Elder Richard Griffing organized the first Baptist work and church in Milwaukee in 1836, the first organized religion to establish itself in the area. The church struggled its first few years, trying to hold firm in its existence, but, finally, in May 1841 the 37 charter members voted to disband and reorganize in North Greenfield (now West Allis). On June 2, 1841, delegates met at the home of Eber Cornwall and established the Baptist Church of Greenfield.
In its early years the church formed a circuit of three nearby churches under one pastor. Services were held in Cornwall’s home, then in a schoolhouse and later in a building on land owned by Reuben Strong, the first deacon of the church. A church building was finally erected in 1869 at South 83rd Street and West National Avenue under the leadership of Rev. Enoch Underwood. When the Madison Division of the Northwestern Railroad was built through West Allis in 1883, the building was relocated to south 84th Street and West Mitchell Street.
The church celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1891 by officially incorporating itself under the laws of the State of Wisconsin. Three years later, the Church opened its Baptist Dining Hall at State Fair Park, operating it during Fair Week, to raise money form the operation of the Church. (The Hall operated annually until 1948). In 1898 Alfred Goodwin, acting pastor, became the first minister to be ordained in the Church. The first parsonage was built in 1904.
In 1920 the church building was moved to its present location and rededication services were held. In 1923, with our help, the Woodlawn Baptist Church, a mission church, was established (Unfortunately, this church disbanded in 1936). In 1927 the church changed its name to The First Baptist Church of West Allis.
As the church grew, so did the need for expansion. In 1929, a new church building was constructed. Incorporated into the structure was the original building which was covered with brick veneer to match the new sanctuary. While the depression years were difficult, the church managed to survive by hard work and the restructuring of debt.
For the 110th anniversary in 1951, Carillonic Bells were installed and stained glass windows planned. The windows were completed three years later in 1954. Because membership continued to grow, the building once again expanded, breaking ground in 1959 for the Educational Wing which was dedicated in 1960. As part of our 150th Anniversary celebration, the South Wing, which is the original church building and oldest public building in West Allis was refurbished.
The First Baptist Church of West Allis has a long and wonderful history and we invite you to become a part of it.
We celebrated 175 years as a church in 2016, culminating with a large service on May 22, 2016. To prepare, we had a series of "history moments" at our service every week, prepared by member John Wothe. It was our history coming alive. If you have missed any of the past videos, please watch here:
In 2019, John Wothe finished a 'book' of all the history moments, with all the dialogue as text and the great maps and pictures. You can read it here: