View of Rogue Valley from Wagner Butte

Baptist Church, Talent, Oregon

This article was featured in the May 2012  Talent News and Review

Back of the Baptist church is near the center of this photo. It clearly shows that the church once faced Talent Ave. instead of Main Street as it does now. 

The Oldest Standing Building in Talent
by Jan Wright
Older than the town itself, the Baptist church building at 303 Main Street is the oldest building still standing in town. In 1871 Horace Root sold the property to the Trustees of the Baptist church and the building was probably constructed shortly thereafter. The Ashland Tidings stated that the Baptist Church was already 40 years old in 1912 when the Methodist Church was being built.
One of the early ministers, Andrew J. Wilcox, both preached and used his skill as a carpenter to build up the church. His descendants claim to have some of the tools he used to construct the building. The original pulpit is still in use but the dividing wall to seperate the men and women on different sides of the church has been removed. A two-story addition to the front created more space for Sunday School classes.
In the early 1920s the Tom Hill family from Idaho rolled into town in an outdated covered wagon. They saw the church property as valuable commercial real estate along the busiest street in Talent and proposed moving the church to face Main Street so they could build a store facing what is now called Talent Avenue. The little white church whose congregation had dwindled, agreed to the move and got a new roof in the bargain.
Make no mistake the building itself is not nearly as interesting as the things that have transpired within its walls. If we knew the fire and brimstone, the quiet spiritual moments, the conversions and scandals that were part of its history, it would animate the building. The Free Thinkers who built the Universal Mental Liberty Hall on Wagner Creek often mocked the church and pointed to inconsistencies, and what they thought were superstitious beliefs. A tug of war between Believers and Free Thinkers evidenced in the 1890s publication of the Talent News gave the Baptist and other Talent congregations something to talk about and united them in their opposition to the so- called “infidels” on Wagner Creek.

Baptist Church in Talent, Oregon before the two
story addition was added. This time it is facing
Main Street.

[a week or so after the article was written I was given more definitive proof that the Church was built in the 1870s. I had been frustrated to find that Welborn Beeson did not mention the construction date in his diary and that he talked about a Baptist convention of sorts being on his own property and not at the church in 1872. Horace Root gave the property where the church was built to the Baptists in 1871 but I was not finding a definitive date of construction. A friend of mine sent me a road survey of a county road that mentioned the Baptist church in Talent in 1873, in fact it was the only building mentioned along the proposed road. We can't go wrong then, by saying that it was in place by 1873. Not bad for Talent and still satisfies the claim that it is the oldest standing building in Talent even though it is standing in a different spot.]  

A stage road leading to Portland on the North and San Francisco on the South later  become part of the Pacific Highway (as it is in this photograph). The road is now called Talent Ave and shows clearly the Baptist Church
 in the background behind the people in this photograph. Wagner Butte, as always, was visible from town.