Marquette’s First Baptist Church

Marquette’s first Baptist Church was established in 1863. It was a small wooden church on Front Street where the Marquette County Historical Museum was later located beside the current library. My ancestors, the McCombies and the Zryds, first came to Marquette in the 1870s and this church would have been the one they attended. My great-great grandparents, William Forrest McCombie and Elizabeth May Zryd, were probably married inside it in 1882.

The First Baptist Church today - Marquette, Michigan

When the congregation outgrew this small church, in 1886, a new church was built across the street where today is the Landmark Inn’s parking lot. This church was well-known in the community especially for its fabulous organ, a Hook and Haster, for a long time one of the best organs in the state. My great-grandmother and her children would know this church intimately, and although a Catholic, my mother occasionally attended services here with her grandmother.

As with many downtown buildings, fire destroyed the Baptist Church in 1965. Rather than rebuild downtown, the congregation erected a new church in North Marquette on Kaye Street, behind the music and theatre buildings of Northern Michigan University.

In Superior Heritage, Margaret Dalrymple writes in her diary in 1962 about what it meant to her to be a member of the First Baptist Church. The passage is based on a similar one in the diary of my great-grandmother, Barbara McCombie White:

This Sunday the eldest Baptist members now attending church were honored. There were 9 of us but only 5 were there. Sadie Johnson, as church clerk, pinned corsages on all of us and then we had pictures taken for The Mining Journal. We all were requested to get up on the platform and give a little talk of days gone by. I was afraid I’d be stage struck, but this is what I said. “Many years ago when my parents came to Marquette they joined the Baptist church and I was raised in it. When I was 11 years old I went to a revival meeting & was converted. Shortly after I was baptized in this church. Since then, some of my happiest moments have been spent in Sabbath school and church. I had good Christian parents who taught me the right way to live and guided me through the years. I have tried to follow their example and am proud to say that I have good children, all of whom act like Christians even if they don’t go to church regularly. I think God loves everyone no matter who we are and we each have different tasks to do. I think this church has helped lots of people, and I am proud to have been a member all these years.”

My great-grandmother lived long enough to celebrate her 75th anniversary as a member of the Baptist church. After her death, her children Barbara, Roland, Kit, Frank, and Sadie (the real church clerk mentioned in the passage above) would continue attending. Barbara would become a deaconess of the church, and my great-aunt Sadie at age ninety-two remains very active in the church. My grandfather, Lester White, before marrying, taught Sunday school at the church as did his cousin, Marjorie Woodbridge Johnson. As for my Uncle Kit, as a boy he did his part by passing the collection basket and taking a chunk of the money home with him, which his parents immediately made him return.

My experiences with the Baptist Church have largely been limited to attending family funerals. I’m always struck during these occasions by the wonderful old Baptist hymns, including one of my great-grandmother’s favorites, “In The Garden.” The church ladies always outdo themselves with the funeral luncheons and their other church activities. I am sure my great-grandmother would be happy to know her church’s good work continues well into the twenty-first century.

Note: This entry is taken from my book My Marquette, available at local bookstores and

Explore posts in the same categories: Downtown Marquette, Marquette History, Tyler's Family

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7 Comments on “Marquette’s First Baptist Church”

  1. Loved the story about the Baptist Church! I had forgotten it was downtown – but I love the “new” building on Kaye Ave. Thanks again Tyler for jogging my memory!

  2. Thanks, Carol. I wish I were old enough to have been in the church downtown.

    • As my dear mother used to say “Don’t wish your life away” but in your case it would be “Don’t wish you lived before your time.”
      I am enjoying all of these old stories, pictures and everything so very much. I live “down below” now – jobs brought us this way and I miss the beauty of the U.P. so much!
      Thanks for your prompt reply, I know you’re very busy (hopefully writing another book)

  3. Jan Says:

    My Grandma, Gertrude J Sharp played that pipe organ there for many years. Sometimes we were allowed to climb the narrow, creaky stairway that led to the balcony where the organ was located. My Grandpa, H. I. Sharp, also sang from up there and another gentleman sometimes accompanied them with the violin.
    My Grandparents lived a 909 N Front St for about 45 years, my Grandma taught piano lessons from their home for many, many years.
    Can’t wait to read the new book!

    • Thanks for the comment, Jan. Our families must have known each other well since my great-grandparents were members and my great-aunt and cousins still are. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  4. Heather Minion Says:

    Thanks for the story about First Baptist. I was tickled to see that my sister Jan commented here a few years ago! The church burned when I was in 5th grade (Jan was in high school), but I vividly remember Mr. Babcock playing the violin. Because we lived “down below,” we didn’t visit Marquette often, however, maybe that early musical exposure influenced my family more than I know: my brother was a church organist (in Marquette) for many years, I got my Masters in trumpet, but also have played organ in church for many years, all six of our children studied stringed instruments and play in churches today, and all three daughters play organ in church, including one who is working on her Masters in organ. Thanks for the memories!

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