First Baptist Church new church Building by Benjamin Armistead Shepherd." Originally a First National Bank of Houston account book, it contains sixteen pages of names and amounts given toward the construction of a new church. [and:] Copy of the Report of B. A. Shepherd Chairman of Building Committee of First Baptist Church. Two pages, 8.75" x 13", [Houston], April 2, 1884. Being a report of work done and cost of work for the construction of a new church building. Lower two-thirds stained, not affecting text. Folds are detaching. From the papers of B.A. Shepherd.

    More Information:

    Benjamin Armistead Shepherd was born in Virginia on May 14, 1814. Due to the poor conditions of the land and a dwindling family fortune, he left Virginia in the 1830s and arrived in Galveston, Texas. He married Mary Dobson in 1841 and settled in the growing town of Houston. A personal friend of General Sam Houston (whom he had met at age 19), Shepherd established himself as a prominent landowner and one of the foremost citizens of Houston, involving himself in many entrepreneurial adventures before founding and serving as president of the First National Bank of Houston in 1866. In 1875, he arrived in the newly formed San Jacinto County where he organized the town of Shepherd along the proposed Houston, East, and West Texas Railway. He died in Houston in 1891.

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