Words of church pioneer come to life
Kathy Long, local historian, read sections of the journal of Catherine Williams, a Welsh woman and founding member of First Baptist Church of Slatington. She said it described the tribulations of bringing the early church into being.
It was cold with a promise of spring in the air when Williams received a letter from her brother, Ellis, in America telling of its prosperity. But people walked 20 miles to go to church, and Williams did not think she would walk that far.
In Sept., 1857, Catherine came to America at Ellis's urging. They attended a local church but a preacher from Scranton told about baptism in a manner that was not what the Welsh settlers believed. Several left the service.
In July, 1858, they began services in a schoolhouse in Williamstown. The following year they were blessed with a Baptist pastor. The schoolhouse was enlarged and became a real church.
Allen Morton preached in 1864 and the congregation was enraptured. He became the regular pastor for both Williamstown and Summit Hill.
As Slatington grew, Williamstown became smaller. The congregation shrank to 60 members. Robert Pierce went to Allentown to talk to a member of the Baptist hierarchy. They were advised to abandon Williamstown and rent a hall in Slatington.
They rented the third floor of the Fritzinger Building. After five weeks, the building burned, leading to a $250 loss.
A parcel was purchased on West Church Street and a church was built for $7,000.
By 1898, people were dissatisfied with the location so they purchased the "best lot" in town. When construction costs reached $16,000, Williams said the church board hoped it would not go over $20,000. It did, but only slightly.
The location at Main and Center streets made the church the centerpiece of town.
Charles Davis from Cardiff, Wales, preached in Welsh at the dedication ceremony. The church hosted the Reading Baptist Association convention in 1903.
Money was received from Andrew Carnegie to pay for a pipe organ. Volunteers installed it.
Williams' brother died in 1919 and her sister soon after, but she said she had friends and neighbors who filled the gap.
She was a faithful church worker and was remembered for her ability to overcome unpleasantries with tact.
When the church celebrated its 25th anniversary, she was invited but was unable to attend due to her health. She hoped her friend Mary Jones would be there. The two were the only founders still alive.
"I am happy that the foundations are laid and I have high hopes for First Baptist of Slatington," Williams said in the journal.
Long said in the last entry Williams charged future congregations to continue what was started, and from what she (Long) could see, that was being done.